PY0552 - Research on Human Nature

What will I learn on this module?

On this module we will examine the insights and research methods that are used within the fields of evolutionary psychology, human behavioural ecology, and anthropology, in order to understand human nature. We will look at the evolutionary pressures that have shaped the species, and how they might be apparent in our behaviour and cognition. Lecture topics covered include human evolution, biological adaptations, and evolved cognition, and their relationship to typical behaviours in contexts such as sexual partnerships and family networks. You will learn about some of the popular experimental and research techniques that are used in these fields, and gain practical expertise and experience in designing studies, creating stimuli, and collecting data. You will be taught some specific widely-used research methods, such as photographic and recording techniques, and the manipulation of photographic images and voice recordings.

How will I learn on this module?

On this module you will learn through a combination of lectures, tutorials, seminars, and in-class practical activities, along with independent study. You will attend a series of two-hour interactive lectures that will provide the basic framework for syllabus topics. The interactive elements will involve discussion and demonstrations of particular topic areas introduced in the taught sessions. You will have the opportunity for group discussion, enabling you to communicate your ideas and findings in a group setting, showing sensitivity to the perspectives of others. Effective communication and critical thinking skills will be developed through such activities. You will carry out practical activities to learn new skills in relevant experimental techniques.

You will hear about some of the latest research from researchers working in the field, and will be encouraged to experience relevant aspects of academic research culture, such as through attendance at the research group meetings of the Perception, Evolution and Behaviour Lab Research Group, and at lectures given by external speakers. Directed study will be encouraged through the provision of reading lists, which will serve as a basis for further, independent study. Together, the learning strategies of lectures, workshops, directed and independent study aim to develop conceptual knowledge of the topic area and illustrate the range of paradigms and methods that can be used to investigate it. Tutorials will provide an opportunity for you to discuss issues related to the module with a member of staff.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The module tutor will support you by making a variety of resources linked to the taught elements and assessments available on the e-learning portal (e.g. PowerPoint slides, handouts, and reading lists) along with links to further resources to encourage further exploration of the topics. A discussion board on the eLearning Portal will be available for students to pose and respond to questions. This enhances collegiality and also means that support is available to all students. Technology enabled learning will be encouraged through the use of electronic management of assessment. Tutorials can provide an opportunity for students to discuss issues related to the module with a member of staff.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
MK1: You will demonstrate conceptual knowledge of biological approaches to human nature
MK2: You will competently apply evidence to debate around biological approaches to human nature, in order to justify your own opinions
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
MIP1: You will develop skills in sourcing, critiquing and reviewing a range of peer reviewed research publications
MIP2: You will take charge of your own career development learning, through critical self-evaluation and reflection on the relevance of the module for career enhancement and future learning.
Personal Values Attributes:
MPV1: You will display the characteristics of a Northumbria psychology graduate, by showing your ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively in written form.

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment will take the form of group discussion of theories and research articles (MK1; MK2; MIP1)

Summative Assessment
The first assessment consists of one piece of individual written work (3000 words), in which you will be required to demonstrate your knowledge of relevant research in biological approaches to human nature, links to the theory and research covered in lectures, your ability to critically evaluate relevant literature, and your skills in designing relevant research studies. This is worth 90% of the module mark (MK1; MK2: MIP1; MPV1)

The second assessment is a self-reflective account in which you will be asked to consider how this module has impacted on your employability and future career (MIP2). This will be worth 10% of the module mark (500 words)

For formative discussions, you will receive oral, peer, and tutor feedback.

For the summative report, you will receive individual detailed feedback on your work. All students will also receive a cohort level report on assessment performance via the eLearning Portal.

You will be required to arrange a tutorial with your personal guidance tutor for formal feedback on your reflection.





Module abstract

Why do people behave the way they do? On this module, you will learn about biological and evolutionary approaches to human nature. You will learn about how human behaviours and traits were shaped throughout human evolution to solve recurrent problems, such as social relationships, mating, and survival, and how this applies to understanding and studying modern-day psychology. With a focus on critical thinking and research, we will discuss state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research from evolutionary psychology, behavioural ecology, and anthropology, to learn about research techniques. This module will focus on how evolution has shaped biological adaptations, including evolved cognitions, behaviours, and personality traits. Topics include human mating psychology, family networks, cooperation cultural differences, and personality. You will also learn about research techniques, including experiments, surveys, and observations, face and voice recordings, and ethological observations. You will hear about some of the latest research from researchers working in the field, and will be encouraged to experience academic research culture, such as through attendance at the research group meetings of the Perception, Evolution and Behaviour Lab Research Group, and at lectures given by external speakers.

Course info

UCAS Code C800

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with optional study abroad year

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy