Syllabus Spring 2018

Course: Psyc 373, Evolutionary Psychology 
Instructor: Dr. Matt Rossano 
Text: No text; all readings posted on my webpage
Office: Mims 219
Office Hrs: MW 11-12; 12:50-1:50; TTh 2-4; Friday 9:30-11:30
Phone: 985-351-3663
email: (note: all email communication should be done using your university assigned address). Email is the best way to get in touch with me. I habitually check my emails every morning. Email provides a written record of our interaction, which protects us both if there are misunderstandings or accusations later.

Posted Required Readings: 
(1) Confer, J. et al. (2010). Evolutionary Psychology: Controversies, questions, prospects, and limitations. American Psychologist, 65, 110-126.
(2) Shackelford, T. & Liddle, J. (2014). Understanding the mind from an evolutionary perspective: An overview of evolutionary psychology, WIREs Cogn Sci., 5:247260. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1281
(3) Galperin, A. et al. (2012). Sexual regret: Evidence for evolved sex differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-012-0019-3
(4) Unearthing the First Hominins
(5) Early Hominins
(6) Homo heidelbergensis
(7) Archaic Homo sapiens
(8) Neandertals
(9) Early Modern Homo sapiens
(10) Early Homo sapiens culture
(11) Nowak, M. A. (2010). Why we help. Scientific American. July pp. 34-39
(12) Rossano, M.J. (2007). Supernaturalizing social life: Religion and the evolution of human cooperation. 
Human Nature 18, 272-294.
(13) Rossano, M.J. (2011). Setting our own terms: How we used ritual to become human. In H. Walach, S. Schmidt, & W. B. Jonas (Eds.). 
Neuroscience, consciousness and spirituality (pp. 39-56). New York: Springer.
(14) "Painted Ladies" Oct 13, 2001 New Scientist
(15) Kurzban, et al. (2010). Sex, drugs and moral goals: reproductive strategies and views about recreational drug use. Proceedings of the Royal Society: B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0608
(16) Fletcher, G. J. O. et al. (2015). Pair-bonding, romantic love and evolution: The curious case of Homo sapiens. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 20-36.
(17)Brian B. Boutwell, J. C. Barnes, and Kevin M. Beaver, (2015). When love dies: Further elucidating the existence of a mate ejection module. Review of General Psychology,
(18). Cronk, L. (2007). Boy or girl: Gender preferences from a Darwinian point of view. Ethics, Bioscience and Life, Vol. 2, No. 3, December 2007

Course Overview:
Evolutionary Psychology is application of Darwinian principles to the understanding of human nature. Let's face it we humans have one undeniable obsession - that is - trying to understand ourselves. For centuries we have searched for an overarching "theory" to explain why we are the way we are. Religious traditions have often described humans as "fallen angels" stained with original sin, which presumably helped to explain our various and sundry imperfections, flaws, and foibles. Freud argued that we were a seething cauldron of unconscious sexual and aggressive tendencies held (only weakly) in check by a conscious desire to fit in socially. Behaviorists saw us a the passive products of our reinforcement history. Despite their promise, each of these preceding notions has proven inadequate in one way or another. However, in past two decades or so another attempt at a grand unifying theory of human nature has boldly stepped onto the scene. This, of course, is evolutionary psychology (EP), or as it was known a few decades ago, sociobiology. Like its predecessors, it may prove inadequate as well, but at least for the time being it deserves its shot at the big prize. In this class we are going to explore the basic tenets of EP and look at the empirical work that it has generated. We will also address some of the controversy that has accompanied EP's emergence and try to get a handle on why some folks have reacted so angrily toward it. There are some good reasons for taking EP seriously and for granting to it the possibility that it might not suffer the same fate behaviorism and Freudian-ism, not the least of which is that it is built on an edifice (Darwinism) that has proved to be the most successful theory to date for understanding every (other?) life form on earth.

     There will be three tests and a cumulative final given through the course of the term.  Each test will cover the readings and lecture material for that section (not cumulative). The tests will be multiple choice and there will be 50-60 questions on each (the final will have more).  You need to bring #2 pencils on test days, as well as the Scantron forms with 50 questions per side.  Don't forget!  I might neglect to remind you of this.
Also, if you bring the wrong scantron form I will take off at least 3 points!
     You are responsible for everything in the assigned readings and lectures. There will be a reasonable amount of overlap between the readings and lecture. However, I will not lecture on everything in the readings. Any of this (lecture and readings) is fair game for the tests! However, most -- not all --but most, of the tests will cover those items discussed in class and covered in the readings. By my estimation about 70-75% of the test questions come from the lecture/readings overlapping material. There are a few basic principles that   I consider the most important and that's what I will concentrate my efforts on to the greatest extent.  The first 3 tests are not cumulative; however, the final will be, i.e. the final covers everything!

Syllabus validation assignment: All students are required to verify that they have read and understood the syllabus. This is a required assignment that counts for 5 points toward your final grade. Instructions for completing the assignment can be found at the end of the syllabus.

Course Grades: 

 On each test you will be accumulating points.  Each test is worth as many points as there are questions.  I grade on a relative scale.  This means that at the end of the semester I total up the points that each student received on all four tests.  The student with the top number of points receives an "A" and sets the top of the scale.  I then take 93% of that top score and all other scores that are equal to or greater than that also get an "A".  I then take 85% of the top score and all students who are equal to or greater than that get a "B", and so forth (78% for C's, 70% for D's).  There is no absolute scale, it is all relative to students' performance on tests.

Because I do not calculate grades until the end of the semester, I do not know what your grade is during the course of the term, or what you "need" on a given test to get a certain grade. Here is the best way to keep track of how you are doing during the course of the semester.  After each test, I will post your score and the high score for that test on Moodle. Write these numbers down (your score and the high score) and keep track of them throughout the semester.  If you take your total score and divide it by the high total you will get a proportion which indicates where you stand relative to the rest of the class.  Compare that proportion to the scale used to assign grades.

So here's an example: (which, by the way, I also demonstrated in class the first day!). Suppose you get a 43 on test 1 and a 50 on test 2 and the high scores for tests 1 and 2 were 52 and 55 respectively. Then your total to that point in the semester would be 43+50=93 and the high total would be 52+55=107. So you're grade would be: 93/107=.89 or B.     

Make-up tests: 

    See Psychology Department Information Sheet (  Make-ups are given by the department in White Hall, Room 208, on Thursdays from 3:30-4:45. . My make-up tests consist of 5 essay questions that must be answered within a one hour time period. Most students would prefer to not to have to take this type of a test, therefore I encourage you to take the tests when they are scheduled. 
    To take a make-up you must inform me beforehand that you are going to miss a test or you must contact me promptly after the missed test.  By "promptly" I mean by the next class meeting.
So, for example, if we have a test on a Tuesday (Monday), then you will have until class time on Thursday (Wednesday) to contact me (class time means when the class starts!) You may see me personally, or you may call (leave message at the main office), fax (549-3892) or email (email is best).  One way or another I must hear from you by the next class meeting or I will not allow a make-up.  You must bring your own paper and pen to a makeup. If you write on my test, I'll take off at least 5 points.


I do take attendance for each class as is required by University policy.  However, you cannot rely on me to drop you for non-attendance.  It is the responsibility of the student to drop the class if it is his/her desire to do so.

Class Outline

Date  Readings    Topic
    Intro to class
    Explaining human nature: creation myths
    Evolution and Evolutionary Psychology
    Evolution and Evolutionary Psychology

Note: Off 2/12-14 for Mardi Gras
Test 1 Thurs. Feb. 15 Readings 1-3 and lecture material (syllabus validation assignment due Feb. 4)

Week/Dates Readings
   Human Evolution: Early Hominins
   Human Evolution: Archaic Homo sapiens
   Human Evolution: Neanderthals
   Human Evolution: Homo sapiens

Test 2 Thurs. March 15 Readings 4-10 and lecture material

Week/Dates Readings
   11   Evolution of cooperation
  Evolution of ritual and religion
   Social differences: Humans and Neanderthals

Off 3/30-4/6 for Spring Break
Test 3 Tues. April 17th Readings 11-14 and lecture material


Week Readings
Human mating strategies
Romantic love and rejection
Family life: Trivers-Willard Hypo

Final exam: Monday May 7 at 12:30
(about 45% from readings 15-18 and lecture material; about 55% comprehensive)

Final will be held in the regular classroom

Important Dates:

Thursday, February 15
Monday, February 19

Monday, March 26

Thursday, April 26

Now that you have finished reading the syllabus you need to do the following to get the required 5 points for the syllabus and policy validation assignment: 
(1) Login to the Moodle site for this class

(2) Click on course syllabus and policy statements links and read everything
(3) Click on course syllabus and policy statements validation link and confirm that you read and understood everything
(4) Save it


Note: As of Spring 2017 all the policy information below is being posted by the University on all course Moodle sites, click on Policy Statements on the Course Information tab on the class Moodle site. So After Spring 2017 the information below will not be updated. Go to the Moodle site for this course and click on Policy Statements for the latest on all this information and for Important Dates

Disabled students:If you are a qualified student with a disability seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are required to self-identify with the Office of Disability Services, Student Union, Room 1304. No accommodations will be granted without documentation from the Office of Disability Services. The deadline for registering or making accommodation changes is two weeks prior to the start of the Final Exam period. Any requests received after the deadline will generally be considered for the following semester.

Children in the classroom: By university policy children are not permitted in the classroom. Students are not to bring family members for day care or babysitting.

Academic integrity: 
Students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic integrity. Behavior that violates these standards is not acceptable. Examples are the use of unauthorized material, communication with fellow students during an examination, attempting to benefit from the work of another student and similar behavior that defeats the intent of an examination or other class work. Cheating on examinations, plagiarism, improper acknowledgment of sources in essays and the use of a single essay or paper in more than one course without permission are considered very serious offenses and shall be grounds for disciplinary action as outlined in the current General Catalogue.

Students agree by taking this course that all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity to VeriCite for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the VeriCite reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. Use of the VeriCite service is subject to the Terms of Use posted on the VeriCite website.

Classroom Decorum 

No behavior that interferes with the ability of the instructor to teach or students to benefit from that instruction will be tolerated.  Disruptive, disorderly, or uncivil behavior will be not be permitted.  No beepers, cell phones, or other noise-making electronic devices are allowed in class without prior explicit permission of the instructor!

Sexual misconduct statement: If you are the victim of a sexually oriented crime, please be aware that the University Policy regarding Victims of Sexual Misconduct is located online at as well as at page 68 in the University Student Handbook at  The policy includes definitions of the various sexually oriented offenses prohibited by Southeastern as well as the reporting options for victims and the process of investigation and disciplinary proceedings of the university. For more information log onto