• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Biological Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Biological Anthropology, Psychology, Evolution and Ecology

This course examines the application of evolutionary theory to understand human behaviour.

It provides a primer on the basic principles related to the evolution of behaviour, and surveys the various frameworks that have been employed by anthropologists, psychologists, biologists, and others in this pursuit. The strengths and weaknesses of these frameworks—which include human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology, and various cultural evolutionary approaches—are addressed in a critical manner with the aim of establishing an integrated approach that borrows the best from each. A wide range of case studies will be used to illustrate the application of these principles. Topics include conflict and cooperation, foraging and resource use, mating and parenting, life history and fertility, and the individual in society. Some attention will be paid to the history of the evolutionary study of human behaviour, including the nature-nurture debate and the “sociobiology controversy.”

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon Successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Master basic principles at an advanced level related to the evolution of behavior, the various frameworks used to study the evolution of human behavior.
  2. Discuss the history and controversies in the development of an evolutionary approach to the study of human behavior.
  3. Prepare and develop a critical perspective on an independent study topic related to the evolution of human behavior.
  4. Explain a topic or argument in the field orally using a selective case study approach.
  5. Synthesize material from a range of cutting-edge and classic scholarly sources relevant to a topic or argument in the field balancing general argument and evidence.

Indicative Assessment

One 4,000 word essay (55% in total) [Learning Outcomes 3 & 5] with an assessed development cycle including:

  • One-page problem statement, 200 words (5%)
  • Tentative bibliography (10%)
  • Rough draft, 1500 words (5%)
  • Final draft, 4000 words (35%)

Three quizzes, each worth 10% (30%) [Learning Outcomes 1, 2].

One 6-minute tutorial presentation (10%) [Learning Outcomes 2 & 4].

Participation (5%) [Learning Outcome 3].

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Two hours of lecture and one hour of tutorial per week for 13 weeks, plus weekly reading and preparation time for assessments, making a total of 130 hours of work in total over the semester.

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed BIAN3124.

Prescribed Texts

Laland K, Brown G, 2011. Sense and nonsense: Evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour (Second Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3480
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4638
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4430 20 Feb 2017 27 Feb 2017 31 Mar 2017 26 May 2017 In Person N/A

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