The MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology provides advanced research training in a range of intellectual and practical skills associated with evolutionary, comparative and developmental approaches to the study of the mind.
The MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology is a full-time taught postgraduate programme run by the School of Psychology and Neuroscience. This distinctive programme tackles fundamental issues associated with the origins of animal and human cognition via a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches.
- Students gain a detailed knowledge of the evolutionary and comparative literature and principal theoretical and methodological issues in this field.
- The course equips students with the necessary skills to pursue a research degree at MPhil or PhD level in psychology.
- Students have the opportunity, subject to availability, to undertake independent research at a given research centre in the UK or abroad, typically over the summer period.
- The course is taught by members of the internationally recognised Origins of Mind research group, with additional classes by members of the wider Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution and related academic staff with interests in evolutionary and comparative psychology.
Over two semesters, students take four compulsory modules and 30 credits of optional module(s). The modules are taught through lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials. Assessment types include coursework and exams. On average, class sizes range up to 80 students for lectures and 20 students for seminars.
The final three months of your course will be dedicated to a 15,000-word research project dissertation.
The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment.
- Empirical Approaches to the Evolution of Communication: explores the evolution of human language and animal communication through the comparative study of communication and cognition in humans and a variety of non-human species.
- Methods of Data Analysis in Psychology: advanced training in research design, statistics, qualitative methods and modelling.
- Origins of Human Cognition: focuses on the origins of human cognition from evolutionary and developmental perspectives.
- Principle Approaches to the Origins of Mind: introduces distinct ways of studying the origins of mind within a comparative Tinbergian framework, emphasising both functional and mechanistic accounts.
Students choose two optional modules; Generic Research and Professional Skills count as two choices.
- Evolution and Development of Social and Technical Intelligence: traces the evolution and development of aspects of social intelligence such as imitation and theory of mind, and technical intelligence such as tool use and understanding of causality.
- Generic Research and Professional Skills in Psychology: introduces students to the various skills and issues that are of importance to academic psychologists irrespective of their particular area of research.
- Mechanisms of Behaviour - Integrating Psychological and Neuroscience Perspectives: explores the relationship between neural function and behaviour in a range of animal species, including humans.
- Methodologies for Psychology and Neuroscience: gives students a practical, hands-on experience of a number of laboratory techniques and of research methodologies as are employed by the principal investigators in the School.
- Origins and Evolution of Mind Reading (Theory of Mind): offers a comparative approach to the emergence of the ability to understand mental states in children and non-human primates and its alteration in autism.
- Review - Approaches to the Study of the Mind: compares and contrasts different theoretical and methodological approaches to a particular topic in the study of the mind.
Optional modules are subject to change each year, and some may only allow limited numbers of students.
Research project and dissertation
Students will undertake a significant piece of independent research as part of their final assessment. In the past, students have had the opportunity to perform fieldwork studying nonhuman animals at:
- Living Links Centre and Budongo Trail in Edinburgh Zoo
- Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center in Leipzig
- Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda
- Taï Monkey Project in Ivory Coast
- Inkawu Vervet Project in South Africa
Additionally, the School of Psychology and Neuroscience has facilities for testing children. There are also facilities for testing adults in tasks related to evolutionary psychology.
Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise on the choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the research process. The completed dissertation of not more than 15,000 words must be submitted by a date specified in August.
The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry.
The vast majority of our postgraduates have gained postdoctoral and lecturing positions in universities across the world while others have jobs in research, wildlife conservation, academic publishing and management services.
The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.
- A good 2.1 Honours undergraduate degree in Psychology or a cognate discipline.
- If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
- English language proficiency.
The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.
- CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date.
- personal statement (500 words).
- a sample of academic written work (2,000 words).
- two original signed academic references.
- academic transcripts and degree certificates.
- evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).
Recent Graduate Discount
The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.
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