The course aims to discuss the basics of evolutionary psychology. By identifying the key paradigms in the development of Evolutionary Theory from Darwin to the recent debate concerning human cognitive faculties, the course will describe the evolutionary perspective as a fundamental tool for the investigation of mental processes but also for reflecting on more general philosophical issues involved in the study of human nature.

At the end of the course, participants:
- will be able to critically discuss the main theoretical proposals inherent evolutionary theory and its related key notions;
- will acquire the basics of evolutionary psychology;
- will be able to identify the theses of the various scholars, the main arguments used to support those theses, and to provide a reconstruction of these arguments;
- will acquire knowledge on the main methods of applying evolutionary psychology to construct plausible explanations of human development and behavior.

teacher profile | teaching materials


Within a unifying evolutionary theoretical framework, the course deals with the leading topics related to the cognitive and neural underpinnings of important human faculties, providing an up-to-date overview on the state of the art and the mainlines of investigation. The course begins with an overview of ideas leading to evolutionary theory, its developments and the related key notions and mechanisms of evolution, also clearing misunderstandings related to this theory. The second part of the course will focus on the application of the evolutionary theory to psychology, through the analysis of the scientific developments of evolutionary psychology and the explanations provided to account for the development and functioning of relevant human faculties.
Overall, to explore the main adaptive functions of our minds and behavior, the course will be organized into the following contents:

- What evolution is (and isn’t)
- Key concepts of evolutionary theory (e.g., adaptation, variation, natural selection, sexual selection)
- Evolutionary steps of the origin of modern humans
- Evolutionary psychology: principles, methods of investigation, applications
- Modularity, learning and culture
- Evolutionary accounts of cooperation, conflict, emotions, language, mental illness

Core Documentation

Pievani T. (2006). La teoria dell’evoluzione. Attualità di una rivoluzione scientifica. Il Mulino, Bologna.

Bruni D. (2017). Psicologia evoluzionistica. Dal cervello del Pleistocene alla mente moderna. Carocci editore, Roma.

Type of delivery of the course

Courses are both in presence and remotely on Teams