Evolution & Universal Motivation - PSYC6080

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Arnaud Wisman checkmark-circle


This module provides an opportunity to study the literature on motivation, inspired by a wide range of psychological perspectives (e.g., Evolutionary Psychology, Social Psychology, and Existential Experimental Psychology). In this, we will consider what motivates human cognition and behaviour. Specifically we will consider; (a) General Theories of Human Evolution & Motivation(b) Biological Perspectives (c) The self and Self-regulation (d) Human Mating Strategies, (e) Embodiment, (f) Threat Management, (g) Emotion, (h) Religion and Illusion, (i) The Modern Unconscious (j).. Moreover, the module will introduce students to experimental methods and measures applied in the field of research on human motivation. Finally, applications of theory and findings on human motivation to applied settings (e.g., daily life) are discussed


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 22
Private Study Hours: 128
Total Module Hours: 150


Optional to Psychology undergraduate students.
Available to Short-Term Credit students, at the discretion of the school/module convenor.

Method of assessment

Exam 2 hours 60%
Research Poster 1,500 words 40%

Reassessment methods: Like for Like.

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

Aarssen, L. W. (2015). What are We?: Exploring the Evolutionary Roots of Our Future. Queen's University.

Baumeister, R.F. The cultural animal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Greenberg, J., Koole, S. L., & Pyszczynski, T. A. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of experimental existential psychology. Guilford Press.

Leary, M.R. The curse of the self. Oxford: University Press, 2004

Pinker, S. The blank slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Penguin Putnam, 2002

Stamos, D. N. (2011). Evolution and the big questions: Sex, race, religion, and other matters. John Wiley & Sons.

* Note; these are optional text books – mandatory readings will be provided.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of core concepts, theories and findings in the study of experimental existential psychology and human motivation

8.2 Critically evaluate the theoretical and empirical literature on motivation and experimental existential psychology

8.3 Apply theory and existing research on motivation to real life situations/ events

8.4 Demonstrate knowledge of the historical and conceptual issues in the study of motivation

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 Demonstrate literacy, writing and communication skills to present, interpret and discuss concepts, theories, and findings based on the use of the relevant literature

9.2 Critically evaluate the quality of theories, methods and findings in published research

9.3 Demonstrate generic research skills which include; the ability to synthesise theories, identify gaps in existing research, identify and locate appropriate resources, and develop novel research hypotheses.

9.4 Demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate, work independently and undertake problem solving tasks.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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