Hormones and Behaviour - SE605

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 6 15 (7.5) DR B Wheeler checkmark-circle


If behaviour has been shaped by natural selection, then those behaviours must have some biological basis. This module explores the extent to which hormonal mechanisms provide such a biological explanation of behaviour in humans and our primate cousins. Students will learn the basics of the endocrine system, and consider both how hormones affect behaviour and how behaviour may affect hormones. This module will examine the role that hormones play in the differentiation of behaviours between females and males, as well as the evidence that sexual, parental, aggressive, and affiliative behaviours are influenced by hormones. Students will thus complete this module with a greater appreciation of the hormonal underpinnings of the complex sociality that characterizes humans and other primates.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 24
Private study hours: 126
Total study hours: 150


BSc Biological Anthropology
BSc Anthropology

Also suitable as an optional module for BSc Wildlife Conservation, BA Social Anthropology and BSc Biology

Method of assessment

Study Design (2000 words) (40%)
Seminar Readings Summaries (20%)
Essay (2000 words) (40%)

Indicative reading

Nelson, R. J. 2011. An Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology, 4th ed.: Sinauer Associates.
Ellison, P. T. & Gray, P. B. 2009. Endocrinology of social relationships, Harvard University Press.
Sapolsky, R. M. 2004. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Macmillan.
Becker, J., Breedlove, S., Crews, D. & McCarthy, M. 2002. Behavioral Endocrinology. 2nd ed.: MIT Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8.1 evaluate the basic workings of the endocrine system in order to critically evaluate the methods used to study human and nonhuman primate behavioural endocrinology in field, lab, and other captive conditions;
8.2 recognise the hormonal basis of sex differentiation and sex differences in behaviour;
8.3 critically evaluate the link between hormones and social systems in humans and other primates, including wide-ranging knowledge of how hormones influence mating behaviour, parenting behaviour, social behaviour, and cognition;
8.4 understand the causes of physiological stress in humans and other primates in order to explain in depth the link between the short-term adaptive benefits of acute stress responses and the long-term detrimental consequences of chronic stress;
8.5 describe and comment upon how to differentiate between correlation and causation in behavioural endocrinology, and how to establish the direction of causality.
8.6 design a study to investigate the link between hormones and behaviour in humans or non-human primates.


  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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