Evolution and Human Behaviour - MSc


Taught by expert researchers, this innovative MSc combines evolutionary anthropology, focusing on the behaviour of human and non-human primates, with evolutionary, developmental and cognitive psychology. 



You gain an interdisciplinary understanding of the origins and functions of human behaviour and can select from a range of advanced topics such as evolutionary anthropology, primatology, human behaviour, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology and intergroup relationships.

The programme places a strong emphasis on critical thinking and understanding of both the broad fields and the specialisms within. Core to the programme is the development of research methods, culminating in a piece of original research, written up in the form of a publication-ready journal article. The MSc in Evolution and Human Behaviour is a perfect foundation for PhD research: it provides theoretical background, discipline specific knowledge and advanced, quantitative research methods.

Why study with us?

  • A unique, interdisciplinary, combination of Evolutionary Anthropology and Psychology.
  • Taught by expert, active researchers in evolutionary approaches to understanding behaviour. 
  • Select from a range of advanced topics such as Evolutionary Anthropology, Primatology, Human Behaviour, Developmental Psychology & Cognitive Neuroscience.
  • Perfect foundation for future PhD research: theoretical background, discipline-specific knowledge and advanced research methods. 
  • For students with an undergraduate degree in anthropology, psychology, biology or a related discipline.
  • A research component that results in a publication-ready journal article.

Think Kent video series

In this talk, Dr Tatyana Humle, Senior lecturer in Primate Conservation and member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent, summarises some of the main challenges faced by people and chimpanzees in West Africa and highlights the key drivers putting at risk co-existence between them.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Anthropology and Conservation was ranked 10th for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research impact and research power.

An impressive 94% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

The programme places a strong emphasis on critical thinking and understanding of both the broad field and the specialisms within. Core to the programme is the development of research methods, culminating in a piece of original research, written up in the form of a publication ready journal article.


Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.

Modules may include Credits

This module is an advanced treatment of current topics and debates in evolutionary anthropology such as human behavioural ecology, anthropological genetics, evolutionary demography, growth and development, human evolution, primatology, and human adaptability. Emphasis is on advances in these areas during the past decade and the directions of future research. The goal of this course is to understand these topics and, specifically, how research and publication works in evolutionary and anthropological science. This module will allow students to be exposed to a broad series of topics, opinions, methodologies, journal articles, and ideas in numerous highly relevant fields of research. Seminars will critically examine classic and recent journal articles, considering the quality of research and presentation, and the utility and diversity of using Darwinian approaches to explore and explain human behaviour.

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The aim of this module is to provide a postgraduate-level orientation to both basic and advanced contemporary statistical and methodological issues in psychology. It is compulsory for all our MSc students. The methodological issues considered include validity and reliability in measurement; experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational research designs in the laboratory and field; observational, archival, and qualitative research methodologies; and the problem of bias in psychological research. The statistical techniques taught include univariate and bivariate descriptive and inferential statistics; psychometric techniques; exploratory data analysis; basic and advanced topics in ANOVA and ANCOVA; multiple regression; factor analysis; and structural equation modelling.

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This module provides an opportunity to study the literature on group processes and intergroup relations at an advanced level and to familiarize yourself with the current small group perspectives on groups. It builds upon knowledge of social psychology and in places biological psychology gained at undergraduate level. We also consider how social psychological and evolutionary theories in combination can explain group processes. Topics addressed include group cohesion, intragroup and intergroup conflict, status and leadership, and group size. The module draws primarily on small group research in social and evolutionary psychology, but we also consider perspectives from other fields, such as economics and anthropology. The module involves a great deal of student presentation, participation and discussion.

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The purpose of this module is to provide students with an understanding of primate behaviour and ecology, and how this allows us to better understand the evolutionary biology of human behaviour. Set within an evolutionary framework, this course combines established findings with the latest research. Seminars will critically examine classic and recent journal articles, considering the quality of research and presentation, and the utility of models derived from primate studies for understanding specific aspects of human behaviour.

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The material presented in this module is drawn from the relatively new academic disciplines of evolutionary anthropology, human behavioural ecology, and evolutionary psychology. The goal of this module is to explore and understand the principles of evolutionary psychology and other complementary paradigms. The module explores human behaviour (primarily human sexual behaviours) from a Darwinian perspective. Topics covered are reproductive and mating strategies, parenting behaviour, kinship, cooperation, survival, jealously, and aggression. The module will provide students with an advanced understanding of the deeply biological nature of human behaviour, and develop skills in critical thinking. Students will be encouraged to bring relevant questions and observations to seminars, and time will be allocated to deal with them.

Seminars will critically examine classic and recent journal articles, considering the quality of research and presentation, and the utility and diversity of using Darwinian approaches to explore and explain human behaviour.

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This module explores the typical development of key cognitive functions and the psychological methods employed to study these developments. The aim of the module is to explore these topics at an advanced level, allowing students to evaluate critically pieces of research in terms of their findings, conceptual underpinnings, and/or methodological approaches. Topics covered in the module usually include, among others: the development of executive functioning; the development of theory of mind; language and reading development; sensory development; methods for measuring cognition in preverbal populations; methods for measuring cognition in childhood; critical periods of development and neurological plasticity.

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The aim of this core module is to provide a coherent base for understanding the methodological and option modules, each of the latter outlining a major area of concern in cognitive psychology and neuropsychology (vision, learning, memory, language, reasoning, emotion). We shall discuss the relationship between brain and mind, the modularity of brain and mind, and the notion of different levels/frameworks of description and explanation. Finally, we shall critically analyse the principled use of cross-domain constraint satisfaction as an essential heuristic.

Completion of this module should enable you to critically appraise the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of the various disciplines that comprise cognitive psychology and neuropsychology, and to evaluate how these disciplines may successfully be combined to further scientific understanding of the core problems in cognitive psychology and neuropsychology today.

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This module does not employ formal workshops/ lectures, although students do receive an orientation seminar about (a) how to choose a supervisor, and (b) how to choose a good research topic. Following this, students choose a project supervisor and are expected to liase with them about their project topic. During the spring and summer terms, students are expected to meet with their supervisors regularly, during their office hours, to ensure that the project is being conducted appropriately.

The basic structure of the course is shown below:

October: Think about project – talk to supervisors during their office hours; 2hr induction seminar on choosing a supervisor and project topic.

November: Decide topic and supervisor

January (onwards): Meet regularly with supervisor as and when needed in their weekly office hours until the project report draft submission date.

end February: Deadline for school ethics form submission

March: Data collection started

August: Deadline for draft project report submission

September: Deadline for final project report submission

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by computing tests, unseen examinations, coursework and a project report.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide the opportunity for advanced study of human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective, combining approaches from both evolutionary anthropology and evolutionary psychology
  • provide teaching that is informed by current research and scholarship and that requires you to engage with aspects of work at the frontiers of knowledge
  • help you to develop research skills and transferable skills in preparation for entering academic or other careers as an evolutionary scientist
  • enable you to manage your own learning and to carry out independent research
  • help you develop general critical, analytic and problem-solving skills that can be applied in a wide range of settings.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • a sound knowledge of a range of general, historical, theoretical and philosophical issues underlying the disciplines of  evolutionary anthropology and psychology
  • specialist knowledge and systematic understanding of the key issues in evolutionary anthropology and psychology
  • a sound understanding of the major analytic techniques and research methodologies employed by evolutionary anthropology and psychology.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • general learning and study skills
  • critical and analytical skills
  • expression of ideas both orally and in written form
  • communication skills
  • groupwork skills
  • computing skills
  • reviewing and summarising information
  • data retrieval ability.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the skills to complete an empirical study in an area of evolutionary anthropology/psychology, under expert supervision
  • the expertise to design and conduct a more extensive programme of research.
  • the skills to use the major analytic techniques employed by evolutionary anthropologists/psychologists
  • the skills to evaluate and select appropriate methods for researching questions in evolutionary anthropology/psychology.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • numeracy: develop the skills to analyse data and make sense of statistical materials, integrate numerical and non-numerical information, understand the limits and potentialities of arguments based on quantitative information
  • communication: develop the skills to organise information clearly, write coherently and concisely about the chosen research area and other areas of evolutionary anthropology/psychology, and give oral presentations about these topics
  • working with others: review the work of others, work co-operatively in groups, understand ethical principles and the procedures for gaining ethics approval for research
  • improving your own learning: explore personal strengths and weaknesses, develop the skills of time management,  review the student-staff relationship, develop specialist learning skills, develop autonomy in learning
  • information technology: use computers for data analysis, word processing, graphical display of data for analysis and presentation, and bibliographical research and documentation, email
  • problem-solving: identify and define problems, explore alternative solutions and discriminate between them.


As a School recognised for its excellence in research we are one of the partners in the South East Doctoral Training Centre, which is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This relationship ensures that successful completion of our courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Master’s qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.

Higher degrees in anthropology create opportunities in many employment sectors including academia, the civil service and non-governmental organisations through work in areas such as human rights, journalism, documentary film making, environmental conservation and international finance. An anthropology degree also develops interpersonal and intercultural skills, which make our graduates highly desirable in any profession that involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.


Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School has a lively postgraduate community drawn together not only by shared resources such as postgraduate rooms, computer facilities (with a dedicated IT officer) and laboratories, but also by student-led events, societies, staff/postgraduate seminars, weekly research student seminars and a number of special lectures.

The School houses well-equipped research laboratories for genetics, ecology, visual anthropology, virtual paleoanthropology, Animal Postcranial Evolution, biological anthropology, anthropological computing, botany, osteology and ethnobiology. The state-of-the-art visual anthropology laboratory is stocked with digital editing programmes and other facilities for digital video and photographic work, and has a photographic darkroom for analogue developing and printing. 

Kent has outstanding anthropology IT facilities. Over the last decade, the School has been associated with many innovatory projects, particularly in the field of cognitive anthropology. It provides an electronic information service to other anthropology departments, for example by hosting both the Anthropological Index Online and Experience-Rich Anthropology project. We encourage all students to use the Centre’s facilities (no previous experience or training is necessary).

Anthropology at Kent has close links with the nearby Powell-Cotton Museum, which has one of the largest ethnographic collections in the British Isles and is particularly strong in sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian material. It also houses an extensive comparative collection of primate and other mammalian material. Human skeletal material is housed at the Kent Osteological Research and Analysis Centre within the School.

Anthropology, together with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) form the School of Anthropology and Conservation.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology, psychology, biology, or a related discipline. In certain circumstances, we will consider students who have not followed a conventional education path. These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies and the programme co-ordinator. This course involves a statistics module therefore teaching assumes that you are already familiar with basic statistical methods.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: American EthnologistCurrent AnthropologyJournal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteAmerican Journal of Physical AnthropologyProceedings of the Royal Society B; and Journal of Human Evolution.

Biological Anthropology

Our research encompasses a broad range of topics within biological and evolutionary anthropology, including bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, archaeological science, human reproductive strategies, hominin evolution, primate behaviour and ecology, modern human variation, and cultural. We have three dedicated research laboratories, as well as a commercial osteology unit. 

Our research takes us to many regions of the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and United States).  We collaborate with international research organisations, including the Instituto de Biología Subtropical (Argentina), German Primate Center, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and Budongo Conservation Field Station (Uganda).  Members of staff provide a wide research network offering research opportunities in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

Skeletal Biology

Our Skeletal Biology Research Centre is the only UK Centre focusing on analysis of biological hard tissues (bones and teeth). It brings together innovative research, novel methodologies and international collaborations, with expertise and resources from Physical Sciences and Biosciences at Kent, and the Powell-Cotton Museum. Research ranges from analyses of the most important human fossils, histological studies of teeth and bone, isotopic analyses and dietary reconstruction, virtual 3D analyses of the skeleton, and forensic identification that together ultimately aim to better understand humans and our evolutionary history.


The Living Primates Research Group fosters research into the behaviour and ecology of primates. It addresses questions concerning adaptation using living primates as model species, to provide a comparative framework for the understanding of human biology and behaviour, and investigate the biological and social dimensions of anthropogenic impacts on non-human primates (NHPs). Research ranges from functional morphology to behavioural ecology and physiology, cultural primatology, and the interplay of primate biology, ecology and conservation, including primate rehabilitation and reintroduction and human-NHP coexistence. 

Social Anthropology

The regional expertise of our staff has a global reach, with field sites in Europe (including UK), the Middle East, the Balkans, South Asia, Amazonia and Central America, Oceania and Southeast Asia. Themes of conflict, violence, the economic crisis and precarity form a major focus of our current work in these areas, alongside new research on austerity and its social impact, and charity. We have emerging interests in social inequality, work, and organised crime and corruption; and are internationally recognised for our work on ethnicity, nationalism, and identity.

Our research extends to intercommunal violence, diasporas, pilgrimage, intercommunal trade, urban ethnogenesis, indigenous representation and the study of contemporary religions and their global connections (especially Islam). History and heritage is another key theme, with related interests in time and temporality, and the School hosts the leading journal History and Anthropology. Other research addresses the anthropology of natural resources; anthropology of tourism; and post-socialist economy and society in Europe and Central Asia.

We research issues in fieldwork and methodology more generally, with a strong interest in the field of visual anthropology. Our work on identity and locality links with growing strengths in kinship and parenthood. This is complemented by work on the language of relatedness, and the cognitive bases of kinship terminologies

A final focus concerns science, medical anthropology and contemporary society. We work on the anthropology of business, biotechnology, and mental health. Related research focuses on policy and advocacy issues and examines the connections between public health policy and local healing strategies. Staff collaborations and networks extend widely across these regions and thematic interests, and Kent is well-known for its pioneering engagement with the anthropology of Europe.

Research Projects

Students are allocated a supervisor to support them to the production of their research project (3-5000 words). The dissertation allows students to develop an idea, employ their research methods training and produce a publication-ready journal article.


Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Sarah Johns: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology; timing of life-history events; human reproduction, especially variation of the age at first birth and the evolved psychology of reproductive decision making.

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Professor Tracy Kivell: Professor of Biological Anthropology

Functional morphology of the wrist and hand; extant and fossil apes; origin of human bipedalism and hand use; ontogeny; biomechanics of primate locomotion.

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Dr Patrick Mahoney: Senior Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Evolutionary developmental biology of hominoid dentition; bioarchaeology, especially prehistoric human diet; palaeopathology.

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Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher: Reader in Primate Behavioural Ecology

Evolutionary ecology and behaviour of mammals with an emphasis on primates, in particular chimpanzees, including male-female aggression and sexual coercion, hunting behaviour, social behaviour, feeding ecology and ranging patterns.

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The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Evolution and Human Behaviour - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7500 £15700
Part-time £3750 £7850

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


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