Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology: The Origins of Mind (MSc) 2020 entry

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.

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Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 7 September 2020
  • End date: 30 September 2021

If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Course duration

One year full time

Entry requirements

The qualifications listed are indicative 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.

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Tuition fees

UK and EU: £9,450
Overseas: £23,090

Application deadline

31 May 2020. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé
  • personal statement (500 words)
  • 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).

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

Course information

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.

Highlights

  • Students gain a detailed knowledge of the evolutionary, comparative, and developmental psychology literature and principal theoretical and methodological issues in these fields.
  • 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.

Teaching format

Over two semesters, students take four compulsory modules and two optional modules.

The modules are taught through lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials.On average, class sizes range up to 80 students for lectures and 20 students for seminars. Assessment types include coursework and exams. 

The final three months of your course will be dedicated to a 15,000-word research project dissertation.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.

Modules

The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2019–2020 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2020 entry.

  • 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.
  • Principal 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).

Here is a sample of optional modules that may be offered.

  • 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 (see the University's position on curriculum development).

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:

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 2020 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue

Visit St Andrews

If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at a visiting day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.

Upcoming postgraduate visiting days:

  • Wednesday 11 March 2020

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Virtual events

Find out more about studying at St Andrews, why it's unique and what it will do for your future.

Upcoming virtual events:

  • Thursday 12 December at 3.15pm (UK time)

Register

Conferences and events

The School of Psychology and Neuroscience hosts a weekly seminar programme typically held in the Old Library of the Psychology Building. These seminars include public lectures, open School discussions and papers presented by a variety of guest lecturers from the UK and abroad. Following the seminar, a wine reception is held in the staff common room.

The School also hosts an annual Jeeves Lecture as part of its seminar programme. The lectures are given by eminent psychologists and neuroscientists. Staff, students and members of the public are welcome at this lecture.

Funding

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.

Find out more about postgraduate scholarships. 

After the MSc

Research degrees

Many Psychology graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere.

PhD in Psychology

Careers

The vast majority of postgraduates from this course have gained postdoctoral and lecturing positions in universities across the world while others have jobs in:

  • research
  • wildlife conservation
  • academic publishing
  • 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 in building their employability skills.

Contact

School of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of St Andrews
St Mary's College
South Street
St Andrews
KY16 9JU

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2157
Email: pgsecpsych@st-andrews.ac.uk

Psychology and Neuroscience website

Policies

Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our admissions policy.

Curriculum development

As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online (PDF, 84 KB).