Comparative, Evolutionary and Developmental Psychology: Origins of Mind (MSc) 2022 entry

This MSc 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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Key information

Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 5 September 2022
  • End date: 30 September 2023

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

Home: £10,395
Overseas: £25,450

Application deadline

Thursday 11 August 2022. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes. Applications are considered as soon as possible after they have been submitted.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé
  • personal statement (500 words)
  • sample of your own, single-authored 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 Comparative, Evolutionary and Developmental Psychology is a one-year taught postgraduate programme run by the School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

This MSc programme explores the evolution and development of behaviour and cognition in human beings and non-human animals. It provides students with the academic knowledge and practical skills required to study the origins of mind, using a broad range of theoretical perspectives and experimental approaches.

The modules are taught by renowned researchers, and students normally have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project.


  • The core curriculum provides a broad understanding of the evolution and development of behaviour and cognition, supplemented with options that allow students to explore specialist topics at an advanced level.
  • Students gain a range of valuable transferable skills that are highly relevant for pursuing a postgraduate research degree or other research-related careers.
  • Students have the opportunity, subject to availability, to conduct an independent research project, supervised by our academic staff, and that sometimes include fieldwork and zoo-based animal studies, and experimental studies on children and adult humans.
  • The course is mainly taught by members of the origins of mind research group, with additional contributions from other members of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience and the wider Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution.

Teaching format

The programme consists of two taught semesters followed by an independent research project, which is examined via a 15,000-word dissertation. The research project takes place during the entire year with a particular focus during the last three months (May to August).

The modules are taught through lectures, seminars, practical classes, and personal supervision, which are designed to support learning, enhance confidence, and promote employability.

The MSc normally admits only a small number of students each year and focuses on research-led teaching and individualised support.

The types of assessment might include coursework essays, research proposals, lab reports, statistical analyses,  and exams, in addition to the research project dissertation.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.


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 2021–2022 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2022 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.
  • Evolution of human behaviour and culture:  focuses on four modern evolutionary approaches to the study of human behaviour: human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution, and gene-culture co-evolution.
  • Generic Research and Professional Skills in Psychology: introduces students to the various skills and issues that are important to academic psychologists irrespective of their particular area of research.
  • Mechanisms of Behaviour: Integrating Psychological and Neuroscience Perspectives: explores some of the many physiological and neural systems that modulate patterns of behaviour in a range of species, including humans.
  • Methodologies for Psychology and Neuroscience: practical experience in a number of laboratory techniques and research methodologies as 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.
  • Impact of Science: engages deeply with a research topic of choice and its impact on science and society, while providing training in advanced writing skills.

Optional modules are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of participants to be offered; 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 conduct research on humans and other animals at:

In past years, research projects have included topics such as:

  • Conceptual thought and causal knowledge in primates and children
  • Development of social cognition, for example, imitation, joint attention, pre-verbal communication, prosocial behaviour and group membership in children
  • Evolution of communication, for example, gesture and multimodal communication in primates
  • Evolutionary and psychological origins of cooperation in primates, rats and children
  • Intentionality in primates and human infants
  • Moral reasoning and inequity aversion, for example, cross-cultural studies in children
  • Sex differences in behavioural development in rodents and primates
  • Sex differences in human social behaviour, for example, aggression, impulsivity, confidence and conformity
  • Social and physical problem solving in children, primates and birds
  • Theory of mind in primates and children

The research projects will be supervised by members of the teaching staff, who will advise on the choice of study subject and dissertation topic. In addition, they will provide guidance throughout the research process. The completed dissertation of not more than 15,000 words must be submitted by a specific date in mid-August.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2022 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue

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Join our Admissions team for one of our upcoming virtual events. During these events, you can find out more about studying at St Andrews and what it will do for your future.

Online information events

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 seminars, a reception is typically held in the departmental 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.

See the psychology and neuroscience seminar programmes


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


Many postgraduates from this course have gained academic positions in universities across the world while others have pursued careers in academic publishing, management services, and wildlife conservation.

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.



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

School of Psychology and Neuroscience


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

Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

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.

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.

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