Career Research

Stuff for careers class..

Career Study Essay


Evolutionary Psychology is a field of Psychological research which has developed through the fusion of Darwinian evolutionary theory, mendelevian genetics, ethology and the more recent revolutionary ideas of sociobiology; primarily inclusive fitness, within group competition, reciprocal altruism, and the selfish gene.

Evolutionary psychology is concearned with forming hypotheses based on both the implications of fundamental evolutionary theory and observed human behavior; and developing tractable research programs to test how evolved psychological mechanisms statistically influence human behaviour to attain proximate and ultimate evolutionary objectives.

I chose Evolutionary Psychology as the focus of this project, due to a facination in part engendered through an undergraduate course in this topic. Evolutionary Psychology seems to offer a window into human motivation and deep rich expository narrative of human behaviour. It’s also an accademic dicipline, with gels with my desire to continue to post doctoral research and lecture work.

As this is a young and still small field, it was relatively challenging to source information relating to courses of study. I used a variety of sources, including the prospects planner website, to discover opportunies and paths to study in the area.

The Occupations Tasks / Responsibilities

Entry requirements

A number of masters and PhD programmes are available for postgradutates looking to study in the field of evolutionary psychology; although none are available in the Republic of Ireland. In the united kingdom, both the University of Liverpool, and Buckinghamshire Chiltens University offer masters degrees in the area.

Liverpool’s entry requirements (published online in contrast to those of Buckinghamshire), are an upper 2nd class honours degree in Biology, Zoology, Psychology or Anthropology. Graduates from Psychology and Anthropology degrees must have had a biological component (such as the neuro-science and evolutionary psychology course’s on Trinity College Dublin’s undergraduate single honours psychology programme). The degree is a taught course in primate and human behavioural ecology and cognitive evolution; combined with an independant research project. The course is described on the prospects planner website as approximately 40% research, and 60% tutorials, and assessment is divided evenly between exams, continuas written assessment and a 20,000 word disseration. This twelve month course is open to european citizens, but a fee of approxiately €4300 euro is charged per year. Research grants are available from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); grants below €100,000 euro being offered through the ECSRC’s small research scheme. Currently the ESRC provide grants to 2,000 postgraduate students across the UK.

Further afield, a number of courses are offered in the United States, at research centres such as University of Santa Barbara Center for Evolutionary Psychology, which I will discuss in more detail later, in relation to the environment and research programme of an Evolutionary Psychology research institution. Another programme is offered by the University of Arizona, in Ethology and Evolutioary psychology. This programme endevors to train students, in the integration of biological behavioural and social sciences; and includes courses in anthropology, neurosience, ecology and evolutionary biology, etomology, family studies and psychology.

Terms and conditions

Training opportunities and prospects

Environment and Lifestyle


labour market, employment opportunities, and employment trends

Due to the difficulties I encountered in sourcing information about paths to study in evolutionary psychology, courses offered, and methodological approaches taken; I found it necessary to speak to an accademic who has carried out work in this area, and who keeps up with developments in the field. I spoke to Dr. Howard Smith, whose research interests include animal behavior and ethology – and who teaches the junior freshman course in Evolutionary Psychology in TCD.

Dr. Smith emphasised that evolutionary psychology is a young dicipline, and currently a research perspective rather than a specific career. As such, the route to study in evolutionary psychology is similar to that taken to any area of psychological research; from undergraduate degree, to taught / research masters, to PhD; with a view to obtaining an accademic position through teaching experience, publications, and the ability to raise research funding.

Methodologically, Dr. Smith suggested that cross cultural questionaires (utilised to uncover universal human cognitive traits and bias’s), and examinations of archival statistical data, take precidence over experimental methodologies – partially due to difficulties with regard to obtaining consent for direct observation of courtship behaviours, or experiments involving initially misleading participants through the use of experimental confederates.

In responce to my questions about the apparent lack of popularity of the area, Dr. Smith described how despite being a direct ancestor of Evolutionary Theory, Ethology and Sociobiology (an area in which much fundamental research was performed as long ago as the 1970’s), many modern evolutionary psychologists distance themselves from such strictly biological approaches; due at least in part to political correctness, and to the fear of being accused of genetic determinism. Despite this, Dr. Smith was positive that evolutionary approaches were too fundamental to remain ignored within psychology as a whole, and that much of the apparent lack of popularity of the area (in the accademic arena, as compared to its media reporting) may be due to its relative youth.

With regard to the possibility of studying evolutionary psychology within the auspices of TCD, Dr.Smith mentioned that both undergraduate and postgraduate work in this area were possible under his supervision. Current, one of PhD candiate is producing research in the area of cross sex friendship under Dr. Smith; with a primarily questionaire based methodology. However, potential research would have to be designed by the candidate themselves, as there is no ongoing research programme available in TCD.

Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby are two of the foremost researchers in evolutionary psychology, and there book, ‘The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture’ is one of its foundational text. The center for evolutionary psychology is a multi-disciplinary research center at University of California, Santa Barbara. Co-directors Cosmides and Tooby head an institution who’s aims include research, training and intra-university collaboration. Specifically the centre seeks to comprehend the functionally specific evolved psychological adapatations which make up the human mind, and the how such underlying proximate evolutionary frameworks generate social and cultural phenomena.

To study at doctorate level at the center, application to required to either the Psychology or Anthropology graduate programmes. Relevent graduate courses include Deveopmental and Evolutionary Psychology, Socio-cultural Anthropology and Evolutionary Psychology. There are currently sixteen postgraduate students attached to the center.

Research methologies utilised at the centre include cognitive testing, ethnographic analysis of agricultural tribes, correllations between mind, behaviour, and bodily mechanisms, cross cultural experimentation, cognitive neuroscience, questionaires, archeology, and developmental studies.

Some examples of specific research questions tackled by researchers at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology include the evolutionary fuctionality of emotions, human psychological universals, mate attraction, facial expression communication and how evolved mechanisms create cognitive models of the physical, biological, and social worlds.

ESRC Research Grants Scheme

Economic and Social Research Council

Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Ecology Research Group – Liverpool University

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby – Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Cosmides Homepage

Tooby Homepage

Places to study evolutionary psychology –

Research Approaches –

Ethology and Evolutioary psychology programme, university of Arizona

Other Links

David Buss’s Lab

Research approaches at Buss’s Lab

Rutgers university – Robert Trivers

Modules Studied list

  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Introduction to psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Psychology
  • Philosophy of Psychology
  • Brain and Behaviour (Neuroscience)
  • Communication and Language (Psycholinguistics)
  • Social-Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Perception
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Synaptic Plasticity (Advance neuroscience)
  • Psychological Disorders
  • Individual Differences (Personality)
  • PMS I, II, III


  • Worked as residential assistant in Center for Talented Youth Summer Programme in DCU, in challenging leadership role
  • Member of winning team, Psychology Dept TCD Junior Freshman Cognitive Poster contest, 2004
  • Attained a Ist in 2004 junior freshman end of year examinations
  • Took part in 2005 senior freshman scholarship examinations, attaining an exemption from year end examinations
  • Served as Station Manager for Trinity’s Student radio station, Trinity FM, 2004 – 2005

– duties included time tableing broadcasts, managing the studio on a day to day basis, construction of the stations website, and together with the society chair, co-ordinating the overall running of the station

  • Serving as Senior Producer for Trinity’s Student radio station, Trinity FM, 2005 – 2006

– duties include technical responsibility for the studio equipment, technical support for the studios on air and online broadcast, management of the stations website and backend wiki documentation, general management of the studio and co-ordination of broadcast weeks

  • Serving as Librarian for Trinity Science Fiction Society, 2004 – 2006
  • Co-hosted a guest lecture to senior-freshman broad curriculum Citizens, Politics and Decisions course
  • Co-founded, produced, scripted and hosted the technology, politics and popular science podcast (syndicatable internet media) Technolotics, now produced weekly in both audio and video

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