We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2022-2023

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Psychology


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 90 Location Durham


  • 60 credits from Level 2 Psychology module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The course will introduce students to the main findings and theoretical issues that have been derived from research into animal behaviour. This broadly consists of associative learning theory, comparative psychology and comparative cognition
  • Students will develop an understanding of the similarities and differences between different ways of studying animal behaviour. In particular, emphasis will be placed on cognitive, associative, and evolutionary approaches


  • This module covers advanced topics in animal learning and cognition from both psychological and biological viewpoints and seeks to combine the two
  • The course will integrate findings from associative learning theory, comparative psychology, cognitive psychology, ethology and behavioural ecology; all areas which have historically been considered separate
  • Topics include, for example:
  • Biological and Psychological approaches to studying animal cognition
  • What is learned is associative thinking?
  • Theoretical and empirical analysis of Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning
  • The conditions of learning. Formal accounts of associative learning: Elemental and attention-based models of associative learning
  • Associative learning in humans
  • Discrimination, categorization and concept learning
  • Problem-solving, insight and reasoning
  • Spatial cognition
  • Social learning
  • Intentionality, deception, and knowledge attribution
  • Natural Selectionm, the modern synthesis, and the biological approach
  • Fixed-action patterns, sign stimuli and releasers
  • Learning and evolution - general laws or adaptive specializations?
  • Optimality, foraging, and cognition
  • The module will cover related conceptual and historical issues in psychology

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be expected to aquire:
  • Detailed knowledge of classic and contemporary associative learning theory, comparative psychology, and comparative cognition including current theories, evidence and research methods
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to review critically and consolidate understanding of a coherent body of animal behaviour work and apply it appropriately
Key Skills:
  • Good written communication skills
  • Good IT skills in word processing, data manipulation and presentation
  • Abilities to work independently in scholarship and research within broad guidelines

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students' acquisition of detailed knowledge will be facilitated by lectures, and, for example, small group work, audio-visual materials, discussions and detailed reading lists
  • These modes of teaching provide students with detailed knowledge of the key theories and the skills needed to evaluate different theoretical positions in light of current evidence
  • The examination will assess students' detailed knowledge and understanding of the subject.
  • The summative assignment requires students to critically review an empirical study and evaluate its position within the field. For example, to review an article in the style of an academic manuscript review
  • To assess the evaluation of the position of the summative empirical study within its field, the range and appropriateness of sources included will constitute part of the overall assessment of the assignment
  • Some modes of teaching, for example, the use of group discussions and small group work, will ensure that students are exposed to a range of different theoretical positions, and encouraged to understand their inter-relations
  • These modes pf teaching will also give students the opportunity to interpret and evaluate the significance of empirical work
  • The summative assignment and written examination assesses students' acquired knowledge of theoretical principles and empirical studies and their ability to organise and synthesise them coherently and critically in written form in response to a set question
  • The summative assignment and examination will also assess students' written communication skills
  • Feedback on the summative assignments will be available as early as possible, allowing students plenty of time to benefit from feedback on this aspect of their work

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures and Seminars 22 1 per week 2 hours 44
Preparation and Reading 156
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 100%
Component: Summative Assignment Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 2000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

If you have a query about a specific module or degree programme, please contact the appropriate department.

If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our FAQ webpage. If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Faculty Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.