Evolutionary Criminology - 2017

Unit summary


  • Level of Study: Undergraduate Level 3
  • Study load: 0.125 EFTSL
  • Delivery method: Fully Online
  • Prerequisites: Yes
  • Duration: 13 weeks
  • Government loans available: FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP
  • Availability for 2017: SP2 , SP4
  • Availability for 2018: SP2 , SP4
  • Assessment: Essay - Minor Essay (20%) , Invigilated Exam - Final Exam (50%) - Learn more

Unit provided by

2017 Fees
Domestic 793.00
HECS 793.00
International 1,043.00

Life on earth is the product of natural selection. By understanding the process that created human beings and other animals, we can better explain human behaviour across many domains, including crime. This course presents the logic of Darwinian selection and how that is used by modern evolutionary biologists to explain animal conflict, mating systems, child care, cooperation and group based aggression. These theories and ways of understanding animal behaviour are applied to modern humans to allow us to understand crime in a new way: as the result of a mind designed by natural selection for an evolutionary past that no longer exists. The unit will cover evolutionary explanations of status-related aggression, child abuse and neglect, sexual assault, warfare, punishment, and the origins of morality and justice.

After successfully completing this unit you should be able to:

  1. understand the causal process that generated life on earth
  2. understanding the origins of sex differences in humans and why men are more likely to commit violent crimes
  3. understand the evolutionary origins of aggression, rape, child neglect and abuse, and warfare
  4. more fully understand how evolved creatures are designed to responsive to the environment, and thus understand that the nature/nurture debate is a false dichotomy
  5. have developed a more functional approach to understanding human behaviour, so that what seem like obvious "errors" or "biases" are often the result of complicated processes that are not well understood by psychologists but useful to those that possess them.
  • Essay — Minor Essay (20%)
  • Invigilated Exam — Final Exam (50%)
  • Online assessment — Online Exam (30%)
For more information on invigilated exams see Exams and results

This is not an introductory unit, it is a third year unit. You must have a basic understanding of the first and second year criminology units.

This unit addresses the following topics.

1The origins of life, and the logic of natural selection
2Evolutionary psychology: understanding the human mind
3Kin selection and family conflict
4The origins of sex and the mammalian model
5Animal aggression
6Humans as mammals
7Crimes against children
8Jealousy and sex crimes from an evolutionary perspective
9Adaptive function of anger
10Male-on-male status aggression
11The origins of justice, morality and war
12Criticisms and misunderstandings of evolutionary psychology

This unit is delivered using the following methods and materials:

Instructional Methods

  • Discussion Forum/Discussion Board
  • Online Quizzes/Tests
  • Online assignment submission
  • Podcasting/Lecture capture
  • Standard Media
  • Web links

Online materials

  • Online Assessment
  • Resources and Links

This unit is part of a major, minor, stream or specialisation in the following courses:

This unit may be eligible for credit towards other courses:

  1. Many undergraduate courses on offer through OUA include 'open elective' where any OUA unit can be credited to the course. You need to check the Award Requirements on the course page for the number of allowed open electives and any level limitations.
  2. In other cases, the content of this unit might be relevant to a course on offer through OUA or elsewhere. In order to receive credit for this unit in the course you will need to supply the provider institution with a copy of the Unit Profile in the approved format, which you can download here. Note that the Unit Profile is set at the start of the year, and if textbooks change this may not match the Co-Op textbook list.
This unit does not have a prescribed textbook(s).

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