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Evolutionary perspectives on cognition


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School Nationell Forskarskola i Kognitionsvetenskap (SweCog)
Owner Annika Silvervarg

The course is given by SweCog, the national graduate school in Cognitive Science.
The course is given in English if there are student who do not speak Swedish.
The course may include travel to other Universities in Sweden. SweCog pays for travel and accomodation ONLY for gradute student in SweCog.
Other students are welcome to the course but must finance the travel by other means.

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Course plan

No of Lectures

2 days with 3 two hour sessions and one day with one two hour 8-10 seminars during 2-3 days.Ph.D. students. Master students can apply individually and might be admitted.

Recommended for

Ph.D. students. Master students can apply individually and might be admitted.

The course was last given

The course has not been given before. A similar course was given in 2003.


After completing the course, the students should
• be familiar with classical and modern theories relating evolution and cognition
• be able to use these theories in critical discussion and argumentation concerning evolution based theories and their influence on cognitive science and related disciplines.
• be be familiar with applications of evolution based theories.
• be able to use evolution based theories in theoretical and applied studies.


The course can be taken by all Ph.D. students in SweCog and other Ph.D. students as well as master students after individual application.


2-3 days intensive course (March 13-15) and a final seminar with presentation of course papers (May-June).


This course will provide students with examples of what evolutionary theory can teach us about cognition, as well as an understanding of some of the key concepts of Darwinian evolutionary theory. The evolutionary perspective on cognition is a conceptual framework with applicability on a broad variety of issues, such as for example the modeling of cognitive information processing, the neural basis and evolutionary history of cognitive mechanisms, the cognitive as well as neural basis and evolution of social cognition and communication. In short, the evolutionary stance toward the cognitive domain contributes not only to a better understanding of the evolutionary background of such phenomena, but also to our ability to map out cognitive mechanisms and processes and their neural basis.
We start by introducing some central concepts in evolutionary theory. What types of explanations are supported by the Darwinian framework, and what evidence is supporting those explanations? Some of the issues raised in the course are.
1. The comparative and evolutionary study of nonhuman animal cognition: cognitive ethology.
2. Evolutionary psychology (with focus on human cognition)
3. Modularity
4. Evolutionary aspects of communication
5. Archeological and anthropological perspectives on human cognition.
6. Evolution of brain and emotion
7. Critique of evolutionary perspectives on cognition.


Darwin, C. 1859/19XX (to be found online) On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (Recommended extra reading)
Darwin, C. 1872. The expression of the emotions in man and animals.
Gangestad, S. W. & Mithen, S. (eds) (2007). The Evolution of Mind. Fundamental Questions and Controversies. New York: The Guilford Press.
+ Articles recommended by the lecturers


Jens Allwood, Alexander Almér, Mikael Jensen, Elisabeth Ahlsén, Elisabeth Oberzaucher, Tomas Persson, Karl Grammer


Jens Allwood, Alexander Almér, Elisabeth Ahlsén, Mikael Jensen


Examination seminar May-June 2013

A course paper, about ten pages, on one or more issues brought up during the course.
Defence of the paper and opposition ofn a paper written by a fellow student.


7,5 hp

Page responsible: Director of Graduate Studies