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Animal Behaviour

University of Warwick

Department of Psychology 2021/22

Module Code:


Module Name:

Animal Behaviour

Module Credits (CATS):


Module Convener

Olga Feher

Module Teachers


Module Aims

The module will explore how animals behave in their natural environment, and why they behave in these ways. Its focus is on scientific ideas of broad applicability. The module takes a comparative approach across a broad range of animal taxa, and considers animal behaviour in an integrative framework, from the points of view of its causation, function, evolution and development. Students will collect behavioural data in the field and/or in practical classes and will be required to explore, visualise and analyse the data using standard software packages. They will be taught the basics of sound and video analysis and how to design behavioural experiments to test hypotheses. The success of this module relies on the active participation and intellectual engagement of the students, so questions, discussions and sharing views and opinions will be highly encouraged.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Analyse animal behaviour as part of an integrative framework where all aspects of behaviour are considered (development, mechanisms, evolution, adaptive value)

  • Apply animal behaviour data to inform knowledge of the evolution and genetic origins of human behavioural and psychological traits

  • Understand and develop basic knowledge of the neural, genetic and physiological bases of behaviour and how these interact to produce behaviour

  • Analyse different aspects of animal behaviour, such as communication, predator avoidance, foraging, reproduction, and parental and social behaviour;

  • Develop and apply collection, analysis and presentation of behavioural data and experimental design skills.

Assessed by:

Oral Presentation, literature review & exam

Module Work Load

Module Length

12 Weeks


One 2-hour lecture per week


Nine 1-hour Seminars


Attendance at lectures and seminars is compulsory

Module Assessment

Assessed work:

10 Minute Oral Presentation on data collected and analysed by the students (Can be done in pairs or individually)

Literature Review on topic chosen from a list (Done individually)






Module Programme

Introduction to animal behaviour and the integrative approach, Tinbergen’s 4 questions and different levels of analysis

Birdsong as a testcase for the integrative analysis of animal behaviour

Developmental and genetic bases of behaviour

Neural and physiological bases of behaviour (learning)

Predator avoidance and foraging

Principles of communication

Reproduction, parental care, mating systems

Social evolution: altruism, kin selection, conflict

Social behaviour and sociality: evolution, cooperation, individual differences

Comparative approaches to human behaviour

Revision Lecture

Revision Lecture

Module Reading List

Rubenstein, D. R. & Alcock, J. (2019). Animal Behavior, Eleventh Edition. Oxford University Press.