Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

Humans are social animals; social demands, both cooperative and competitive, structure our development, our brain and our mind. This course covers social development, social behaviour, social cognition and social neuroscience, in both human and non-human social animals. Topics include altruism, empathy, communication, theory of mind, aggression, power, groups, mating, and morality. Methods include evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, social psychology and anthropology.

Course Requirements


1.5 hours lecture, 1.5 hours of student paper presentations.

2-3 papers required reading + optional reading (presentations).


Presentations last 15 minutes each, and contain no more than 15 slides (not counting the title slide). Ideal presentations will offer an integrated view of the issue, not a sequential enumeration of the papers' results. Each participant will give 2-4 presentations over the semester, depending on class size.

Final Paper

The final paper will review and critique the literature on one topic from the course, connecting data from at least two different levels of analysis (e.g. molecular, systems, cognitive, social psychological, sociological, anthropological). 8 - 12 pages, double spaced. Papers are due Ses #10.

Course Grades

Presentations 50%
Final paper 50%


MIT Literature Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism—use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.


1 Organizational meeting
2 Altruism
3 Morality and norms
4 Empathy
5 Social perception
6 Theory of mind
7 Communication
8 Ingroups and outgroups
9 Aggression and dominance
10 Mating