Lucia offers Psychology 124, a large undergraduate lecture course on the evolution of human behavior, the first of its kind at Berkeley. The course presents human behavior within the larger framework of the evolution of animal behavior and cognition. Lucia’s lectures are webcast (audio and slides) and available online to Berkeley students and affiliates.
As the geneticist, Theodosius Dobzhansky once famously said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” And of course the same is true of the biology of social behavior in humans. This course is an introduction to that evolutionary history: how humans evolved their particular form of social organization, what this means for human social interactions and what this can tell us about how humans will evolve in their future, virtual social worlds. To understand where human social behavior comes from, the course embeds questions about human social behavior in the larger context of the evolution of social behavior in all animals. After an introductory week reviewing evolutionary principles, the course will address questions such as: Why be social in the first place – what factors produce complex social systems, as in humans, in other species? Humans have diverse mating systems – how do mating systems evolve, why is the human condition similar to or different from other primates or even other vertebrates? What kinds of intelligence do we find in social animals – in terms of communication, cooperation, mimicry and teaching – and how do humans differ from other species in this regard? What are the dark sides of sociality – other social animals can also be violent, can steal, can lie and cheat – how are humans different? Keeping the peace in complex societies leads to social rituals, stereotyped signals, conforming behaviors and even policing and punishment. How are human expressions of these social behaviors different and how might they have evolved? Conflict, aggression, dominance and struggles for power are found in all animals, as are altruism, cooperation and even democracy and voting for the general good – how are the human forms of these behaviors, found in diverse animals with very different brains from our own, similar or different? We will then address how humans interact socially with other types of animals, such as pets, and engineered agents, such as robots, and how this relates to other types of social interaction. Finally, we will conclude by examining how our use of social media and the internet can be understood in light of our social evolution so far.