Missed opportunity

One thing that concerns me somewhat about the new AS specification is that the opportunity has been lost to include some evolutionary psychology.

The A2 still retains this increasingly popular psychological area, indeed could be said to be encouraging teachers not familiar with it to include it in their teaching as it cuts across so many A2 areas now and so is somewhat unavoidable.

So the opportunity has been lost on two counts; firstly because it would have been interesting in its own right (as has proved with evolutionary psychology on the old A2 specification) and secondly because it would have been a good opportunity to introduce this quite radically different psychological area before students encountered it head on in their A2 studies.

Some teachers may include the somewhat dated work of Harlow and Lorenz when introducing Bowlby’s work on attachment and that’s about it isn’t it?

So where could we have brought it in? Personally I would have made an argument for leaving out the Individual Differences unit of psychopathology from the AS and just have it as an A2 component. Within the AS units students are introduced to biological, behavioural, psychotherapeutic and cognitive models of thinking, so that would have formed a nice introductory link into a separate A2 unit of psychopathology.

So in my ideal world what could we have incorporated into an evolutionary psychology unit? Well content that would interest, stimulate and introduce the core principles. Maybe animal communication/language would have pushed all those buttons. Washoe, Lana, Koko, Kanzi etc. Lots of stuff about how to research such an area, the criticisms of people like Terrace. Links to human language. And then a second half of migratory behaviour; salmon and pigeons come to mind with similar themes again.

Generally, in my experience, those that vehemently oppose teaching/studying evolutionary psychology and want to leave it as an option at best for those that are interested, are the people who either know little about it (are maybe therefore scared off by it?) or have a prejudiced/uninformed view of the discipline. Many is the time during the marking process that I have had examiner’s in my marking team on PYA4 who, when we come to the evolutionary psychology module questions, groan/express fervent hopes that they have none in their allocation, or as in one glorious case offered to swap any such scripts she had for my social psychology ones as she liked those more. And many is the time that such teachers have, after the marking experience, expressed amazed comments at how interesting it had been and had then gone on to teach it to their students.

Once again, I think a great opportunity has gone to have put something into the AS specification that would have proven a popular, thought provoking and useful addition.