Evolutionary Psychology PhD Programs

Jan 14, 2019

It is possible for students to pursue a Ph.D. in evolutionary psychology at a number of research universities around the country. While these programs may vary to some extent from school to school, there are some details about these programs that are common among them, like course requirements and admission standards, which are discussed at greater length below.

Information About Evolutionary Psychology Ph.D. Programs

Students who are interested in studying the field of evolutionary psychology within a Ph.D. program will generally need to enroll in a broader Ph.D. program in psychology, brain sciences, or neural systems, and then pursue an evolutionary psychology research track. These programs typically take five years to complete; in addition to coursework, several years are devoted to research and the completion of a doctoral dissertation. Below, we will look at five courses that are common components of the curriculum of these programs.

Fundamentals of Evolutionary Psychology

Ph.D. programs in evolutionary psychology generally require that students take a course that covers the fundamentals of this discipline. In this course, students learn about the topics and concepts of evolutionary psychology, such as natural selection and the development of adaptations that shape human cognition. Students also learn about relevant theories in evolutionary psychology, as well as current research in the field.

Analysis and Methods of fMRI Data

These programs typically require that students take a course that focuses specifically on how to conduct research using fMRI methods. In this course, students receive instruction in how to set up a proper fMRI research project, the appropriate experimental design, and various methods of statistical analysis. Both linear and nonlinear models of data analysis may be covered.


A course in neuroanatomy focuses on providing students an overview of the structure of the anatomy of the brain and nervous system. Some topics that may be discussed in this course include neuropsychology, neural degeneration, and developmental neuroscience. The course may also have a functional component in which students would learn about the various functions of the central nervous system and how the entire system is connected.


These programs also often require students to take a course that covers psychophysiology. In this course, students will explore the relationship between psychology and physiology and will learn about the various theories of psychophysiology and how these theories can be practically applied. Some topics that may be covered in this course include psychopathology and the physiology of cognitive processes.

Human Mating and Reproductive Psychology

Students may also be required to take a course that covers topics related to human mating and reproduction. In this course, students could learn about the brain mechanisms that govern human mating and attraction, covering this topic from an evolutionary, ecological, and physiological perspective. Some topics that may be covered in this course include why certain traits are physically attractive, pheromones, sexual hormones, and why some people have different sexual preferences in regard to mating.

Admission Standards for Evolutionary Psychology Ph.D. Programs

In order to gain admission into these programs, students need to submit an application with all of the required components as stated by each individual program. Generally, a complete application file includes a personal statement and information regarding a prospective student's research interests, undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and results from the GRE examination. Students are expected to have completed a bachelor's degree by the time of enrollment, and some programs may set a minimum GPA requirement.

In summary, students can obtain a Ph.D. in evolutionary psychology by enrolling in more generalized psychology doctoral programs and then specializing in the subfield through coursework and research towards their dissertation.

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