Social Behaviour and Communication

Course content

Levels of socialization, social organization in time and space. Game theory and evolutionarily stable strategies. Physiological background of social behaviour. Cognition. Mating systems. Social processes at the pair, family and group level. Cooperation and conflict. Multimodal signalling, reception and interpretation of communicative behaviour under constraints, sensory ecology. Communication networks and neighbourhood dynamics. Social networks.


MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biology with a minor subject

Learning outcome


By completing the course the student will have obtained detailed knowledge of behavioural and communicative processes fundamental for animal social behaviour and organisation.


By completing the course the student can:

  • explain animal social behaviour and organization in terms of function, mechanism, ontogeny and evolution;
  • present in details the connecting and organizing function of signals for animal social behaviour and explain the evolutionary forces that shape signals and signaling;
  • explain the relative effects of physical, biological and social environments on individual behaviour;


By completing the course the student can:

  • propose alternative hypotheses to explain a behaviour, design an appropriate experiment to test them and suggest predictions;
  • measure behaviour using different methods and extensively analyse the data obtained;
  • critically discuss results with respect to the hypothesis tested, place them in a broad general context, link to other behaviour issues and propose further lines of enquiry;
  • explain the costs and benefits of different experimental designs, data collection and analysis methods and identify sources of error;
  • present her/his work (in oral and written form) at a level approaching the scientific standard;
  • extract, present and critically discuss in detail the results of a scientific article about animal behaviour;
  • identify and explain strengths and weaknesses in scientific articles, suggest solutions to the weaknesses and further enquiries inspired by the strengths.

2 lectures and 2 discussion confrontations (colloquia) of two hours each plus one practical of four hours per week for a total of six weeks, followed by an individual project consisting of a 5 page essay during the seventh week of the course. The course ends with an individual oral defence of the project and an oral examination on the rest of the course contents.

See Absalon.

We recommend that the course participants have basic knowledge about evolutionary biology and animal physiology, for instance obtained by following the courses "Evolutionsbiologi" and "Menneskets fysiologi".

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

The students will be given oral feedback during the discussion confrontations and also during the two practicals (the first and the last) where the students will not write a report. Individual and written feedback will be given to the reports for the remaining four practicals. These will also be followed up with oral, collective feedback. The students will also be given individual feedback to their exam essays and oral exam.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Written assignment, 5 page essay, 7 days
The oral examination will consist of defence of the essay (10 minutes) and oral examination on the rest of the course contents (10 minutes). The examination is without preparation time. The final grade is given based on an overall assessment of the essay, the defence of the essay and the oral examination.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Two internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the grade 12 the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 99,5
  • Practical exercises
  • 24
  • Project work
  • 30
  • Guidance
  • 4
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • English
  • 206,0