HPS110 - The Science of Human Nature

Learning about the science of human nature sounds very alluring at first, but the execution of that learning is important in sustaining the allure. This course, while informative, lacked the delivery required to keep such a topic interesting over the course of a semester. I took this course during the fall 2020 semester, so the information in this article is subject to change.

Professors Teaching Assistant Semester Rating
Marga Vicedo and Mark Solovey Gary Graham Fall 2020

General Information

The material this course covers is fascinating; however, it could have been presented a lot better than it was. You can kind of put this course on the back burner while you focus on other classes. I think that online learning made this course a little lighter than it would have otherwise been. The course is about how human nature came to be the way it is, peculiar things about the way we act, and some classic experiments in human nature. Specifically, the topics covered (in no particular order) were biological and psychological approaches to aggression, altruism, attachment, conformity, empathy, happiness, obedience, prejudice, and resilience.

One thing that I disliked about the course was the format of the asynchronous lectures. The lectures being asynchronous was all fine and dandy; however, the staff decided to release the lectures as Microsoft PowerPoint slides with a voice-over. I personally believe that everyone would have been better served by a video file. Additionally, the staff required that all submissions be written in Microsoft Word. I use LaTeX to write my papers, so this was a bummer for me.

Teaching Staff

There were two professors for this course. Both of them took equal responsibility for the recorded lectures that we were to watch every week. I also had an honourary professor, my TA, who I spent more time listening to and talking to than the actual professors. Overall, the teaching staff was very friendly, as almost all other teaching staff are. My TA had a couple cute cats that we would get to see from time to time :)

Assignments

The assignments for this course include graded tutorials worth a combined 30% and two tests worth 30% and 40%, respectively. The “tests” in this course were actually essays, but this may have been due to the course’s online nature during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Tutorials

There are 11 tutorial sessions in total, and only the best 10 are kept meaning that you can skip out on one tutorial. 10% of the total 30% is dedicated to attendance, another 10% is dedicated to 10 short answer questions, and the remaining 10% is dedicated to two one-paragraph responses. The short answer questions were very short, and it was difficult to not go over the word count. Ensure that you keep the discussion relevant to the lecture material, as this is what you are being graded on.

Tests

The first test is an 800-1000 word essay. It is worth 30%, and the topics change based on the course material that semester. The second test is another 800-1000 word essay, but worth 40% this time! Again, the topic will depend on what has been covered up to that date. Both essays are relatively simple; however, I would recommend focusing intensely on one aspect of a topic instead of giving the reader a general overview.

Difficulty

Overall, I would rate this course on the easier side of my courses. The course load was generally light but could get a bit heavy when assignments rolled around. The course staff can mark harshly for the assignments, so I would recommend talking to the teaching team to see what they want out of the assignments, rather than trying to guess on your own.

Parting Words

While this course wasn’t bad, the best way I could describe it is “okay.” It could have been done a lot better, but it didn’t need to be because it was fine just the way it was. I would have definitely taken other courses over it and if you’re looking for alternatives, think about VIC122, ANT193, and CSC199 as those are all better courses (although they are all first-year seminar courses).