NBIK14010U Social Behaviour and Communication

Volume 2016/2017

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Nature Management


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.

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.

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".
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.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 48
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Guidance
  • 4
  • Practical exercises
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 99,5
  • Project work
  • 30
  • Total
  • 206,0
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Written assignment, 5 page essay, 1 week
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.
Exam registration requirements

Attendance and active participation in at least 80% of discussion confrontations and practicals, including one oral presentation of the recommended literature, are compulsory.

Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

As ordinary exam.

If the requirement of attendance in at least 80% of discussion confrontations and practicals is not fulfilled, the student must take the course again the next year.

Criteria for exam assesment

To achieve the grade 12 the student should give an excellent performance representing a high level of knowledge of all aspects of the relevant material, with no or only a few minor weaknesses. See learning outcome.