A Day on Evolutionary Psychology - The Weekend University

Learn about the fascinating science of evolutionary psychology in this full day of talks from leading clinical and evolutionary psychologists.

Can practising compassion create lasting, physiological changes in your brain?

Is homosexuality really ‘against nature’?

And can an evolutionary understanding of our minds help explain, and offer solutions to many of the mental health problems we are facing today?

These are just some of the topics we’ll explore at ‘A Day on Evolutionary Psychology‘ at The Weekend University. In this series of talks, we’ll examine human psychology and behaviour through the lens of modern evolutionary theory.

You’ll learn:

  • The foundations of evolutionary psychology; how your emotions, thought patterns, perceptions, and social interactions have been shaped by millions of years of evolutionary history
  • Why same sex behaviour evolved in human and non-human animals; the fascinating evolutionary origins of homosexual behaviour and why it is widespread as can be seen within society with peeople engaging in acts such as you can see here if you click for more adult entertainment. The rise of this behavior is not only amongst humans, but it’s been seen develop in other animals alike.
  • The amazing science of compassion focused therapy; learn about the rapidly growing evidence for this groundbreaking form of therapy, and how it can help you be kinder both towards yourself and others, end toxic self criticism, heal trauma and shame, and improve your emotional wellbeing.

You’ll leave with a clear understanding of how these evolutionary insights can improve your emotional intelligence in the modern world.


The format will be similar to a TED event, but with in-depth lectures and focused on the theme of Evolutionary Psychology

  • 10:00am – 12:00pm: Session 1
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm: Lunch break
  • 1:00pm – 3:00pm: Session 2
  • 3:00pm – 3:15pm: Afternoon break
  • 3:15pm – 5:00pm: Session 3

Full Day Pass: £43.71

Student Pass: £22.51


Sunday 25th November 2018

09:30 – 17:00 BST

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25/11/2018 09:30 AM
25/11/2018 5:00 PM
Birkbeck, University of London, London
The Weekend University – A Day On Evolutionary Psychology


Birkbeck, University of London,
Malet Street, Bloomsbury,
London, WC1E 7HX

Lectures & Speakers

Evolutionary Psychology: An Introduction – Dr Diana Fleischman, PhD

The only reason you’re here, reading this, is because there is an unbroken chain leading back from you to the origin of life itself. In nature, adaptations shaped by environments to solve the problems of survival and mating: Endless forms of beautiful complexity like echolocation, courtship dances, and lactation. For millions of years we’ve had to find food, find mates and take care of our children and for hundreds of thousands of years we’ve used language to communicate, made tools, formed societies and shared our cultural innovations. Evolutionary psychology sees the human mind as shaped by the problems we faced over and over again throughout our deep history. According to evolutionary psychologists nothing about human nature makes sense except in light of evolution.

The endless forms in the human mind include emotions, thought patterns, perceptions, and social interactions which can be discovered and examined by investigating their possible function in solving problems of survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychology has had a massive influence on the field of psychology and public’s perception of the human mind. But, detractors also criticize evolutionary psychology for being biologically determinist, reactionary, and lacking falsifiability and scientific rigour. In this talk I’ll introduce you to the field of evolutionary psychology, its foundational principles and methods as well as common misunderstandings, questions and legitimate concerns.

Diana Fleischman - The Weekend University

Diana Fleischman, PhD is a Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Portsmouth. After an internship at a chimpanzee research facility, Diana earned her PhD in evolutionary psychology at the University of Texas at Austin studying hormonal influences on disgust sensitivity.

After two research positions, one investigating handwashing and the other looking at hormonal influences on women’s psychology, Diana arrived at Portsmouth where she researches disgust and teaches a course on the Psychology of Human Sexuality. Diana is currently working on a popular book applying evolutionary psychology and animal training to romantic relationships. You can follow Diana on twitter @sentientist.

Against Nature? Homosexuality & Evolution – Professor Volker Sommer

Same-sex behaviour is often condemned on the grounds that it is “against nature”. Indeed, selection favours those who leave more offspring. Nevertheless, homosexual behaviour is widespread – not only amongst humans, but other animals alike.

Doesn’t this constitute a paradox for Darwinian theory? And should we make connections between what goes on in nature and what is morally desirable? The talk will address these controversial topics.

Volker Sommer - The Weekend University

Volker Sommer, PhD is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at University College London. His research interests focus on the evolution of primate social and sexual behaviour, cognition, rituals, biodiversity conservation, animal rights and evolutionary ethics.

He serves on the boards of various journals and is the only scientist advising on both the “Section on Great Apes” and the “Section on Small Apes” of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Sommer has published several hundred articles – scientific as well as popular – and two dozens of books, including novels and poetry. He is a renowned science journalist in German-speaking countries, regularly featured by major magazines and newspapers.

Evolution & Compassion Focused Therapy – Professor Paul Gilbert OBE

Can an evolutionary understanding of our minds help explain, and offer solutions to many of the mental health problems we face today?

This talk, from the Founder of Compassion Focused Therapy and one of the world’s leading evolutionary psychologists, will explore how, by understanding the evolved nature of the human mind, and the importance of the social and cultural contexts in which it develops, it can help us better treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Particular attention will be given to the nature and difference between evolved motives (that guide us throughout life) emotions (that come and go according to the contexts in our lives) and competencies (our abilities to do certain things such as think reason and have empathy). It is the patterning of these different aspects of mind that give rise to different states of mind.

The talk will then go on to explore the rapidly developing evidence base for Compassion Focused Therapy, and how compassion, like anger or aggression, is an extremely powerful motivational force that can bring about real, lasting change .

You’ll learn how this groundbreaking form of therapy can help you be kinder both towards yourself and others, end toxic self criticism, heal trauma and shame, and improve your emotional wellbeing.

Paul Gilbert - The Weekend University

Professor Paul Gilbert, FBPsS, PhD, OBE is a British clinical psychologist, the founder of compassion focused therapy (CFT), compassionate mind training (CMT) and author of books such as The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges, Overcoming Depression.

He has researched evolutionary approaches to psychopathology for over 40 years with a special focus on the roles of mood, shame and self-criticism in various mental health difficulties for which Compassion Focused Therapy was developed. Professor Gilbert has written/edited 21 books and over 200 papers. In 2006 he established the Compassionate Mind Foundation as an international charity with the mission statement: “To promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion”.

What TWU attendees are saying:

    positive review  The most fantastic resource. Have been to a few of The Weekend University days - an incredible initiative bringing all that knowledge down from its Ivory Tower to an accessible and inviting platform - 10/10

    Charlie Fooks Avatar Charlie Fooks
    August 29, 2019

    5 star review  Just attended my second Weekend University day of lectures at Birkbeck, this time on Memories, Dreams and Existentialism. A great mix of speakers, styles and content which left me wanting to go home and find out more about two out of the three subjects. Fantastic to see Emmy Van Deurzen in action - she's a bit of a heroine of mine! One tip would be to ask the audience to fill up the rows of seats before the start as inevitably some people arrive late (like I did) and it was all a bit chaotic at the back of the auditorium. There were empty seats near the walls but no way to get to them without having four or five people stand up.

    Melanie Skeet Avatar Melanie Skeet
    February 26, 2018

    positive review  The 'Day on Depth Psychology' event was extremely interesting - great speakers and fascinating content. A great reintroduction to Psychology and I will definitely be going again. Thanks to Niall for organising such a great event.

    Laura Guthrie Avatar Laura Guthrie
    January 28, 2019
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The Weekend University seeks to guarantee an excellent learning experience. If you are not fully satisfied with the day, you will receive 100% of your money back, and we will cover the cost of your travel to and from the venue.


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