2023-2024 / BIOL1063-1

Social ethology


30h Th

Number of credits

 Master in anthropology (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Extra courses intended for exchange students (Erasmus, ...) (Faculty of social sciences)5 crédits 
 Master in biology of organisms and ecology (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in psychology (120 ECTS)3 crédits 


Fany Brotcorne, Laurane Winandy


Fany Brotcorne

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The contents covered in this course encompass a broad range of observable social phenomena in animal societies (costs and benefits of group living, social dynamics, movements, anti-predatory strategies, activity synchronization, social cognition, learning, cooperation and altruism, collective intelligence, animal personality, and animal cultures). The course is divided into two partims, each analyzing these collective phenomena from a different perspective: that of mechanisms or proximate causes and that of functions or ultimate causes within an evolutionary context. Through this dual mechanistic and evolutionary approach, students can, at the end of the course, examine and interpret an animal collective behavior in its entirety.

This course involves a blended learning approach, combining traditional ex-cathedra methods with active pedagogical methods of the "flipped classroom" type.
First Partim (F. Brotcorne):
Ex-cathedra sessions, topics covered: Evolutionary theories and levels of complexity in animal societies, mechanisms of social life (recognition, cooperation, and altruism), social information transfer and social learning within groups, animal cultures and cultural evolution, concepts and tools in the analysis of animal social networks. Evaluation: written examination.

Second Partim (L. Winandy):
Flipped Classroom: After an initial theoretical session, students will be required to work in groups on selected themes in social ethology (personality, sociability, collective intelligence, social cognition, etc.), illustrating the concepts, methods, and examples demonstrating both proximate and ultimate causes associated with each chosen theme. The presentation of this work (without any report, using PowerPoint slides as a support) will take place during the examination, including a question-and-answer session.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

Situating and describing the question of the social behavior of animal species within an evolutionary context (long-term causes) and from a proximate or mechanistic perspective (immediate proximate mechanisms).

Mastering the key fundamental concepts related to group living in animals, comprehending, recognizing and explaining them in context. Establishing connections with the material covered in class and recent scientific articles on the same theme, describing and synthesizing these links, and cultivating one's critical thinking skills.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

General ethology

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Combined learning methods: Lectures and Flipped Classroom

Open discussion sessions may be offered throughout the course.

Analysis and synthesis of scientific recent publications in a flipped classroom format (one theme per group, presentation during the examination).

Practical exercises in social network analysis (using UCINET software).

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

The first part of the course is conducted exclusively in person (face-to-face). The second part includes homework preparation.

1) The first part will take place during October-November 2023 (5 sessions of 3 hours, schedules available on CELCAT).

2) The second part will take place during November-December 2023 (1-2 sessions of 3 hours and homework).

Language of instruction: French

Teaching Modes:

Theoretical lectures are conducted in person (please check the room on CELCAT). If sanitary conditions require it, remote teaching (via Teams) will be offered.

Recommended or required readings

The course material is based on PowerPoint slides as well as additional scientific articles and book sections that will be provided and made available on e-campus

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions ) AND oral exam

Additional information:

1st part: Written examination

2nd part: Oral presentation (PowerPoint support for the group work), without submission of a written report, followed by a question-and-answer session with the instructor during the examination session.

If Red code: Remote oral examination (Teams) covering both parts of the course and conducted on the same day

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

See section Modes of delivery.
The dates and schedule are available on CELCAT.


Fany Brotcorne : fbrotcorne@uliege.be

Laurane Winandy : laurane.winandy@uliege.be 

Association of one or more MOOCs

There is no MOOC associated with this course.