2023-2024 / COMU2144-1

Natural history of human communication, Evolution of communication


30h Th

Number of credits

 Extra courses intended for exchange students (Erasmus, ...) (Faculty of social sciences)3 crédits 
 Bachelor in information and communication5 crédits 


Véronique Servais

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The course is an introduction to the natural history of human communication. First it rapidly present the evolution of communication in the animal kingdom. Then human communication is presented as it has evolved from primatic ancestral forms. The more recent theories about what is specifically human in communication (apart language!) are proposed. The following topics are discussed : the attachment theory; social cognition in dogs, monkeys, apes and children; facial expressions as biologically and culturally bounded; interactional synchrony, mother-baby interaction, empathy, intersubjectiviy. The aim is to indentify what makes human communication and interaction so special and how it opens up to cultural invention.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

Regarding the content : to provide knowledge about the evolution of communication in a broad perspective. The aim of the course is also to insist on non-verbal communication as the fundamental structure of all (verbal or not) exchanges. Regarding more transversal competencies : students are expected to learn to read scientific papers and to write a well argued text on the basis of scientific papers.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

1- To have passed the course "Theories of communication". If not, the student must read :
- Watzlawick P., J.H. Beavin & D. D. Jackson (1972). Une logique de la communication. Paris, Seuil.
- Winkin, Y. (1986-2000). La nouvelle communication. Paris, Seuil.
2/ To be able to read, understand and synthetize a paper in english.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

4 hours of practical exercices in small groups are organized in order to help the students to read and understand the english scientific papers.
During these practical exercices, students will be given previous year's exams, in order to have them precisely understand what is excpected from them.

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

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

The teaching is ex cathedra. The course has a strong visual support (slides and film) that is provided to the students via the MyULg portal. Additional sessions in small groups are provided to read and understand the scientific papers and to be prepare the examination. Teaching is at the second term, 2 hours/week, plus 4h exercices. Location and precise agenda to be determined. See

Recommended or required readings

The scientific papers that are discussed during the course are published by the Liège University Press. The ppt presentations are posted on MyULg.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions )

Additional information:

The assessment is in the form of an open book written assignment. 

The evaluation will be based on the following points: understanding of the question, richness and understanding of the proposed content, quality of reasoning, respect of formal criteria. 

For the examination the students will need to have their written texts with them, but course notes and slides are not allowed. The texts must be devoid of hand writing. 

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course



Véronique SERVAIS, Pr.

Faculté des Sciences Sociales
Place des Orateurs, 3, B31 
Sart Tilman
4000 Liège
+ 32 4 366 32 08
E-mail v.servais@uliege.be
Secrétariat Fass

Secrétariat ASC
Evelyne Libens
Tél. 04 366 32 86

Association of one or more MOOCs