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Introduction to Psychology
Course Level: Freshman
What do your dreams mean? Do men and women differ in the nature of their sexual desires? Can apes learn sign language? Why can't we tickle ourselves? This course tries to answer these questions and many others, providing a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior. It explores topics such as perception, communication, learning , memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction, and dreams.We will look how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wire-up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury.
- Lecture 1 - Introduction to PsychologyThis lecture introduces students to the study of psychology from an evolutionary perspective, the idea that like the body, natural selection has shaped the development of the human mind. Prominent arguments for and against the theory of natural selection and its relationship to human psychology are reviewed. Students will hear several examples of how studying mental phenomenon from an evolutionary perspective can help constrain theories in psychology as well as explain many prevalent human instincts that underlie many of our most basic behaviors and decisions.
- Lecture 2 - Foundations. This is Your BrainThis lecture introduces students to two broad theories of how the mind relates to the body. Dualism is the ubiquitous and intuitive feeling that our conscious mind is separate from our physical bodies, whereas Materialism is the idea that all of our mental states are caused by physical states of the brain. This lecture reviews arguments explaining why materialism has become the predominant theory of mind in psychology. This discussion is followed by a basic overview of the neurophysiology of the brain.
- Lecture 3 - Sigmund FreudThis lecture introduces students to the theories of Sigmund Freud, including a brief biographical description and his contributions to the field of psychology. The limitations of his theories of psychoanalysis are covered in detail, as well as the ways in which his conception of the unconscious mind still operate in mainstream psychology today.
- Lecture 4 - Foundations. SkinnerProfessor Bloom opens with a brief discussion of the value and evolutionary basis of unconscious processing. The rest of this lecture introduces students to the theory of Behaviorism, particularly the work of prominent behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. Different types of learning are discussed in detail, as well as reasons why behaviorism has been largely displaced as an adequate theory of human mental life.
- Lecture 5 - What Is It Like to Be a Baby. The Development of ThoughtThis lecture explores issues and ideas related to the branch of psychology known as cognitive development. It begins with an introduction of Piaget who, interested in the emergence of knowledge in general, studied children and the way they learn about the world in order to formulate his theories of cognitive development. This is followed by an introduction to the modern science of infant cognition. Finally, the question of the relationship between and the existence of different kinds of development is addressed.
- Lecture 6 - Language in the Brain, Mouth and the HandsOne of the most uniquely human abilities is the capacity for creating and understanding language. This lecture introduces students to the major topics within the study of language: phonology, morphology, syntax and recursion. This lecture also describes theories of language acquisition, arguments for the specialization of language, and the commonalities observed in different languages across cultures.
- Lecture 7 - Conscious of the Present; Conscious of the Past. Language (cont.); Vision and MemoryThis lecture finishes the discussion of language by briefly reviewing two additional topics: communication systems in non-human primates and other animals, and the relationship between language and thought. The majority of this lecture is then spent on introducing students to major theories and discoveries in the fields of perception, attention and memory. Topics include why we see certain visual illusions, why we don't always see everything we think we see, and the relationship between different types of memory.
- Lecture 8 - Conscious of the Present; Conscious of the Past. Vision and Memory (cont.)In this lecture, Professor Bloom reviews the basic psychological research on memory. Specific topics covered include the different memory types, memory limitations, strategies that improve memory, and memory disorders. This lecture also includes a discussion of several important social implications for memory research, such as recovered memories, and the influence of suggestibility on eyewitness testimony.
- Lecture 9 - Evolution, Emotion, and Reason. Love (Guest Lecture by Professor Peter Salovey)Guest lecturer Peter Salovey (Professor of Psychology and Dean of Yale College) introduces students to the dominant psychological theories of love and attraction. Specific topics include the different types of love, the circumstances that predict attraction, and the situations where people mistakenly attribute arousal for love.
- Lecture 10 - Evolution, Emotion, and Reason. Evolution and RationalityThis lecture introduces students to the study of psychology from an evolutionary perspective, the idea that like the body, natural selection has shaped the development of the human mind. Prominent arguments for and against the theory of natural selection and its relationship to human psychology are reviewed. Students will hear several examples of how studying mental phenomenon from an evolutionary perspective can help constrain theories in psychology as well as explain many prevalent human instincts that underlie many of our most basic behaviors and decisions.
- Lecture 11 - Evolution, Emotion, and Reason. Emotions, Part IThis class is an introduction to the evolutionary analysis of human emotions, how they work, why they exist, and what they communicate. In particular, this lecture discusses three interesting case studies, that of happiness (e.g., smiling), fear and the emotions we feel towards our relatives. Finally, this lecture ends with a brief discussion of babies' emotional responses to their caregivers.
- Lecture 12 - Evolution, Emotion, and Reason. Emotions, Part IIProfessor Bloom continues the discussion of emotions as useful evolutionary adaptations for dealing with our social environment. In particular, this lecture describes evolutionary explanations for several important emotional responses, such as the love between parents and their offspring, the gratitude we feel towards cooperative behaviors, the spite we feel for cheaters, and the cultural differences in feelings of revenge.
- Lecture 13 - Why Are People Different. DifferencesWhy are people different from one another? This lecture addresses this question by reviewing the latest theories and research in psychology on two traits in particular: personality and intelligence. Students will hear about how these traits are measured, why they may differ across individuals and groups, and whether they are influenced at all by one's genes, parents or environment.
- Lecture 14 - Psychology, Sex, and EvolutionThis lecture reviews what evolutionary theories and recent studies in psychology can tell us about sex and gender differences. Students will hear how psychology can help explain many of the differences that exist in whom we find attractive, what we desire in a mate, and sexual orientation.
- Lecture 15 - A Person in the World of People. MoralityProfessor Bloom provides an introduction to psychological theories of morality. Students will learn how research in psychology has helped answer some of the most central questions about human morality. For instance, which emotions are "moral" and why did these moral feelings evolve? What factors guide our moral judgments? And what factors predict when good people will do bad things?
- Lecture 16 - A Person in the World of People. Self and Other, Part IThis is the first of two lectures on social psychology, the study of how we think about ourselves, other people, and social groups. Students will hear about the famous "six degrees of separation" phenomenon and how it illuminates important individual differences in social connectedness. This lecture also reviews a number of important biases that greatly influence how we think of ourselves as well as other people.
- Lecture 17 - A Person in the World of People. Self and Other, Part IIThis lecture begins with the second half of the discussion on social psychology. Students will learn about several important factors influencing how we form impressions of others, including our ability to form rapid impressions about people. This discussion focuses heavily upon stereotypes, including a discussion of their utility, reliability, and the negative effects that even implicit stereotypes can incur.The second half of the lecture introduces students to two prominent mysteries in the field of psychology. First, students will learn what is known and unknown about sleep, including why we sleep, the different types of sleep, disorders, and of course, dreams, what they are about and why we have them. Second, this half reviews how laughter remains a mysterious and interesting psychological phenomenon. Students will hear theories that attempt to explain what causes us to laugh and why, with a particular emphasis on current evolutionary theory.
- Lecture 18 - What Happens When Things Go Wrong. Mental Illness, Part IProfessor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema describes how modern clinical psychology both identifies and treats various mental disorders. Particular focus is placed upon mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression, including current diagnostic criteria and current practices for treatment.
- Lecture 19 - What Happens When Things Go Wrong. Mental Illness, Part IIThis lecture continues to cover one of the most salient areas within the field of psychology known as psychopathology, or clinical psychology. Following a discussion of the different ways of defining mental illness, Professor Bloom reviews several classes of clinical diagnoses including schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders. The lecture concludes with a brief introduction to therapy.
- Lecture 20 - The Good Life. HappinessThe last lecture in the course wraps up the discussion of clinical psychology with a discussion of treatment efficacy. Does therapy actually work? Professor Bloom summarizes the different types of influences that clinical interventions might have on people who receive therapy.Professor Bloom ends with a review of one of the most interesting research topics in "positive psychology," happiness. What makes us happy? How does happiness vary across person and culture? What is happiness for? Students will hear how the most recent research in psychology attempts to answer these questions and learn how people are surprisingly bad at predicting what will make them happiest.