Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science

Join an acclaimed neurobiologist and award-winning professor for a surprising, amusing, and undeniably fascinating study of what makes...
Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 68.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course I listened to it so many times on the app and enjoyed it very much! I also bought his book: Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worse.
Date published: 2021-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I don't have enough stars I just discovered incredible Dr. Sapolsky. He is the great storyteller with the unusual sense of humor (reminding me of Coen brothers). He is the jewel in the brilliant company of GC. I hope we will meet Dr. Sapolsky again soon.
Date published: 2020-09-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Take back his genius award One of the worst academic performances ever captured on film. Fascinating as a field study of the sort of self-involved, lazy academic that Bigoted, random, inaccurate, poorly thought-out and so ideological as to be the parody of the Bay-area, affluent fop that Dr Sapolsky has apparently become. Me thinks his claims to be doing fieldwork outside the Stanford campus in a real part of the world happened a lot time ago.
Date published: 2020-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very nicely woven together I love the way Prof Robert pulls together various trains of thought and presents it as a coherent narrative. None of the information is very new, so if you've read a bit or watched the science news, you'll have heard most of it before. But a pleasure to listen to. Def rec if you're taking a basic degree in psychology.
Date published: 2020-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Teaching at its best I have just finished this course and rate it amongst the best of The Great Courses of which I have bought many. After I finished it I ordered his book which has many updates which is a testimony to his great teaching skills. He teaches as if he were having a chat with you and it's only when the lecture ends that you realise how much you have learned without realising it. This is teaching at it's best. Many thanks for sharing your wonderful talent with us on this really important subject.
Date published: 2020-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Adequate and accurate Why do humans do that? That was my reason for taking this series. It offered fascinating theories mixed with fact that make plausible explanations and sometimes humorous. I will return to each lecture two possibly three times to complete my understanding.
Date published: 2020-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Set! I loved this set. Very informative and thought inspiring. Dr. Sapolsky presents with dry wit and leaves you asking more questions. I purchased books that he mentioned in this series. I plan to buy other Great Courses Sets by Dr. Sapolsky
Date published: 2020-04-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Tidbits; Silly Title I pretty much completely agree with the detailed 3-star review by "highstandards" from 7 years ago, entitled "I Never Would Have Predicted", so I'll keep this short. I suggest reading that, and the full course description, before deciding. Calling this course "Being Human" is like calling a course on apple slices and mango sorbet "Being Fruit." I found each lecture of at least some interest, and a few quite fascinating, but the subjects are quite random and disconnected. I generally appreciated Professor Sapolsky's deadpan, relaxed, conversational delivery. I could have done without the excessively long lists, the frequent repetitions of the same points, and especially the numerous descriptions of insect behavior in Lecture 4 as "disgusting." That lecture, by the way, was fascinating in its discussion of ways our behaviors are controlled by outside influences. A bit of philosophical reflection on the implication of this for our concept of "free will" could have added much. In fact, the loud silence on the issue of free will is a major concern underlying a great deal of the course. I differ from the "highstandards" review only in actually recommending this course. It is short and sweet, and touches on a number of interesting to fascinating areas. If the course description sounds good to you, by all means try it.
Date published: 2019-04-22
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Join acclaimed neurobiologist and popular Great Courses Professor Robert Sapolsky for an undeniably fascinating study of what, specifically, makes you you. Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science is a 12-lecture course that takes you to the front lines of scientific research and offers you a new perspective on the supposedly quirky nature of being ourselves. Thought-provoking, witty, and sometimes myth-shattering, this course is sure to have you thinking about, observing, and even appreciating your own life in novel ways.


Robert Sapolsky
Robert Sapolsky

We humans activate the stress-response for reasons of psychological factors, and that's simply not what the system evolved for. If you do that chronically, you're going to get sick.


Stanford University
Dr. Robert Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Stanford's School of Medicine. Professor Sapolsky earned his A.B. summa cum laude in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from The Rockefeller University in New York. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research operated by the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Dr. Sapolsky is a recipient of a MacArthur genius fellowship. His teaching awards include Stanford University's Bing Award for Teaching Excellence and an award for outstanding teaching from the Associated Students of Stanford University. Professor Sapolsky is the author of several books, including Stress, the Aging Brain and the Mechanisms of Neuron Death (MIT Press, 1992); The Trouble with Testosterone (Macmillan Library Reference, 1997); and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress-Related Diseases and Coping (W.H. Freeman, 1995), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He also regularly contributes to magazines and journals such as Discover, Science, Scientific American, Harper's, and The New Yorker.

By This Professor

Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science


What's So Special about Being Human?

01: What's So Special about Being Human?

Humans are, from an evolutionary perspective, certainly the most unique species on Earth. Start the course by learning how to approach the subject of human behavior. You may be surprised to discover that there are plenty of ways in which we have the same behavioral aspects as other animals-and also behaviors for which there is no precedent in the animal kingdom....

29 min
Junk-Food Monkeys

02: Junk-Food Monkeys

What happens when nonhuman primates get to eat like Westernized humans? And what does it say about the costs-and surprising benefits-of our diets? Find out the answers in this lecture, which focuses on a fascinating study of East African baboons who abandoned their natural diet to gorge on garbage from a local tourist lodge....

29 min
The Burden of Being Burden-Free

03: The Burden of Being Burden-Free

Investigate the latest anthropological and scientific understanding behind a pervasive part of our everyday lives: stress. You'll discover what makes psychological stress so damaging to health, where individual differences in stress come from, the nature of disorders including toxic hostility and clinical depression, and why it's impossible to be completely free of stress....

30 min
Bugs in the Brain

04: Bugs in the Brain

Professor Sapolsky introduces you to parasites that exploit their hosts by altering their behavior. After looking at studies, including mites that make ants find food for them and worms that drive crickets to suicide, focus on how rabies and toxoplasmosis can literally change the wiring of the brain in mammals-including humans....

30 min
Poverty's Remains

05: Poverty's Remains

Turn to an intriguing historical case of doctors who, failing to appreciate the impact of poverty on our bodies, invented an imaginary disease whose preventive methods killed thousands of people. It's a peek into an odd corner of medical history that reveals startling lessons about the socioeconomics of medicine....

28 min
Why Are Dreams Dreamlike?

06: Why Are Dreams Dreamlike?

Why does your brain generate sensory imagery while you sleep? Here, examine the neurology of sleeping and dreaming. Also, discover how the key to strange dreams lies in your frontal cortex, which, when it goes completely offline, allows the rest of your brain to run wild....

28 min
The Pleasures and Pains of

07: The Pleasures and Pains of "Maybe"

For a long time, scientists thought that the neurotransmitter dopamine was directly related to pleasure. But it turns out that dopamine is more about the anticipation of reward than the reward itself. Here, plunge into the neuroscience behind why we're willing to deal with such long delays in gratification, and what it says about the potential of humans to experience both magnificent levels of mot...

27 min
How the Other Half Heals

08: How the Other Half Heals

Learn about the intricate relationship between personal health and socioeconomic status. You'll learn how poverty is terrible for your health in unexpected ways, why some diseases (including polio) were more prevalent among the wealthy, and how shifting views of childcare in the 20th century showed that successful infant development relies not just on food, warmth, and the latest technology-but on...

31 min
Why We Want the Bodies Back

09: Why We Want the Bodies Back

Why do human bodies remain important after the life within them has gone? Is it a sign of affirmation, mourning, reverence? Or something else? Explore some of the world's diverse rituals and beliefs about the treatment of dead bodies, from Alaska to Israel to Sudan and beyond....

28 min
Anatomy of a Bad Mood

10: Anatomy of a Bad Mood

Learn what happens when you or others are in a bad mood by exploring some theories about emotion; explore the role of facial expressions in emotional feedback; and change the way you think about tense arguments....

31 min
This Is Your Brain on Metaphors

11: This Is Your Brain on Metaphors

Dr. Sapolsky explains how metaphors work on the brain to actually change your opinions, assessments, and even action; investigates how we register disgust and pain in key regions of the brain; and shows metaphors' intriguing hold on our hearts and minds at work in politics and international events....

32 min
Sushi and Middle Age

12: Sushi and Middle Age

Consider the brain science behind nostalgia. Why do we, as well as members of other species, tend to avoid novelty over time in favor of the familiar? Taking you through some rather eccentric research of his own, Professor Sapolsky uncovers some startling facts about the psychology, neurobiology, and evolution of this phenomenon....

33 min