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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 78.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Watching Again After Reading "Determined" Over the last few decades, the three most intriguing for me have been Steven Pinker, Malcolm Gladwell, and of course Sapolsky. Sapolsky watched baboons every summer for 30 years, so is able to see that humans are just upgraded apes. With gene editing, etc., humans will create a new group of superhumans who are as above the ordinary run-of-the-mill humans as ordinary run-of-the-mill humans are to baboons.
Date published: 2023-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! I've watched this course in two days (and I normally take long to finish a course). The professor is very knowledgeable, his approach mixes examples and theory, and the concepts on the course can be directly applied to one's life. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from him
Date published: 2023-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Survey Course on Human Attributes For people like me who are interested in why humans act the way they do, this is a worthwhile course to buy. Dr. Sapolsky is a focused and energetic presenter who leans towards anatomical explanations for human actions and reactions. By and large it's worth the price.
Date published: 2022-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely amazing! Love Dr. Sapolsky, and this course is no exception.
Date published: 2022-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining grab bag of subjects on being human I find this a difficult course to rate. The professor is entertaining with a very laid-back, informal style. He is a great storyteller. Very high marks for his engaging style of lecturing. But ... it is a bit of a grab bag of subjects. Perhaps I can take a few lessons from this course to evaluate my reaction to life's situations. I have just finished several of TGC classes on evolution. This course is a sort of capstone on "this is where evolution has brought us". I checked "yes" to the question "Would you recommend..." but that is based mostly on the entertainment value. Based on how useful this class is to me ... a 3 overall.
Date published: 2022-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Insights There is no question that Dr. Robert Sapolsky’s twelve lectures are fascinating and very well presented. The professor is engaging, witty, and wise. Each lecture has a stand-alone character, rather like a short feature story in a periodical or one of a series of intriguing episodes for a weekly radio programme. Each of the twelve does have implications for all of us from widely varied fields of scientific research, and I do heartily recommend the product. I will add, though, that a fitting title for this course might be “A Potpourri of Remarkable Research for Humans to Ponder.” The actual title of “Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science,” especially the “Being Human” part, led me to expect a bit more “connecting of the dots.”
Date published: 2021-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The most engaging course ever! I'm a lawyer who represents people on death row. As such, I've had the great fortune of being required to learn some neurobiology and psychology. Several years ago, I read Dr. Sapolsky's book Behave and was excited this summer to see the Great Courses offered a series of his lectures. The course exceeded even my high expectations. The lectures are humbling. Each shows how little human behavior differs from other animals, and those small differences don't necessarily inure to the credit of us humans. So that's pretty fascinating. Combine that with Dr. Sapolsky's sense of humor, humility about the shortcomings of human knowledge and his own foibles, and his wonderful ability to tell a story, and you've got something that's as good as it gets.
Date published: 2021-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely well done The neurological aspects of how and why humans act as they do was very enlightening in understanding human behaviors and responses to stimuli. It is presented in a way that is very engaging...not at all what you would expect. I would have been happy to have been in one of the presenter's on campus classes.
Date published: 2021-07-01
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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

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

Stress and Your Body
Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition
Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science
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

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