Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior
Professor Mark Leary is Garonzik Family Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, where he heads the program in Social Psychology and is faculty director of the Duke Interdisciplinary Initiative in Social Psychology. He earned his bachelor's degree in Psychology from West Virginia Wesleyan College and his master's and doctoral degrees in Social Psychology from the University of Florida. He has taught previously at Denison University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Wake Forest University, where he served as department chair. Professor Leary has published 12 books and more than 200 scholarly chapters and articles on topics dealing with social motivation and emotion and the negative effects of excessive egotism and self-focus. He has been particularly interested in the ways in which people's emotions, behaviors, and self-views are influenced by their concerns with other people's perceptions and evaluations of them. Professor Leary's books include Social Anxiety; Self-Presentation: Impression Management and Interpersonal Behavior; The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life; Handbook of Self and Identity; and Introduction to Behavioral Research Methods. Based on his scholarly contributions, the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin designated him among the top 40 social and personality psychologists in the world with the greatest impact. In 2010, he received the Lifetime Career Award from the International Society for Self and Identity. In addition, he was the founding editor of the journal Self and Identity and is currently the editor of Personality and Social Psychology Review. He is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
01: Solving Psychological Mysteries
Many of the answers to puzzling aspects of human behavior lie in some of the fundamental characteristics of the human species. In this introductory lecture, focus on three broad themes you'll follow throughout the course: evolution, self-awareness, and culture.
02: How Did Human Nature Evolve?
Much of what you're motivated to do, you do because evolution built those motives into human nature. Investigate five key areas of our behavior in which evolution plays a critical role, then focus on behavioral adaptations that create problems for us living in a world far removed from our Stone Age ancestors.
03: Where Do People's Personalities Come From?
Scientists now know with certainty that genes have a pronounced effect on people's personalities, thanks to insights provided by behavioral genetics. See heritability at work in everyday traits ranging from extraversion and neuroticism to smoking, divorce, and even political beliefs.
04: How Can Siblings Be So Different?
Continue looking at the relationship between genetics and behavior, this time searching for answers as to why children from the same family often have such different personalities. By probing this question from the angle of genes and environmental influences, you'll understand the complex processes by which nature and nurture interact.
05: Why Do People Need Self-Esteem-Or Do They?
Does having high self-esteem really result in all of the positive effects that people suggest? In this lecture, dispel popular myths about self-esteem and its role in affecting our behavior. You'll learn about the function of self-esteem, why low self-esteem is related to dysfunctional emotions and behaviors, and more.
06: Why Do We Have Emotions?
Happiness. Anger. Guilt. Why do we have such a wide variety of emotions? Where do they come from? How do they influence our perception of, and response to, events around us? Learn the answers to these and other questions, then investigate two emotions that remain especially mysterious: shame and schadenfreude.
07: What Makes People Happy?
Unravel the mystery of happiness by looking at what behavioral scientists have recently discovered about this powerful emotion. Among the topics you'll explore: the causes of happiness; happiness's relationship with money and attractiveness; our tendency to adapt to new levels of happiness; and our inability to forecast how happy or upset we'll feel.
08: Why Are So Many People So Stressed Out?
Here, Professor Leary demystifies the subject of stress. You'll examine the three interrelated reasons we are the only species that experiences chronic stress; take a closer look at the major sources of stress in our everyday lives; and examine personality types highly susceptible to stress.
09: Why Do Hurt Feelings Hurt?
Examine why the saying "it hurt my feelings" is more than just an expression. Here, you'll learn about the causes of hurt feelings (including criticism, betrayal, and teasing); the evolutionary purpose of being hurt by rejection; and the intricate links between physical pain and social pain.
10: Why Do We Make Mountains out of Molehills?
Overreacting, especially to events that pose little or no tangible threats, takes energy, hurts people's feelings, damages relationships, and can even result in legal problems-but we do it anyway. Why? Find out in this lecture on the puzzling nature of-and social and evolutionary reasons behind-extreme overreactions.
11: Why Is Self-Control So Hard?
Turn now to a puzzling human behavior with important ramifications for everyday life: the difficulty of practicing self-control. In this intriguing lecture, examine the dual-motive conflict at the heart of self-control failures; explore research-tested ways to resist temptation; and investigate the topic of self-control strength, commonly known as willpower.
12: Why Do We Forget?
We all experience moments of forgetfulness. But why? Discover two general explanations cognitive psychologists have for why we forget (involving decayed memory traces and retrieval interference); delve into the problems of repressed memories, flashbulb memories, and eyewitness identification; and learn why forgetfulness can work to your advantage.
13: Can Subliminal Messages Affect Behavior?
What do recent experiments say about your susceptibility to messages you can't consciously see or hear? How do subliminal stimuli-such as rapidly flashing words or images, and imperceptible audio messages-work on the brain? Could they be used to influence your attitudes and behaviors? Find out all this and more here.
14: Why Do We Dream?
Ponder possible scientific explanations behind dreaming. One theory holds that dreams are our mind's efforts to make sense of random activity in the brain. Another theory suggests that dreams help us solve problems that are bothering us. Yet another theory poses that dreams merely store memories from the previous day.
15: Why Are People So Full of Themselves?
The "better than average" effect is one example of what psychologists call self-serving biases in people's views of themselves. Probe whether these egotistical biases are beneficial or harmful, and go inside the mind-set of personality types that display more biases than others (grandiose and vulnerable narcissists) and fewer (humble people).
16: Do People Have Psychic Abilities?
Venture into the field of parapsychology-the study of anomalous psychic experiences such as extrasensory perception. As Professor Leary reveals what decades of fascinating research (including special approaches such as the ganzfeld and presentiment studies) have uncovered about this phenomena, decide for yourself whether psychic abilities are myth or reality.
17: Why Don't Adolescents Behave like Adults?
See how developmental psychology and neuroscience explain three patterns typically associated with the tumultuous period of adolescence: conflict with adults, emotional volatility, and risky behavior. Also, consider the neuroscience of peer pressure, the psychological benefits of teenage risk-taking, and the truth behind the public's perception of teenagers.
18: How Much Do Men and Women Really Differ?
Each of us sees differences in how men and women behave. But the truth of the matter may surprise you. Professor Leary discusses what we now know about how men and women differ (and are similar) when it comes to aspects of personality such as agreeableness, sexual practices, mating behaviors, and ambition.
19: Why Do We Care What Others Think of Us?
We all want to make the best possible impression on others. In this lecture, break down the subject of impression management and gain new insights into why we're so concerned with others' thoughts about us. As you'll discover, concern for your public image can have its upsides-and its downsides as well.
20: Why Are Prejudice and Conflict So Common?
If most of us think of humanity as good, fair, and peace-loving, then why is there so much conflict and prejudice out there? Tapping into a series of intriguing studies and experiments, Professor Leary reveals the roots of our behavioral tendency to view the world in an "Us versus Them" context.
21: Why Do People Fall In-and Out of-Love?
Love is one of human behavior's all-time mysteries. What's the difference between companionate love and passionate love (the love we fall in and out of)? Which brain chemicals are activated when we fall in love? Is romantic love a Western invention? Get answers to these questions and many others.
22: What Makes Relationships Succeed or Fail?
Here, explore what behavioral research has revealed about intimate relationships-specifically, why some work and some don't. Learn some of the determinants of satisfying and unsatisfying relationships; chart the course of satisfaction in most relationships; and come away with some keys to making relationships last.
23: Why Do People Blush?
First, examine what happens biologically when we blush and its evolutionary purpose. Then, look closer at blushing's role in social interactions, its relationship with undesired attention, and its link to social behaviors in apes. Finally, study the phenomenon of the creeping blush and uncover why some people blush more than others.
24: A Few Mysteries We Can't Explain Yet
Close out the course with a look at a few other behavioral mysteries that remain difficult for scientists to explain-all of which are so common to everyday life that they probably don't seem mysterious at all: laughter, kissing, the creation and enjoyment of art, and consciousness.