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Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior

Gain insight into puzzling aspects of human behavior with these thought-provoking lectures on such psychological mysteries as happiness, personality, self-esteem, and more.
Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 129.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Clear and informative lectures full of content This is a clear, informative, and comprehensive course which covers a wide range of behavioural topics. Personality, sex differences, egotism, prejudice and many other big themes. The lectures are clear and the speaker is engaging and interesting. The one limitation is the over-reliance on the perspectives of evolutionary psychology. It would have been nice to hear more insights from sociology, anthropology and cultural history approaches to broaden out the picture of human behaviour.
Date published: 2024-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I really enjoyed this course on the Mysteries of Human Behavior. I really opened my eyes to why there are some things that I do and why other people do certain things too. I found this very educational.
Date published: 2023-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presenter offering interesting insights I have really enjoyed this course and have learned a lot of new and useful information. In some cases, it has made me rethink some of my former ideas about human behavior. Even in the few cases where I started a lecture thinking I already knew a lot about the topic or that it just wasn't that interesting to me, I came away learning a lot and deciding that the topic was, after all, pretty darn interesting!
Date published: 2023-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Useful, Credible, Well Delivered This is my first Great Courses experience. I'm good at noticing flaws in something like this, and this course is close to flawless. Enough detail, but it doesn't waste your time. Rigorous, but not caught up in obtuse academic gobbledygook. Some of the lectures are merely interesting. Others may help you navigate the world of humans or your inner self. Well done, and well worth the (deep discount) price. (Also I find the Great Courses platform very full-featured yet easy to use.)
Date published: 2023-03-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The topics are interesting but the lecture is dry It’s so boring I couldn’t get through any one chapter.
Date published: 2023-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable course I enjoyed this course. Some of Professor Leary's points are rather obvious, but there are some valuable insights too. The lectures are a model of clarity and are very well presented.
Date published: 2022-09-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great I bought this course because I wanted to understand the mysteries of human behaviour.
Date published: 2022-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some mysteries are not attention grabing While the course is organized well there are several things that could be improved. The This course could easily be 18 lectures instead of 24 since there are redundancies. For example,5,15,19 are reflections of each other. Some topics are sort of frivolous such as why we blush or subliminal messages. The images used are almost all white people which may lead the viewer to think that other races/ethnicities do not experience them.
Date published: 2022-05-30
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Why do people behave the way they do? Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior, by psychologist and Professor Mark Leary, is your guide to the latest theories and research from psychology and other behavioral sciences on this age-old question. Understanding the answers will help you better know yourself and the people around you. With the powerful insights you'll find in these 24 intellectually scintillating lectures, you'll start looking at your own and other people's behavior with a little more insight, curiosity, and wonderment.


Mark Leary

Most of the important things that happen in life involve our encounters and relationships with other people. I became interested in scientific psychology to help us understand both ourselves and the people with whom we interact.


Duke University

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.

By This Professor

Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior
Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality
Your Public Persona: Self-Presentation in Everyday Life
Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior


Solving Psychological Mysteries

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.

33 min
How Did Human Nature Evolve?

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.

32 min
Where Do People's Personalities Come From?

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.

34 min
How Can Siblings Be So Different?

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.

30 min
Why Do People Need Self-Esteem-Or Do They?

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.

32 min
Why Do We Have Emotions?

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.

30 min
What Makes People Happy?

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.

30 min
Why Are So Many People So Stressed Out?

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.

29 min
Why Do Hurt Feelings Hurt?

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.

29 min
Why Do We Make Mountains out of Molehills?

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.

30 min
Why Is Self-Control So Hard?

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.

28 min
Why Do We Forget?

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.

30 min
Can Subliminal Messages Affect Behavior?

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.

31 min
Why Do We Dream?

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.

29 min
Why Are People So Full of Themselves?

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).

28 min
Do People Have Psychic Abilities?

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.

31 min
Why Don't Adolescents Behave like Adults?

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.

33 min
How Much Do Men and Women Really Differ?

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.

30 min
Why Do We Care What Others Think of Us?

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.

29 min
Why Are Prejudice and Conflict So Common?

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.

30 min
Why Do People Fall In-and Out of-Love?

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.

32 min
What Makes Relationships Succeed or Fail?

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.

31 min
Why Do People Blush?

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.

29 min
A Few Mysteries We Can't Explain Yet

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.

33 min

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