Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality

Award-winning Professor Mark R. Leary explores the many ways our behavior affects our life through the intriguing science of our personalities.
Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 62.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from A lot of Common Sense and Little Practical Use Not what I expected. I thought there would be deep insight into the factors that create one's personality, emotions, and tendencies along with some practical guidelines on how to interact with people that exhibit all different kinds of personalities or at least how to understand their behavior with better context. Instead I felt the course came up short on both fronts. 1- There seemed to be a lot of thin lectures. An overwhelming majority of the content appeared as common sense to me. And I have no background in psychology, personality study, or any relevant field. 2- Where is the practical application of the personality learnings/studies as far as how to relate to people and manage or at least better understand different personalities? While the professor does a good job of explaining and describing the various traits that factor in to personality I found it quite shocking, frankly, that there were no in-depth discussions of how to apply the knowledge in social settings or recognize certain behaviors and strategies on responding. Interestingly, I thought the course "Boosting Your Emotional Intelligence" was the opposite: too many real life scenarios and re-created situations that felt contrived and didn't really teach much vs. the science behind it. I don't know maybe that is another course or out of the realm of Psychology/Personality but going in I would've thought the study of personality would've entailed more of the human and social interaction aspects. It is almost like the entire course is about the academic study itself of these various traits and factors in isolation for the purposes of scientific research/applying scientific labels to what to me were common sense things and no real life application. While listening to the early lectures I found myself wondering often: “Where are these lectures going? What are they building to? What foundations are they laying down?” Unfortunately, they did not lead to deeper or practical understanding in real life situations/examples at least in my experience. I will say that his discussion on the 5 big traits in lectures 2, 3 and evolutionary considerations in lecture 14 were interesting but when only 50 minutes of a 13 hour course pique my interest I can't say I got what I wanted out of it. I do not normally take Psychology or personality courses so your experience may be different and maybe it is just me but I just was expecting a different type of course.
Date published: 2021-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent survey of Psychology I took this course to get a solid background on key psychological concepts, and this course delivered. Because of human complexity, it is often difficult to make effective generalizations about our behavior, but Prof. Leary does this very effectively. I particularly benefited from Chapter 8 on morality and values.
Date published: 2021-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My hubby and I watched this lecture together and we both had so much fun not only learning new concepts and ideas but learning more about ourselves and each other during the duration of the course. We had so much fun discussing the ideas in each lecture and seeing how the things the Professor spoke about applied to us personally and other people we know. It created such rich and exciting discussions and we loved starting off our mornings with one or two episodes each day. Every topic was so relevant to things we either have been wondering about for such a long time but also covered plenty of topics that were completely new to us that helped us understand our personalities and our reactions manifesting through those personalities in much more depth. Each episode was the perfect length, the information was conveyed in a very concise and engaging way. Both my hubby and I would very highly recommend completing this course and thinking along the way how what the Professor says could apply to you and the people you know. In addition, this course was also in a way a self-help tool because for me personally, understanding why I have been reacting and acting the way I do in some situations that I haven't understood before helps me control my actions and be more intentional about who I am. For example, in one of the lecture episodes, the Professor addressed people who are shame versus guilt driven when they make mistakes, and how people who are shame driven like myself can struggle to apologize because of how negatively they view themselves after the mistake. It helps me think more about how my action has affected others and how I should have the courage to apologize as soon as I can rather than letting my negative thoughts about myself control my behavior, consuming me, and ending up prolonging the pain of the other person. Another example is my hubby's occasional struggle with procrastination. Understanding that his personality plays such a central role in why and how he procrastinates has helped him understanding *the source* of it better and therefore how to tackle it the next time it arises. My hubby had some excellent points to share about his experience with the course which are things I haven't even mentioned or thought of myself. And true to his amazing, fact and point-driven personality if I may say, here they are in bullet points as he wished to present them: - The Professor had an excellent presentation style - The episodes are very well integrated and connected together and lead to a cohesive narrative telling the rich and diverse story of human personalities - Includes lots of references of actual studies to support his statements (especially approved by the hubby who always loves to fact check things and look at where people got their information from) - He started off the episodes with a simple introduction of what the lecture will be about and then progressively increased the depth of his explanations and in the end we arrive at a very well articulated, detailed, complex and cohesive picture of the main topic
Date published: 2021-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer! I found this course to be extremely well structured and presented. There was a lot of useful information about personality differences that will be very helpful to me in my relationships going forward. Many thanks!!
Date published: 2021-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Course Good overview of personality characteristics. Good information presented by instructor.
Date published: 2021-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why people are the way they are I enjoyed learning more about why people are they way they are. This has given me a broader understanding of people and a greater compassion & consideration for allowing people to be who they are. I appreciated the professor's ability to explain the many aspects behind personality.
Date published: 2020-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned a lot I knew very little about psychology before I took this course. Dr Leary is an excellent lecturer who got me fascinated with subject of human personalities. The course material was also excellent and I began to think about my own personality and those of other people
Date published: 2020-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting in parts but in general boring I would have enjoyed more clear examples then lots of lectures. It was like having someone read a text book
Date published: 2020-11-05
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What makes you different from other people? And what makes you-sometimes-the same? Designed as a fascinating, accessible scientific inquiry, the 24 lectures of Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality, will have you thinking about your personality in a way that leaves you enriched and better informed about what makes you, you.


Mark Leary
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

Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality


What Is Personality?

01: What Is Personality?

In this introductory lecture, ground your understanding of personality in the concept of “proportion-of-variability,” which tells us how strongly related a particular personality characteristic is to behaviors, emotions, or other characteristics. As an example, you’ll consider a case study of the causes of delinquent behavior in teenage boys.

33 min
Key Traits: Extraversion and Neuroticism

02: Key Traits: Extraversion and Neuroticism

There are five key traits that best help us understand a person’s behavior. Here, explore the two traits that give you the broadest picture of what a person is like. The first: extraversion, or your level of sociability. The second: neuroticism, the degree to which you experience negative emotions.

33 min
Are You Agreeable? Conscientious? Open?

03: Are You Agreeable? Conscientious? Open?

Examine the three remaining building blocks of personality. You’ll learn about agreeableness, the degree to which you have a positive or negative orientation toward others; conscientiousness, the degree to which you’re responsible; and openness, or your receptivity to new experiences and idea. Plus, consider a sixth personality trait that’s starting to get attention.

32 min
Basic Motives Underlying Behavior

04: Basic Motives Underlying Behavior

What motivates you to do the things you do each and every day? Professor Leary explores three motives that instigate and energize people’s behavior: the motive to interact with other people, the motive to achieve and be successful, and the motive to influence other people.

31 min
Intrapersonal Motives

05: Intrapersonal Motives

There are other motives that underlie behavior—ones that don’t involve getting anything from the outside world. What are the benefits of these motives? After considering the Freudian roots of the subject, learn about three fascinating intrapersonal motives: for psychological consistency, for self-esteem, and for authenticity.

32 min
Positive and Negative Emotionality

06: Positive and Negative Emotionality

A large part of who you are as a person depends on the kinds of emotions you experience as you walk through life. In this lecture, look at our general tendencies to experience positive and negative emotions. What, exactly, are emotions? What leads some people to have more positive – or negative – emotions than others?

32 min
Differences in Emotional Experience

07: Differences in Emotional Experience

In addition to the general tendency to feel good and bad, we also differ in the degree to which we experience specific emotions such as anger, joy, guilt, and sadness. These tendencies, too, are an important part of your personality. As you’ll learn, they help explain why different people respond to the same event in different ways.

32 min
Values and Moral Character

08: Values and Moral Character

When we talk about someone’s character, we’re referring to the degree to which that person tends to behave in ethical (or unethical) ways. In this illuminating lecture, take a look at moral aspects of personality from four critical angles: values, moral foundations, virtues, and character strengths.

33 min
Traits That Shape How You Think

09: Traits That Shape How You Think

Turn your attention to cognitive aspects of personality: characteristics related to people’s styles of thinking. Here, Professor Leary focuses on four cognitive characteristics that involve differences in the degree to which people are curious, make decisions quickly, critically evaluate their beliefs, and enjoy thinking.

32 min
Beliefs about the World and Other People

10: Beliefs about the World and Other People

You are who you are partly because of the beliefs that you hold. Discover several big, broad beliefs that function like personality traits. These include people’s beliefs about human nature, fairness, and the beliefs and attitudes that underlie authoritarianism.

32 min
Beliefs about Yourself

11: Beliefs about Yourself

Your beliefs about yourself have a dramatic impact on how you feel and behave. Take a closer look at four types of self-related beliefs: identity (who you think you are), self-efficacy (what you’re capable of doing), self-esteem (your evaluation of yourself), and self-compassion (how you think about yourself when bad things happen).

32 min
Personality and Social Relationships

12: Personality and Social Relationships

Some of the most important differences among people involve their ways of relating to others. First, examine the differences in people’s attachment styles. Then, consider the tactics people use to persuade and influence others (with a focus on Machiavellians). Finally, explore three aspects of empathy: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and empathic concern.

33 min
Consistency and Stability of Personality

13: Consistency and Stability of Personality

People obviously don’t act the same way all the time, and personalities do change over the course of a life (at least within limits). Yet people do show stability in how they tend to think, feel, and behave. In this lecture, learn about the complexities that make personality both stable and changeable.

33 min
Evolution and Human Nature

14: Evolution and Human Nature

The fact that certain personality characteristics can be seen in almost everybody probably reflects evolutionary processes. Learn why some aspects of behavior became part of a shared human personality; how some personality features evolved differently for men and women; and why people who live in different environments may develop different personalities.

32 min
Personality and the Brain

15: Personality and the Brain

All differences we see in people’s personalities are based on differences in what’s happening somewhere in their brains. Unpack research being done on the neuroscience of personality, with a focus on four aspects of anatomy and physiology that involve brain regions, neurotransmitters, hormones, and bodily rhythms.

33 min
Genetic Influences on Personality

16: Genetic Influences on Personality

Take a closer look at the ways in which the genes you inherited from your parents have contributed to your personality. Topics in this lecture include heritability studies; the role genes play in people’s attitudes; and how genes can change our environment in ways that then affect our personality.

33 min
Learning to Be Who You Are

17: Learning to Be Who You Are

Professor Leary explains four learning processes that influence how people’s personalities turn out: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, observational learning, and personal experience. It’s a lecture that’ll change how you think about the ways learning has helped make you who you are.

33 min
How Culture Influences Personality

18: How Culture Influences Personality

How might your personality have turned out differently if you’d grown up in a culture different from the one you grew up in? Explore this question by looking at several dimensions on which cultures differ: individualism versus collectivism, power distance, agentic versus communal orientations, and uncertainty avoidance.

33 min
Nonconscious Aspects of Personality

19: Nonconscious Aspects of Personality

Freud believed that much of what influences our behaviors occurs outside our conscious awareness. To understand people’s personalities, we have to consider unconscious processes—the topic of this lecture. What is our nonconscious? How can we determine someone’s nonconscious motives? How does this idea relate to behaviors like procrastination?

33 min
Personality and Self-Control

20: Personality and Self-Control

People differ in self-control, so understanding how we self-regulate is critical to understanding personality. After learning about the nature of self-regulation, examine the characteristics and skills that affect how well people control themselves. Then, learn important findings from studies of self-regulation in childhood and explore the relationship between self-regulation and impulsivity.

32 min
When Personalities Become Toxic

21: When Personalities Become Toxic

In the first of two lectures on the three broad clusters of personality disorders, consider the dramatic-emotional-erratic cluster, which includes the antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. As you’ll learn, these disorders all involve problems with emotional regulation and impulse control.

31 min
Avoidance, Paranoia, and Other Disorders

22: Avoidance, Paranoia, and Other Disorders

First, learn about a cluster of three personality disorders that involve excessive anxiety: the avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Then, explore a cluster that involves eccentric behaviors and distorted thinking: the paranoid personality disorder, the schizoid personality disorder, and the schizotypical personality disorder.

32 min
The Enigma of Being Yourself

23: The Enigma of Being Yourself

Should you try to always be yourself? Can you tell when you’re not being yourself? Professor Leary considers the possibility that authenticity has some serious problems as a psychological construct—that it’s either not what we assume it is, or that it’s not as important as we typically think.

29 min
The Well-Adjusted Personality

24: The Well-Adjusted Personality

Conclude the course by drawing on much of what you’ve learned in the preceding lectures to look at the relationship between personality and healthy psychological adjustment. You’ll learn the five key ingredients of adjustment, traits that are associated with good adjustment, and more.

37 min