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Understanding Human Emotions

Consider the importance of emotions in the evolution of humans, with a deep dive into the crucial role of emotion in human survival and success.

Understanding Human Emotions is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 14.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from I find this course relevant in helping those persons dealing with anxiety and depressive behavior.
Date published: 2022-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mislabeled - It Is Advance Human Emotion Research This course is excellent, but the course title is misleading. It is not a class on Understanding Human Emotions but a course on theory and research in Human Emotions. In other words, this is NOT an undergraduate class but a graduate course. Study after study is cited as he builds his presentation. Professor Ian Reed, Ph.D., is excellent. He made, at most, only one teleprompter error in twelve lectures. His presentation is beautifully written but suffers from the jargon-laden language of advanced research. I recommend this course IF you have an undergraduate background in human emotions. However, it is a challenging class if you are not used to graduate studies.
Date published: 2022-11-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from New way to look at the emotion This lecture series is an eye opening way to look at our emotions from the evolutionary perspective. The lecturer is well researched and seems to be very knowledgeable about various aspects of the topic. However, I found his style of presentation to be a little monotonous, and lacking human warmth. Some colorful examples may add more lively excitement to the discussions.
Date published: 2022-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very organized and erudite series of lectures that are excellent. Very clear delivery of the material.
Date published: 2022-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Immensely valuable overview of human emotions Dr. Reed patiently and fastidiously presents a broad overview of established theories and research on human emotions. If you want to know the academic consensus on (and some history of) human emotions and how to better deal with some of your own emotions, this course will prove immensely valuable. In comparison with Dr. Robert Solomon’s “Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions,”—which focuses primarily on some of Dr. Solomon’s own theories of human emotions (highly intuitive and instructive, no doubt) and how those ideas are supported by ideas from other venerated philosophers—Dr. Reed instead focuses primarily on the psychology and science of and mostly modern psychological research on human emotions. Thus, one will be properly enlightened on the current scientific (perhaps 'academic' is a better word) consensus on all the common human emotions. You will learn the purpose each emotion serves (if one is inclined to respect theoretical evolutionary frameworks backed by simulated research) and how each of those emotions manifests physiologically, neurologically, and physically. In addition, you will learn how evolution, culture, and social forces all combine to develop, adapt, and refine our emotions. Again, I want to reiterate that Dr. Reed is a patient, meticulous, humble teacher—attributes that might not necessarily appeal to many well-learned and intellectually confident customers of The Great Courses (TGC), a few of whom seem to prefer (based on reviews) enthusiastic, vigorous, and confident presentations. One should be willing to accept that some professors are not (and cannot be) as exciting as some others, even though the instruction itself may be equally beneficial. For example, most teachers on TGC cannot teach with the sublime oration of Dr. J. Rufus Fears or with the sophisticated air and broad intellectual mastery of Dr. Daniel N. Robinson. To be fair, Dr. Reed, in this course being reviewed (“Understating Human Emotions”), is a fine and brilliant teacher in his own right. But, as noted, his humble disposition and careful presentation, while most appealing to high school and college students, might not appeal to the higher order of intellectuals on TGC. I happen to enjoy both the intellectual bravado of Dr. Robison and the patient gentleness of Dr. Reed, as I tend to focus on the instructive and edifying value of the content. And the content of this course is as outstanding as that of all the outstanding courses I have taken on TGC. When you complete this course, you will have more empathy (perhaps pity) for other humans (and indeed for yourself), as we deal with complex, often spontaneous and unconscious feelings that are as difficult to control as trying to stop yourself on a bicycle without brakes while going downhill above 20 mph. Crucially, Dr. Reed will help you better understand why we behave the way we do and thus how to deal with your emotions and how to cope with others' emotions. Indeed, you may be enlightened enough to not merely assign many negative emotions to one just being a jerk, greedy, unkind, arrogant, mean, unloving, embarrassing, etc. As Dr. Solomon noted in his Philosophy and Intelligence of Emotions course, emotions are ways we “engage with the world.” And as Dr. Reed notes in this course, our emotions coordinate programs in our mind and body “in order to motivate adaptive behaviors.” So, take this course and you will learn how to better adapt as a human in our complex social world.
Date published: 2022-04-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Incomprehensible Dr. Reed appears to be reading from a textbook, rather than “having a conversation” with me. Just as bad, too much of the time he’s looking away from the camera as if I’m not even present. I started the second lecture, but I gave up after about 5 minutes. I will not continue.
Date published: 2022-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understand Human Emotions The caveat is right there in the title. The criticisms of this course seem to be that it is intelligently presented and that the lecturer sites is sources. It's very difficult to lecture on a "soft" science and do more than personal speculation and anecdotal evidence. The lecturer will teach you very interesting, up-to-date evidence about human emotions. Why else would you click on a course with that title? Also, I've listened to a number of lectures on emotions, so I was going into this expecting a lot of the same. That he was able to provide so much new information and offer me ways to apply that information was above what I expected. If you listen to one lecture on this about emotion, this is the one.
Date published: 2022-03-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed This professor is probably very knowledgeable but his presentation style just killed this course. We didn’t finish it. He is constantly, constantly citing other researchers to the extent that you never get a clue what he thinks or how their points come together to a conclusion or conflict. Numerous citations may be great for an academic journal, but not what I want to listen to. Also it feels like he’s just reading off a teleprompter with very little animation to his speech.
Date published: 2022-02-04
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Most of us would point to the human brain, and the resulting human mind, as the most significant adaptation of Homo sapiens. But there’s at least one more critical tool in our arsenal of adaptions, one that we rarely consider or appreciate as a survival mechanism: our emotions. In Understanding Human Emotions, Professor Lawrence Ian Reed helps us consider our emotions from an evolutionary point of view. Without the full range of our emotions, we simply would not be here.


Lawrence Ian Reed

Emotions color our cognitive processes and shape our social relationships. Discover a newfound appreciation for those feelings that underscore the most important moments of your life.


New York University

Lawrence Ian Reed is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University. He received his BS in Psychology and PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, with a dissertation focusing on the effects of guilt on altruistic behavior. He completed his clinical internship at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.

 Lawrence held postdoctoral positions at Harvard Medical School and Harvard University. During this time, he won two Certificates of Excellence and Distinction in Teaching. He has since taught at Skidmore College, Columbia University, and New York University, where he won the Golden Dozen Teaching Award in 2020. He was also included in the Intro to Psychology course created by Outlier.

 In addition to his teaching and research, Lawrence is a psychotherapist and holds licenses in Massachusetts, Maine, and New York. He has clinical experience treating clients across many diagnostic categories, age ranges, and ethnicities. He also specializes in treating adolescents and adults with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety; emotional disorders, such as borderline personality disorder; and substance abuse disorders. Many of his treatment methods are drawn from cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and motivational interviewing.

By This Professor

Understanding Human Emotions
Understanding Human Emotions


The Science and Philosophy of Emotions

01: The Science and Philosophy of Emotions

Men and women have been pondering the definition of emotion for thousands of years. Explore the thoughts of scientists, philosophers, and psychologists from Aristotle to René Descartes, B. F. Skinner to Magda Arnold, and more. Each has added significant concepts to the discussion. But do we have a functionally complete definition, yet? Do we even need one?

29 min
How Emotions Evolved

02: How Emotions Evolved

Our ancestors had a long list of adaptations to help them survive—facial recognition, mate choice, sleep management, predator vigilance, and much more. But some of those adaptations are mutually exclusive, and how did they know which one to call on in a given circumstance? Explore the phenomenon of natural selection in the development of fear, joy, anger, and disgust as the superordinate programs we rely on today.

24 min
How the Body and Emotions Influence One Another

03: How the Body and Emotions Influence One Another

Do our emotions originate in the body itself or in the surrounding environment? We know that our autonomic nervous, neuroendocrine, and immune systems are strongly related to our emotions, and we usually think of them as responding to emotions. But if we made changes in those systems, could we create the associated emotions? Learn about the fascinating experiments that have tried to do just that.

28 min
The Social Purpose of Emotions

04: The Social Purpose of Emotions

Humans are social animals and our best chance of survival comes when we thrive in the social environment. Learn about the affiliative and distancing functions of emotions on our ability to create the social connections necessary for survival. Explore the fascinating games created to test various hypotheses about the effects of emotions on social bonds.

28 min
Facial Expressions and Nonverbal Behavior

05: Facial Expressions and Nonverbal Behavior

Can you really trust an individual’s outward emotional expression when you’re trying to “read” that person? Explore the fascinating human face, a dual-processing system that can produce both genuine emotional and feigned expressions—from two different neuronal pathways. Discover the possible evolutionary reasons for showing those expressions front and center, on a body part that is so difficult to hide.

25 min
Self-Conscious Emotions: From Empathy to Shame

06: Self-Conscious Emotions: From Empathy to Shame

Some of our emotions result from an assessment of our own behavior in relation to a particular standard or goal. These evaluative self-conscious emotions include shame, guilt, pride, embarrassment, and hubris. Explore the very detailed and unique physical expressions that tend to accompany these particular emotions—and why.

26 min
Culture and Emotions

07: Culture and Emotions

In the Western world, we tend to view our emotions as individualistic; we feel something as a result of our unique body and environment. But for the rest of the world, this idea makes no sense. Most people consider emotions to be interpersonal, and this is the trend among scientists studying emotions now, too. Explore the fascinating ways in which culture affects our concepts, and expression, of emotions.

25 min
How Children Develop Emotions

08: How Children Develop Emotions

We all know that babies do not exhibit the full range of human emotions. Jealousy, pride, shame, guilt, etc. cannot be expressed until later development. But is each baby born with access to the full range of human emotions or are emotional tendencies shaped by family, culture, and peer group? This is one of the central theoretical questions for those who study emotions. Learn about the fascinating theories.

26 min
The Rational and Moral Sides of Emotions

09: The Rational and Moral Sides of Emotions

Throughout the centuries, we have often worshipped the rationality of our cognitive powers. Our emotions, however, have usually been negatively described as irrational. But what if we think our emotions are pointless only because we are in the dark about their goals? Discover why scientists describe emotions as orderly; purposeful; and, yes, intelligent.

27 min
Emotional Disorders: Anxiety and Depression

10: Emotional Disorders: Anxiety and Depression

While emotional responses are short lived, lasting on a scale of seconds to minutes, and always with an obvious trigger, moods can last days, months, or even a lifetime, and be future-oriented. Explore the mood disorders of anxiety (which can seem unnecessarily excessive) and of depression (which can seem unnecessarily prevalent). How could these disorders have resulted from the process of natural selection?

27 min
The Purpose of Disgust and Anger

11: The Purpose of Disgust and Anger

Disgust and anger are complicated feelings. Learn why the latest work by some evolutionary psychologists identify three types of disgust—pathogen, sexual, and moral—and why anger, possibly more than any other emotion, is often attempted to be controlled or mitigated. From an evolutionary point of view, exactly how do disgust and anger work to our benefit?

26 min
Connecting People: A Focus on Love

12: Connecting People: A Focus on Love

We would all agree that love is an emotion. But while we have defined all emotions as being fleeting, this is not a characteristic we really want to attribute to love. Discover the differences between romantic and companionate love. Explore these two types of love from an evolutionary point of view and discover how they can both contribute to our species’ success.

26 min