Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior

Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am through half of this course and I cannot believe how much I have learned! As a person who has studied human behavior my entire life, I am shocked that there is still so much I didn't know. I know that I will listen to these courses throughout my life and find something new in them each and every time.
Date published: 2019-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The other side of history:daily life of ent world Dr.Garland is an amazing scholar and lecturer. This course tells me how people like us, not kings or heroes, live and think in ancient times. Each chapter I truly enjoyed listening to his lecture.
Date published: 2019-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Helps to understand more about why people do what they do!
Date published: 2019-01-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I wanted to like it I have listened to hundreds of The Great Courses, starting back in the days of The Teaching Company, and it is rare for me to come across a course that doesn't enlighten. This was one. This course seemed as it if were directed at high school freshman. Common terms were explained, which I felt was unnecessary. Professor Leary seems to paint with a broad brush, drawing conclusions from sweeping generalities. I had trouble with the oft repeated "studies show" and "research shows." To me, such vagary lends very little weight to the words that follow them. What study? By whom? As we all know, data can be cherry-picked to support almost any view. Perhaps listeners would prefer courses by Robert Sapolsky or Patrick Grim.
Date published: 2018-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting This is a very interesting course that tries to explain many different behavioral issues. This is something of a "grab bag" in that each lecture addresses a distinct topic, so the material does not build on itself with the exception of a few lectures. However, this does not lessen the value of the course. Each lecture made me think and learn.
Date published: 2018-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lot of good insights It helped me to better understand not just the people around me, but also myself. We all talk about "Human Nature", but there is some good science and analysis that helps understand it.
Date published: 2018-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Interesting and Revealing Course Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior is a compelling and interesting look at the current trends and research in psychology. The professor is excellent and engaging, and it's been great to catch up on what's happening in the field of cognitive psychology since I graduated from college 21 years ago. Much remains the same, and much has changed. Thanks to The Great Courses for offering this engaging course!
Date published: 2018-04-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Somewhat superficial... I felt this course was not up to the usual high standards of the Great Courses series. Although some of the lectures were entertaining, they were more on the level of 'Psychology Today' - i.e. "pop" psychology - rather than rigorous scientific presentations at a college level. For instance, in lecture 14 on dreams, the lecturer starts off with the premise that dreaming is essential. The only support he offers for this premise is that animals 'become very disturbed and may eventually die' if they are deprived of REM sleep by being woken up every time they enter REM sleep. However, it's at least as likely that it's the sleep interruptions or sleep deprivation caused by this experimental design, rather than the lack of REM sleep, that results in the behavioral disturbance. (He doesn't indicate if experiments were done where animals were woken frequently at night from OTHER stages of sleep to see if similar results ensued.) In addition, he conveniently ignores data that contradicts his basic premise. A class of antidepressants referred to as MAO inhibitors is known to almost totally suppress REM sleep, and yet people can take these for years with no obvious adverse effects, which seems to undermine the premise that REM sleep and dreaming are essential for well-being and survival. I think this at least should have been discussed before he launched into a review of theories about the mechanisms by which dreaming might exert its "essential" effects. This selection bias on the lecturer's part makes me question a great many of his conclusions. I was also quite disappointed in lecture 8 on stress. Professor Leary concludes that there are basically 5 causes for stress: financial concerns, work & school, relationships, health problems, and daily hassles such as traffic jams. This strikes me as a very myopic and limited view of the human condition. Through personal experience and years of interacting with patients as a family doctor, I have perceived that people often have perspectives well beyond their own narrow personal day-to-day experiences, and significant stress can be caused by concerns about social, political, and environmental issues. When one sees political and social trends occurring that one feels will result in increasing social injustice or irreversible damage to the environment, individuals with a social conscience may find this very stressful, even if they're not likely to be directly impacted by these trends personally. One can be stressed by a perceived inability to alter these trends and by worry about the impacts these trends may have on others, including on those in future generations, and for many of us, these are not just abstract theoretical issues, but very real pressing issues that impact us significantly more than, say, the "daily hassles and irritants" that seem to interest Professor Leary more.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and attentive to research. I watched the series of lectures on Great Courses Plus and thought my daughter would enjoy it. I bought her the DVD set, and now I am watching the course again.
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Human Behavior Author/lecturer is an expert. I felt about half of the CDs were very interesting. There were some that unfortunately were not applicable. I was hoping for more information but I did learn some new information.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! An absolutely fascinating series of lectures! I was enthralled by many of the topics and was frequently rewinding sections to re-listen to parts that I found amazing!
Date published: 2017-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and thought provoking Recommend to anyone that wants to know themselves and other better
Date published: 2017-10-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What I learned I purchased this class with the hopes of learning something about other people's behavior and why they make the choices they do. What I learned about myself was well worth the 'price of admission' and I highly recommend this class.
Date published: 2017-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mysteries explained This lecture series is excellently presented but even more it is a series of AHA moments. Technical yet well explained
Date published: 2017-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good informative course for I found this in my library of courses which I had purchased in the past but not gotten around to listening to. I rediscovered it at a great time because I found the course to be complementary to "Psychology of Human Behavior." whereas that course defined behavior characteristics, thus one spoke more to their causes.. I appreciated the chance to take it immediately after the first and would suggest that others might also.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good tape and learned a lot that can be used when dealing with others
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course I have been enjoying the many insights into human behavior. Easy to follow course. the professor is excellent.
Date published: 2017-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Human Behavior This is the best of the Great Courses that I have had the pleasure of "taking." Professor Mark Leary is outstanding in his presentation. I went through the entire course in less than a week. I made time to view the lectures that I would normally have spent doing other things. It is my hope that Professor Leary will be doing other lectures for the Great Courses. Outstanding!
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information on human behavior I loved this course and will listen to it many times again. The professor's presentation was engaging and interesting. The course addressed the fundamentals of human behavior as well as how DNA plays an integral part in who we are. I especially enjoyed the segments on personality, relationships, and happiness.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Human Relationships and Value I enjoyed this lecture series. But, I would like to suggest that others listen to the lecture associated with Relationships. Watching this lecture will remind you that others may value or devalue the relationship based on other references of normal value. The most important indicator beyond validation is responsiveness. Easy to forget in the real world...but crucial to remember in every situation and circumstance.
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Old news I should have paid more attention to the reviews that said the content was stale. Remarkably little is new here. I look at the Health column occasionally on the New York Times; I subscribe to the Berkeley Wellness Letter; I subscribe to The Economist and The New Yorker. Oh, and I bought Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow a few years ago and read in it regularly. So, if you fit this profile, keep reading what you are reading and don't order this course. I also question the "scientific" nature of the course. Although the lecturer often cites studies and describes research protocols with admirable detail, he unfortunately mixes these references with modern "just-so" stories. This lends an air of undeserved authority to speculation. The alert listener will be warned by a single use of "may"; but when the lecturer uses the just-so stories are used to summarize a body of research, the result is that the science is used to reinforce the speculation in a way that seems dishonest to me. "Dishonest" is a harsh word. But realistically, it takes effort to maintain appropriate scientific skepticism during this sort of presentation and not get swept up in the lecturer's enthusiasm, with the result that you accept mere fantasy as probable truth. I expected too much from this course, and I'm going to return it.
Date published: 2016-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Lecture Prof Leary has a very comfortable style of speaking, easy to listen to. The information was very interesting and I eagerly awaited the next lecture. This was the first course I got and if the rest of the lessons are even close to as good as this was I will be very happy.
Date published: 2016-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not sure what I was expecting, so was thrilled! The more I watched, the better it got. 2 or 3 lessons were disappointing, but Prof. Leary was wonderful. Some of the lessons came right from my experiences. How did he know? Got WAY more out of it than the $ it cost.
Date published: 2016-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting course, great presentation I found this course to be fascinating. Dr. Leary has an engaging but quiet style and excellent presentation skills. The information was very interesting, and he did a great job of focusing on areas that I think most of us find of particular interest. I finished it feeling that I definitely got my money's worth. You know it was good when you are disappointed that you've reached the final lecture.
Date published: 2016-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mysteries of Human Behavior My wife and I listened to this course while on a road trip in Nebraska. All lectures were informative and well presented with the exception of lecture 16 where "Do People Have Psychic Abilities" was discussed. There seemed to be no answer to this question by the end of the lecture--perhaps there is none.
Date published: 2016-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Course We Have taken We like Great Courses and have purchased many. The Story of Language and Big History have been some of our favorites, though we mostly take religion courses. We really learned a lot from Fall of the Pagans. But this one is in serious contention. The material is fascinating, but the way Dr. Leary presents it is so respectful of his audience. He assumes nothing but audience intelligence. He builds his arguments steadily and carefully. He is never dismissive of counter arguments until he has explained them and prepared the grounds for their dismissal. We have not finished the course at this point, but 8 lectures in we are hooked. Each lecture takes one key issue and hits it so hard we say "Oh. Gosh. That makes sense." We have already found ourselves using his insights for our marriage - and we have been married almost 50 years.
Date published: 2016-04-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disagree with major premise This course is very largely focused on what Prof Leary says is evolutionary psychology and it really does not make much sense to me. Much of the evolutionary theory has been dis-proven (even by Darwin's own criteria) and to lamely lean on survival of the fittest is so lame... Ironically. If what evolution says is so true, then we should have many more strong, attractive and intelligent people, than anything else... But since characteristics are distributed in a very bell shaped curve ( as the course says) then the theory of evolution really does not explain these behavioral tendencies. I will look for another course on human behavior, that is not so dependent on evolutionary theory.
Date published: 2016-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous course on Human Behavior I want to thank Professor Leary for this effort. He makes learning Human Behavior so easy. The great way in which he presents each lecture helped me understand this subject in detail. I would really like to see Professor Leary offer an advanced course, and explore more topics such as OCD, Psychosis, and PTSD, to name a few. And as always, I want to thank thegreatcourses.com for allowing me to purchase such an excellent course!!
Date published: 2016-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stuck on an island I'm very pleased with this product except for one visual area that I find distracting. Prof. Leary appears to have his movements restricted to the rug we can see in his presentations. I have taken the first four lectures and the material is of a very high quality. However; the videographers appear to have a limited budget and use the same settings in all the lectures.
Date published: 2016-01-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thought provoking From now on I can say "I can't help it, millions of years of evolution made me this way".
Date published: 2016-01-21
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Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior
Course Trailer
Solving Psychological Mysteries
1: 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?
2: 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?
3: 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?
4: 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?
5: 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?
6: 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?
7: 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?
8: 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?
9: 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
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.


University of Florida


Duke University

About Mark Leary

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.

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