Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear presentation of Personality dynamics Dr. Leary does an excellent job of presenting evidence based information on the dynamics of personality. This is not a self help course but the information is useful in understanding why people do what they do. Dr. Leary is easy to listen to and I did not get tired watching the course.
Date published: 2020-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the examples of personality types I enjoyed learning about the components of personality. It could get a little overwhelming at times mentioning the high and low parts of each component but the examples given were very helpful in sorting it out. The genetic part really brought into focus being “wired” a certain way. As I learned, I could determine some people in my life who overcame certain environmental aspects of their personalities. I really enjoyed this course.
Date published: 2020-05-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lacks Objectivity Biased and steeped in old stereotypes. The studies may be objective, but the cherry-picked examples and visuals are not.
Date published: 2020-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Investigations into Human Personality I have taken numerous Great Courses and this one ranks right near the top. I have read several pop-psychology books and had a poor Psych 101 class. This course helped tie my reading together. Professor Learys style is relaxed and easy to follow without being academic. I found it informative, interesting and useful. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to understand himself or other people better.
Date published: 2020-05-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Weird stage set I have not actually finished this course yet. I am writing because I wonder if anyone else is annoyed by the stage set behind the professor? There is a point where it seems to recede to a point further back, but you never see that actual part of the set. It is extremely distracting. I can't figure out why it is set up like this.
Date published: 2020-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid and very useful infromation that can be used This course provide very useful information to better understand myself and those I interact with. Prof. Leary provided a well structured course that provided excellent examples with practical explanations. I enjoyed the either 24 lectures.
Date published: 2020-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Valuable course for managers I thik this course, or an equivalent would be valuable for anyone in a personell management or supervisory role.I hoping to learn more about the kinds of experiences that inspire the traits discussed. They were discusseda little in the last half of the course.
Date published: 2020-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and helpful The course gives clear, evidence based information about personalities. The information given should be widely taught to inform the public about the topic. Perhaps with this information, we can start to move towards more functional societies (yes - I do score high in agreeableness and conscientiousness:))
Date published: 2019-07-22
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Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality
Course Trailer
What Is Personality?
1: 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
2: 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?
3: 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
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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
8: 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
9: 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
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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