(PSYC 110) What do your dreams mean? Do men and women differ in the nature and intensity of their sexual desires? Can apes learn sign language? Why can’t we tickle ourselves? This course tries to answer these questions and many others, providing a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior. It explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction, and dreams. We will look at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired-up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury.
This class was recorded in Spring 2007.
01 - Introduction
Professor Paul Bloom welcomes students and presents the course as a comprehensive introduction to the study of the human mind. Course readings and requirements are discussed. The five main branches of psychology are presented: neuroscience, which is a study of the mind by looking at the brain; developmental, which focuses on how people grow and learn; cognitive, which refers to the computational approach to studying the mind; social, which studies how people interact; and clinical, which examines mental health and mental illnesses.
02 - Foundations: This Is Your Brain
This lecture introduces students to two broad theories of how the mind relates to the body. Dualism is the ubiquitous and intuitive feeling that our conscious mind is separate from our physical bodies, whereas Materialism is the idea that all of our mental states are caused by physical states of the brain. This lecture reviews arguments explaining why materialism has become the predominant theory of mind in psychology. This discussion is followed by a basic overview of the neurophysiology of the brain.
03 - Foundations: Freud
This lecture introduces students to the theories of Sigmund Freud, including a brief biographical description and his contributions to the field of psychology. The limitations of his theories of psychoanalysis are covered in detail, as well as the ways in which his conception of the unconscious mind still operate in mainstream psychology today.
04 - Foundations: Skinner
Professor Bloom opens with a brief discussion of the value and evolutionary basis of unconscious processing. The rest of this lecture introduces students to the theory of Behaviorism, particularly the work of prominent behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. Different types of learning are discussed in detail, as well as reasons why behaviorism has been largely displaced as an adequate theory of human mental life.
05 - What Is It Like to Be a Baby: The Development of Thought
This lecture explores issues and ideas related to the branch of psychology known as cognitive development. It begins with an introduction of Piaget who, interested in the emergence of knowledge in general, studied children and the way they learn about the world in order to formulate his theories of cognitive development. This is followed by an introduction to the modern science of infant cognition. Finally, the question of the relationship between and the existence of different kinds of development is addressed.
06 - How Do We Communicate?: Language in the Brain, Mouth and the Hands
One of the most uniquely human abilities is the capacity for creating and understanding language. This lecture introduces students to the major topics within the study of language: phonology, morphology, syntax and recursion. This lecture also describes theories of language acquisition, arguments for the specialization of language, and the commonalities observed in different languages across cultures.