• Brains, children, language, sex, memory, madness, disgust, racism, love, etc.
• To do well in the course, you need to both attend the lectures and do the readings
• Lecture slides are available online---but are not substitutes for attending class
Professor Paul Bloom: I'd like to welcome people to thiscourse, Introduction to Psychology. My name is Dr. Paul Bloom. I'mprofessor of this course. And what this is going to be is acomprehensive introduction to the study of the human mind. So, we aregoing to cover a very, very wide range of topics including brains,children, language, sex, memory, madness, disgust, racism and love, andmany others. We're going to talk about things like the properexplanation for differences between men and women; the question ofwhether animals can learn language; the puzzle of what grosses us out;the problem of why some of us eat too much and what we could do tostop; the question of why people go crazy in groups; research intowhether you could trust your childhood memories; research into why someof us get depressed and others don't.
The style of this is there'll be two lectures a week, as well ascourse readings. Now, to do well in the course, you have to attend boththe lectures and do the readings. There will be some overlap. In somecases, the lectures will be quite linked to the readings. But therewill be some parts of the readings that will not find their way intothe lectures, and some lectures--some entire lectures that will notconnect at all to the readings. So, to pursue this course properly youhave to do both. What this means is that if you miss a class you needto get notes, and so you should get them from a friend or from theperson sitting next to you. The slides are going to be made availableonline. So, one of the things you don't have to do is you don't have towrite this down. You take notes any way you choose, but if you don'tget anything on there it'll be available online. I'm going to post itin a format which will be black and white and easy to print out so youdon't have to worry about this. But again, attending to the slides isnot a substitute for attending class.
Psychology,5th edition, andthere's also a collection of short readings, The Norton Readeredited by Gary Marcus. It's an excellent textbook; it's an excellentcollection, and you should get them both. They're available atLabyrinth bookstore on York Street or you get them online. I shouldnote that last time I taught the course I used the MarcusReader, and when Professor Marvin Chun taught his course lastsemester he used Peter Gray's 5thedition textbook. So,there may be a lot of used copies floating around. You should feel freeto try to get one of those.
There's a textbook, Peter Gray's
The evaluation goes like this. There is a Midterm and there is aFinal. The Final will not be held in the exam period, because I like totake long vacations. It will be held the last day of class. The examswill be multiple choice and short answer, fill in the blank, that sortof thing. Prior to the exams I will post previous exams online, so youhave a feeling for how these exams work and so on. There will also bereview sessions.
Starting at the beginning of the third week of class – that is notnext week but the week after – on each Monday I'm going to put up abrief question or set of questions, which you have to answer and youranswers need to be sent to your teaching fellow. And you'll be given ateaching fellow, assigned one, by Friday. This is not meant to bedifficult. It's not meant to be more than five, ten minutes of work,but the point of the question--15, 20 minutes of work, but the point ofthe question is to motivate people to keep up with the material and dothe readings. These questions will be marked pass, fail. I expect mosteverybody could pass all of the questions but it's just to keep you ontrack and keep you going.
There is a book review, a short book review, to be written towardsnear the end of the class. I'll give details about that later on in thesemester. And there's also an experimental participation requirement,and next week I'll hand out a piece of paper describing therequirement. The point of the requirement is to give you all experienceactually seeing what psychological research is about as well as to giveus hundreds of subjects to do our experiments on.
The issue sometimes comes up as to how to do well in the course.Here's how to do well. Attend all the classes. Keep up with thereadings. Ideally, keep up with the readings before you come to class.And one thing I would strongly suggest is to form some sort of studygroups, either formally or informally. Have people you could talk towhen the--prior to the exams or--she's patting somebody next to her. Ihope you know him. And in fact, what I'm going to do, not this classbecause it's shopping period. I don't know who's coming next class, orwhat but I'll set up a few minutes prior, at the beginning of theclass, for people just to introduce themselves to the person next tothem so they have some sort of resource in the class.
Now, this is a large class, and if you don't do anything about it,it can be very anonymous. And some of you may choose to pursue it thatway and that's totally fine. But what I would suggest you do isestablish some contact with us, either with me or with any of theteaching fellows, and I'll introduce the teaching fellows sometime nextweek. You could talk to us at the beginning or at the end of class.Unless there are special circumstances, I always try to come at leastten minutes early, and I am willing to stay late to talk to people. Youcould come by during my office hours, which are on the syllabus, andyou could send me e-mail and set up an appointment. I'm very willing totalk to students about intellectual ideas, about course problems and soon. And if you see me at some point just on campus, you could introduceyourself and I'd like to meet people from this class. So, again, I wantto stress you have the option of staying anonymous in this class, butyou also have the option of seeking out and making some sort of contactwith us. Okay. That's the formal stuff of the course.
What's this course about? Unlike a lot of other courses, some peoplecome to Intro Psychology with some unusual motivations. Maybe you'recrazy and hope to become less crazy [laugher]. Maybe you want to learnhow to study better, improve your sex life, interpret your dreams, andwin friends and influence people [laugher]. Those are not necessarilybad reasons to take this course and, with the exception of the sexpart, this course might actually help you out with some of thesethings. The study of scientific psychology has a lot of insights ofreal world relevance to real problems that we face in our everydaylives. And I'm going to try--and when these issues come up--I'm goingto try to stress them and make you try to think about the extent towhich the laboratory research I'll be talking about can affect youreveryday life: how you study, how you interact with people, how youmight try to persuade somebody of something else, what sort of therapyworks best for you. But the general goals of this course are actually Ithink even more interesting than that.
What I want to do is provide a state of the art introduction to themost important topic that there is: us. How the human mind works, howwe think, what makes us what we are. And we'll be approaching this froma range of directions. So, traditionally, psychology is often broken upinto the following--into five sub-areas: Neuroscience, which is thestudy of the mind by looking at the brain; developmental, which is thearea which I focus mostly on, which is trying to learn about how peopledevelop and grow and learn; cognitive, which is the one term of thefive that might be unfamiliar to some of you, but it refers to a sortof computational approach to studying the mind, often viewing the mindon analogy with a computer and looking at how people do things likeunderstand language, recognize objects, play games, and so on. There issocial, which is the study of how people act in groups, how people actwith other people. And there is clinical, which is maybe the aspect ofpsychology that people think of immediately when they hear psychology,which is the study of mental health and mental illness. And we'll becovering all of those areas.
We'll also be covering a set of related areas. I am convinced thatyou cannot study the mind solely by looking at the discipline ofpsychology. The discipline of psychology spills over to issues of howthe mind has evolved. Economics and game theory are now essential toolsfor understanding human thought and human behavior--those issuesconnecting to philosophy, computer science, anthropology, literature,theology, and many, many other domains. So, this course will be wideranging in that sense.
At this point I've been speaking in generalities so I want to closethis introductory class by giving five examples of the sorts of topicswe'll be covering. And I'll start with the topic that we'll be coveringnext week on Monday – the brain. This is a brain. In fact, it's aspecific person's brain, and what's interesting about the brain is thatlittle white mark there. It's her brain. It's Terri Schiavo's brain.You recognize her more from pictures like that. And what a case likethis, where somebody is in a coma, is without consciousness as a resultof damage to the brain, is a stark illustration of the physical natureof mental life. The physical basis for everything that we normally holddear, like free will, consciousness, morality and emotions, and that'swhat we'll begin the course with, talking about how a physical thingcan give rise to mental life.
We'll talk a lot about children. This is actually a specific child.It's my son, Zachary, my younger son, dressed up as Spider-Man, but itis Halloween. No, it's not Halloween. Oh. Well, there's more to sayabout that [laughter]. I study child development for a living and I'minterested in several questions. So, one question is just the questionof development. Everybody in this room can speak and understandEnglish. Everybody in this room has some understanding of how the worldworks, how physical things behave. Everybody in this room has someunderstanding of other people, and how people behave. And the questionthat preoccupies developmental psychologists is how do we come to havethis knowledge, and in particular, how much of it is hard-wired,built-in, innate. And how much of it is the product of culture, oflanguage, of schooling? And developmental psychologists use manyingenious methods to try to pull these apart and try to figure out whatare the basic components of human nature.
There's also the question of continuity. To what extent is Zachary,at that age, going to be that way forever? To what extent is your fatesealed? To what extent could--if I were to meet you when you were fiveyears old I could describe the way you are now? The poet WilliamWordsworth wrote, "The child is father to the man," and what this meansis that you can see within every child the adult he or she will become.We will look and ask the question whether this is true. Is it true foryour personality? Is it true for your interests? Is it true for yourintelligence?
Another question having to do with development is what makes us theway we are? We're different in a lot of ways. The people in this roomdiffer according to their taste in food. They differ according to theirIQs; whether they're aggressive or shy; whether they're attracted tomales, females, both or neither; whether they are good at music;whether they are politically liberal or conservative. Why are wedifferent? What's the explanation for why we're different? And again,this could be translated in terms of a question of genes andenvironment. To what extent are things the result of the genes wepossess? To what extent are our individual natures the result of how wewere raised? And to what extent are they best explained in terms of aninteraction? One common theory, for instance, is that we are shaped byour parents. This was best summarized most famously by the British poetPhilip Larkin who wrote,
They mess you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you.
Is he right? It's very controversial. You-- It's been a series of--ahuge controversy in the popular culture to the extent of which parentsmatter and this is an issue which will preoccupy us for much of thecourse.
A different question: What makes somebody attractive? And this canbe asked at all sorts of levels but a simple level is what makes for apretty face? So, these are, according to ratings, very attractivefaces. They are not the faces of real people. What's on the screen arecomputer generated faces of a Caucasian male and a Caucasian female whodon't exist in the real world. But through using this sort of computergeneration, and then asking people what they think of this face, whatthey think of that face, scientists have come to some sense as to whatreally makes a face attractive, both within cultures and acrosscultures. And that's something which we're going to devote some time towhen we talk about social behavior, and in particular, when we talkabout sex. Not all attractiveness, not all beauty of course, is linkedto sex. So, pandas for instance, like this panda, are notoriously cute,and I don't have anything to say about it really. It's just a cutepicture [laughter].
Morality is extremely central to our lives, and a deep question,which we will struggle with throughout most of the course, is thequestion of good and evil, evil and good. These three picturesexemplify different sorts of evil. What you could call institutionalevil by somebody behaving cruelly toward somebody else, perhaps not dueto malice but because of the situation that she's in. It has picture ofOsama bin Laden, a mass murderer or driven by political cause? And thenthere's this guy on the bottom. Anybody know who he is? Ted Bundy. Whogot that? Film that man [laughter]. No. Ted Bundy, exactly, and that'sbefore we get into the technical stuff like crazy-evil, and we're goingto have to come to terms with why some people are like that. And again,the same situation comes up. Is it part of your nature to be good orbad or is it largely due to the situation that you fall in? And there'sa lot of some quite spectacular experiments that try to tease thatapart.
If we're going to talk about evil, we should also talk about good.These are pictures of two notoriously good men, Oskar Schindler andPaul Rusesabagina, each who at different times in history saved thelives of many, many people at great risk to themselves. Schindler inthe Holocaust, and then the other guy, in – and I can't pronounce hisname – Rusesabagina, in Rwanda. And they both had real good movies madeabout them. But what's interesting with these cases is you couldn'thave predicted ahead of time that they would be heroes. And onepersonal issue within any of us is what would we do in suchsituations?
Finally, throughout this course we will discuss mental illness. Now,towards the end of the class I want to devote a full week to discussingmajor disorders like depression and anxiety, because of their profoundsocial importance. Such disorders are reasonably common in collegestudents. Many people in this room are currently suffering from a mooddisorder, an anxiety disorder or both, and I won't ask for a show ofhands but I know a lot of people in this room are on some form ofmedication for this disorder. And we'll discuss the current researchand why people get these disorders and what's the best way to make thembetter.
But I also have a weakness for the less common mental disorders thatI think tell us something really interesting about mental life. So,when we talk about memory, for instance, we'll talk about disorders inmemory, including some disorders that keep you from forming newmemories as well as disorders of amnesia where you forget the past. Andthese are extraordinarily interesting for all sorts of reasons. Earlyin the course, in fact I think next week, we will discuss, no, later onin the course, in the middle of the semester, we will discuss anamazing case of Phineas Gage.
Phineas Gage was a construction worker about 100 years ago. Due toan explosion, a metal pipe went through his head like so. Miraculously,he was not killed. In fact, his friends--it went through his head,went--ended up 100 feet away, covered with brains and blood. AndPhineas Gage sat down and went, "uh, oh." And then on the way to thehospital they stopped by a pub to have some cider. He was not blind, hewas not deaf, he was not retarded, but something else happened to him.He lost his sense of right and wrong. He lost his control. He used tobe a hard-working family man. After the accident he lost all of that.He couldn't hold a job. He couldn't stay faithful to his wife. Hecouldn't speak for five minutes without cursing. He got into fights. Hegot into brawls. He got drunk. He lost his control. He ended up on acircus sideshow traveling through the country with the big steel pipethat went through his head. And this is again an extraordinary exampleof how the brain can give rise to the mind, and how things that gowrong with the brain can affect you in a serious way.
We'll discuss cases of multiple personality disorder, where peoplehave more than one personality. And also, discuss the debate overwhether such cases are true or not; whether they could be taken as areal phenomena or a made-up phenomena, which is--there is a matter of alot of controversy. And then, we'll even discuss some rarer cases likeCapgras syndrome. Capgras syndrome is typically – there's hundreds ofcases, not many – hundreds of cases. It's typically the result of somesort of stroke, and what happens to you is very specific. You develop aparticular delusion, like it's getting dark [lights dim in the room,laughter follows]. And the delusion is that the people you love themost have been replaced. They've been replaced by aliens or robots[lights go on] – thank you – by Martians, by CIA agents, by trainedactors and actresses. But the people--But the idea is, the people youcare for the most you believe are gone. And this could lead to tragicconsequences.
Capgras syndrome is associated with a very high level of violence.One man in Australia a couple of years ago was under the delusion thathis father was replaced with a robot and cut off his head. A relateddisorder involving the very same parts of the brain is called Cotard'ssyndrome. And Cotard's syndrome is you believe that you're dead; youare persuaded that you're dead. You're walking around. You know you'rewalking around. And you know that there are people around, but youthink that you're dead. And what's striking about these is--it'snot--these are not just sort of big, screwy problems of messed uppeople. Rather, they're located--they're related at a pinpoint level tocertain parts of your brain. And we're going to talk about the bestmodern theories as to why these syndromes occur.
Now, the reason to be interested in them, again, is not becausethey're frequent. They aren't. And it's not because of some sort ofgruesome, morbid curiosity. Rather, by looking at extreme cases, theycan help us best understand normal life. Often by looking at extremesit throws into sharp contrast things we naturally take for granted. Theissue of psychopathy, of people who, either due to brain damage orbecause they are born that way, have no moral understanding, can helpus cope with questions of free will and responsibility; of therelationship or difference between mental illness and evil. Multiplepersonality cases force us to address the question of what is a self.To what extent are all of us composed of multiple people, and to whatextent are we a single unified person over time? Cases like Capgras areimportant because they tell us about how we see the world. They tell usfor instance that there is a difference between recognizing somethingin the sense that you could name it, and knowing what it is. And so, bystudying these abnormal cases we could get some insight into regularlife. So, that's the end of the illustration of the example topics. Thesyllabus lists many more.
I'll end by telling you that there's a lot of stuff that we'll betalking about, that I want to talk about, that I am not expert in. Andfortunately, there is a community at Yale of the best scholars andteachers on the planet. And so, it would be a shame for me not to usethem to cover some of these issues. And so, I'm going to include fourguest lecturers. The first one is Dr. Marvin Chun who teaches theIntroduction to Psychology course in the fall and is my competition.And he's going to give an amazing lecture on cognitive neuroscience,especially the cognitive neuroscience of faces. Dr. SusanNolen-Hoeksema is the world's authority on depression, and inparticular, on sex differences and depression, and she's going to talkabout this towards the end of the course. Kelly Brownell is going totalk--is head of the Rudd Center, focuses on obesity, eating disorders,dieting, and he'll talk about the psychology of food. And finally, Dr.Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College, is going to come to us onValentine's Day and tell us everything he knows about the mysteries oflove. All of these details are in the syllabus and I'll stick aroundand answer questions. Hope to see you next week.
[end of transcript]