Great Ideas of Psychology

Course No. 660
Professor Daniel N. Robinson, Ph.D.
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
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Course No. 660
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Course Overview

If you've ever wanted to delve more deeply into the mysteries of human emotion, perception, and cognition, and of why we do what we do, this course offers a superb place to start. As you hear these lectures, you hear the entire history of psychology unfold. And you learn that the subject most of us today associate with names like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and B. F. Skinner really began thousands of years earlier.

In the hands of Professor Daniel N. Robinson, this course roams far and wide, encompassing ideas, speculations, and point-blank moral questions that might just dismantle and rebuild everything you once thought you knew about psychology.

Witness the Debate over Psychology's Very Existence

In fact, you not only learn what psychology is, but even if it is, as Professor Robinson discusses the constantly shifting debate over the nature of psychology itself.

You see one school of thought after another enter the fray, trying to determine how this strange thing called the human "mind" is to be understood, studied, and treated:

  • Are we an entity that simply perceives an external world and piles one experience upon another in order to learn?
  • Could such a process even happen without an intervening rationality to make sense of it all?
  • Or is "mind" itself merely an unobservable illusion, leaving the science of psychology with little more to study than the actual physical realities of body and brain?

It's a debate that has raged for centuries, and to take this course is to see the question and its implications with a new clarity.

A Multidisciplinary Teacher of Exceptional Skills

Originally trained as a neuropsychologist, Professor Robinson's decades of lecturing and distinguished scholarship have also established him as an authority in the fields of philosophical psychology, the history of psychology, and the junction of psychology and law.

So it is no surprise that he brings clarity, coherence, and comprehensiveness to this stimulating treatment of psychological speculation, debate, and investigation through the ages.

We think you'll agree that he has crafted a fascinating and immensely thought-provoking course—one that is philosophically well-grounded, scientifically informative, and engagingly presented by a true master of the teaching art.

It is a course, in short, for the "seeker" in you, designed to satisfy your need to know, your willingness to self-examine, and your restless curiosity about the world around you.

In fact, the array of ideas, cases, and issues you encounter is so remarkable, embracing so diverse a spectrum of thinkers and subjects, that you might find it hard to believe you're taking just a "psychology" course.

Some of What You Will Learn

Lecture by lecture, Professor Robinson navigates from one subject to the next, and you follow along as he recreates a Platonic dialogue; explains brain physiology; or explores the intricacies of middle ear construction, the psychological underpinnings of the Salem witch trials, and the history of the insanity defense.

Among other things, you learn:

  • how a brilliant young scientist's temporary blindness led to pioneering research in sensory psychology
  • why some survivors of hydrocephaly can function normally despite having lost as much as two-fifths of their brain mass
  • what Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem suggests about claims for the existence of Artificial Intelligence
  • how the once-prestigious, now-derided "sciences" of phrenology and mesmerism contributed to psychological knowledge
  • why David Hume held that causality itself is essentially a psychological phenomenon, and what his fellow philosopher and Scotsman Thomas Reid argued in response
  • what happened when a Stanford psychologist and his students decided to study "being sane in insane places" by getting themselves committed to a mental institution
  • why Aristotle believed that a virtuous civic life is the prior condition of individual psychic flourishing
  • how the brain is able to "rewire" itself to compensate for particular traumas at an early age
  • if high heritability determines how much the environment influences the value of a trait.

Three Powerful Traditions

Professor Robinson explains how the different traditions of psychology and their rich intellectual histories relate to the "great debate of the ages" about being, knowledge, freedom, and the sources of and standards for human conduct.

Thus you learn how the three great intellectual traditions of materialism, empiricism, and rationalism—each one an answer to the basic questions of being and knowledge—powerfully influence the theory and practice of psychology to this day.

Along the way, you'll meet Freud, Skinner, Jung, Watson, Piaget, Erikson, and other giants.

But you also learn why Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, and Kant must also be counted among the founders of psychology.

An Exceptional Range of Brilliant Thinkers

And that's only a small sampling of the exceptional range of brilliant thinkers whose ideas have contributed to the subject of this course.

You encounter these great minds as you:

  • study the contributions made to the understanding of human knowledge, volition, and the mind-body problem by great philosophers and scientists, including Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, and Mill
  • probe the sources of our capacities for altruism, learning, language, conformity, and aggression
  • share correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, David Hume and Thomas Reid, and Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung
  • think through a thought experiment on human freedom
  • review the insights gleaned from famous neurological cases such as that of "Broca's brain"
  • sail to the Galapagos Islands with Darwin
  • ponder the insights and perplexities of psychoanalysis with Freud
  • ponder the provocative discussion of the moral implications of a true Artificial Intelligence—a thinking computer—and whether such a machine would have "rights," including the right not to be turned off; i.e., the right to life.

As Professor Robinson remarks at the end of that particular lecture, "If you don't have at least one sleepless night over these possibilities, then I've been less than clear."

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48 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Defining the Subject
    Is psychology really science at all? A look at the controversy that has engulfed psychology for centuries. x
  • 2
    Ancient Foundations—Greek Philosophers and Physicians
    The ancient philosophers—in wrestling with the problems of knowledge, good and evil, governance, and how mankind should live—lay the foundations for the discipline of psychology. x
  • 3
    Minds Possessed—Witchery and the Search for Explanations
    A look at how abnormal conduct—whether considered insanity or the act of a "witch"—has attracted society's special attention, sometimes with horrifying consequences. x
  • 4
    The Emergence of Modern Science—Locke's “Newtonian” Theory of Mind
    A new emphasis on experimental investigation produces great achievements in natural science and technology, as well as insistent questions about whether the same methods can explain the workings of the mind and society. x
  • 5
    Three Enduring “Isms”—Empiricism, Rationalism, Materialism
    An examination of the great debate over how knowledge and belief come to be and what this means for the definition of psychology. x
  • 6
    Sensation and Perception
    An introduction to the methods by which sensation and perception are investigated and measure, including an introduction to the science and psychophysics. x
  • 7
    The Visual Process
    One of the more scientific sides of experimental psychology is revealed in this look at the discipline's most studied and best known system—a true miracle of organization and function. x
  • 8
    Hearing
    A look at another of the body's most acute senses—and the threats posed to this complex and delicate system by the constant auditory assault of 20th-century industrial and urban life. x
  • 9
    Signal-Detection Theory
    The more difficult a discrimination or detection task is, the harder it is to measure. A look at how signal-detection theory is providing answers, especially in the particularly difficult area of measuring perception. x
  • 10
    Perceptual Constancies and Illusions
    Can we really trust our senses? A surprising look at how knowledge and perception work together. x
  • 11
    Learning and Memory: Associationism—Aristotle to Ebbinghaus
    A first look at the fascinating area of memory and how it works, including an introduction to the use of "mnemonics." x
  • 12
    Pavlov and the Conditioned Reflex
    The famous "salivating dog" experiments were a harbinger of the behaviorist era to come but went well beyond what we learned about in school. x
  • 13
    Watson and American Behaviorism
    An impatient crusader casts his vote for a pragmatic and scientific psychology confined to observable behavior. x
  • 14
    B.F. Skinner and Modern Behaviorism
    A first look at one of the most influential and controversial psychologists of our time and his theory of conditioning human response. x
  • 15
    B.F. Skinner and the Engineering of Society
    Skinner's theories as the model for completely changing child-rearing, education, behavior, and ultimately, society itself. x
  • 16
    Language
    Skinner publishes his theory of language and the resulting critique, led by the then-unknown Noam Chomsky, points the way toward a more "cognitive" interpretation of psychology. x
  • 17
    The Integration of Experience
    For most developed species, survival requires more than passive absorption of disconnected stimuli. An examination of how experience is organized to help creatures actually live. x
  • 18
    Perception and Attention
    If perception weren't selective, we would drown in an unending flood of stimuli. A look at how we filter the input from the outside world down to what is important. x
  • 19
    Cognitive "Maps," "Insight," and Animal Minds
    Is man the only animal that can think? A fascinating glimpse of both sides of the argument over anthropomorphic explanations suggest a surprising answer. x
  • 20
    Memory Revisited—Mnemonics and Context
    A return to the subject of memory for a deeper discussion of how we process, store, and recover experience, including the problem of "eyewitness" testimony and reconstructed memories. x
  • 21
    Piaget's Stage Theory of Cognitive Development
    A search for an explanation of how our mental powers are formed leads to the influential work of Jean Piaget and his theories of cognitive development in children. x
  • 22
    The Development of Moral Reasoning
    Is moral development different from cognitive development as a whole? An examination of what we know about how moral reasoning evolves. x
  • 23
    Knowledge, Thinking, and Understanding
    How we solve problems—how we actually function in our daily lives—including the essential psychological short-cut that makes the process possible. x
  • 24
    Comprehending the World of Experience—Cognition Summarized
    A summary of the finding that laid the foundation for the "cognitive revolution's" alternative to the empiricistic psychologies favored by the behaviorist school. x
  • 25
    Psychobiology—Nineteenth-Century Foundations
    What is the relationship between physical and mental processes? A look at how researches have answered the question, including the strange system of phrenology and its role in the foundation of modern "brain science." x
  • 26
    Language and the Brain
    Injuries to the brain—and resulting functional deficits—have taught us a great deal about brain function and organization, especially regarding the way language is processed. x
  • 27
    Rationality, Problem-Solving, and Brain Function
    A continuing examination of the workings of the brain, including the organ's remarkable ability to compensate for damage early in development. x
  • 28
    The "Emotional" Brain—The Limbic System
    Pleasure. Pain. Motivation. Rage. Fear. What we know about the fascinating part of the brain associated with these and other emotional states. x
  • 29
    Violence and the Brain
    Is criminality really a pathology better understood in scientific than in moral terms? Is insanity truly a defense? x
  • 30
    Psychopathology—The Medical Model
    Is all psychopathology, all "mental" illness, ultimately the consequence of a medical or biological disturbance? A look at this viewpoint and the criticisms it has faced. x
  • 31
    Artificial Intelligence and the Neurocognitive Revolution
    Yes, computer programs can now contend with world-class chess players—to a point. But can computers be made to actually think? A beginning discussion of the pros and cons, along with the staggering ethical implications. x
  • 32
    Is Artificial Intelligence "Intelligent"?
    Do the proponents of artificial intelligence understand what "intelligence" really is? Many say no. x
  • 33
    What Makes an Event "Social"?
    Why a purely scientific examination of events involving people is impossible—and how researches have developed the kind of model necessary to interpret the meaning of these social events. x
  • 34
    Socialization—Darwin and the "Natural History" Method
    How we examine a species within its own natural context, accounting for its defining features by matching these with the conditions faced by members of the species. x
  • 35
    Freud's Debt to Darwin
    Darwin's works are among the most "well-worked-over" in Freud's restored London library. This lecture explores the influence of the world's most famous naturalist on its most famous psychiatrist. x
  • 36
    Freud, Breuer, and the Theory of Repression
    Hysterical symptoms are unlike those produced by genuine neurological disorders. This lecture discusses the discovery of the "talking cure" and how it led to Freud and Breuer's theory of repression. x
  • 37
    Freud's Theory of Psychosexual Development
    Freud's explanation of psychosexual development as the individual's progression from infantile stages of sexual gratification—such as thumb-sucking—to adult heterosexual activity. x
  • 38
    Critiques of Freudian Theory
    Freud believed that psychodynamic processes are universal and largely independent of culture and society, but his biological interpretation has been rejected in favor of socially and culturally oriented theories. x
  • 39
    What Is "Personality"?
    The question has still not been answered definitively and has furnished the grist for many since-refuted theories. This lecture examines the debate. x
  • 40
    Obedience and Conformity
    Several classic experiments have shown the powerful influence of social context on conduct and have offered a strong challenge to both the dominant theories of personality. x
  • 41
    Altruism
    Why do some people act heroically? Once again, social context proves critical in determining human behavior, though a highly developed self-perception can help a person rise above the common in unlikely circumstances. x
  • 42
    Prejudice and Self-Deception
    Acts of prejudice call for a reinterpretation of context and even a reinterpretation of self to justify the action. An exploration of the darker side of human behavior. x
  • 43
    On Being Sane in Insane Places
    What is sanity? What is insanity? As a chilling study demonstrates, the answers often depend on who is controlling the labels. x
  • 44
    Intelligence
    The history of I.Q. and other so-called "intelligence" tests offer valuable lessons in what is and is not "predictable." x
  • 45
    Personality Traits and the Problem of Assessment
    Is there really a test that can reveal the "underlying personality" of an individual? A look at the fundamental problem of devising such a measuring stick. x
  • 46
    Genetic Psychology and "The Bell Curve"
    The issue of whether a given trait is rooted in genetics or the environment—long a controversial issues in the public arena—is when predicting the potential of an individual. x
  • 47
    Psychological and Biological Determinism
    An exploration of the notion of determinism reveals it to be both counterintuitive and, in some respects, self-refuting. x
  • 48
    Civic Development—Psychology, the Person, and the Polis
    In many ways, the fullest and most systematic theories of psychology are still those provided by Aristotle. An exploration of how rational creatures can flourish when the biological, social, and political are truly integrated. x

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  • Download 48 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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DVD Includes:
  • 48 lectures on 8 DVDs
  • 184-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 184-page printed course guidebook
  • Portraits & illustrations
  • Objectives
  • Suggested readings

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Your professor

Daniel N. Robinson

About Your Professor

Daniel N. Robinson, Ph.D.
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
Dr. Daniel N. Robinson is a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University, where he has lectured annually since 1991. He is also Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Georgetown University, on whose faculty he served for 30 years. He was formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, and he also held positions at Amherst College and at Princeton University. Professor Robinson earned his Ph.D. in...
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Reviews

Great Ideas of Psychology is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 54.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Thank god for the return policy I couldn't get past the third disc before calling customer service. The material itself is of interest to me, but unfortunately professor Robinson's lecture style is too tedious to bear on a morning commute. He is obviously quite learned, but his lectures serve more to demonstrate the breath of his knowledge than to actually convey any new information to the listener.
Date published: 2013-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best lecturer I have encountered Prof Robinson is best lecturer I have encountered (and I was on the Harvard faculty for 9 years). He has a wonderfully engaging stryle and a wry sense of humor that keeps the listener tuned in at all times
Date published: 2012-12-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Psychology is still in the dark ages The best value of this course is the wide variety of expertise show by the presenter and the fact that it shows that psychology is still in the dark ages even though it considers itself to be a science. I got my B.A. in psychology in 1968 and everything was behaviorism. I wanted to know how to model successful behavior and how the brain/mind works. I got my Ph.D. in biological psychology hoping to find the answers and still didn't. NLP did a much better job. And this course doesn't even go into such critical things as how your beliefs are filters to reality or ideas such as the law of attraction. In 1968 psychology wanted to be a science and its model was Newtonian physics. That had been obsolete for many years, but there are many aspects of quantum physics that model how psychology should really be. But don't expect that in this course. However, the course is absolutely great in illustrating where psychology is today. So if that's what you want, I recommend it.
Date published: 2012-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very good sweep of a vast subject I am a fan of Professor Robinson and loved his philosophy course. This course is not as good but it is still highly worthwhile for anyone seeking to put the subject of psychology into its historic and academic context. The Professor's strength in philosophy shines through as he offers analysis into the way the different schools of psychology approach their subject area and methodology. It is startling to see for example the sway that the behaviourist school had for much of the twentieth century reduces man to mere machine and a stimulus-response one at that! I welcome further courses on specific aspects of psychology ie altruism, crime and personality etc
Date published: 2012-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Overview of Psychology... I might have titled this interesting and enjoyable course, "An Introduction to Psychology". or "An Overview of Psychology" as it covers a lot of territory (all new to me) in its 48 lectures. But I must add that it seems to be a course for those who have some years in college, as it is not an entry-level course for those who are say in High School or who have never attended college-style lectures.. Dr. Robinson is a fine and knowledgeable lecturer, who now might be more used to lecturing at the graduate level. He has toned down his course a little from graduate level for us. He shows us the wide sweep of the history of Psychology, it's greatest thinkers, and its greatest ideas from ancient Greece to the modern day. The course is fascinating, so much so, that I wonder if I made a wrong career choice now, not going into Psychology. I will look for some of the supplemental reading Dr. Robinson recommends to us in the course booklet, to learn more. If you are already an expert in this field, why would you want to watch this course, and criticize it as "entry-level" or too basic, or not in-depth enough? There are textbooks and graduate schools for that. Let the potential audience decide if the course is right for them. We are all not experts in Psychology.
Date published: 2012-01-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I returned this course, too I've been a Great Courses customer since inception (I have an entire closet full of courses) and have only returned a couple courses in those 10+ years. I love psychology and listened to this course twice, trying to squeeze some interesting tidbits out of it. The good professor is pompous, to be be sure, but the real problem is that he has nothing to say worth listening to...he is just too general and too lacking in insight. I have a GC audio that was done by Drew Weston many years ago on psychology...that course was excellent! I really can't recommend the current course to anyone, no matter how meager their background in psychology. The Teaching Company needs a really good survey course in psychology...and I'll buy it when they make it available, but this course is alas, pretty useless.
Date published: 2011-07-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Disappointing I want to say at the outset that I'm a fan of Professor Robinson. I've taken two of his other TTC courses, enjoyed and learned from them, and rated them highly. The professor is a wise, accomplished, and effective teacher. One can only imagine the pleasure of having a class in which he's the teacher. Indeed there are nuggets in this course that have great value. The lectures on B.F. Skinner, Piaget, Darwin, and Freud are solid and strong. Oddly, Robinson has the habit of coming into very sharp focus at the end of most lectures with smart, pithy, and useful insights that are quite worthy. But all of this can't save the course. Robinson, sadly, tries to do way too many things and is undisciplined. He wisely teaches the importance and relationship of the disciplines of philosophy, science, mathematics, culture, and history to psychology. But he gets weighted down and distracted in the process. For example, he spends huge chunks of time on developments in philosophy, which, by the way, I had been happy to study in his course on philosophy. The core ideas, though of clear value here, seem to be cribbed from the other course and given way too extensive treatment in this context. This lengthens this course needlessly and takes time and focus off the important matters at hand. Essentially, Robinson wanders too much, leaving the student too frequently amused but hungry for core learnings and the latest in the science. He devotes significant attention to historical fascinations with witchcraft, phrenology, and inappropriate uses of IQ and personality testing. OK. But, again, the course is "fat where it should be lean," and one is left hungry for more substance on the current frontier of thought in psychology. Robinson offers two lectures out of context on visual and hearing science. To what end? He spends the bulk of several lectures discussing interesting experiences he and other notables have had, experiments that led to some knowledge in the field, and his own observations on a wide variety of related matters. Once again, all of this is interesting. The problem is that one gets too little of the "meat" promised by the course. Bottom line: Robinson is a terrific and smart chap whose general reflections are of value. If that's what interests you, the course may be more satisfactory for you than it was for me. If you're looking for a sharp, focused course on psychology and/or the science of the mind, you'd do better elsewhere.
Date published: 2011-05-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I would have dropped this course immediately I’m glad I didn’t encounter Professor Robinson in college. I took some psychology and philosophy in college and enjoyed both subjects immensely, so I was looking for a refresher. I’ll keep looking. Professor Robinson is certainly articulate but his style is simply too pompous. Life is too short to unnecessarily subject yourself to such annoyances.
Date published: 2011-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Nature of Human Nature This was not what I was expecting, but it was excellent nevertheless. This was my fourth course by Professor Robinson. He is very well organized and has a clear presentation. I was expecting more of what I thought of as psychology (more along the lines of psychoanalysis and neuropsychology?), but got a whole lot more. It really is the study of human thought, emotions, behaviors, etc. There was a lot of philosophical history thrown in which was very interesting, but wasn't what I thought of as psychology when I started the course. I changed my mind over the course of the course. My only beef was with what I think is a misrepresentation of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem in arguing against artificial intelligence. Yes, the theorem would apply to an AI, but biological intelligence is also "incomplete" (there are true statements we can make which cannot be proven). All in all, it was a wonderful experience. By the time Professor Robinson completed weaving the fabric over 48 lectures, I was sad to have it end.
Date published: 2010-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining I was very critical of Prof Robinson's series on Consciousness as I felt, after 2 listenings, I did not understand a lot of what he said. I'm glad to say that this series was different and a joy to listen to. Prof Robinson was clear, humerous and direct in his presentation. He covered a lot of ground and I found the pace was good. He provided great insights into areas I already had a little understanding of, such as: Freud, intelligence and perception. He draws on material from a wide variety of sources including Science, Philosophy, History, Literature and Linguistics. He presented with passion and it was obvious he really enjoyed himself. His presentation of an experiment involving the limbic system and a cure for "gayness" was worthy of Robyn William's Comedy Routine. A couple of things could be improved: there was no mention of some of the recent developments in Psychology: Positive Psychology, Optimism, Pessimism and Emotional Intelligence. Some people may want further developement and detail of cetain topics, but this is probably for another series. Overall, a brilliant presentation and intoduction to Psychology.
Date published: 2010-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Robinson is Amazing The scope of Professor Robinson's scholarship is only surpassed by his ability to make the most complicated ideas understandable and interesting. I have listened to most of the Teaching Company courses and Professor Robinson is one of the most brilliant lecturers I have heard.
Date published: 2010-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable Mind This is a truly great course--Robinson is one of the best lecturers in the Teaching Company series. It would be a great pleasure to listen to him even if you hated the subject matter--his command of our language and dry sense of humor are that good. In this course he blends the science, social science, history and philosophy of psychology in ways that I think very few people in this world could; very satisfying for intellectual omnivores. My only criticism is that the wide scope of the course prevents it from going deeply into some areas that I think would be very interesting, especially from this lecturer, such as Freud and Jung. But there's no question that this course is a real treat--one of the few I plan to listen to again.
Date published: 2009-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Grand Psychological Debate in Focus! I am very pleased with this course and have listened to it dozens of times. Professor Robinson is the most amazing teacher and brings the subject into sharp focus as well as showing the sweep of the long debate. I am testing out of college and all of TTC courses are profitable to me, but this one has a special place.
Date published: 2009-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is a keeper! Don't miss it! I, too, am surprised at some of the negative reviews posted for this course. I purchased the audio version, and eagerly listened to it at every opportunity. If 'pedantic' means 'excessively subtle reasoning,' then bring it on! I love Dr. Robinson's delivery; his style is almost as good as the content. These lectures are holographic; each can stand on its own, and each could probably be valuable if listened to in any order. I also sensed a student-teacher synergy -- there is more here than just another set of lectures. Taken collectively, this course is a powerhouse of creativity. I listened to the 'Signal Detection Theory" lecture three times -- it was especially useful in helping me, at the time, to edit a very difficult book on the problems of perception in adults and children. As a community volunteer, I found the lecture on 'Altruism" enlightening. Now I understand and accept that I often have to work alone, away from the group. Join the feast. There more than enough here for everyone!
Date published: 2009-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid lectures This is an excellent introduction to general ideas in psychology. I appreciated the fact that Professor Robinson does not "dumb down" difficult content or underestimate his audience. He manages to convey knowledge of his subject without flattening its complexity. I found his lectures very effective in reintroducing me to a topic I have not studied since my college days. My chief reservation is that the lectures seemed to me to conclude rather abruptly. While I usually appreciated the discussion of Aristotle and classical thought, I would have preferred more discussion of the future of psychology research, particularly at the end of the course.
Date published: 2009-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation I was quite surprised by the negative reviews of this series. I thought the quality of the lectures was terrific! I have listened to all of the lectures at least twice and many, more than twice. I think that I would listen to any lecture Dr. Robinson gave regardless of the subject. There were many lectures on experimental psychology, as is appropriate to any field that has aspirations of becoming a science! The lectures on vision and hearing were fascinating explorations of how much of what we think of as sensation is a reality a mental process. How could one lecture on what it really means to "see" be considered too much? I found Dr. Robinson to be a very engaging and witty speaker, and his background in Philosophy to be a plus not a minus. It never occurred to me to label him verbose or pompous. To the contrary, I found him very humorous. The historical and philosophical "digressions" enhanced my appreciation for the subject and I marveled at the breath of his knowledge! Psychology is a complex subject, that in my experience is often poorly presented. It may be that for a person with no prior exposure to the subject, some of the lectures are demanding. What's wrong with demanding? I would highly recommend these lectures to anyone with an serious interest in the subject.
Date published: 2009-06-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I returned this one Simply put, this course does not teach the great ideas of psychology well at all. It seems more appropriate for someone who already knows psychology and desires an intellectual dance around the concepts. With apologies to the professor, I have to agree with others' comments that describe the course as overly intellectual and pompous. I returned this course.
Date published: 2009-06-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed bag I have very mixed feelings about this course. To begin with the negative, it is the only Teaching Company course I have seen that I thought could have been (maybe should have been) shorter. Professor Robinson has a steady, avuncular delivery -- you certainly don't have to worry about missing anything important -- but he also throws in a lot of anecdotal digressions . . . some of which he even repeats in later lectures! And one entire lecture in the early going is given over to the history of witchcraft, which serves only to illustrate a rather simple moral point. In other words, you get the feeling the course is well padded. I should also point out that it is weighted toward the science of experimental psychology (it might more accurately have been called Great Experiments in Psychology), so if you're mainly interested in theory you might want to watch out. Note, for example, that lectures 7 and 8 are solely concerned with the anatomy of the eye and the ear respectively. And the lectures on "materialist" perspectives deal primarily with different brain functions. Now this approach may be entirely justified, and it does provide a very thorough overview of the field, but if you're the kind of person not particularly interested in physiology, or someone whose eyes glaze over when mathematical formulas start getting drawn on the chalkboard, be warned. On the plus side, Robinson certainly knows the subject and once you stand back from things a bit you can see he has organized the material well (after a brief introduction he deals with empiricist, rationalist, and materialist approaches and then concludes with lectures on social psychology). It's the sort of course you will learn a lot from, albeit perhaps not the sorts of things you thought you were going to learn. In the end, Robinson moves at his own pace and very much follows his own interests, dealing with subjects like witchcraft and artificial intelligence (two full lectures!) as well as dealing with people like Skinner and Freud. (As a final point I would add that there are very few essential visuals, so if you listen to the course on CD you won't be missing much.)
Date published: 2009-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fine Summation of a Vague Subject I have never been able to warm to the "science" of psychology. It strikes me as too subjective, too vague, too variable, too open to conjecture or interpretation. Philosophy maybe; science maybe not. Nevertheless, Professor Robinson presents a compelling series of lectures that covers...well...just about every nook and cranny of psychology imaginable. As such, I can heartily recommend this course to persons curious about the subject. Professor Robinson is a brilliant scholar and a terrific lecturer. But for me, the whole remains less than the sum of its parts.
Date published: 2009-05-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Poor Course Robinson is to full of pomp for my taste. II have not listened to his other lectures but this one had a poor presentation. Worse though the information in the second part of the course was inconsistent with other teaching company courses. I am in school now and reading 1/4 of what the course covers and feel that often he failed to highlight the most important ideas of a philosopher. It left me wondering if the coverage of the people I am not reading was good. To be positive I think the teaching company puts out some very good courses. “No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life” was excellent. The good coverage of Heidegger was surprising
Date published: 2009-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, But Not Great I think that this course, more than most others, is shaped by who the professor is, in this case Daniel Robinson. Without a doubt, Robinson is a man of considerable erudition, and he has solid credentials in both psychology and philosophy. For the course, I think this turns out to be both a strength and weakness. On the strength side, Robinson is able to somewhat uniquely enrich the discussion of psychology topics by often bringing in philosophical and historical connections. This makes the course wide ranging, intellectually stimulating, and relatively sophisticated (for a psychology course). But on the weakness side, Robinson can also sometimes come across as overly verbose, to the point of being a bit stuffy or even pretentious. And I think his style also often keeps him from getting to the point, which results in the lectures delivering LESS solid content, rather than more, despite appearances to the contrary. In that regard, many people might prefer TTC's more straightforward "Psychology of Human Behavior" course presented by David Martin. A more general point is that psychology itself isn't really a mature subject yet, and I think that Robinson pretty clearly acknowledges that in several lectures, especially in the last lecture where he presents Aristotle's (ancient) psychology as the only worthy attempt so far at a systematic psychology. Robinson's intellectually elevated approach strikes me as an effort to compensate for the inherent limitations of psychology but, unfortunately, I don't think he really succeeds (perhaps it's just not possible). Nonetheless, as noted above, the course and lecturer do have their good points, so I can recommend the course to anyone with a substantial interest in psychology, especially people coming to the course with a philosophy background. However, people who come to the course hoping for profound (and non-obvious) insight into what makes people tick may wind up disappointed, so I wouldn't recommend the course to that audience. Personally, I classify this as a course which offers more stimulation than insight, so I doubt I'll go through the course again, though I don't regret having gone through it once.
Date published: 2009-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best so far I guess everyone is different and has different expectations, but I’m surprised the people below found the course to be boring and found Robinson "monotone". While he is definitely verbose and erudite, I find him humorous and very intelligent. His philosophical approach to the history of psychology is excellent and I found most of the lectures to be of great value. I must admit I have an advanced degree in psychology so perhaps my familiarity with the subject gives me an edge, but I did find it to be challenging at times. I have listened to some of the courses many times and feel there is plenty of wisdom to be gained from these courses. I realize there are a few which drag a bit, like the lecture on vision and perhaps the memory one. Aside from that I felt Robinson's presentation of the various domains of psychology were well organized and thought provoking. It’s a challenging course. If you want a more pedestrian intro to psych then perhaps try the course by Dr Martin titled Psychology of Human Behavior. It’s much like a basic freshman course and he speaks slowly. I found it boring and basic. Anyway, Robinson is the man!
Date published: 2009-02-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Complex for sure My wife was the one who wanted to take a class on psychology, but neither of us could complete it. This subject isn't my cup of tea though. I usually listen to these courses at work but neither my wife or I could listen to this course and work at the same time. The lectures do have interesting tidbits of information, but overall, I found it pedantic and boring, especially compared to the many other courses I have purchased from the Teaching Company.
Date published: 2009-02-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Boring Robinson takes an intersting subject and makes it dull. His monotone and lifeless delivery actually had me fall asleep during several lectures. Ugh! As an owner of more than 50 Teach Co courses I know hich ones are good and which ones aren't- skip this one...
Date published: 2009-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from HEAVY DUTY PSYCH!!! Brilliant, but much too clinical and detailed for an arts major like me. Again, Robinson may be the greatest professor on earth, but I could not keep up to him with this course. It is a definite must for anyone who wants to major in Psych or for someone who always wanted to major in Psych but never did. For the curious, though, it may be a bit to heavy. I repeat: Robinson is a genius.
Date published: 2009-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Truly Brilliant Professor and Course Prof. Robinson is the model of a great lecturer. Erudite, scholarly, playful, full of common sense, and humble. Every one of his Teaching Company courses is a treasure and this one is no exception (and I must say I don't understand when reviewers give 4 stars while only having positive things to say. Prof. Robinson is such a great teacher that when anyone offers fewer than 5 stars without explanation, I take that as a sign that the student was not up to the demands of the teacher.) Prof. Robinson has an unusual ability to master a wide range of philosophical and psychological material, AND also master the ability to do what a great teacher must do--provide a clear presentation of demanding conceptual material. He can pack more solid content into a single lecture than anyone I've ever experienced. That's why it's up to the listener to meet the demands of the lecturer and uncompress the content over time. It's well worth going into these lectures once every year or so. Prof. Robinson is one of the top 5 lecturers for the Teaching Company,
Date published: 2009-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top of his game This was my first Teaching Company Course and, after many others watched since, still one of my favourites. Even Robinson's later excellent lecturers on Philosophy and on Consciousness (also highly recommended) can't quite match the verve and wit of the earlier (younger) Robiinson on display here at the absolute top of his game. I've lent this to a senior Psychology Professor friend of mine and she was highly impressed at Robinson's ability to convey concepts and ideas she had been struggling for decades to present to her students in a pedagogically engaging way .
Date published: 2008-12-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Prof. Robinson is among the best lecturers i've ever listened to. His mastery of the subject matter is very impressive.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof Robinson's brilliance shines through in every lecture, illuminating the subject matter in new and exciting ways.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Robinson is one of the most engaging lectures I've ever come across. The course far exceeded expectations.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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