Origins of the Human Mind

Course No. 1663
Professor Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
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Course No. 1663
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Course Overview

For thousands of years, the human mind has been shrouded in mystery. Elusive in nature, the subject has prompted an intensive study of several puzzling questions about what the mind is, what it's made of, how it works, and how it differs from our brains. With the latest advancements in both our understanding of the brain and the technology we use to look inside it, scientists have vastly improved their understanding of the human mind. Now, more so than at any other point in human history, we can better explain and describe

  • how the human mind has evolved, both on the scale of our entire species from the dawn of humanity to the present, and on the individual level from birth to adulthood;
  • the ways our genes and environments work together to mold the people we become;
  • the sources, symptoms, and potential treatment methods for debilitating mental disorders such as depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism;
  • why our intensely social species has the dynamic capability to both ostracize and empathize with the humanity of our fellow individuals; and much more.

Despite its mysterious nature, the human mind and its complexities lie at the heart of who we are as human beings. It shapes our everyday lives and defines our individual personalities. And grasping both the mind's scientific origins and its biological workings is essential to any well-rounded understanding of possible answers to questions that have fascinated and perplexed humanity throughout history.

Origins of the Human Mind is your authoritative guide to the latest information and viewpoints on what neurobiologists, psychologists, and other scientists know about this fascinating subject. These 24 intriguing and enlightening lectures lay bare the inner workings of our minds—and it's all brought to you by award-winning Professor Stephen P. Hinshaw, an instructor whose training as a clinical psychologist straddles both the science of the mind and its impact on individual lives. His comprehensive and unbiased approach to this subject reveals how the science of the human mind applies to the life of our species—and to your own life as well.

Explore the Mind on Two Fascinating Scales

So what, exactly, is the human mind? Our minds, according to Professor Hinshaw, are not disembodied entities completely separate from our brains. Rather, they are a rich, diverse, and utterly complex set of mental and emotional experiences that originate in our brains and interact with our surrounding environment.

Grasping such a concept might seem like a daunting task, but Professor Hinshaw's approach is methodical, organized, and compelling. The foundation of Origins of the Human Mind lies in its exploration of theories about how the mind works on two key scales, each of which offers its own fascinating insights into how and why our minds operate the way they do:

  • The evolutionary scale (phylogeny): This scale offers you a captivating window into how minds evolved over hundreds of millions of years and led to the development of brain plasticity, intense emotional bonds, complex executive functions, the potential for culture and invention, and more.
  • The individual scale (ontogeny): This scale shows you how changes made on an evolutionary level unfold throughout a single human lifespan, from infancy to adolescence to adulthood to advancing old age.

Examining these scales in depth—and together—allows you to notice similarities and differences in viewpoints and approaches that you wouldn't get from an intense focus on one or the other. It also demonstrates how viewing the development of the mind on a large and small scale simultaneously provides us with the best possible picture about what the mind truly is.

Get Answers to Provocative Scientific Questions

But what makes Origins of the Human Mind so essential to your grasp of contemporary scientific issues are the answers that Professor Hinshaw provides to some of the most provocative questions involved in the study of the human mind:

  • What roles do the building blocks of the brain—such as neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitters—play in operating both the normal and abnormal human mind?
  • Is your mind genetically predisposed to act the way it does, or is it shaped by your environment and upbringing?
  • If mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia are so harmful, why haven't the maladaptive genes that cause them been bred out through natural selection?
  • Why is there such a long period of helplessness required for full brain maturation, and why does the majority of brain development occur after birth?
  • How different, if at all, are the cognitive skills and behavioral patterns of men and women?

Some of the conclusions reached by today's scientists may simply confirm what you've always intuitively suspected. Others may challenge what you thought you knew about your mind. In all instances, however, these answers bring you closer than ever to scientific frontiers we've only recently discovered.

Discover the Humanity behind the Science of the Mind

Professor Hinshaw has made a career of studying the human mind from multiple points of view. Yet it's his background in clinical psychology, his distinguished career as a scientist, and his position as Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, that make him an invaluable guide through the often perplexing territory of the human mind.

His ability to make clear sense of a range of scientific topics (including evolution, behavioral genetics, and neurobiology), combined with his ability to distill the humanity hidden within grand scientific theories and concepts, makes these lectures as compassionate as they are comprehensive. Whether discussing the development of emotions and instincts, comparing the 21st-century human brain to that of its primitive ancestor, or even relating his own family's personal struggles with mental illness, Professor Hinshaw always avoids turning this course into a dry accumulation of facts and data devoid of personal meaning.

Instead, he's crafted Origins of the Human Mind to be a multifaceted look at one of the hottest subjects in the scientific world. And while more work needs to be done until we finally solve the riddles of our minds, by the conclusion of the last lecture you'll find yourself better prepared to understand the discoveries of tomorrow as they arise.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Brains and Minds, Evolution and Development
    Professor Hinshaw lays the groundwork for this fascinating journey into the depths of the human mind by introducing the structure of the course, posing a series of provocative questions, and explaining the three predominant perspectives on our minds: the spirit-based, the naturalistic, and the humanistic. x
  • 2
    How the Human Brain Works
    Delve into the make-up and inner workings of the brain, from the level of the individual neuron to the larger regions specialized for the mind's different functions. In addition, get a brief introduction to psychopharmacology, as well as to some of the latest technological advances that help us understand how our brains work. x
  • 3
    Development of the Human Brain
    This lecture examines the ways in which our brains develop across the human lifespan. Professor Hinshaw uses a case study of children adopted from horribly deprived Romanian orphanages to focus on brain plasticity—the idea that changes in the brain result from experiences—and its potential long-term limitations. x
  • 4
    Evolution and the Brain
    How did evolutionary forces shape our brains? Discover the answer to this core question in modern science with a look at some of the key features of the human mind produced by natural selection and the ways the brain evolved over the span of millions of years. x
  • 5
    Psychological Views of the Mind
    Zero in on two modern psychological theories of the mind that serve as counterpoints to the evolutionary theory: the instinctive and deeply symbolic psychodynamic theory, and social learning theory, which explains behavior through our minds' abilities to learn. In addition, address mysteries about human consciousness and self-awareness. x
  • 6
    Instinct, Learning, and Emotion
    Take an in-depth look at instinct and emotion—two inescapable processes of the human mind. Among the intriguing issues covered in this lecture are the relationship between instinct and language formation, how our primary emotions signal our experiences and intentions to others, and ways we can consciously regulate their expression. x
  • 7
    Microevolution, Culture, and the Brain
    Return to the evolutionary theory and investigate the key concepts and debates regarding the shaping of the human mind. How have subtle—yet powerful—changes given the modern mind some of its key powers? What are the differences between primate and human brains? And what is the influence of cultural behaviors and values? x
  • 8
    Infancy—Temperament and Attachment
    In the first of four lectures on the development of a mind across the human lifespan, examine the first life stage: infancy. The two aspects you cover—temperament and attachment—are crucial for the development of personalities and minds and reflect the importance of the earliest years of life. x
  • 9
    Childhood—Stages and Widening Contexts
    Turn now to childhood, the second major stage of life during which our personalities and minds develop even further. It is during this stage, you learn, that factors such as families, peers, neighborhoods, and cultures work with our earliest biological and social foundations to mold the person we eventually become. x
  • 10
    Adolescence—Rebellion, Identity, and Self
    Continue moving up the developmental ladder into adolescence: the crucial period of rebellion, turmoil, and identity formation that prepares us for adult life. How does the mind change during this time? What are the dangers of sleep deprivation? And what are considered normative and healthy self-perceptions? x
  • 11
    Adulthood—Aging, Horizons, and Wisdom
    Does getting older predict inevitable declines in how your mind functions? Or could you actually become wiser and more positive as you age? The answers you uncover in this lecture are undoubtedly fascinating—and may just reshape your views of what aging does to the mind. x
  • 12
    Influences of Sex and Gender
    Focus here on the association between sex and gender, on the one hand, and the brain and mind, on the other. Of vital importance to the study of the human mind, sex and gender have important implications for evolution, our diversity as a species, and our social relationships. x
  • 13
    Parallels between Development and Evolution
    Bring together several core points about individual development of the mind. As you'll discover, in the development of the minds of both individuals and our species as a whole, biology constantly interacts with environment and context to produce a wealth of change. x
  • 14
    Myths and Realities of Heritability
    With the mapping of the human genome, we now know that many traits and facets of the mind are more heritable than we once thought. In this lecture, Professor Hinshaw separates the facts from myths about how much importance our genes have in shaping our emotions, behaviors, and minds. x
  • 15
    Genes and Environments Together
    Move from behavior genetics to a detailed view of how genes and environments influence once another to shape our minds. By examining the ways genes and environments correlate and interact, you realize that the dichotomy of nature versus nurture is inaccurate; instead, it is nature and nurture. x
  • 16
    The Abnormal Mind—What Goes Wrong?
    Why do some minds suffer mental disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder? Answer this crucial question by exploring seven different perspectives—each of which contributes to our overall understanding of this pressing question in the study of the human mind. x
  • 17
    Rationality, Psychosis, and Schizophrenia
    Schizophrenia is intimately involved with breakdowns in perception, rational thinking, and higher-order executive functions. Here, examine the roots of psychosis and make sense of the risk factors, characteristics, and treatment methods of one of the most devastating mental illnesses. x
  • 18
    Emotion Regulation and Mood Disorders
    The roots of mood disorders lie in the emotional and mood-related fluctuations that we all experience. After you learn the difference between emotions and moods, you take a closer look at the science of two major mood disorders: depression and bipolar disorder. x
  • 19
    Attention, Impulse Control, and ADHD
    Turn now to a mental disorder that can affect the way the mind stays attentive and controls inhibitions: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Examine four forms of attention and the importance of inhibitory control, then zero in on the causes and conditions of—as well as treatment options for—ADHD. x
  • 20
    Empathy, Social Connections, and Autism
    Major difficulties in emotional and social connections with other people present huge problems for the development of the mind. Case in point: autism. Conclude your look at abnormalities in the human mind with a focus on this often-devastating and increasingly prevalent disorder. x
  • 21
    Evolution and the Paradox of Mental Illness
    If mental disorders are passed through the generations by genes, then why haven't these disabling and maladaptive conditions simply been bred out of existence? Investigate how understanding 'heterozygote superiority,' gene interactions, and changing environments can help us finally answer this baffling question. x
  • 22
    Roots of Religion, Aggression, and Prejudice
    Investigate how evolution helps us understand these three wider aspects of human culture. Why are humans so prone to be religious? How aggressive are we as a species? How can natural selection help us understand why some people stigmatize their fellow humans? x
  • 23
    Bringing in Personal Narratives
    Personal narratives can play key roles in humanizing and helping us better understand the complexities of mental illness. As a powerful example, Professor Hinshaw details his own father's struggle with bipolar disorder —a story that proves just how important it is to blend the scientific and clinical with the personal. x
  • 24
    The Future of the Human Mind
    In this final lecture, probe some of the fascinating possibilities and ethical issues at the frontiers of the human mind. These include harnessing the hidden and untapped power of our unconscious; making startling advancements in the development of artificial intelligence; and creating the potential for humans to engineer their own minds. x

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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
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  • 128-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Stephen P. Hinshaw

About Your Professor

Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Stephen P. Hinshaw is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, where his teaching was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Letters and Sciences. He earned his A.B. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before joining the faculty at Berkeley in 1990, Professor Hinshaw was a clinical psychology...
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Origins of the Human Mind is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 39.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind expanding. I think the professor does a great job in detailing the development of the human brain.
Date published: 2020-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional course This is an exceptional course. Its subject is how we become what we are. It blends well materials pertaining to the development of our species and the development of the individual person. And it addresses well the inseparable interrelationships between genetic factors and environmental ones in these developments. Professor Hinshaw describes the scope of the course as “a tour of fundamental questions in psychology, psychiatry, evolution, neuroscience, narrative, and ethics.” He does a superb job in presenting this tour and in explaining the salient connections among these fields. Please be aware that each of the subjects that Professor Hinshaw discusses could be the subject of a course in and of itself. This is a splendid survey rather than a comprehensive exploration of those subjects. Also, please be aware that the sciences through which we discover and analyze the physical processes of the brain and its interactions with the world are not sufficiently advanced to provide the complete answer as to how we become what we are. So our mind is not yet capable of fully describing its origin. But it is capable of understanding quite a lot about it. To that end, this course is a great tour and a fine learning experience. It inspires one to think, to consider, and to reflect. That is perhaps its best attribute.
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned a lot I would buy more courses from this professor sight unseen.
Date published: 2017-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very expansive Warning, this is a complex course littered with speculative ideas in a field bursting with new investigative tools and theories. It's good stuff! Most significantly for me, the professor presents a much broader view of the "origins of mind" than I had ever imagined. My picture of the origins of mind conjures up thoughts of metaphysics, the mind-body duality of Descartes for example. This idea is mentioned but quickly left behind. An alternative, that mind emerges from the brain, seems to always end with the inevitable sigh of ignorance as to how to connect the biochemistry to human intellect. Often this approach retreats into determinism. Thankfully Professor Hinshaw discusses the brain at length but doesn't go the determinism route. His sigh of ignorance comes in the admission that we just don't know yet how the mind emerges from brain and that it may be a very long time before we do. After that admission the professor moves on to the biological and psychological details. This course is all about the details. It's the psychological details that I did not expect. Psychology plays a huge role in this course. When the professor steered the course to psychology I was puzzled. Even though it is interesting what does this have to do with the origins of mind? In this course nature vs. nurture becomes biology vs. psychology. Professor Hinshaw promises that he will change the way you view nature vs. nature. The lectures shift about with discussions of evolution, genetics, brain development, environmental effects, medical care, and even parenting. Here, mind is not just a species level concept. Understanding mind demands understanding individual development as well. I know I will never look at a new born again without thinking about the biology and psychology that's forming that child's individual mind. My only gripe is that this expansive view of the origins of the human mind sometimes left me feeling out of focus. I wish the professor would have more often, more explicitly, connected his details to the concept of origins of the human mind. For example how does treatment for schizophrenia connect? It may help to listen to the first 5 minutes of the last chapter first. At the very least be aware this course is challenging and demands focused attention but is quite rewarding.
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Somewhat too superficial In my opinion, this course was very good but not great. Although the professor was very knowledgeable and his presentation style was good, there was not enough neurobiological detail for my tastes. Those who have taken other Great Courses such as Jeanette Norden's Understanding the Brain might be ready for something a bit more advanced than what was offered here. The details were relatively sparse when it came to development of the brain (although I have taken courses in embryology and therefore might have been expecting more than I should have). Similarly, there is a great deal of new molecular information on the evolution of the human brain and the pathophysiology of psychiatric illnesses that were not included. (Again, I might have been expecting far more than I should have.) For someone just interested in neuroscience and the human brain/mind in particular, this can serve as an excellent introduction to this exciting field. For someone already familiar with basic neuroscience, this course might seem a bit too superficial.
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Left Wanting More The presenter is a typical college professor that has spent many years giving the same lecture and finds it difficult to get students excited about the lecture. I learned much more than I expected to learn about the brain. The coverage regarding the mind left me wanting more. I thought that the major topics were focused more on the brain as an organ which left me wondering about the lack of discussion diredted at the mind. The discussion regarding the abnormal mind could bave been discussed in greater detail considering that the title of the course is "Origins of the Human Mind."
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Skips homosexuality Early in the course, the professor says that Darwinian evolution is not really the survival of the fittest, but is instead the fittest at reproduction, because reproduction is what is critical to gene evolution. The professor discusses many human behaviors, and explains how these evolved and persist. He explains how different behaviors are heritable or influenced by the environment. Homosexuality is much more prevalent than many of the behaviors and conditions discussed in the course. Why no mention of that behavior? I would like to know whether homosexual behavior is considered gene-based, heritable, or created by the environment. If genetic, how can it persist in human populations? Why is the behavior not quickly "selected out?" I suspect that this is one of those taboo topics that professors in the United States are afraid to even mention. Whatever the professor said would be considered politically incorrect, or hurtful, by some, and the professor could harm or destroy his career. It is a shame that this situation currently exists in the United States; it reminds me of Galileo and the Catholic Church in the 17th century.
Date published: 2016-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course on the Human Mind I would like to thank Professor Hinshaw for this effort. He covers a tremendous amount of territory in 24 lectures. He is clear, concise, and informative. I would really like to see Professor Hinshaw offer an advanced course, and cover some of these topics in greater detail. Like Consciousness, for example. At my age I will never remember everything he covered in all his lectures, but that's ok. All I have to do is put the DVDs in again!!! Thanks to The Great Courses for offering such interesting topics.
Date published: 2016-03-24
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