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Psychology of Human Behavior

Psychology of Human Behavior

Professor David W. Martin, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University

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Psychology of Human Behavior

Course No. 1620
Professor David W. Martin, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University
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3.8 out of 5
40 Reviews
50% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 1620
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is not heavily illustrated, featuring a variety of visuals designed to aid in your understanding of the course material. Portraits include those of behavioral pioneers like Sigmund Freud and B.F. Skinner; images feature psychologists performing both experimental and non-experimental research methods; and charts help you break down the complexities of how various mental illnesses are classified.
Audio Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

What comes to mind when you picture a psychologist? If you're like most people coming to this fascinating field for the first time, the answer may include a leather couch and a scholarly looking gentleman quietly taking notes and occasionally nodding. In some ways, such a picture would be accurate, a confirmation not only of the importance of Sigmund Freud in the history of psychology but also of the degree Freud dominates the popular perception of this discipline.

But the picture would be inaccurate, as well.

Freud was a physician, and the majority of psychologists are not. Both the psychoanalytic theory he pioneered and the therapeutic approach it was based on–psychoanalysis–have seen their dominance wane in recent years. And psychologists today, as indebted as they may be to Freud's landmark explorations of our psychological landscape, are involved in far more than helping people cope with inner demons.

The expansive and varied roles of contemporary psychologists create another common image—of a crowd of white-coated researchers gathered around a maze, carefully recording a white rat's performance. It's another inadequate picture because experimental psychologists today usually work with people, not animals.

Moreover, the areas of interest those psychologists are pursuing now encompass every part of the process we use to develop and function as people:

  • How we perceive, remember, and learn
  • How we select our friends and partners and retain their affection and love
  • The things that motivate us as we make our choices in life
  • Even how we relate to the vehicles, machinery, computer systems, or workspaces we encounter as we make our livings.

A Basic Introduction to a Complex Subject

The Psychology of Human Behavior is an outstanding introduction to the field of psychology, beginning with its historical context and looking ahead to some of the directions it is likely to take in the future. Though the course is not intended to be an in-depth exploration of this constantly evolving discipline, its 36 lectures work smoothly as an easy-to-follow primer and offer the ideal starting point for satisfying curiosity about how the mind works, the perspectives from which that question can be approached, and directions for further learning.

Curiosity about the human mind is something Professor David W. Martin believes is present in just about everyone–even if we don't always realize it.

"If you go to a party and see what people are talking about, they are talking about other people and other people's behavior."

"'Why did she leave him?' 'Why don't they bring up their kids in a better way?'"

"They are talking about human behavior, [something] we're all interested in–and what we are going to be talking about in this course."

In keeping with the introductory nature of the lectures, Professor Martin maintains the discussion at a straightforward level, using technical terms when necessary and always defining them clearly. He presents this broad array of topics in a way that makes it apparent why his teaching skills have been so consistently honored.

He uses his own specialty–engineering psychology–as an example of the many new research areas that now fit comfortably beneath psychology's umbrella. As an engineering psychologist, Professor Martin studies how people function as components in a larger system of human-and-machine—for instance, why they see (or ignore) data presented on a computer screen... how they process information to make decisions in a specific environment formed by person and device... or even the best way to indicate which burners on a stove are controlled by which knobs.

This kind of career path has only lately become possible. As his lectures show, Professor Martin, like psychologists working in the field's many subspecialties, are the beneficiaries of decades of increased understanding of how the psyche and brain function, how information is processed, and how to go about gaining that understanding through sophisticated, state-of-the-art research methods.

A Time When "Introspection" Was Scientific Procedure

Odd as it seems today, the major method of data collection during experimental psychology's early days, around the turn of the 20th century, was through what was called introspection: Researchers were trained in concentrating on and identifying the methods their own minds used to process a stimulus presented to them, so they could then report the results!

Today neurologists and neuroscientists can see the electrical and chemical effects within the body's most complex organ as mental, physical, and emotional processes are stimulated.

Ultimately psychology is about human behavior: what we do and why we do it. And as Professor Martin moves across the landscape of psychology today, he introduces topics as varied as major types of mental disorders; the different kinds of physical, behavioral, and "talking" therapies available to treat them; and the ways simple learning is accomplished. He includes example after example of how complex that simple idea—what we do and why we do it—can be.

  • In looking at the field of social psychology, and the ways people can be persuaded, he describes experiments in which people waiting in a long line to make copies are confronted by a person asking to be allowed to jump in at the front. Most people (94 percent) agreed if the reason given was "being in a rush"; 60 percent agreed if no reason at all was given. But even when the reason given was "because I have to make some copies" (obviously!), 93 percent still said yes! As Professor Martin explains, the key element is the use of the word "because," which functions as a heuristic, a psychological shortcut for people too busy to take in the data but who have learned through experience that the word "because" is usually a signal that a good reason is coming.
  • In exploring memory, we learn about the work of psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who has demonstrated how easily memories can be implanted, sometimes just by asking whether someone remembers having experienced a nonexistent event. Subjects will initially deny—accurately—having had the experience, but about a third of them, when tested later, will remember the experience with as much certainty as if it had taken place!
  • Of the relatively new field of evolutionary psychology, we learn that in police reports, men explaining why—"for no reason at all"—they seek to kill one another in meaningless fights over insults is in fact for one of the oldest reasons on the planet. Even if the fight takes places in a bar, with no one around but male strangers for whom an insult to one's reputation would hardly matter, the violence likely stems from the evolutionary need for male status in a very small community of 60 to 100 people, at most, with a limited supply of females.

Under such circumstances, notes Professor Martin, an insult that reduces one's status–thus one's ability to attract a mate–would have been very consequential.

"Our genes are set up to have behavioral predispositions to considering these fighting words, and engaging in aggression, when somebody denigrates our status. That's apparently what's happening in these situations."

Similarly, evolution appears to have had a profound impact on the development of altruism, the ways we choose our sexual partners, why we make war, and even why we overeat. Though most of our understanding of human psychology has been gained in little more than a century, the puzzle psychologists are working to assemble and understand has been in process for a long, long time.

Psychology of Human Behavior can only begin to describe that puzzle, of course, but it is a fascinating description–both a solid summary and an ideal starting point for those eager to find the keys to the puzzle's solution.

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36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    Modern Psychology in Historical Context
    This lecture introduces psychology as the study of human behavior either from a clinical or scientific perspective—with several examples of the varieties of approaches each may take—and also traces some of the discipline's history. x
  • 2
    Experimentation as a Research Method
    Experimentation is one of the primary research methods of psychology. This lecture shows how properly conducted experiments are set up and explains the key terms used. x
  • 3
    Nonexperimental Research Methods
    Psychological researchers are not confined to experimentation in doing their work. We look at some of the other methods available, beginning with correlational observation, in which researchers attempt to determine whether there is a relationship between two behaviors. x
  • 4
    Evolutionary Theory and Modern Psychology
    During most of the history of psychology, human behavior has been considered to be largely a function of environmental influences with few innate behaviors. This lecture explores the recent trend to view behavior within an evolutionary context. x
  • 5
    Freud’s Thinking
    We look at psychology's most prominent theory of personality: the psychoanalytic theory proposed by Sigmund Freud around 1900, which set forth the three personality components of id, ego, and superego. x
  • 6
    Details of Psychoanalytic Theory
    Freud proposed that psychosexual energy is focused on various anatomical parts during a series of developmental stages, and that there are unconscious defense mechanisms at work to protect our psyches. Are his ideas still useful? x
  • 7
    Classification of Mental Illnesses
    This lecture begins a five-lecture exploration of mental illness, beginning with a look at the various criteria used to make up the multidimensional definition of abnormal behavior. x
  • 8
    Anxiety and Mood Disorders
    Two of the major classifications of mental illness are anxiety—once called neurosis—and mood disorders. This lecture discusses some of the major examples of each and discusses how modern psychology attempts to treat them. x
  • 9
    Disorders of Brain, Body, Self, Drugs, Sex
    There are several categories of mental disorders—cognitive, somatoform, disassociative, substance-related, and sexual—and varieties of treatment. x
  • 10
    Schizophrenic Disorders
    Occurring in only 1 percent of the population, schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder in which there is a break with reality that nearly always involves both positive symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech and behaviors; and negative symptoms such as emotional flattening, lessened speech, or deficient will. x
  • 11
    Childhood, Retardation, Personality Disorders
    We conclude our introduction to mental illness by looking at attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, Tourette's syndrome, mental retardation, and types of personality disorders. x
  • 12
    Physical Therapies—Drugs
    This lecture begins our examination of physically oriented therapies with an examination of various psychopharmacological interventions, including a primer on how drugs work once they reach our nervous system. x
  • 13
    Physical Therapies—ECT, Surgery, Genes
    Several physical interventions besides drugs have been used to treat mental illnesses. This lecture looks at some of them, beginning with chemical and electrical means of introducing convulsions and continuing on to discuss surgical and genetic approaches to treatment. x
  • 14
    Talking Therapies—Psychoanalysis
    Psychotherapies are talking therapies based on the assumption that behavioral problems are caused by inappropriate thoughts and feelings. This lecture focuses on the therapy Freud developed, based on his own landmark psychoanalytic theory, to help patients find out what the contents of the unconscious are so that the unconscious can be restructured. x
  • 15
    Therapies—Humanistic, Cognitive, Group
    This lecture continues the sequence on talking therapies by looking at approaches other than traditional psychoanalysis that have proven useful. x
  • 16
    Behavior Therapies—Classical Conditioning
    Behavior therapies are based upon the assumption that the client has learned an inappropriate way of responding. The goal of behavior therapies based on classical conditioning is to substitute a new appropriate response for the old inappropriate response and strengthen the new stimulus-response connection to eliminate the old response. x
  • 17
    Behavior Therapies—Operant Conditioning
    Some behavior therapies (sometimes called behavior modification) are based upon operant conditioning, a form of simple learning that occurs when a voluntary response is reinforced, thereby making that response more likely to recur. x
  • 18
    Models of Motivation
    "What motivates human behavior?" Historically, answers to this question have ranged from the gods, to biological systems, to the unconscious. This lecture introduces some of the answers that have intrigued psychologists. x
  • 19
    Emotion—What Do We Measure?
    Emotion is one of the most important things for psychologists to study, but it is particularly difficult to do so because emotions are private events and not publicly observable. What can be measured, though, are emotion's by-products. x
  • 20
    What are emotions, anyway? Are they the cause of a physiological response or the result? We look at some of the theories proposed over the years to explain them. x
  • 21
    Psychoactive Drugs—Processes, Stimulants
    Legal or not, most people use psychoactive drugs to change the way they feel or act. We begin our examination with a discussion of how such drugs work and a look at some of the more common stimulants, including caffeine, nicotine, methamphetamines, and ecstasy. x
  • 22
    Drugs—Depressants, Narcotics, Hallucinogens
    We turn to other kinds of psychoactive drugs, beginning with depressants—the most dangerous class of drugs because of the risk of death that comes with their use. x
  • 23
    Social Psychology—Influence and Reciprocity
    This lecture, the first of two on social psychology, is concerned with social thinking, social influence, and social relations. We examine the phenomenon of reciprocity as a "triggering mechanism" to persuade others. x
  • 24
    Social Psychology—Additional Mechanisms
    Reciprocity is far from being the only triggering mechanism. This lecture examines some of the others, including commitment, social proof, authority, and scarcity. x
  • 25
    Simple Learning—Classical Conditioning
    We begin a two-lecture sequence on simple learning with a deeper look into a subject introduced earlier and discovered by Ivan Pavlov as he was studying glandular processes in dogs. x
  • 26
    Simple Learning—Operant Conditioning
    We conclude our discussion of simple learning with an examination of the kind of learning that takes place when a voluntary response is reinforced—a process famously pioneered by B. F. Skinner. x
  • 27
    Complex Learning
    This lecture examines several forms of complex learning, along with the argument that it cannot simply be built from the building blocks of classical and operant conditioning. Our discussion will include the differing views put forth by B. F. Skinner and linguist Noam Chomsky. x
  • 28
    We begin our examination of memory with a look at the various ways of assessing how much we remember and conclude with a discussion of memory's fidelity and the ease with which false memories can be implanted for later recall. x
  • 29
    Memory—Memory Aids and Forgetting Theories
    Are there ways to improve our memories? Why, in fact, do we forget? We look at both of these issues and spend some time exploring mnemonics, or memory aids. x
  • 30
    Perception—Forming Internal Models
    Humans are not in direct contact with the external world, but pick up cues as to what is in the external world and form internal models from these cues. This lecture looks at how we do this, as well as how we can be deceived. x
  • 31
    Perception—Finding and Organizing Cues
    This lecture continues our examination of perception with a look at several different analyses, including those of the Gestalt and perpetual constancy schools and the work of Dale Purves. x
  • 32
    Evolutionary Psychology—Basic Concepts
    Because behaviorists and their blank-slate concept of learning held sway for many years, it is only recently that the theory of evolution has had an impact on psychology. But since the subfield of evolutionary psychology was founded in the 1990s, its impact has become major. x
  • 33
    Evolutionary Psychology—Altruism and Mating
    What evolutionary advantage would accrue to helping others? Is our evolutionary wiring still determining how we choose our partners? We explore these provocative questions. x
  • 34
    Evolutionary Psychology—War, Family, Food
    This lecture examines the ways evolutionary psychology can help explain some of the problems with aggression, parenting, and overeating in today's world. x
  • 35
    Engineering Psychology
    Engineering psychology is concerned with specifying the characteristics and limitations of the human operator in a human-and-machine environment. This lecture looks at the branch of psychology that is part of the interdisciplinary area of human factors, or ergonomics. x
  • 36
    Recap, Omissions, and Into the Future
    This final lecture reviews what we have covered in the course and looks into the future to see what may yet be made possible by psychology's most cutting-edge approaches. x

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Your professor

David W. Martin

About Your Professor

David W. Martin, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University
Dr. David W. Martin is Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University. He earned his B.A. in Psychology from Hanover College in Indiana, where he also finished the necessary coursework for a major in physics. He earned an M.A. in Experimental Psychology and a Ph.D. in Engineering Psychology from The Ohio State University. Professor Martin is the recipient of the Roush Award for Teaching Excellence and was named to...
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Psychology of Human Behavior is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 40.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good on research poor on clinical I am a psychiatrist and I learned new material about psychological theory and research. However, the segments on clinical application and psychopathology was often misleading and sometimes wrong.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from First Lecture Left Me Wondering Prof. Martin said one goal of the first lecture was to explain the distinction between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Someone needs to explain that distinction to Prof. Martin. As a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst (yes, those are two different professions), I was struck by several errors. He lumps psychiatrist and psychoanalysts together. The former requires med school and 4 years of post-doctoral specialty training. Psychoanalysis requires another 5+ years of training, which is available to psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals. He also failed to clarify that both Sigmund Freud and William James were physicians. It's admittedly confusing--Freud was a neurologist who founded the profession of psychoanalysis. James was a physician and philosopher who helped found the profession of clinical psychology in the U.S. with his 1890 book Principles of Psychology. I hope the remaining lectures will be more accurate.
Date published: 2017-10-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Sleeper Effect This course put me to sleep twice as fast as any lecture live or remote I have ever been forced to endure.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from On the Fence The course is dated which is to be expected given the year of production. However, using a non-anthropologist and someone who has never been recognized by the academic community, who was a very popular non-academic writer in the 1960s, as the reference for evolutionary theory was hard to swallow. The lecturer was personable and easy to listen to but there were enough "mistakes" regarding subjects that I do know about to make me question his statements about other things. His review of operant conditioning would really resonate well with a lot of pseudo-trainers - all about positive reinforcement and little to nothing about the other quadrants. I think there is some good material, but would suggest people do a little additional research on the topics that interest them before assuming what is in the lectures is accurate. However, since inspiring students to do more research is, IMO, a hallmark of a good professor, I'm giving the course a 3.
Date published: 2016-08-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Recommended with reservations The course is well organized over-all and each subsection is very well organized. Instructor states things in clear terms and uses the I'm going to tell you, I am telling you, I told you, sort of organization throughout. I would recommend the course, but with some serious reservations. First, it is slightly dated. The discussion of classifications of disorders is based on DSM IV. This has since been revised to DSM 5, but the course predates the update. I think this probably is insignificant and does not detract from the course content. In the discussions of neural biology he correctly uses the term synaptic cleft once and also uses the term synapse correctly once, maybe twice. But, there are at least a dozen more places, probably more, where he uses synapse when he means synaptic cleft. I have a friend who also is a university psychology professor. I think he would never allow his undergraduate students to make this error. He mentions that after a suicide is widely reported in the media there is an uptick in suicides, including an uptick in aviation deaths. He then states that this is in commercial aviation and may be due to sicides by commercial pilots. I have no data, but I find this to be an impossible statement. I can readily believe there could be a statistically significant uptick in civil aviation deths, where the real uptick is in the general aviation portion of civil aviation, but not in the commercial sector of civil aviation. I find it credible in general aviation as I once discussed this matter with an experienced aircraft accident investigator. He told me that officially six percent of fatal general aviation crashes are classed as suicides, and that in his opinion the real number could be as high as 25 percent. For the instructor of this course to confuse "civil" aviation to mean only "commercial" aviation is an unforgiveable error. In the discussion of evolutionary psychology he gives an example of squirrels learning to not be afraid of humans in one circumstance. Again, I have no data, but I find it impossible to credit this to inheritated behaviorial change. I strongly suspect this is a perfect example of what he had just explained was not inherited behavior, that is, it is a learned behavior. Without proof of heritability, it can't be evolutionary. For these three really big errors, one of which I am positive of and two of which I am very certain, I must mark this instructor and course down to three stars. Again, recommended, but with reservations.
Date published: 2016-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Introduction to Psychology I wanted to brush up on the psychology I learned in college many years ago and found this course to be a very suitable vehicle for that purpose. All of the major topics are covered clearly, e.g., evolutionary psychology, mental disorders, memory and learning, perception, and social psychology. The professor has a pleasant manner, uses examples both from classroom experience and everyday life, and speaks clearly at a moderate pace. There are two main branches of psychology: experimental psychology and clinical psychology, and while Professor Martin covers experimental psychology in this course including an excellent early lecture on experimental design and the insidious encroachment of "confounding variables", the course has a strong emphasis on clinical psychology in that, by my count, almost half the lectures deal with mental disorders and therapies to alleviate them. There is an excellent lecture on the classification of mental illnesses and how it's changed over time, e.g., homosexuality was once considered a mental illness, and some family advocates, according to Martin, are lobbying to remove autism as a mental illness. The Great Courses offers two general introductions to psychology: this course and Professor Robinson's "Great Ideas in Psychology"" which I purchased about 12 years ago. Professor Robinson's course is a longer course #48 lectures# and emphasizes more of the history of psychology as well as a more philosophical interpretation of selected psychological topics. It's on a bit higher intellectual level than this course; however, I found Professor Martin's course rewarding precisely because of its more clinical orientation. At this time, I am less interested in "Signal-Detection Theory" and "Artificial Intelligence and the Neurocognitive Revolution" #Robinson lectures# and more interested in "Anxiety and Mood Disorders", "Schizophrenic Disorders" and "Talking Therapies-Psychoanalysis" #Martin lectures#.
Date published: 2015-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lucid and useful As a physician, I found the first 17 (almost 50%) of the lectures less useful because they dealt with psychiatry more than psycholog, and I had learned this material in Psychiatry 200.. I think this was maybe a bit too much, and would have liked to heard more about psychology in behavior and evolution. He is a personable man, and lets parts of himself show, which is refreshing. He expresses himself slowly and carefully which is great, especially because so many TLC professors rush. He did spend a bit too much time reviewing what was said and outlining what was going to be said. He also said "...and that sort of thing..." a bit too often for my taste. it's a redundant term and an academic professor should avoid it. I thoroughly enjoyed--and profited from-- the latter 19 lectures and would recommend it to anyone, but especially to a non-physician.
Date published: 2015-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Rounded Another quality course from TTC. Professor Martin effectively introduces the student to the science of Psychology with an easy to understand and light hearted approach that satisfies. Even though the course is from 2006, I found it to be much more thorough than course #1626: 'Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior' from 2012. The course was laid out extremely well - starting from the historical context and advancing into various illnesses and disorders, followed by different therapies and drugs utilized within the profession - is covered in the first 2/3 of this course. The latter 1/3 deals with cognition and how we learn and maintain memory, and concludes with a discussion of evolutionary psychology which helps to demystify much of human behavior. Perhaps, because the course is 8 years old, not as much discussion was given to neuroscience or neuropsychology as I would have liked. However, professor Martin wonderfully showed and described the transfer of neuro-chemicals between neurons and the various drugs utililized to influence receptors, uptake, and neuro-chemical production. The presentation was excellent with the only negative being the amount of time spent on re-capping what was learned. Many times throughout the coure Professor Martin will include personal anecdotes either from his classroom or personal life that help make complex issues easy to digest and enjoyable.
Date published: 2014-03-12
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