Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science

Watch Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science

  • 2012
  • 1 Season

Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science is an educational series from The Great Courses that explores what it means to be human through the lens of science. The show is hosted by Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a renowned professor of biology, neurology, and neurosurgery at Stanford University. Over the course of 12 lectures, Dr. Sapolsky delves into the biology, psychology, and sociology of what makes us human and how we can better understand ourselves and others.

The first lecture sets the stage for the series by exploring the concept of self-awareness and how it separates humans from other animals. Dr. Sapolsky discusses the evolution of the human brain, including the development of the prefrontal cortex, and how these changes have allowed us to become the self-reflective creatures we are today. He also delves into the psychological aspects of self-awareness, including how we perceive ourselves and others and the importance of empathy in human relationships.

In subsequent lectures, Dr. Sapolsky tackles a wide range of topics, from the biology of stress and its effects on the human body to the cultural evolution of language and how it has shaped human society. He discusses the role of genetics in shaping our behaviors and personality traits, as well as the impact of environmental factors such as childhood experiences and social norms.

One particularly fascinating lecture covers the neuroscience of addiction and how drugs and other stimuli can hijack our brain's reward systems. Dr. Sapolsky explains the science behind addiction, from the initial pleasurable effects of a drug to the later, compulsive behaviors that are hard to break. He also discusses the social and cultural factors that contribute to addiction, such as peer pressure and poverty.

Another highlight of the series is a lecture on the science of happiness, in which Dr. Sapolsky explores the psychological and physiological factors that contribute to our sense of well-being. He discusses the role of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in happiness, as well as the impact of social support and community on our mental health.

Throughout the series, Dr. Sapolsky brings his engaging and insightful style to each topic, drawing on his extensive knowledge of the science of the human mind and body to explain complex ideas in an accessible way. He also incorporates real-world examples and anecdotes to illustrate key concepts and keep viewers engaged.

Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science is a fascinating and thought-provoking series that explores what it means to be human through the lens of science. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in the science of psychology, sociology, and biology, as well as those curious to learn more about human behavior and the factors that shape our lives.

Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (12 episodes). The series first aired on January 16, 2012.

Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science
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Sushi and Middle Age
12. Sushi and Middle Age
January 16, 2012
Consider the brain science behind nostalgia. Why do we, as well as members of other species, tend to avoid novelty over time in favor of the familiar? Taking you through some rather eccentric research of his own, Professor Sapolsky uncovers some startling facts about the psychology, neurobiology, and evolution of this phenomenon.
This Is Your Brain on Metaphors
11. This Is Your Brain on Metaphors
January 16, 2012
Dr. Sapolsky explains how metaphors work on the brain to actually change your opinions, assessments, and even action; investigates how we register disgust and pain in key regions of the brain; and shows metaphors' intriguing hold on our hearts and minds at work in politics and international events.
Anatomy of a Bad Mood
10. Anatomy of a Bad Mood
January 16, 2012
Learn what happens when you or others are in a bad mood by exploring some theories about emotion; explore the role of facial expressions in emotional feedback; and change the way you think about tense arguments.
Why We Want the Bodies Back
9. Why We Want the Bodies Back
January 16, 2012
Why do human bodies remain important after the life within them has gone? Is it a sign of affirmation, mourning, reverence? Or something else? Explore some of the world's diverse rituals and beliefs about the treatment of dead bodies, from Alaska to Israel to Sudan and beyond.
How the Other Half Heals
8. How the Other Half Heals
January 16, 2012
Learn about the intricate relationship between personal health and socioeconomic status. You'll learn how poverty is terrible for your health in unexpected ways, why some diseases (including polio) were more prevalent among the wealthy, and how shifting views of childcare in the 20th century showed that successful infant development relies not just on food, warmth, and the latest technology: but on social contact and love.
The Pleasures and Pains of
7. The Pleasures and Pains of "Maybe"
January 16, 2012
For a long time, scientists thought that the neurotransmitter dopamine was directly related to pleasure. But it turns out that dopamine is more about the anticipation of reward than the reward itself. Here, plunge into the neuroscience behind why we're willing to deal with such long delays in gratification, and what it says about the potential of humans to experience both magnificent levels of motivation: and crippling levels of addiction.
Why Are Dreams Dreamlike?
6. Why Are Dreams Dreamlike?
January 16, 2012
Why does your brain generate sensory imagery while you sleep? Here, examine the neurology of sleeping and dreaming. Also, discover how the key to strange dreams lies in your frontal cortex, which, when it goes completely offline, allows the rest of your brain to run wild.
Poverty's Remains
5. Poverty's Remains
January 16, 2012
Turn to an intriguing historical case of doctors who, failing to appreciate the impact of poverty on our bodies, invented an imaginary disease whose preventive methods killed thousands of people. It's a peek into an odd corner of medical history that reveals startling lessons about the socioeconomics of medicine.
Bugs in the Brain
4. Bugs in the Brain
January 16, 2012
Professor Sapolsky introduces you to parasites that exploit their hosts by altering their behavior. After looking at studies, including mites that make ants find food for them and worms that drive crickets to suicide, focus on how rabies and toxoplasmosis can literally change the wiring of the brain in mammals: including humans.
The Burden of Being Burden-Free
3. The Burden of Being Burden-Free
January 16, 2012
Investigate the latest anthropological and scientific understanding behind a pervasive part of our everyday lives: stress. You'll discover what makes psychological stress so damaging to health, where individual differences in stress come from, the nature of disorders including toxic hostility and clinical depression, and why it's impossible to be completely free of stress.
Junk-Food Monkeys
2. Junk-Food Monkeys
January 16, 2012
What happens when nonhuman primates get to eat like Westernized humans? And what does it say about the costs: and surprising benefits: of our diets? Find out the answers in this lecture, which focuses on a fascinating study of East African baboons who abandoned their natural diet to gorge on garbage from a local tourist lodge.
What's So Special about Being Human?
1. What's So Special about Being Human?
January 16, 2012
Humans are, from an evolutionary perspective, certainly the most unique species on Earth. Start the course by learning how to approach the subject of human behavior. You may be surprised to discover that there are plenty of ways in which we have the same behavioral aspects as other animals: and also behaviors for which there is no precedent in the animal kingdom.
Where to Watch Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science
Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science is available for streaming on the The Great Courses website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science on demand at Amazon and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    January 16, 2012