top of page

Lec 1 MIT 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology, Spring 2011

Lecture 1: Introduction Instructor: John Gabrieli View the complete course: License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA More information at More courses at


Unknown Speaker 0:00

The following content is provided under a Creative Commons license. Your support will help MIT OpenCourseWare continue to offer high quality educational resources for free. To make a donation or view additional materials from hundreds of MIT courses, visit MIT OpenCourseWare at oc

Unknown Speaker 0:27

Good afternoon.

Unknown Speaker 0:30

Congratulations for braving it through what's now become a weekly snow disaster. This week's maybe three of them or something. My name is john Gabrielli. This is introductory to psychology, a 900. This is a course about you. Okay. The entire course is what do we understand in a scientific way about human nature? how people's minds work, how people's brains work that supports their mindful sentire courses about what's the scientific way to understanding how people feel, think and act in the world. And so, we're going to try to say that we constantly think you must in your everyday life, think about you know, why do you have your preferences, your desires you what's easy for you, what's hard for you was delightful for you. Why do other people behave the way they do? How do they think, how do they feel. And so there's a lot of realms of this that are tough to get to by science. But what we're going to focus on this semester is, you know, where the scientific approach has shed light, you know,

Unknown Speaker 1:29


Unknown Speaker 1:30

the way that we're used to thinking about experiments and evidence about how humans tick. And as we go through this semester, we'll talk about the brain we'll, we'll talk a fair bit about chapters from this book, The Man Who mistook his wife for a hat from Oliver Sacks, it was a best seller, you know, even even when it wasn't assigned for a course, it's a great book, you'll enjoy it. Short, really fun chapters will talk about how we perceive the world how we see especially a little bit how we hear how we think how we feel, personality, how we differ from one to the other, what we sort of like and how we behave in the world. Development from childhood and infancy through adolescence through young adulthood, where you are mostly, through through getting older, where I am, social interaction, how we behave in groups and think about other people, and variation and mental health or psychopathology. And increasingly, we understand that there's a huge number of people who at some moment in their life or another struggle with some aspect of mental health. And then we'll focus a lot on not only the psychological aspects of that, what we see in terms of behavior, but also the brain basis of that and think a little bit about To what extent, the mind is, what the brain does, to what extent the mind is what the brain does. And so for every dimension of being a human being that we'll talk about, we'll also talk about what we understand currently, from the neurological and neuroscientific literature about how the human brain supports and contributes to different aspects of being a person. Okay. So, you know, every, every, everybody who's a sort of works in a certain field thinks that their field is really, really, really special, right? So here's why psychology is really, really, really special. So it's really, really special. I think, most of all, because every endeavor that we undertake, at a university or in society as a whole, it's about people, right, except for when we think about the rest of nature, but you know, people study biology, chemistry and physics. And they think, right, that the, the sun orbits the Earth for some period of time, and then they think it's the other way around, currently, right? Okay, so people come up with these conclusions. Even though we're trying to understand nature, it's people who make certain investments in economics or behave in a certain way, or vote in a certain way. It's people who make music and appreciate music, make art and appreciate art, read and write literature, right? So in all these dimensions, there's something very fundamental about what it is about the human mind that gives birth to these areas of inquiry, and, and how those areas domains of human experience are enacted. So my only goal today is to try to convince you in a number of different ways that we're not simple video camera, in our minds, you know, between our ears, recording the world in some objective, simple way, that even the simplest, most obvious things are interpretations of the world around us at many different levels of thought and feeling and perception. And that our minds, the way our minds are constructed, determines the world that we experience that we see that we act upon. And even very simple things that we think are pretty objective and simple right in front of our eyes are determined by inferences and deductions that our mind makes weighing sources of evidence in the world and coming to conclusions about what's around us what we hear and what we see, and how we think. So let's start with seeing if your vision is reasonable. You know, we say we you know, we see something we believe it right? So let's start with something very simple. These lines. So one of the tough things about psychology is ever since the internet came into existence, people know every cool thing there is to know. Right? Okay. I can tell you, you know, when I began teaching that people said, Oh my gosh, I've never seen such a thing. It's unbelievable. Yeah. And then now, it's like two thirds of the clutter, though. Yeah, I've got that, uh, you know, on my computer at home, and yeah, we did that in like third grade or whatever. So. So all I'm saying is enjoy the ones you haven't seen before. Don't ruin it for your neighbors today, because this is harder and harder to surprise the world in a nice way. Right. Okay, but let's look at these lines for a moment here. And perhaps you'll have the sense, and maybe it's a glaring up there. So let's see if we can do something. Okay, Is that better? Okay, maybe. So, you know, you might have the sense that this line is a different length than this line. And this might be somewhere intermediate right? Now, you know, because of psychology, it's all a trick. But that's what's simpler than the length of a line, what's more objective in some sense than the length of a line. But if we look at the actual lengths, they're all literally identical. But that central part looks different. So what does it mean for it to look different? It means our minds are determining a simpler thing, because how long a line is, depending on the other information surrounding it, it's an interpretation in context. If we're simply looking the lines will look the same. Let's try another one. It's remarkable that those two lines are identical in length.

Unknown Speaker 6:36

Okay, all right. Yeah, I can't. Okay, I just,

Unknown Speaker 6:39

you know, it's good to test the limits of the credibility of the audience. Right. All right. Yeah, of course, if our visual system, were ludicrously off, we'll be constantly walking into walls and you know, falling out windows and things like that, right? If we were mis estimated, get that length. So the idea where we have visual illusions, and I'll show you some more that I think you'll be impressed by. It's not that our visual system is messed up, or that psychologist thinks it's hilarious to trick us. It's that lots of things our visual system is brilliant at, but it's brilliant by having certain laws or principles that it follows. And we can show that it's following those principles by seeing that when we mess with the typical circumstances, those principles, calculate the wrong answer. So here's another one. So to most people, which line looks bigger, the one in the middle, or the one on the side? I know you know, it's all a trick, right? Okay. But yeah, this, you know, what could be more obvious and that this is longer, it's just a simple line. But if we draw red lines on top of it and move them over here, they're dead identical. The central circle, this one of them, the middle circle look larger than the other. Now you already know, intellectually, that will turn out those two circles in the middle, it will be the same. But you have to convince yourself that it still looks like they're different. Here they are in red, here they are next to each other, they're identical. Again, this is evidence that even for a simple thing, like the size of a circle, your mind is making inferences. And there are principles and laws that it's following that determine what it is you think, you see. Here's two monsters chasing each other. But in fact, they're identical in size, the perspective cues make the more distant one look much bigger. This is from Ted edelson. This is a beautiful demonstration of an illusion. Today, in the psychology department, there's there's a letter A here. And believe it or not, there's a letter B there. Let's see if this looks any better when it goes like this. It doesn't.

Unknown Speaker 8:35

All right. So you know one of the important things about illusions, demonstrations in this class, and you will learn this as we go along is

Unknown Speaker 8:40

occasionally they fail and we come back and discover what the lesson of that is. So it's just telling you showing you my my monitor much brighter it always has before. We'll adjust that. So I'm going to skip this but I'll show you another time because it's so good. That I'm going to feel bad about this. Okay. Now let's see.

Unknown Speaker 9:01

This little work they're

Unknown Speaker 9:10

all the same shade of gray. Right? Did that work reasonably from where you sat? Okay. We'll try a few more. Maybe

Unknown Speaker 9:40

that for some reason, my connections always like this. Sorry. Does that one look lighter than that one that way? Yeah. They look radically different, right? It's the same grade constantly. But again, the context is hugely determining how bright you see that gray. There it is.

Unknown Speaker 11:10

Boxes equal gray.

Unknown Speaker 11:26

So things as simple as how bright something is, or how long something is, you know, depend on interpretation. here's a, here's a allusion from Roger Shepard is kind of great. So here's two kind of different looking tables,

Unknown Speaker 11:41

right? But they're not that different. And watch. There goes one tabletop. You're not impressed that those are identical tables. Okay, what I'm going to do would do it again.

Unknown Speaker 12:05

That's the identical table top. To me, the one on the left looks pretty rectangular and the one on the right looks pretty squarish. Now you're not easy to impress her. You see that those two bars are moving together at the same time? Does it look like they're like step little steps? But it'll show you. Alright, fine. It's just like that. But now you add those bars, does it look like little steps?

Unknown Speaker 12:44

One more of this kind. This is kind of fun. Well, you see that the way that face mask is turning.

Unknown Speaker 13:01

It always looks like it's towards you. Even though you know, one of the rotations is because of the way you're interpreting the light is influencing where how you're interpreting what's okay. So that's simply a consequence, as far as people understand that, that the source of the illumination is not where you're used to. So you're misinterpreting where the illumination is coming from, for the depth of the face, what's front, and what's back whether the nose is sticking in or sticking out. Okay. Okay. So um, so again, the point in these illusions is even for very simple things, our minds make certain assumptions about how we interpret the world. And that drives everything that we see and how we act upon that we see. So at a slightly sort of higher or more conceptual level, I need your help. Now, there's lots of these things that we'll do this semester, where you get to participate. I mean, the fun thing about you know, I said, this question is about you, when you could have thought that was a bit rhetorical. It's not, it's truly about you. So, so you get to be your own laboratory, we get to share a laboratory sitting here. And what I'm going to do is ask for you to participate. You don't have to do any of these things sitting at your seat, but I think it's usually fun to do them. So what's what's going to happen is, I'm going to show you a drawing. And let's, let's look at will if the people to my left, so about in the middle, but you can decide for yourself about this way. Let's have you be Group A if you're willing to be that way. And Okay. All right. All right. Because of that, I can't call it. I was going to call you guys Group B, but I already see that's getting me in trouble. So we'll call it Group B, but that really means equals A but I'll just call B. Okay, all right. So a and b. Okay, so what I need is Group B. B for best a for awesome.

Unknown Speaker 14:55

The Ruby,

Unknown Speaker 14:58

Ruby, kind of cool Close your eyes for a moment. Okay group beats if you're gonna want to have fun with us close your eyes for a moment, Group A you're going to see some instructions and read them silently to yourself. And then I'll ask you a question about the picture. Okay group you're now reading Ruby as your eyes closed so read read the instructions silently to yourself.

Unknown Speaker 15:25

Okay, every group every group a close your eyes, everybody has her eyes closed for a moment. Everybody has her eyes closed. Now Group B. Look at your instructions. So a has her eyes closed. B is is reading instructions. Okay. Okay, everybody's eyes are open. Now. everybody's eyes are open. Here's your picture. sort of take it in. I'm gonna ask you a few questions about look at it for a moment. inspect it. Okay, here we go. Ready? So just out loud. Was there an automobile in the picture? Okay, see, this is a smart class. We're gonna have a Alright. Okay, was there a man in the picture? Was there a woman in the picture? Okay, what decide again? Woman in the picture.

Unknown Speaker 16:12

Okay, all right. All right.

Unknown Speaker 16:16

Okay, a child. An animal.

Unknown Speaker 16:21


Unknown Speaker 16:22

okay. All right. And now it gets a little. It gets a little wild. Okay, a whip. Okay. A sword. All right, a man's hat. A ball? A fish. All right. So there's this agreement. And that's, you know, it's it's weird democracy. Right. Okay. So, you know, it's all these things are big setups, right? So here's what happened. Group A was that was told they're gonna look at a picture of a trained seal act. And groupie got the identical instructions. But they were told you're going to look at a costume ball. So you had a expectation of what you were going to see that expectation drives your interpretation of the very thing you see next, which is this picture. Okay, all right. Okay, all right. Okay. All right. And, you know, this is just for fun, right? It's a setup, you're participating nicely. Yeah. But, you know, in the world, when groups that are arguing with each other about things like peace settlements, you know, read a document or make a statement? How much do you think the perspective they start with guides the interpretation of what they read or what they hear, right? Okay, because you didn't have big stakes in this, you weren't going? I believe in fish. And if I don't see a fish, I know things aren't adjusted, my group will be not treated fairly. Right. Okay. I mean, you're not emotionally invested in probably whether there was a fish present. So, you know, your interpretation, your beliefs guide tremendously what you think you see and how you interpret the situation for complicated things, or even easy things like lines or squares. And here's another kind of an example where you would interpret, you know, that is a B for Baker, or 13. If it's a numbers, again, the context is driving a lot of the interpretation. Okay. Now, this is one of those examples, that, again, when some number of years ago, it was a huge hit. And now mostly people say, can't you come up with something better that we haven't all seen on the internet, okay. So don't worry if you know this, don't ruin it for the other individuals. And but what I need is a few volunteers, you'll be facing me this way, who are willing to count something and MIT we're pretty good at counting.

Unknown Speaker 19:09

So what was the what's the message of that the messages, we've talked about what we perceive what we see by expectations and context. But it's also we have very limited what psychologists call attentional resources, we can pay attention to a limited number of things at a time. And even when those things can be right in front of us if our attention is focused or occupied by something else, like counting the passes, and it kind of a difficult scene, it wouldn't work. If it was if there was one or two passes only because you do notice it. But when your mind is focused on identifying all the passes among the players in the white shirts, or moving that weaving with the other players and so on, then your attention is absorbed by that and some of it is not left over to notice what's right in front of you. And we'll talk more about that. But it's a huge thing with humans, that we can pay attention pretty well on average to a thing At a time under many circumstances, and other things escape us completely, even if they're obviously present, if we were looking at them or paying attention to them. So here's another example of how our minds make our worlds, you know, what we see and what we don't see what we pay attention to and what we don't pay attention to. And that's something to do with how we hear. So

Unknown Speaker 20:27

boring ba,

Unknown Speaker 20:29

ba, ba, ba, ba. Okay,

Unknown Speaker 20:32

so I'm going to replay this.

Unknown Speaker 20:36

I think.

Unknown Speaker 20:39

So listen to what the guy saying. And take a look and just tell me, he's gonna say like, he's saying some letters, okay, just not a word. What is it? Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba. Okay, most people think he's saying da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Now, let's try that, again. We're not going to turn off the sound. I'm going to run the same film. What is his mouth look like? It's saying, Gaga. Okay. But now we'll do one more thing, which is, turn the sound back on, have you close your eyes, and listen to what he's saying? what he's saying. So it doesn't work for everybody every time. But the basic idea is, most people think they hear the word doc coming from the speaker. And in fact, in their mind, they do because that's how they interpret what they're hearing. But in reality, the film clip is a film clip of the person saying, Bob, Bob Bob, and then an audio recording of the person saying, God Gaga, your mind intertwines across modalities, what you hear and what you see, integrates them in some way below your level of consciousness, you're not thinking about it, and you come up with a different interpretation of what you hear. Right? So what you see would be is one thing, what you hear is another thing, when your eyes are open and your ears are open, they meld together and produce something. A third thing that's entirely differently, again, your mind interpreting what you hear, not your ear, interpreting what you hear, in a simple sense. Okay, how about things that we know? So let's think about this. If somebody were to ask you, which is farther east, closer to the Atlantic, San Diego, California, or Reno, Nevada, who likes San Diego was being farther east? few hands who likes to Reno is being farther east. Okay. So here's the mental map. Most people have the mental map, which is we know California is right next to the ocean, right? With Arnold Schwarzenegger protecting us on that side of the country, right?

Unknown Speaker 23:00

And then

Unknown Speaker 23:01

Nevada is a little bit more towards, toward towards Boston, right? Okay, that's a mental map that most people have. And that's how the hands went up. This is the actual map. And the only actual map you've ever seen ever on a globe on a map anything. Because California takes a big turn on the South San Diego is actually further east than Reno. Why do we imagine? And most people do that Reno is further east, when you've never seen a map or a globe that's showing you that never ever ever? Yeah. farther from the ocean. So the because it's farther from the ocean, because because in our mind, we go California is way out there, right? There's nothing, you know, Hawaii is the only one out there farther east west, right. So our mind makes us answer despite that, and that's what we think we might think we might know. Now, we might not be totally certain we might not bet the farm on that. Which is farther north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Rome, Italy. So start to think how would you think about that? It's not something you know, I mean, nobody memorizes it right. But how would you begin to think which is probably more northern? What's your first gut? How many people like Philadelphia being more North? Yeah. How many people like Rome being more North? No, there's a kind of a mixture of hands. Okay. So the, the answer is that Rome is north of Philadelphia. Mostly people will answer the Philadelphia's north. why they do that is they think the US and Europe, they're both sort of above the equator below Antarctica kind of aligned, right, even sort of historically, culturally. So they think well, Rome is pretty south in Europe. And it is it's in Italy, Philadelphia is reasonably north in the US who gets winters and all that kinds of stuff. So a northern city in the US has got to be north of a southern city in Europe. In fact, Europe is the whole continent is shifted up compared to the US. So you want to get your mind around this, which is further north Atlanta. Chicago

Unknown Speaker 25:02

All right, okay.

Unknown Speaker 25:04

All right. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 25:08

Yes, no, this is because sometimes when you do that you people go like, wait a minute, you know, all my assumptions are off, like, Where am I? What's reality? Right? Okay. Yeah. But here's one more, two more, which is further North Portland or Toronto. Now you are already learning the lesson go opposite whatever I thought go opposite, right? But why do you think most people will answer the Toronto's further north, Canada's up there us is below it. But in fact, that's the mental map and the colors. But in fact, Portland, in Oregon is actually north of Toronto, we do one last one, which is further west, which is further west Miami, Florida, which sits all the way you know, towards the Atlantic Ocean, or Santiago, Chile, which sits towards the Pacific Ocean. further west, so most people have a mental map that North America and South America are kind of lined up like that. And so you say, well, Miami is farther east and Santiago is farther west. But in fact, South America is fairly shifted, compared to North America. And Santiago is actually more Eastern or Miami's more Western, one relative to the other, right, because in our head, we kind of think North and South America, they're kind of lined up, even though we never saw a global map like that. So again, you know, kind of some of our knowledge guides, what how we think about the world and what we believe we know.

Unknown Speaker 26:35

All right, so what's the point of this? It used to be called telephone, right? The story keeps changing in part, it's hard to remember details in the story, people remember kind of a nugget or what we call it just in psychology, just a little point. And second, you know, what you take as a point is how you then tell the next person, right? The way you interpret the story, something like thanks very much. All right.

Unknown Speaker 27:02

Again, you know,

Unknown Speaker 27:04

you know, two things are memory for precise details is surprisingly modest. And how we interpret things matters changes things a lot. So now, you had four brave students demonstrating some of the limits and properties of memory. So now, here's an exercise you can do in your own seat, okay? Just, you're just knowing yourself how you did so. But here we go. I'm going to read you some words. And then just to give you, you don't have to write anything down. If you'd write it down. It's no good. And then I'm going to ask you, on a recognition test whether you heard a word or not ready. So here's the list. So just listen, and then I'll test your memory for it right after. Here's the list. Sour, candy, sugar, bitter. Good. taste. tooth. Nice. Honey, soda, chocolate, heart, cake, tart. Pie. Okay. All right. How many people heard the word sour? All right. Yeah. Excellent. Thank you, Chair. Candy. Hey, honey, building. Sweet. Every hand up there, you have a false memory. Okay. Now, it's a setup. Okay? Because here's the way they make these lists is a setup. But there's a huge lesson. In fact, you may hear debates about what are real memories, what are false memories in court cases in clinical cases. This is a laboratory experiment that's been the testing ground for lots of ideas about how we make real memories, and how we end up with false memories. So here's the way they made the list. They took the word sour. And they took a lot of students basically like you and said, What's the first word you think of that goes with sour and people came up with this kind of a list? Candy, sugar, bitter, good taste, tooth, nice. Honey, soda, chocolate heart cake, tart pie. But they left out one word that people came up with a lot. The word sweet. Okay, so your mind interpreted the the list you said, Hey, this is all about things like that are related to sort of sweet things sort of in one way or another sweets, sugar sweet candies, you know, sour sweet and sour. Honey is sweet chocolate is sweet, right? So your mind imagined it heard the word sweet. And you know, the majority of you put your hand up that you actually heard the word sweet. Your mind imagined it was there because that was generally sort of what was going on. And that was the gist of the experience. Okay, so this idea is it's very easy because of the way memory works. We remember the gist of things because that's what's the important part. It's hard to remember the details. But that just as an interpreted just okay, that just was it sweet things. So that word sweet feels like it was part of the memory and we'll come back to that later on in the course. So One of the things we'll talk about a lot in the course is both an amazing power of the human mind and an amazing parallel of the human mind. And it's what psychologists call automaticity is that our mind in order to be efficient and quick, does things automatically without thought, without consciousness, it lets us walk without thinking a lot about where our feet are, and lets us speak quickly. Without thinking about the syntax or the vocabulary, right? It lets us do a lot of things. But the power of it the parallel is, once something becomes automatic, we lose control of it within ourselves. So I need somebody at their seats who's willing to read aloud something as fast as they can when they see it on the computer monitor. If I can get a volunteer at your seats, okay, all the way back there. Okay. And then I'll come to you for the second one. Okay, ready? Here comes

Unknown Speaker 30:50

as fast as you can go. One way not do enter.

Unknown Speaker 30:53

Okay, now you got me. I couldn't trick you. Okay. Okay. But you might imagine a person might mistake that right. Okay. Was there? Was it you? Okay, ready? Here we go. Go.

Unknown Speaker 31:04

Okay, yeah.

Unknown Speaker 31:08

Yeah, yeah.

Unknown Speaker 31:09

Okay. because your mind is automatically reading it's, you know, we have lots of evidence in psychology that you're barely looking at words like the, you're, you're zooming over those things. They're, they're almost invisible to you. They're there, even though they're physically present. because your mind is looking for the big content, right? Like, who cares about the word the right, your mind is going for the essential information, and it becomes literally blind to what's in front of you, because it knows what it's looking for. Here's a fun one. You've seen things like this before, but it's always fun to try. It's the same principle. How many letter apps do you find in this display? Can I get some numbers? Four or five, six, those are all good. We're not an exact science. We're okay. Okay. So some of you may have missed one or two F's, right? Okay. Again, it's because your mind, your mind is automatically you know, people read a spectacular typical readers read at spectacular speeds. And the way you read a spectacular speed is you don't look for a little details. You get the big words and the big ideas and zoom through for the big meaning. Okay, and you're leaving behind what you consider to be details. Yeah. Was that change anyway? The question was, we asked a society that didn't pronounce EFS or something like that. Meaning, like, the sound or something like that. Does that matter for this? Yes. It also matters a lot. That words like our little preposition words that we don't think much about. Okay, so yeah, this is a setup, finished, most people get or the beginning of a word you're more likely to get, I think the pronunciation probably matters. I don't know that for sure. That's a very good thought. And certainly hiding in in words that seem low and content for interpreting a sentence is about the best way we did it. That's why the second disappear to sort of a low content word for processing a sentence. Okay, this is an example what you know, but it's a nice example. And we can we can come back to it a couple times. So let me think about this for one second. Maybe we'll do it this way that will ask somebody at their seat who has typical color vision, if you're colorblind, this one is not a good one for you. Okay, I'm just some percentage. So if somebody's willing on their seat to read aloud stuff they see on a monitor. Okay, thank you. So, here we go. So, you're gonna see words that are in printed in different colors. Your job is to read the name aloud. The color of the ink that is printed in? That makes sense. So like on this, if you would say it's read on that afternoon, is that okay? Here we go. So, start here, and just go as fast as you can just to go.

Unknown Speaker 34:26

Round three.

Unknown Speaker 34:30

Great, yeah, excellent. Okay.

Unknown Speaker 34:32

Same thing. Read the color of the ink. Exactly like you were doing go.

Unknown Speaker 34:37

Green, Blue, red.

Unknown Speaker 34:41

You're pretty good. Okay,

Unknown Speaker 34:43

is it supposed to slow

Unknown Speaker 34:44

you down when you get the colors in the wrong color? And it usually does, but you were you were very good. Okay. All right. Again, if you know this firm, you know, of course is an internet Don't ruin it for others, but think about it for yourself. So now we're gonna turn to thought. There are 30 people in a room 30 people just imagine you sat, you know, there's groups of 30. Here, you get the month and date of each person's birthday. So it's not the year they were born. But you know, it could be December 1 or February 5 or something like that. What is the approximate probability that two people will have the exact same birthday? All right? I can tell you, the vast majority of people under slightly less, you know, suspicious circumstances than this will answer about 10%. That's the vast majority. The correct answer is okay. Why do you think this is worth from Kahneman and Tversky? We'll come back to this. Why do you think people tend to answer 10%? Some 30. Very few people give you the mathematically correct answer. 70. Why do they do that? Because they tend to think How often have I met somebody who has my exact birthday? And you go not that often, it's not like, so like, every 30 people I meet, somebody says, You were born on March 3, I was born on March there. And then you go have lunch and you go, Hey, I was born on March 3, and you go have dinner with another group and they go, I was born in March, there you go. It's not It's not something that happens a lot, right? So you go well, that in real life, it doesn't seem to happen very often. But what that's what we call a heuristic a simple way to think about it, because your experience is kind of like that. But why is that incorrect mathematically for this question? Because the math depends on not that it's exactly your birthday, but any pair of birthdays among the 30 people, and then it goes way up, in fact, it goes to 70%. And if it's 24 people 50% if your group of 36 people, there's a 90% chance, just mathematically the two people will share the same birthday, okay? Because when we face things that are hard to think about, because there's no easy answer, humans tend to make take shortcuts, and go say, what's the gist of my experience? And that's what I think the answer is, even when a calculable answer is available. It's human nature to make a shortcut based on your sense of your experience. So there's a very interesting one at work, Dan Gilbert at Harvard is a leading figure about this idea of thinking about your future and thinking about our future is a big thing, right? We're thinking about, you know, what's the like in this course? What's the like in college? What's our friendship, like relationship with parents? What's our future career paths? What kind of life will we lead? Right? Our future is something that's hugely on our mind. I mean, I think very powerfully when you're a college student or graduate student, what, you know, what's my future? And a big question that people have is what will make me happy, in a deep sense, what will make me happy in a deep sense, because that's the life I want to lead the values, I want to have the kind of career choices and personal choices I want to make, where I will devote my time on this earth. So most people, first of all tend to think about, you know, good things, right, which is a positive thing, it's actually I can tell you what comes later in the course, it's good to think that lots of positive things are happening, it's a nice place to be in terms of being a happy person. But it turns out that people have done studies like this. So now, this is particularly sensitive for a faculty member, but it could work for any sports team you've tried out, or anything you've tried out for in your life. So what happens when we get reviewed for tenure, and you hear a bit about that this is this was an easy study, first for psychologists to do. What they did is they called up people in the fall who were being reviewed for tenure. And, you know, you get tenure, or you don't. And it's a bit of a sad process if you don't write because you don't get tenure. And then you don't feel happy about that. And you have to call your parents and say, I didn't get tenure on your parents go Come on, if you just slept better, you would have gotten tenure.

Unknown Speaker 38:50

Remember, the piano lessons you didn't take? And you go, alright. So you know, it's a bit of a nuisance right? On top of that, because because weirdly, in academics, we tend to be super specialized, you have to move out of town. You don't have to, but typically, then a person who doesn't get tenure will get a job somewhere else. There's plenty of stories of people who don't get tenure at awesome places who are geniuses in history, okay? The tenure decisions are often wrong. But still, you'd rather get it than not, you'd rather get into medical school than not you'd rather make a sports team you want to be on the not. So here's what they found out. If they ask them. What happens if you don't get tenure, it was always gonna be awful. It's just gonna be miserable. I'm going to be such an unhappy person. Two years later, the average happiness of people who didn't get tenure was equal to the average happiness of people who did get tenure. Okay. So, okay, you could say well, tenure, only professors care about tenure. How about winning the lottery, okay, you know, whenever I want hundreds of 1000s of dollars, there's been a lot of psychology on this actually. In about a year to to the average happiness of a lottery winner who wins substantial amount of money is rated the same by him or her as it was the population as a whole Yeah. Yeah, so this is what come back to this. But I'll tell you so so this is this is you can like this or not like this. Okay? So in some parts of psychology, we measure things like reaction time to the millisecond. That's, you know, good data, right? Or brain activation, that's good data. When you ask a person how happy they are, the only thing we can do is have you basically fill a scale from one to seven, how happy are you? Okay? And you could go, Well, I'm a little worried about that. Because you know, you got to go out, I hope that makes you happy or something that's, you know, right. So you could say, how, how much can we trust subjective reports of happiness? And that's a very good question. On the other hand, it's hard to know what will be better than that, right? If we don't, it's like, if we measure your pulse, is that a better measure of your happiness? Not, you want to know what your pulse could be racing, because you're sad or happy, scared or enthusiastic. So we don't have a better one that we can think of. But psychologists do worry that sometimes people will just say what they're supposed to say, or they pretend they're happy, or things like that, we have to worry about those things, right. So you could worry deep down with but but a year or two later, people who spent huge amounts of money don't report themselves as any happier than people around them. And kind of amazingly, but I think it's deep about life. accidents, leading to quadriplegia paraplegia accidents, that, you know, before you had such an accident, you would imagine that it would be something extremely difficult, and it can be in many ways, but their self report, ratings of happiness return to typical average populations of the same agent about three months. So what's a huge lesson here? in happiness research, a huge surprise is two things. Were kind of bad at predicting what will make us happy or sad, just kind of weird, right? I mean, we're kind of bad at predicting, here's all these things where we think, you know, they would make us happy or make us not so happy. It turns out, we're wrong. Once a study at all, scientifically. So we'll come back to that later on. Because it's a very deep thing about being a human is what makes you happy, and you're wrong guesses sometimes about what does. So let me end with the last experiment. So we really haven't done experiments until right now. And this is now you know, a sensitive and difficult issue, which is problems we have in dealing with racism. And here's, here's a study that did the following. It said, well, in North America, certainly Canada, the US a study was done in Canada. Racism is widely condemned, as I think most of us believe it should be. But examples of blatant racism still occur. And one recent poll said that about a third of white individuals reported hearing anti black slurs in the workplace in the last couple of years, okay to pick one thing. So how does this happen in a society that speaks so much about not being racist about treating everybody equally and fairly and kindly? How does it happen that we still struggle? That's such a deep, difficult question about human nature and the world we live in. But here's something again about this. That's a hint about why it's hard to get society to change some of its behaviors. So here's the experiment. Okay, it's an actual experiment. So they took two groups of college undergraduates, and randomly assigned one to be in the forecaster group. That's a group that tells you how they think they would feel and how they think they would act under certain circumstance.

Unknown Speaker 43:17

And then an experiencer group, that's a group who actually undergoes an experience, and I'll tell you what that is now. So in the experiencer group, pretend you are their research participant, you walk into a room, and you see in that room, a black male and a white male. Now those two are what psychologists for some reason have called Confederates. Those are roleplayers. They know what they're doing, okay? They're not, they're not, they have a plan of what they're going to do, they're going to put on a little show for you, but you don't know that, okay. And the black male stands up and leaves the room to get his cell phone, and he gently bumps the white males need, this is all set up, okay? You're just sitting there, and you see that little bump. And now, there's three different groups. One group, that's it, nothing else happens, a small bump, and the person leaves a second group. As you sit there, the black individual leaves the room and the white individual says, quote, typical, I hate it when black people do that. It's meant to be obviously provocative and racist. And then when they consider an extreme slur, the white person in the room playing this role says, uses, you know, the derogatory word that's meant to be an extreme slur. So there's one more thing you need to know. Now you're sitting there, and you're either in the control group or just been the slight bump, or there's been a moderate slur or extreme slur in their words. The black male returns, though, forget he's in on it. And so is that white male, but you're not in on it, you just think there was a bump, and something else may have happened depending on which condition you're in. And the experimenter then gives you a survey about how you feel right now. Sort of like the happiness but it's not that it's like how do you feel right now? And then ask you to pick between those two people partner for an anagram experiment that you're about to do? Okay, so they're going to ask you by this is sort of this this question. Yeah. What's the difference or similarity between what you say your feeling is? And what you really do? both things are important, but do they line up or not line up? Okay. So let's look, here's, here's the results. Here's a graph. And here's how this works. negative emotional distress, the higher the bar, the more you say, I feel really bad about what's just happened. Okay, I just heard this comment or no comments. So let's take a look higher the bar. If you heard no comments, here's how you begin. So let's start with the forecasters. Your for all of you are forecasters, because you're pretending you're in the situation, but you're not in it? Right? So here's, there was no comments, okay, that's sort of average or something. And he said, if you heard a racial slur, you would feel terrible. He would feel terrible. But look at the other students who are randomly picked. So it's not we don't think it's a difference among students. Look at these gray bars, they're pretty flat. Okay, the person on the spot is somehow not processing this. And they're filling out, I feel average. Okay, does that you see, you see the split, the split between the values of the person thinks they would have and the values that are responded to on the spot in the moment. And what we'll talk about later on in social psychology is there's a tough gap, often between the values we espouse and how we act when there's especially unexpected difficult things, okay. And very often, if you've had any experience like this, afterwards, you go, oh, what I should have done is this, or I wish I would have said that. But that moment that is not, you know, happening at that moment, partly because you're kind of weirded out by the whole thing, like what's going on? Why would the person say this? This is, you know, something doesn't seem right. I can't kind of sorted out. And so people tend to shrink in terms of making a strong conclusion of what's going on if something seems unusually provocative. And you could say, Well, okay, that's their attitudes, but how about their action? Who do they pick to be their partner, and again, the people forecasting, so if I was in this situation, I would never pick, I would never pick that racist white person to be my partner, okay? Because that person stinks. Okay, if I was in that situation, but if the people are in this situation, look at the gray bars, pretty flat, it's as if on the spot in the moment, they can't quite process, the values they feel, and the action they're going to take. And we'll talk about that it's very hard, often, in part to be brave and stand up to things, it turns out, there's a lot of evidence for this, it's a human nature thing. It's very hard to be brave and stand up to things when things are kind of weird, because almost every of the first things like I don't want to make a fool of myself, I don't want to make trouble. You know, maybe I'm not getting the whole picture on this. And we shrink back from acting in a way that aligns with the values that are clearly shown here. Okay. So this, this, again, is something about human nature, that's very weird. And it's so powerful to come into socialist psychology. That's why it's very hard to stand up to things like oppression and bias, it's very hard to do, because we tend to not act on our values when we're in complicated situations on the spot.

Unknown Speaker 48:08

And there's a tremendous amount of evidence for that. So again, how we interpret the situation very different in our mind, when we imagine were there. And when we actually sit there. And so with these researchers says, This is partly why it's been hard to sort of eradicate some vestiges of stereotypes and racism, because people have a hard time clamping down on it in the moment. So so that's a tough topic. But you know, we want to do both with things that are, are less controversial, but also things that touch people's lives and the real world that we live in. So we talked about the scientific study of the human nature, mind and behavior, how what we see and hear is determined so much, but why how our mind interprets the world around us how we remember things like Word Lists are stories is hugely influenced by what we expect to see like in the picture, how we think we know things like where Reno is compared to San Francisco, how we think about things like the probability that we'll have, somebody else will have the same birthday that somebody else will in a group, and have the relationship between how we feel and how we act. The very feelings we have are often disconnected for actions in the moment. And then sometimes that has a sort of a difficult consequence. And so we'll explore all these things through this semester, all the different facets that we could possibly get through one semester of what it is to be human. And where sciences showed us something about human nature, the mind and the brain.

Transcribed by


Recent Posts

See All

Thank You for Visiting Everything Neurodiversity!

Hello, Thank you for visiting Everything Neurodiversity. This site is a passion project of mine. The hosting costs are minimal and I try to dedicate time to it whenever I can. I intend to keep this site as educational and ad free. 

I have learned a great deal from working on this site and the social platforms that go along with it. So much that I have started another site dedicated to building a more sustainable and easier fashion shopping expiereince. It has recently been selected for sponsorship in the Microsoft Founders Hub Program and I'm excited for the new developments this will enable. The first 10,000 users who make a purchase through the site will get lifetime Premier Status enabling rewards up to 17%! Check it out here: RunwayRewards.Shop or browse the integrated page below: 

popular posts




HR Resources