Lec 1 | MIT 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology, Spring 2011

Lec 1 | MIT 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology, Spring 2011

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MIT OpenCourseWare at ocw.mit.edu. PROFESSOR: Good afternoon. Congratulations for braving it
through what’s now become a weekly snow disaster. This week’s maybe three
of them or something. My name’s John Gabrieli. This is Introductory to
Psychology, 9.00. This is a course about you. 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 mind. This entire course is about
what’s a scientific way to understanding how people feel,
think, and act in the world. And so we’re trying to say that
we constantly think you must in your everyday life think
about why do you have your preferences,
your desires? What’s easy for you? What’s hard for you? What’s 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 where the scientific approach has shed
light in the way that we used to think about experiments
and evidence, about how humans tick. And as we go through this
semester, we’ll talk about the brain, 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 bestseller even when it
wasn’t [? a ScienceWare ?] course. It’s a great book. You’ll enjoy it. Short, really fun chapters. We’ll 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; and what we’re 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 getting older,
where I am; social interaction, how we behave in
groups and think about other people; and variation in
the 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 what we study 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. OK. So everybody who 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 people study biology,
chemistry, and physics. And they think, right, that the
sun orbits the earth for some period of time. And then they think
it’s the other way around currently, right? OK, 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 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 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 then 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, what we see,
and how we think. So let’s start with seeing. If your vision is reasonable,
we say 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? OK. I can tell you when I began
teaching, people said, oh my gosh, I’ve never seen
such a thing. It’s unbelievable! And then now, it’s like two
thirds of the class is like, yeah, I’ve got that on
my computer at home. We did that in third
grade or whatever. So all I’m saying is enjoy the
ones you haven’t seen before, don’t ruin it for your neighbors
today, because it’s harder and harder to
surprise the world in a nice way, right? OK, but let’s look at these
lines for a moment here. And perhaps you’ll have the
sense, and maybe– is it glaring up there, sir? Let’s see. OK, is that better? OK. Maybe not. So 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 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 center part
looks different. So what does it mean for
it to look different? It means our minds are
determining as simple a thing as 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. [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: OK, all right. It’s OK to test the limits
of the credibility of the audience, right? All right. Yeah. Of course, if our visual system
were ludicrously off, we’d be constantly walking into
walls and falling out windows and things like that,
right, if we were misestimating at 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 psychologists think it’s
hilarious to trick us. It’s that lots of things our
visual system is a brilliant at, but it’s brilliant by
having certain laws or principles that it follows. And we can show this 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? OK. What could be more obvious
than that this is longer? It’s just a simple line, but if
we draw red lines on top of it then move them over here,
they’re dead identical. The central circle– does one of them, the
middle circle, look larger than the other? Now you already know,
intellectually, that it will turn out those two circles in
the middle will be the same. But you have to convince
yourself that it still looks like they’re different. Here there 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 that you see. Here is 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 Adelson. This is a beautiful
demonstration of an illusion. Ted Adelson’s in the psychology
department. 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. All right. So one of the important things
about illusions, demonstrations in this class–
and you will learn this as we go along– is occasionally they
fail, and we come back and discover what the
lesson of that is. So I’m just telling you
it’s showing you on 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. And I’m going to feel
bad about this. OK. Now, let’s see. This’ll work. All the same shade
of grey, right? [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: Did that work
reasonably from where you sat? We’ll try a few more. Maybe. For some reason,
my connection’s always like this, sorry. Does that one look lighter
than that one that way? Yeah. Now they look radically
different, right? It’s the same grey constantly. But again, the context is hugely
determining how to bright you see that grey. There it is. Two boxes equal grey. So things as simple as how
bright something is or how long something is depend
on interpretation. Here’s an illusion from
Roger Shepard. It’s kind of great. So here’s two kind of different looking tables, right? But they’re not that
different. And watch. There goes one tabletop. You’re not impressed that those
are identical tables? OK. Want me to do it again? That’s the identical tabletop. To me, the one on the left looks
pretty rectangular and the one on the right looks
pretty square-ish. You’re not easy to
impress, are you? [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: You see that those
two bars are moving together at the same time. Does it look like they’re
little steps? It’ll show you. All right, fine. It’s just like that, but
now you add those bars. Does it look like little steps? [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: One more
of this kind. This is kind of fun. You see the way that the
mask is turning? It always looks like it’s
towards you, even though I’m– one of the rotations– it’s
because of the way you’re interpreting the light is
influencing how you interpreting what’s– OK. 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. OK. 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 what we see. So at a slightly higher
or more conceptual level, I need your help. Now, there’s lots of these
things we’ll do this semester where you get to participate. The fun thing about– I said this course was about
you– when you could have thought that was a bit
rhetorical, it’s not. It’s truly about you. 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 going to happen
is I’m going to show you a drawing. 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. All right. Because of that, I
can’t call you– 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 it B, OK? So A and B, OK? So what I need is Group B– B for best, A for awesome, OK. [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: –Group B to close
your eyes for a moment. Group B, if you want to have fun
with this, close your eyes for a moment. Group A, you’re gonna see some
instructions, and read them silently to yourself. And then I’ll ask you a question
about the picture. OK, Group A, you’re
now reading. Group B has your eyes closed. So read the instructions
silently to yourself. OK? Now Group A, close your eyes. Everybody has their eyes
closed for a moment. Everybody has their
eyes closed. Now Group B, look at
your instructions. So A has their eyes closed,
B is reading instructions. OK? Everybody’s eyes are open now. Everybody’s eyes are open. Here’s your picture. Take it in and I’m going
to ask you a few questions about it. Look at it for a moment
and inspect it. OK, here we go, ready? So just out loud– was there an automobile
in the picture? AUDIENCE: No. PROFESSOR: OK. See, this is a smart class. We’re gonna have a– Was there a man in
the picture? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: Was there a
woman in the picture? AUDIENCE: Yes. AUDIENCE: No. PROFESSOR: OK. This side again, woman
in the picture? AUDIENCE: No. PROFESSOR: All right,
all right. OK, a child? AUDIENCE: No. PROFESSOR: An animal? AUDIENCE: No. AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: Ah. OK. And now it gets a little wild. OK? A whip? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: OK. A sword? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: All right,
a man’s hat? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: A ball? AUDIENCE: Yes. AUDIENCE: No. PROFESSOR: A fish? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: All right, so
there’s disagreement. And that’s– we’re a democracy, right? So all these things are
big setups, right? So here’s what happened. Group A was told they were gonna
look at a picture of a trained seal act. And Group B got the identical
instructions, but they were told you’re gonna look
at a costume ball. So you had an expectation of
what you were going to see. That expectation drives your
interpretation of the very thing you see next, which
is this picture. OK? [LAUGHTER] [CHATTER] PROFESSOR: OK, is
that all right? All right. And this is just
for fun, right? It’s a set up. You’re participating nicely. But in the world, when groups
that are arguing with each other about things like peace
settlements, 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? 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 just
and my group will be not treated fairly. You’re not emotionally invested
in, probably, whether there was a fish present. So 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 that as a
B for “baker” or 13 if it’s in numbers. Again, the context is driving
a lot of the interpretation. OK. 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? So if you know this, don’t
ruin it for the other individuals. But what I need is a
few volunteers– you’ll be facing me
this way– who are willing to count something. And it’s MIT, we’re pretty
good at counting. So what’s the message of that? The message is– we’ve talked about what we
perceive, what we see by expectations in 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
in a difficult scene– it wouldn’t work if there was
one or two passes only, because you would notice it. But when your mind is focused on
identifying all the passes among the players– and the
white shirts are moving, they’re 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 the 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 world– 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. OK, so I’m going
to replay this. So listen to what the
guy is saying. Take a look, and
just tell he– he’s saying some letters,
OK, just not a word. What is it? OK, most people think he’s
saying “da.” “Da da, da da, da da.” Now let’s try that again. I’m going to turn off the
sound and I’m going to run the same film. What does his mouth look
like it’s saying? “Ga ga.” OK? 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’s he saying? AUDIENCE: “Ba.” PROFESSOR: Yeah. So it doesn’t work for
everybody every time. But the basic idea is most
people think they hear the word “da” 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 “ba ba ba.” And then an
audio recording of the person saying “ga ga ga.” 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 this 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 different. Again, your mind interpreted
what you hear, not your ear interpreting what you hear,
in a simple sense. OK. 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 as
being farther east? A few hands. Who likes Reno as being
farther east? OK. So, here’s the mental map most
people have– the mental map– which is we know California’s
right next to the ocean with Arnold Schwarzenegger protecting
us on that side of the country, right? And then Nevada’s a little bit
more towards Boston, right? OK. 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’s 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 globe that’s shown you that? Never ever, ever. Yeah. PROFESSOR: Because it’s farther
from the ocean, because in our mind we go,
California’s way out there. There’s nothing– Hawaii is the only one out there
further west, right? So our mind makes this
answer despite that. And that’s what we 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. 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? How many people like Rome
being more north? There’s kind of a mixture
of hands. The answer is that Rome is
north of Philadelphia. Mostly people will answer that
Philadelphia is north. Why they do that is they think
the US and Europe, they’re both sort of above the equator,
below Antarctica, kind of a aligned, even
historically, culturally. So they think, well, Rome is
pretty south in Europe. And it is. It’s in Italy. Philadelphia’s reasonably
north in the US. It 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. But in fact, Europe is– the
whole continent is shifted up compared to the US. So you won’t– wait until get
your mind around this. Which is further north,
Atlanta or Chicago? [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: All right,
all right. Sorry. It’s sort of a joke. Because sometimes when you do
this, people go like, wait a minute, all my assumptions
are off. Like, where am I? What’s reality? [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: OK. 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 that Toronto is further north? Canada is up there, US is
below it, but in fact– that’s the mental map
in the colors. But in fact, Portland
in Oregon is actually north of Toronto. We’ll do one last one. Which is further west? Which is further west, Miami,
Florida– which that’s all the way towards the Atlantic
Ocean– or Santiago, Chili– which is
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
further east and Santiago’s farther west. But in fact, South America is
fairly shifted compared to North America. And Santiago is actually more
eastern or Miami is more western, one relative
to the other. 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, some of our knowledge
guides how we think about the world and what
we believe we know. So what’s the point of this? It’s what used to be called
telephone, right? Their story keeps changing. And it’s hard to remember
details in a story. People remember a nugget, or
what we call a gist in psychology, a little point. And second, what you take as a
point is how you then tell the next person, the way you
interpret the story, something like that. Thanks very much,
that was good. [APPLAUSE] PROFESSOR: Again, two things–
our memory for precise details is surprisingly modest. And how we interpret things
matter 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. OK, you’re just knowing
yourself how you did, but here we go. I’m going to read
you some words. And then just give you– don’t
have to write anything down. If you 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. OK? 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. [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: Now, it’s
a set up OK? Because here’s the way they make
these lists, it’s a set up, but there’s a huge lesson. And 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.” OK? So your mind interpreted
the list. You said, hey, this is all about
things that are related to sweet things in one way or
another– sweet sugar, sweet candy, sweet and sour, honey is
sweet, chocolate is sweet. So your mind imagined it heard
the word “sweet.” And 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 what
was going on. That was the gist of
the experience, OK? 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 gist is an
interpreted gist. The gist was it’s
sweet things. So the 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 themes we’ll talk
about a lot in the course is both an amazing power of the
human mind and an amazing peril of the human mind. And it’s what psychologists
call automaticity. It’s 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. It lets us speak quickly without
thinking about the syntax and the vocabulary,
right? It lets us do a lot of things. So that’s the power of it. The peril is when something
becomes automatic, we lose control of it within
ourselves. So I need somebody at their
seat 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 seat. OK, all the way back
there, OK. And then I’ll come to you
for the second one. Ready? Here it comes. As fast as you can, go. AUDIENCE: One way
not do enter. PROFESSOR: OK, then,
you got it. I couldn’t trick you. OK. But you might imagine a person
might mistake that, right? Was there another one? Was it you? OK, ready? Here we go. Go. AUDIENCE: Paris in spring. PROFESSOR: Ah. I got you on that. [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: Because your mind
is automatically reading. We have lots of evidence in
psychology that you’re barely looking at words like
“the.” You’re assuming over those things. They’re almost invisible to you
there even though they’re physically present, because your
mind is looking for the big content, right? Who cares about the word “the?”
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 F’s do you
find in this display? Can I get some numbers? AUDIENCE: 6. AUDIENCE: 4. AUDIENCE: 5. PROFESSOR: 4, 5, 6. Those are all good. We’re not an exact science. [CLAMORING] PROFESSOR: Some of you may have
missed one or two F’s. Again, it’s because your
mind is automatically– typical readers read at
spectacular speeds. And the way you read at a
spectacular speed is you don’t look for little details. You get the big words and the
big ideas and you zoom through for the big meaning. And you’re leaving behind what
you consider to be details. Yeah. AUDIENCE: So if you ask this
question to a society that pronounces “of” just
like “off,” would that change anything? PROFESSOR: The question was if
we asked a society that didn’t pronounce F’s or something
like that. AUDIENCE: That didn’t pronounce
F’s as F’s. In America, we pronounce
it “of.” PROFESSOR: “Of,” you mean
like a “v” sound or something like that. Does that matter for this? Yes. It also matters a lot that words
like “of” are little preposition words that we
don’t think much about. So this is a set up. Like “finish,” 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 it in
words that seem low in content for interpreting a sentence is
about the best way we did it. That’s why the second “the”
disappeared too. It’s sort of a low
content word for processing a sentence. OK. This is an example that you
know, but it’s a nice example and 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 we’ll ask somebody at their seat who has typical
color vision. If you’re color blind, this one
is not a good one for you. Some percentage are. Is somebody willing at their
seat to read aloud stuff they see on a monitor? OK, thank you. Here we go. So you’re gonna see words
that are printed in different colors. Your job is to name aloud the
color of the ink that it’s printed in. Does that make sense? So like on this F, you
would say it’s red on that F. Is that OK? Here we go. So start here and just go. AUDIENCE: Red, orange. PROFESSOR: As fast as you
can, just keep going. AUDIENCE: Green, brown, pink,
green, blue, yellow, red. PROFESSOR: Great, excellent. Same thing. Read the color of the ink
exactly like you were doing. Go. AUDIENCE: Green, blue, red,
blue, red, yellow, red. PROFESSOR: Ah, you’re
pretty good. OK. It’s supposed to slow you down
when you get the ink in the wrong colors. And it usually does. But you were very good. All right. Again, if you know this from
courses and the internet, don’t ruin it for others, but
think about it for yourself. So now we’re gonna
turn to thought. There’s 30 people in a room. Just imagine you sat– there’
just 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 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? I can tell you the vast majority
of people under slightly less suspicious
circumstances of this will answer about 10%. That’s the vast majority. The correct answer is– OK? Why do you think– this is work 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 of 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 every 30 people
I meet, somebody says, you were born on March 3. I was born in March 3. 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 on March 3. It’s not something that
happens a lot, right? So you go, well, in real
life it doesn’t seem to happen very often. 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’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,
it’s 50%. If you’re a group of 36 people,
there’s a 90% chance, just mathematically, that
two people will share the same birthday. Because when we face things that
are hard to think about, because there’s no easy answer,
humans tend to take shortcuts and 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
line of work– Dan Gilbert of Harvard
is a leading figure– about this idea of thinking
about your future. Now, thinking about our future
is a big thing, right? We’re thinking about what’s it
like in this course, what’s it like in college, what’s our
friendship like, relations 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 think, very powerfully when you’re
a college student or a graduate student. 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 good things, positive things. 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 kind of 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 was an easy study for
a psychologist to do. What they did is they called up
people in the fall who were being reviewed for tenure. And you get tenure
or you don’t. And it’s a bit of a sad process
if you don’t, right, 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, and your parents go,
come on, if you just slept better, you would’ve
gotten tenure. [LAUGHTER] PROFESSOR: Remember the piano
lessons you didn’t take. So it’s a bit of a
nuisance, right? On top of that– because weirdly, in academics,
we tend to be super specialized– you have
to move out of town. You don’t have to, but
typically, 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 were
geniuses in history. The tenure decisions
are often wrong. But still, you’d rather
get it than not. You’d rather get into the
medical school than not. You’d rather make a sports
team you want to be on than not. So here’s what they found out. If they asked them what happens
if you don’t get tenure, everybody says, oh,
it’s gonna be awful. It’s gonna be miserable. I’m gonna 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. So you can say, well,
tenure– only professors care about tenure. Well, how about winning
the lottery? What if I won hundreds of
thousands of dollars? There’ been a lot of psychology
on this, actually. In about a year to two, the
average happiness of a lottery winner who won a substantial
amount of money is rated the same by him or her as it was
the population as a whole. Yeah? AUDIENCE: How did they go about measuring average happiness? PROFESSOR: Yeah, so we’ll
come back to this, but I’ll tell you. You can like this or
not like this. In some parts of psychology,
we measure things like reaction time to the
millisecond. That’s good data, right? Our 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? And you could go, well I’m a
little worried about that, because sometimes people say, I
hope that it makes you happy or something. So you could say, 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 would be better than that. If we measure your
pulse, is that a better measure of happiness? 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’ll pretend they’re happy
or things like that. We have to worry about
those things. So you could worry deep down,
but a year or two later, people who win 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 or paraplegia, accidents that, before you had
such an accident you would imagine that it would be
something extremely difficult. And it can be in many ways. But by self report, ratings of
happiness return to typical average populations
of the same age in about three months. So what’s a huge lesson here
in happiness research– a huge surprise. It’s two things. We’re kind of bad at predicting
what will make us happy or sad, which is
kind of weird, right? We’re kind of bad at
predicting it. Here’s all these things where
we think they would make us happy or make us not so happy. It turns out we’re wrong when
this is studied at all scientifically. So we’ll come back to that later
on, because it’s a very deep thing about
being a human– what makes you happy and
your wrong guesses sometimes about what does. So let me end with a
last experiment. So we’ve really haven’t done
experiments until right now. And this is now a sensitive and
difficult issue, which is problems we have in dealing
with racism. And 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 occurred. One recent poll said that
about a third of white individuals reported hearing
anti-black slurs in the workplace in the last
couple years– 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. And it’s such a very deep,
difficult question about human nature and the world
we live in. But here’s something again
that’s a hint about why it’s hard to get society to change
some of its behaviors. So here’s the experiment– so 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 circumstances. 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 were 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 role players. They know what they’re doing. 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. And the black male stands up and
leaves the room to get his cell phone, and he gently bumps
the white male’s knee. This is all set up. 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 what they consider
an extreme slur– the white person in the room
playing this role uses 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 where there’s been the
slight bump, or there’s been a moderate slur, or an extreme
slur in their words. The black male returns. Don’t 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 asks you to pick
between those two people a partner for an anagram
experiment that you’re about to do. So they’re going to ask you– this is sort of this
question you have. What’s the difference or
similarity between what you say you’re feeling is and
what you really do? Both things are important,
but do they line up, do they not line up? So 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. I just heard this comment
or no comment. So let’s take a look,
the higher the bar. If you heard no comment,
here’s how you begin. So let’s start with
the forecasters. All of you are forecasters,
because you’re pretending you’re in the situation
but you’re not in it. So here is there was
no comments. That’s sort of average
or something. And then you said if you
heard a racial slur you would feel terrible. You would feel terrible. But look at the other students
who are randomly picked. So we don’t think it’s a
difference among students. Look at these grey bars. They’re pretty flat. The person on the spot is
somehow not processing this. And they’re filling out,
I feel average. You see the split– the split between the values
that 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. 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’ve
said that. But that moment is not happening
at that moment, probably because you’re
kind of weirded out by the whole thing. What’s going on? Why would the person say this? Something doesn’t seem right. I can’t sort it 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, OK,
that’s their attitudes. But how about their action? Who do they pick to
be their partner? And again, the people
forecasting said, if I was in this situation, I would never
pick that racist white person to be my partner, because
that person stinks– if I was in that situation. But if the people are
in the situation– look at the grey bars– pretty flat. It’s a 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. And 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 everybody at first thinks, I don’t want to
make a fool of myself. I don’t want make trouble. 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. So this, again, is something
about human nature that’s very weird. And it’s powerful to come
into social psychology. And 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. 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 we’re there, and when we actually
sit there. And so what these researchers
say is this is partly why it’s been hard to eradicate some
vestiges of stereotypes and racism, because people have a
hard time clamping down on it in the moment. So that’s a tough topic, but we
know we want to deal both with things that are less
controversial but also things that touch people’s lives
in the real world that we live in. So we talked about a
scientific study of the human nature– mind and behavior– how what we see and hear is
determined so much but how our mind interprets the world around
us; how we remember things like word lists or
stories, that’s 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 somebody else
will have the same birthday, that somebody else will in a
group; and the relationship between how we feel
and how we act. The very feelings we have are
often disconnected for actions in the moment. And sometimes that has a sort
of a difficult consequence. And so we’ll explore all these
things through the semester, all the different facets that we
could possibly get through in one semester of what it is to
be human, and where science has showed us something about
human nature, the mind, and the brain.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

100 thoughts on “Lec 1 | MIT 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology, Spring 2011

  1. Honestly this professor is so smart with his little ideas to understand how the human mind behaves towards another, starting to love psychology.

  2. Psychology Classroom is much bigger and wider than you think because u.s.a is full of mental analysis research object in the street and the politics and everywhere they are.I hope you to have research about your national leader group in washington d.c and every state government.on my personal opinion,they are psycho who has serious destructive desire with untouchable mood disorder symptom.

  3. Why do you have to know this if you want to sell psychanthropic drugs and earn lot's of money? Psychologist label and fool people into into thinking their diagnosis is inherent real – when it is simply an idea who have gained widely acceptance from the community of the practicioner. And then youre supposedly stuck with a inherent real diagnosis which is nothing but jargon unless you believe in it yourself… Great way to make money! but propably 70% of people working in the mental health field should be locked up themselves. Afterall… whoever sets himself up to be the undisputed source of health & truth is the one farthest from it. That's the problem with Psychology –  by becoming affiliated with the governments and started to licence psychologist with Masters & Bachelors it has in a way set itself above criticism. Which is a great mistake, and you see this mistake when Prozac is seeping into the water supplies.

  4. http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/brain-and-cognitive-sciences/9-00sc-introduction-to-psychology-fall-2011/index.htm Course syllabus link 

  5. please help me raise money to go back to school to study psychology!

  6. http://psychologyebook.com/blog/asperger-syndrome-psychotherapy-understanding-asperger-perspectives/

  7. @Tom Bendik Ignorance I can accept. But I'm shocked when people talk about things so emphatically that they make themselves believe it also.

  8. Link to the removed clips:

  9. Out of curiosity, and I'm sure I could find an answer to this elsewhere but while I'm here, does anyone study OpenCourseWare material in groups, either in their local area or, more likely, online? There is such a rich availability of resources but discussing exams, content, or just sharing opinions is a great part of learning. That's not to say the OCW stuff isn't amazingly helpful already, but just curious if anyone knows of these.

  10. Amazing course! but I couldn't help to think that he is extremely similar to Jeff Goldblum in the FLY!!! Lol! especially his laugh! lol

  11. What a great speaker! Even wrapped things up in a short summary at the end. He's good in my book, on to lecture 2 😃 😉

  12. The psychological establishment has a mental disorder… yes… the entire psychological establishment has a mental misunderstanding regarding mental disorders… mental disorders are the psychological establishment’s ‘bread and butter’… literally… they would be without a survival level living if they didn't convince you that you needed either drugs or expensive therapy for your ‘particular symptomology’… they ‘survive’ to address your symptoms… but as to the causation for those symptoms…?… forget it… you’d get better and they would lose you as a paying customer… now wouldn’t that help out the ol’ personal finances… not having to pay those mostly insincere, materialistic frauds anymore…?

  13. About the racism experiment, I feel it would have been a similar result if it was done the other way around for good measure and a black person said something racist about a white person. Not that I don`t believe the results, but racism goes both ways, and that`s an important thing to keep in mind.

  14. About the racism experiment, I feel it would have been a similar result if it was done the other way around for good measure and a black person said something racist about a white person. Not that I don`t believe the results, but racism goes both ways, and that`s an important thing to keep in mind.

  15. I watch quite a lot of stuff on youtube, but this series of lectures is my favourite so far. I highly recommend to watch through the whole thing, and recommend it to anyone you can. This should be mandatory material for every human being.

  16. People pay a shit ton of money for universities like MIT.but now we can just access everything online for free. Isn't the digital age marvelous?

  17. What are the mathematical steps to know the chance that 2 people in a group of 30 have the same birthday?

  18. seriously considering just not going to college and watching a tonne of these and other educational shit

  19. Why wasn't I allowed to take A-Level Psychology at school!
    I am a better psychologist than any trained psychologist or professor of psychology!

    I did GCE's at school but I was by far the most intelligent person in the whole school!

  20. Great Video with nice explanations. All the Visual /optical illusions like criss-cross effect, The koffka ring, and White's illusion clearly show that even for 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 what we see.

  21. why will strugle with racism? beacause the material is promoted, competition is promoted. In schools kids are teach to be one best than another, instead of being learn how to bring the best of them in a voluntary way and not for rich something back. After, how on them jobs they are compared for the same reason and the employers do this because from that competition they will reach a"better personal emplyee". Firts children and adults must be taught to not compete each other and to bring out the best in a voluntary way. Then we can strugle with racism. if people don't understand basic things in small comunities won't understand others nations,colors, etc.

  22. Sir please next time clean the black board before starting the class please. You cause people trouble unknowingly 🤒

  23. Funny how the first lecture has 428k views and the 26th lecture has 14k views
    Also ironically I chose to make this comment here

  24. In case anyone's interested in a thorough education, you should click the link in the description.

    It'll give you all the slides in PDF to go along with, as well as suggested reading material to look at prior to lectures (some in PDF, some you buy) and there are exams thrown in every so often you can use to test your knowledge.

  25. This is an intriguing life lesson in this lecture among all about the perspective of life. It's all linked with your mindset about the contented fulfillment of happiness…………………………………… ………………………Love this lecture……STF……………………………………………………….

  26. 1. Introduction
    2. Science and research
    3. Brain I – Structure and Functions
    4. Brain II – Structure and Functions
    5. Vision I
    6. Vision II
    7. Attention
    8. Consciousness
    9. Learning
    10. Memory I –
    11. Memory II – Amnesia and Memory system
    12. Language
    13. Thinking (me 1/2 way)
    14. Intelligence
    15. Emotion & Motivation
    16. Personality
    17. Child Development
    18. Adult Development
    19. Stress
    20. Psychopathology I
    21. Psychopathology II
    22. Social psychology I (20 m)
    23. Social psychology II
    24. Conclusions – Evolutionary Psychology, Happiness

    Thanks MIT for this free wonderful content. I am not going through lectures by order but my interest, so above is just index for convenient record keeping.

  27. It goes to show that we tend to judge things (and people?) relative to that which surrounds them.

    For instance, as an average looking man, I’ve noticed that women tend to value me more when I’m surrounded by less handsome men.

  28. What an excellent teacher he is, Mr. Gabrieli. Will be following this series religiously, Love from India sir!

  29. The happiness question is misleading, because – like the whole intro – it depends on the given frame. A whore might be happy with what your wife will kill you for. It depends, everything is relative. In case of pain we talk about acute/severe, because we all try to reach and hold some kind of common happiness like common sense. I just remembered, its about complaining. Ppl crying/complaining all the time arent accepted.

  30. As someone who has been studying languages for the majority of her teenage years I am still very unsure about my capability of taking such subject…

  31. So interesting until we got to the social psychology pseudoscience. The difference between behavioural and social psych is incredible , no wonder the humanities are just making racism worse in society.

  32. This is all very interesting. Being a quadriplegic I am trying to unlock my mind and expand it. I am trying to make sense of everything. Hopefully watching these videos will help.

  33. The still unresolved problem with "happiness", is that no one has still properly defined that term, so everyone has a different concept for it. Therefore you cannot properly measure it on a society scale. And hence you cannot structurally improve it, other than little guesses here and there.

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