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  • 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?