Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior

Narrated by: Mark Leary
Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,699 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Every day of your life is spent surrounded by mysteries that involve what appear to be rather ordinary human behaviors. What makes you happy? Where did your personality come from? Why do you have trouble controlling certain behaviors? Why do you behave differently as an adult than you did as an adolescent?

Since the start of recorded history, and probably even before, people have been interested in answering questions about why we behave the way we do. And many fields - including philosophy, psychology, and even theology - are focused on finding explanations. But it's only in recent decades that researchers can finally approach, understand, and solve the mysteries of emotion, thought, and behavior - solutions that help each of us to better know ourselves and the people around us. The result is not only a more solid understanding of what it means to be human, but a stronger foundation from which to live more effectively with others and to grasp their intricate behaviors and quirks.

Now you can gain those benefits through a series of 24 intriguing lectures from an award-winning teacher. Professor Leary takes you on a fascinating journey into the complex heart of who you are, using the latest theories, case studies, experiments, and stories to cast light on a wide variety of human behaviors, both ordinary and puzzling.

Throughout these lectures, you'll learn about the various interacting forces that influence your behavior. These include your genetic blueprint, your personal experiences, your upbringing, and the people and social groups that surround you.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

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I wanted to like this course

I have listened to hundreds of The Great Courses, starting back in the days of The Teaching Company, and it is rare for me to come across a course that doesn't enlighten. This was one.

This course seemed as it if were directed at high school freshman. Common terms were explained, which I felt was unnecessary. Professor Leary seems to paint with a broad brush, drawing conclusions from sweeping generalities.

I had trouble with the oft repeated "studies show" and "research shows." To me, such vagary lends very little weight to the words that follow them. What study? By whom? As we all know, data can be cherry-picked to support almost any view.

Perhaps listeners interested in human behavior might prefer course by Robert Sapolsky or Patrick Grim.

156 people found this helpful

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Nowhere near the depth of typical Great Courses

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone who is interested in psychology using this as the very first introduction. The lecturer did a fantastic job with voice modulation and enthusiasm, so I waited a long time for it to improve.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

The course sounds fascinating, but it doesn't even go into the depth of a high school biology course when evoking biological explanations. The psychology and neurology were of similar disappointments

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment in the level and material

Any additional comments?

The Great Courses typically provide a great college lecture set finding a good level of depth and interest. One lump of coal in the diamonds.

163 people found this helpful

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It's average but not exciting

Material not in-depth enough for my taste. Fine if you just want a brief overview.

20 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and Enlighting Insights

What made the experience of listening to Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior the most enjoyable?

What I liked most was the way he explained topics. It helped me to have new insights. He shared some great insights on some commonly held beliefs about how people find happiness. His analysis of how we behave in society, communicate and see ourselves was very interesting. He debunks some widely held ideas with strong, logical argument. It's interesting to see how often popular ideas on self-help are close, but not quite right. For example, the popular belief that if we can just instill in a person more self esteem, they will act and think in a more positive way. He points out that it's an individuals positive actions, that are socially valued, constructive and helpful to others, that create the persons self esteem, not creating more self esteem in the person creating more positive behavior. I love the insights I am getting from the lectures. Worth the purchase price to me.

What did you like best about this story?

The descriptions were interesting and I had many "I see!" moments.

What about Professor Mark Leary’s performance did you like?

Interested in what he is talking about makes him interesting to listen to for the audience.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Couple "I can relate" laughs. :-)

Any additional comments?

A really good combination of recreational, enjoyed listening and informational, I learned new things I can apply in life.

44 people found this helpful

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The title of the book is SPOT ON

Where does Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

For understanding human behavior, it is at the top of the list, a must have for anyone interested in why people behave and feel the way they do and the purposes those behaviors and feelings are trying to serve that compels us to do them.

Any additional comments?

I'll keep this simple, this is a MUST have book on human behavior and psychology, the most clear and intuitive explanations I have heard from any teacher. Not only that but he achieves a perfect balance of keeping it simple and easy to understand with giving the evidence and proofs for why those things are thought to be correct. This is a book I will listen to more than once.

25 people found this helpful

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Not so enlightening

I expected more from this book! I was aware of most of these theories and I don't consider myself very educated about psychology in general. Radiolab and a few readings of Scientific American Minds provided me we much more. But probably a good introduction for anyone without a scientific culture. I'd recommend it to people who might be skeptical of science as it makes a good point for evolution.

11 people found this helpful

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The best money i've ever spent

Would you listen to Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior again? Why?

I plan to listen to this book a number of times. The amount of insight and knowledge that I've gain from this is astounding.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior?

The lectures are put together so that topics being presented in a chapter, build on the chapter before. A very good and clear way to communicate what is being said so that it is understood perfectly.

Any additional comments?

This book brought an incredible amount of insight on why we do what we do and why we do it the way we do it. I've been looking for a book like this for a long time and I think Prof Leary has put together something incredible in this audiobook. I hope to read more of his books in the future.

31 people found this helpful

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So disappointing

This book makes it clear that this guy has very little understanding of logic, reasoning and the scientific method.

Starts in chapter one. He is talking about evolutionary psychology and it's consequences. We have this fears of snakes that we have inherited from our ancestors. Until here all good. Then he explains that we are more scared of snakes than of cars. According to him this fear is irrational because way more people die in car accidents than from snake bites every year...
This has to be over of the most basic logical fallacies. According to this argument we should be more scared of getting in a car than of getting into a rocket because way more people die from car accidents than from accidents from rocket launches.

This is an example from chapter one, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. As the book progresses he keeps using this kind of bogus examples, but rarely enough that I didn't just quit.

Then he reaches the chapter on the paranormal... I was blown away. He uses discredited studies from decades ago that have not been successfully replicated. I actually laughed out loud when he quoted "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Indeed my friend, indeed. A few studies performed decades ago which can't even be replicated don't qualify as even the most modest evidence. I am all for publishing these studies when they appear. But dedicating a whole chapter in an introductory course to psychology is just plain sad. Forcing this stuff on students of a top University in the US is just unreal.

2 people found this helpful

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Good but too long

It's a 12 hour lecture which could have been summarized into around 7 hours. He rambles a lot and repeats himself.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting lectures

If you could sum up Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior in three words, what would they be?

enlightening
Linear
Entertaining

If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?

This is a good course. The only issue is identifying the lectures in one continuous file. A better breakdown like the other courses is needed.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Sina Madani
  • 03-27-18

Some useful lectures

At first I rated this 1 star as I learnt nothing from the first few chapters. There's was nothing profound or interesting, and much repetition. Some of the lectures just state the obvious. However after skipping those I found the lectures on stress, self control, anger and others to be particularly insightful.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Johnny
  • 10-03-16

Good start

This gives a good over view of behaviour letting the reader decide areas of interest it's well delivered and well researched, I recommend it for the start of an interest in people

9 people found this helpful

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  • Alastair
  • 09-01-18

Eye and Brain Opening Explanations of Behaviour

Very good first step into behavioural science. Tackles nature vs nurture, why we laugh and blush and psychic capability (don't laugh until you have heard the scientific evidence) among other topics. A little basic from time to time, and some of the theories have done the rounds several times, but overall a good introduction.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jim McCrory
  • 03-27-16

A journey into human irrationality

Where does Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I am a big fan of The Great Courses; this is one of the best I have listened to with regard to personal enjoyment and understanding.

What other book might you compare Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior to, and why?

Irrationality, Sutherland, Stuart

What does Professor Mark Leary bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

A thorough coverage of the subject of the mysteries of human behaviour.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Intellectually stimulating.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Stephenodonnell
  • 04-22-17

Insightful, Stunningly Good

Could not put this audio book down. Learned so much about human nature and the drivers for behaviour - life changing insights.

9 people found this helpful

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  • J C Perrett
  • 09-22-15

Outstanding, concise information

This was a very concise description of many aspects of human psychology. Unlike many books on the subject it cuts to the char very quickly. Highly recommended.

12 people found this helpful

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  • nick
  • 10-23-19

simply fantastic

love it, so informative & interesting (couldn't help but think it was Morgan Freeman narrating) learnt loads with great insight with humour

3 people found this helpful

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  • galap
  • 08-27-19

Elegancy in simplicity

Complex analysis for simple things presented in very understandable manner. If you wandering why somebody behaves in way they do, this course could provide some insight

3 people found this helpful

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  • Bee
  • 08-25-17

Easy to Listen to

Clear, entertaining, bite size explanations of why we do what we do. Really enjoyed it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Sarah
  • 02-03-16

Engaging, relevant and can't put down!

This is such a great collection of social psychology topics which is both informative and interesting. I love the way that Mark Leary instantly engages you with a relevant question of life, which makes you want to learn more. The topics are easy to grasp and a brilliant introduction to wet your appetite to ibis more about social psychology. Loved it!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jon
  • 02-17-16

Great listen, highly recommended to anyone

Great read well worth the listen. Would encourage anyone interested in behaviour to listen to this

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-14-19

Bad Science

I have listened to a number of Great Courses and enjoyed them and learned a great deal. However, this one was very problematic. For example, the lecturer presented outdated research on the set point theory of happiness, resorted to adaptive story telling regarding the evolution of human behaviour that was presented as fact. Most egregiously he presented studies supporting ESP that were clearly not independently replicated and suffered from design, fraud or statistical issues. I had to stop listening after that because he lost all credibility.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Jolyon
  • 05-27-18

Advertised in wrong catagory

The overview made it seem like this book would contain a significant amount of new science. There was some neuroscience and other fields of science that have the ability to test a hypothesis through experimentation. That was all really interesting. It was also narrated well. However, the majority was evolutionary psychology; no experimentation possible. Just narrative fiction drawing straight lines from behaviour back to untestable assumption to ‘prove’ untestable hypothesis.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Bradley
  • 06-15-16

Very interesting

Great explanation of the science of human behaviour. Good insights from an economists point of view.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Bill Ruys
  • 05-11-16

Interesting, but does not go very deep.

I was expecting something a little deeper and technical than what was in this course. I would call this an introduction to human psychology. A little dumbed down for my liking.

A lot of the information seemed like common sense or common knowledge to me.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Walker
  • 07-18-19

Poorly researched and presented

Look Mark Leary sounds like a nice guy so I don't mean anything personal but this "course" is really shockingly bad... It makes a mockery of the "Great Courses"...

I often find myself disagreeing with him on a point. I wait for him to back up his point. To show me his reasoning, but he never does. He simply refers to "studies show". We'll I can find plenty of "studies" that disagree with him... This is a world apart from Richard Dawkins who goes to great lengths to ensure his readers are fully equipped in the grounding of the topic and his reasoning, so that they can mentally challenge his views. Mark Leary just tells you it's this way and that's it... I honestly feel he is just winging it in some of the lectures... We've all had bad days at work, but this feels like a train wreck.

I gave up on this "Great Course" about a third of the way through Chapter 6. Mark Leary says something along the lines:
"Animals react emotionally only to real events, now humans are different........ but unlike other animal, we often induce emotions in ourselves just be thinking of things." Has he never seen or heard of a pet cat or dog moving or barking in their sleep?...

Therefore I recommend you give this one a miss... Though please don't give up on the Great Courses in general, some are excellent.


2 people found this helpful

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  • Annabel
  • 05-25-16

Interesting Read

Any additional comments?

Clearly, credibly and concisely explained the background to a number of common human behaviours. I found it very though provoking, and a good base to identify any areas I might want to deep dive into next.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Robert
  • 07-05-17

Very interesting and fascinating

A well presented audio book that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the human brain, why we do what we do and think the way we do

1 person found this helpful

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  • Natasha
  • 03-17-17

Easy to understand

very interesting and easy to listen to. Understanding some of the concepts spoken about has helped in everyday situations.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-02-20

Out of date

Some of the Of the opinions of the lecturer are way out of date and way out of alignment with modern science.