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Summary

Understanding our humanity - the essence of who we are - is one of the deepest mysteries and biggest challenges in modern science. Why do we have bad moods? Why are we capable of having such strange dreams? How can metaphors in our language hold such sway on our actions?

As we learn more about the mechanisms of human behavior through evolutionary biology, neuroscience, anthropology, and other related fields, we're discovering just how intriguing the human species is. And while scientists are continually uncovering similarities between our behavior and that of other animals, they're also finding insights into everything that makes us unique from any other species.

Join an acclaimed neurobiologist, award-winning teacher, and MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" recipient in a series of 12 invigorating lectures that offer a surprising and undeniably fascinating study of what makes you you, journeying to the front lines of scientific research to gain a new perspective on the quirky nature of being ourselves. Professor Sapolsky explores our humanity by investigating mysterious and sometimes even mundane aspects of human behavior, including bad moods, nostalgia, and dreams, packing the lectures with stories of bold experiments and case studies that illuminate the intricacies of our behavior.

Thought-provoking, witty, and sometimes myth-shattering, this course is sure to have you thinking about and appreciating your life in novel ways.

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

What members say

Average customer ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science

Some extremely insightful examinations on human behaviour, accompanied by wonderfully engaging illustrations leaving you wanting more. Needless to say his narration is fluid and dynamic. Gratz good production.

Presented for audiences on multiple levels of experience, from zero to semi hero!

This guy understands stress on a binary biological level, and explains it seemingly effortlessly.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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fascinating and easy to understand

I was particularly impressed with how well the professor communicated the complex subject of psychology and brain biology and made it easy for a non-scientist to understand. I will listen to these lectures again

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Amazingly thought provoking

One of the best lectures series i have ever attended live or audio. Pr Sapolsky is an excellent narrator and a top scientist. I was gripped the whole time. Definitely a must listen.

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  • sf
  • 22-02-17

Great overview

Have you ever wondered why you do some things?

This short title gives a rather brief introduction to the ideas in biological theory on human behaviour.
I personally found the lecture on intermittent rewards and the effects of 'maybe' on our physiology and psychology to be of great interest.

So if you ever catch yourself wondering why you are engaging in certain behaviours this audiobook may be the first stepping stone to understanding yourself a little better.

👍

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The Exemplary Sapolsky

Witty Smart Compassionate Teacher Who Can Convey Complex Science In The Most Accessible & Clear Manner. I Sat through 27 of his Stanford University Neuroscience Biology lectures on Human Behavioural Biology with next to no previous exposure to the. range of subjects he covers, perhaps for some rudimentary Psychology & Sociology stuff from University Nursing course. They were utterly compelling, I wasn't sure if these would be superfluous to those lectures, they are not - this is excellent work, imaginatively curated into a highly digestible format. Don't think twice stick it in your bag or wish list, share with your family, it is dynamite as they say.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent and insightful.

A truly fascinating, brilliant course, delivered with passion and humour. The most interesting and enjoyable 'Great Courses' I have listened to.



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Fascinating, makes me want to understand more.

If you could sum up Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science in three words, what would they be?

Light bulb blinks

What was one of the most memorable moments of Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science?

Influence & impacts of stress

Have you listened to any of Professor Robert Sapolsky’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Wanted to but did not have the time, taken three sittings

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Narrator voice was hard to stay focused on.

Don't know why exactly, but I found myself zoning out of this a lot even thought the information was good. Good info though.

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Simply brilliant

Fun facts, tied together into 12 different fascinating stories of what it means (or may not mean) to be human. What's not to like?

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Fascinating - very enjoyable

I'm a great admirer of Prof. Sapolsky and this is very interesting. It's not all exactly new to me as I have read his books and have another Great Course by him, but I still found it insightful and a pleasure to listen to. It may help that I am his age and familiar with his cultural references!

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  • Gillian
  • 28-07-15

Human And Loving It!

What a joy Sapolsky is! This short course has it all: neurobiology, history, social commentary. And God does it have humor. The writing, the delivery, is top notch. Where else will you hear of a baboon being a tease and giving another, totally love-struck, baboon the cold "fur-covered" shoulder? This is a lesson on intermittent reinforcement, and with an image like that, the story that goes with it, seriously. The lesson will stick with me forever.
There's so much packed into so few hours, you won't even feel time flying by. Plus, perhaps you, as I, will find yourself drawing connections to your own experiences. Depression is covered, in certain ways. Did you know just forcing a smile makes a depressed person more likely to feel better? Or that meds targeting an empathy, an I-feel-the-pain-of-the-world type of depression is being developed?
True, Sapolsky does stray from science a lot, but eventually he gets back to the brain. And true, cockroaches get A LOT of air time (and tell me if you don't get squeamish in the parasite section!), but the section on metaphors? That just highlights how breathtakingly beautiful the whole book is written, how insightful and inspiring the text is.
This book is worth it.
I'm happy to be human today...

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • 31-07-15

Good story telling without Jargon

A nicely presented lecture on the nexus between psychology and neuroscience and the author never loses the listener with obscure names of brain regions, hormone names, or body parts.

There is a theme the author presses through out the lecture and that is the conclusions are only as good as the data set the conclusions are based on.

If you ever watch a movie or TV show and they are trying to show how wise a professor of Psychology or Neuroscience is the character in the show will be relating one of the experiments that would have been covered in this lecture. (I'm thinking about the truly marvelous movie, "Boyhood" and the Psychology professor is relating a story that is covered within this lecture).

For me, most (if not all) the stories I have come across elsewhere in my readings, but this lecture series has all the stories in one place and without any jargon to confuse the listener and is given by a lecturer who really knows how to tell a story.

(I got this lecture on the "deal of the day" for $2.95 and at the price it is well worth it. I would imagine Audible will discount it from time to time and I would recommend it at that discounted price).

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Starmoirai
  • 05-05-15

Interesting and inspiring

This book felt like being back at university sat there listening to a favorite teacher.
Being from an engineering background, I don't have much knowledge of neuroscience. The lectures were well delivered, I had no problem understanding the concepts being presented and found it incredibly interesting.

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Timothy M Love
  • 16-02-15

Enjoyable

Great teaching style with a very dry humor. very interesting subject matter. Enjoy learning about our species. Would recommend to all

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Adam J Duhame
  • 05-10-13

Somewhat Interesting but not Quite as Advertised

What did you like best about Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science? What did you like least?

It isn't utterly horrible. There are some interesting tidbits "from the frontiers of science". However, that's all you get. The prof makes it sound like you are going to embark on a journey that will lead to a far greater understanding of what it means to be a human being. Title should read "Fun Facts from the Frontiers of Science."

50 of 57 people found this review helpful

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  • Shelly M Davis
  • 29-05-15

Excellent

Comprehensive enough to be interesting and knowledgable but succinct enough not to bore. a++ highly recommend this intelligent course material!

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Ark1836
  • 06-08-15

A Collection of Oddities that Is Not for Everyone

This is a hard review to write because I completely recognize the quality of the production, the enthusiasm of the presenter and the interesting nature of the material. I do not want to downgrade the course just because it was not entirely to my personal tastes—I see where the right listener might find this course wonderful. Essentially, this is a collection of unusual, sometimes macabre and sometimes frightening, stories with a biological or psychological twist. Topics range from stories about body snatching to burial rituals to parasites to humanity's use of metaphors. There is little, if any, theme, but the professor admitted that this was intended to be a sample pack of topics so the lack of theme cannot be held against him. I found many of the topics at least mildly disturbing and was reminded somewhat of a collection of oddities from a circus sideshow. Again, this is likely more a reflection of my personal tastes than any fault of the professor. I decided to try this course even though it is outside of my usual areas of interest just to try something different. I cannot say that I disliked the course, but I can say that there are other courses much more to my liking such as history and business courses. If you are interested in scientific and medical oddities, then you may really enjoy this course.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Coach Monica
  • 17-06-15

Yes to anything of Robert Sapolsky's

Professor Robert Sapolsky is warm and engaging, and his lectures are full of insight and information that can shift how you understand yourself, others, and the world. He has made it on to my short list of people who I unquestionable trust to deliver contemporary, useful material about the brain and what we do with it.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Taylor
  • 30-08-15

Enjoyed the ideas, but wouldn't listen twice

What did you love best about Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science?

There were times where I felt I was hearing some interesting concepts, and looking at things from a perspective I hadn't previously explored.

Any additional comments?

Professor Sapolsky was certainly interested and well learned in his subject matter, however I felt like there was a little too basic an approach to these lectures. Between the title and length, I knew it wouldn't be comprehensive by any means, but I did expect a little more than just a few different ways to look at things.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Margaret
  • 02-08-15

Neuroscience for Poets

This selection is a series of college-level lectures by a well-known and well-regarded professor of neuroscience. Professor Sapolski is, as expected, an excellent lecturer.

If you have been following the rapid accumulation of knowledge in neuroscience since the arrival of functional brain imaging and other whiz-bang, you may find this lecture series a bit slow and simplified.

If you have not been following these developments, this would be as good a place as many to start. You need to know this stuff! If you are over 30 years old, the information you were given during your education and the assumptions you absorbed from the culture about your brain, your learning processes, and your emotions is dangerously out of date. The lectures are slow-paced; but then, its not easy stuff. No math and not much chemistry, but changing your mind about your mind is not for sissies.

The entire purchase price and the investment of time to listen to this series was worth it just for the wonderful lecture devoted to details of neurological parasitism. Yes, indeed, there are tiny parasites that compel their crab hosts to prepare the nesting site for the parasite's babies.These kinds of things are not at all rare and can be scary in a way science fiction and dystopian literature cannot match. I long ago overcame most of my squeamishness about biology and there is no doubt it's important knowledge; but consider this a trigger-warning.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful