Biology That Makes Us Tick: Free Stanford Course by Robert Sapolsky

First thing you need to know: Before doing any­thing else, you should sim­ply click “play” and start watch­ing the video above. It does­n’t take long for Robert Sapol­sky, one of Stan­ford’s finest teach­ers, to pull you right into his course. Bet­ter to watch him than lis­ten to me.

Sec­ond thing to know: Sapol­sky is a MacArthur Fel­low, a world renowned neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist, and an adept sci­ence writer best known for his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Much of his research focus­es on the inter­play between the mind and body (how biol­o­gy affects the mind, and the mind, the body), and that rela­tion­ship lies at the heart of this course called “Human Behav­ioral Biol­o­gy.”

Now the third: Human Behav­ioral Biol­o­gy is avail­able on YouTube and iTunes for free. The course, con­sist­ing of 25 videos span­ning 36 hours (watch them all below), is oth­er­wise list­ed in the Biol­o­gy sec­tion of our big list of Free Online cours­es (now 1,700 cours­es in total).

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Athe­ist Stan­ford Biol­o­gist Robert Sapol­sky Explains How Reli­gious Beliefs Reduce Stress

Stanford’s Robert Sapol­sky Demys­ti­fies Depres­sion, Which, Like Dia­betes, Is Root­ed in Biol­o­gy

Robert Sapol­sky Explains the Bio­log­i­cal Basis of Reli­gios­i­ty, and What It Shares in Com­mon with OCD, Schiz­o­phre­nia & Epilep­sy

How Bud­dhism & Neu­ro­science Can Help You Change How Your Mind Works: A New Course by Best­selling Author Robert Wright

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Comments (27)
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  • Uncle B says:

    Real­i­ty Check! Lead­ing biol­o­gist says in effect: Harper’s super-pris­ons plans, just like the Amer­i­can ones, have no basis in sci­ence, belong with Nazi pro­pa­gan­da and the like — “patho­log­i­cal result of dwelling in one buck­et” sim­ply not the right path! Trudeau’s notions of treat­ing sick minds was advanced, work­able method­ol­o­gy. Beware the Jack-boots among us.

  • I watched the video through­out and he has amaz­ing points of views. It is true that we think cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly lim­it­ing our thoughts and opin­ions.

  • I watched the video through­out and he has amaz­ing points of views. It is true that we think cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly lim­it­ing our thoughts and opin­ions.

  • Nchlsbrl9 says:

    I had guessed 42 not know­ing the stops of the T. must be lucky…

  • Bruce says:

    I enjoyed the lec­ture, and since Prof. Sapol­sky moves so much, I sug­gest the cam­era­man zoom out a bit.

  • SamyAdel9 says:

    Is it just me, or did any­one just watch this video because of this guys awe­some beard?

  • Horgatroll says:

     bril­liant!! wish all the lec­tur­ers were so enter­tain­ing and infor­ma­tive and mag­net­ic! bril­liant

  • Brony420 says:

    And YOU get a bagel with cream cheese!

  • Get Out says:

    Inter­est­ing and all, but this guy did a good job at mak­ing him­self look like a stereo­typ­i­cal “free-spir­it­ed col­lege pro­fes­sor tool.”

  • Jordan says:

    “Inter­est­ing and all, but this guy did a good job at mak­ing him­self look like a stereo­typ­i­cal “free-spir­it­ed col­lege pro­fes­sor tool.””

    Thats buck­et think­ing

  • sam says:

    this one course is ten times as inter­est­ing as my entire high school cur­ricu­lum

  • TGGP says:

    Sapol­sky wrote a book say­ing stress explains why zebras don’t get ulcers. Years before that Bar­ry Mar­shall showed that ulcers are caused by the H. Pylori bac­te­ria. He won the Nobel prize for that, and still says there’s no evi­dence that stress caus­es any­thing.

  • Ann says:

    Well, he dis­cred­it­ed him­self imme­di­at­ly, by the title of his book…Zebras do, in fact, get ulcers…

  • Todd says:

    Very inter­est­ing, but he is off on his descrip­tion of behav­ior­ism. Wat­son’s the­o­ry took behav­ioral the­o­ry too far and was not based on rein­force­ment and pun­ish­ment (or oper­ant con­di­tion­ing), but on Pavlov’s work with respon­dent con­di­tion­ing (the exper­i­ments where dog’s drooled to the sound of a bell because of the bell being paired food). B. F. Skin­ner did not believe that you could shape a per­son into what­ev­er pro­fes­sion one wished by con­trol­ling rein­forcers and pun­ish­ers. Skin­ner rec­og­nized the role of genet­ics, but was able to objec­tive­ly show that rein­force­ment and pun­ish­ment can shape a per­son­’s behav­ior.

  • Mark LaJoie says:

    I am at the tenth lec­ture in this course. It real­ly does change the way you look at peo­ple.

  • Amaz­ing! This guy also fea­tured in the third edi­tion of the Zeit­geist Doc­u­men­taries.

  • Jacinto says:

    I’m amazed by this teacher and the way he teaches.This is very inter­est­ing and I will fol­low all the course.10.

  • I’ve found that the best data sub­ject, thank you

  • Frank says:

    I had to stop watch­ing this amaz­ing man after 20 min­utes. Please send the jan­i­tor back to the boil­er room and redo this with some­body who knows how to han­dle a cam­era. I absolute­ly, deeply and thor­ough­ly despise ‘found footage’ videos with every gene in my pool.

  • Masiyiwa Sakupwanya says:

    Tell the Prof­Maz says
    Dear sir, I address you Wiz­ard
    I am a stu­dent in Pre­to­ria, South Africa and have just got through your 2010 lec­tures on Human behav­ior. Utter­ly mes­mer­iz­ing Wiz­ard ! and in total line with my find­ings elu­ci­dat­ing the bio­chem­i­cal mech­a­nisms for dis­ease resis­tance in cit­rus root stocks. I say ‘genes have become for too small for the sys­tem and while they may no longer fit, there is some use for them’.
    Thank you for your light


  • Jo says:

    As with all oth­er the­o­ries and their pro­po­nents — all that is said is best bal­anced with oth­er ideas on the same sub­ject. Being a dis­ci­ple of one pro­fes­sor’s ide­ol­o­gy is not the same as being edu­cat­ed. I found a lot that he has to say enlight­en­ing, and some ques­tion­able. I did not, agree at all with the cat­e­go­riz­ing of Kon­rad Lorenz which invites inves­ti­ga­tion.

  • Jeane Johnson says:

    I have been suf­fer­ing with no relief from physi­cians and I found Sapol­sky lec­ture the most help­ful of any­thing I have heard.

    I would like to know if he treats indi­vid­u­als or if he will rec­om­mend some­one
    who could help.

    I live in Michi­gan but I am will­ing to come to Stand­ford and I would wish to do this in per­son not Skype or inter­net.

    I do live near Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Arbor but not as sure of that as I am Stand­ford.

    Thank you for your help.

  • Marian says:

    Who the hell filmed this? Very bad. Can’t see what he wrote on the board, keeps mov­ing.

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