1. Introduction to Human Behavioral Biology


[MUSIC PLAYING] Stanford University. This is BIO 150, isn’t it? OK, just wanted to make sure. So we start off with a scenario. 40-year-old guy–
quiet, suburban life. Married 15 years,
two kids, 3.5 dogs. Everything’s standard. Everything’s going wonderfully. And one day out of nowhere,
he punches somebody in the face at work. Totally bizarre,
out of character. The guy is standing
there by the water cooler and makes some comment
on some baseball team, takes exception to it,
punches him in the face. Utterly strange. Things are quiet. Three months later, his wife
of 15 years happy marriage discovers he’s having an affair
with a 16-year-old checkout kid down at the Safeway. Really weird. Then three months
after that, he absconds with all the money at work,
embezzles it, disappears, and is never seen again. Three possibilities. First one– this guy
is a truly deep creep. Second, he is having the
most immature midlife crisis you could ever imagine. Third possibility–
he has a mutation in one gene in his head. And what we will
be seeing is this is exactly the
profile that you get in a certain
neurological disease where it’s one gene
that’s out of whack. First demonstration of that. OK, just to get a
sense of who’s here, how many of you think there
is a genetic influence on sexual orientation? OK, how many think it is
possible for prenatal events to influence your political
opinions 30 years later? OK, how many think that there
is a valid way of using biology to understand who’s
religious and who isn’t? Not quite as many hands there. OK, as long as we’re
in that terrain, how many people believe in God? How many people
believe in souls? How many people believe in evil? How many people
believe in free will? That’s going to change. [LAUGHTER] Oh, I might as well ask. Is there anybody in
this room who actually does believe in evolution? Just wanted to make sure. See what we’re
dealing with here. OK, how many think that
there is a genetic influence and that there is a basic
biological difference, sex difference, in
levels of aggression? How many think there’s
biological basis of sex differences in intelligence? OK, who thinks it’s all
explained by nature? Who thinks it’s all
explained by nurture? Who thinks there’s a
magnificent, fascinating, nuanced interaction
between nature and nurture? [LAUGHTER] Yay. OK, well everybody’s
going to get an A+ then. You already have the
course under control. So we start off trying to
find something in common. Look at these four
events here– or not, in terms of being
scraped out there. But these are four
circumstances that have something surprising in common. Having your period. Having a brain tumor. Eating a lot of junk food. Taking anabolic steroids. Those of you who
are not oriented to with, that’s the ones
that build up your muscles like testosterone derivatives. OK, these all have something
in common– having your period, having a brain tumor,
eating a lot of junk food, and taking a lot of
anabolic steroids. Anybody want to fathom a
guess what’s the commonality amongst the four of them? Yeah. Hormones? Hormones. Good. OK, we’re off and
running with hormones. Good. Even more specific than that. Something they all
have in common. Oh, come on, somebody
want to guess? I see these brief
movements of hands there as people
change their mind. OK, it all has to
do with hormones. They all have
hormones in common, I say, trying to facilitate
somebody making the next guess. Oh, come on. They all have something. OK, we gotta get outta
here at some point. These all have four
things in common. All of these have been used
successfully in courts of law to explain the
behavior of a murderer. [LAUGHTER] In the first case,
a number of cases where the fact that
a woman was having her period at the time
of killing someone was part of what a jury said led
them to exonerate the person. A literature showing that
a disproportionate share of female aggression comes
around the time of menses. Next one– there is an area of
the brain you will know so much about over the next three
months called the amygdala that has something
to do with aggression and has something
to do with fear. And you get a brain tumor
there, and in a number of cases, you get someone who is
uncontrollably violent. And this has also been used
successfully in a court of law. Junk food– any of you who are
San Francisco history buffs will know 20 years
ago, 30 years ago that Dan White, a
disappointed office seeker, assassinated the mayor of San
Francisco along with Harvey Milk. And as part of his
remarkably successful defense for a double murderer that
led to a remarkably short jail sentence, was the
famed Twinkie defense. The argument that his
addiction to junk food caused wild fluctuations
in his blood sugar levels, which caused him to do that. Finally, anabolic steroids. Any number of cases of people
having uncontrolled violence arguing because they were
weight lifters and a wildly abusive range of
taking this stuff had something to
do with violence. Put all four of these
together, and we get the first of the two
points of this entire course. Which is, sometimes the stuff
that’s going on in your body can dramatically influence
what goes on in your brain. Second critical point– tonight,
when you’ve settled back down, and you’re ready to go to sleep,
and you’re nice and relaxed, and your heart’s
beating nice and slow, think the following thought. You know, that heart isn’t
going to beat forever. Think about your lips
turning blue after. Think about the blood
flow slowing down. Think about your feet and
your toes getting cold. And at that point,
you will probably be increasing the rate at
which that heart beats. And you will have just
seen the second key thing in this course,
which is sometimes what’s going on
in your head will affect every single
outpost in your body. And what this course is
about is the intertwining, the interconnections
between your physiology and your behavior– the
underlying emotions, thoughts, memories, all of
that, and the capacity of each to deeply influence the
other under all sorts of circumstances. Now, what we’re going
to be doing with this is trying to understand
this under fairly difficult circumstances. If everybody here was
here because they really wanted to understand why
all the wildebeest on earth mate in the same
week each year, we’d have a fighting chance
of figuring that one out. But that’s not what
we want to understand. We don’t want to
understand why birds migrate and don’t get lost. We want to understand
human behavior. Worse than that, harder than
that, human social behavior. And hardest of all in some
cases, some grossly abnormal human behavior. And if you’re going to
try to do that, there is a problem which is,
officially, it’s complicated. It is a huge, messy
process trying to make sense of the biology
of human social behavior. And just as all
sorts of realms when one deals with messy,
complicated problems that you need to think about
in some wildly interacting way, we all have a strategy
that we come up with. A strategy to make
things easier– which is that we think in categories. We think in categories. We take things
that are continua, and we break them
into categories. And we label those categories. And we do that in
various settings because it could be
extremely useful. For example, somebody give
me an estimate on how long this line is. [INAUDIBLE] A foot. OK, people who said a
foot, what is it that went through your
head to figure it out? You imagined how
long a ruler is. Is this 11.5 inches because and
it’s 11 inches– an 8.5 by 11. But everybody in here has this
category in their head things that are kind of the
same length as a ruler. A continua of lengths, and
there’s a category for that. Suppose I’m telling you I have
some friend who’s a runner. He runs the mile. He’s incredibly fast. In fact, he’s one
of the best runners in the country at this point. How fast does he have to have
run the mile or better for you to be deeply impressed? Under four minutes. And thus, we have another
categorical boundary there of there’s an
infinite variety of speeds with which you can run a mile. Yet we have in our heads
this boundary– people who are under four
minute milers, you are very impressed with. OK, now I want to impress you
with another friend of mine who’s a painter. And this person is
such a great painter that they paint with
11 different colors. That doesn’t work because that’s
not a category that we have. We don’t classify the
quality– hopefully not– we don’t classify quality
of paintings along those lines. But we begin to see here
is in the right areas, we have categories that
we impose on things that are not categorical. Here’s an example. Why should you do this? Where’d the example go? Here’s one of the
classic continua that we ever deal with, which
is the continua of color– the varying wavelengths that
take the rainbow from violet to red. And there’s an infinite
number of spaces in between. And what do we do? We have rules in English that
you can divide the continua here and here, or whatever, and
that’s what you call a color. This is red. Everything from here is red. Everything here
is orange, so on. You take a continua, and you
break it into boundaries. Why do we do that? Because it makes it easier to
store the information away. Instead of remembering the
absolute features of something, you simply say, it’s a. It’s a sub-four minute miler. It’s a line that’s about
the length of a ruler. It’s the color orange. How do you know that’s the case? Because go and take people
from other language groups, where their language
arbitrarily divides the rainbow at other points with completely
different color terms, and they remember different
profiles of colors differently than an English speaker might. Take a color. And if the color comes right in
the center of somebody’s color characterization,
if it comes right in the middle of the range
of what counts as that color, people remember whether they
saw that color or not far better than if you show them a
color at the boundary. And people will show that as
a function of what language they speak. Taking a continua, and
you break it into pieces, because it’s easier to
deal with the facts. Another example of it. Here we have four objects. And as drawn here, simply
because we have categories to describe the
first three, do one of those tests of show
people a bunch of shapes, and they come back an
hour later and ask them, Have you seen this shape before? And people are going to be
far more accurate with this than whether they saw
this or not because we don’t have a word for it. We don’t have a word that’s
at all sort of analytical that some squiggly whatever. We don’t have a
clear cut category. Thinking in categories
makes it easier for us to remember stuff. And it makes it easier
for us to evaluate stuff. So that’s a classic
sort of response that we have cognitively
to complicated things. But there’s a bunch of problems
with categorical thinking. First example–
and first one you can see from a realm of
language differences– in that not only is there a
continua of infinite number of wavelengths, there
is a continua of sounds that humans can make. And different languages draw
boundaries at different points as to what count as similar
sounds or different sounds. There’s like two different
T-H sounds in English, which apparently we’re
not very good at hearing. But there’s other ones we are. And that will
affect your ability to remember stuff– what
word it was– depending on whether it is on a dramatically
different boundary, whether it is a sound that sounds
different to you or not. Example of this– apparently
in Finnish, people do not differentiate
between the sound of a B and the sound of a P, whereas
we have no trouble with that. But people from Finland do
not make that differentiation. And I discovered this
one day a number of years ago where, for reasons
I don’t even understand, I found myself needing to
take to testicular biopsies on baboons. Not having sort of learned that
in junior high how you do that, I called up this guy at
urology the med school who happened to be Finnish. And I explained to him
what I wanted to do. And he sort of took
me through the paces and told me what thingy I needed
to buy, and that sort of stuff, and holiday packages of those
where you can get a dozen. And sort of telling
me how to do that. And once we went through he
said, What I want you to do, the thing to do at this
point, is get some practice. I want you to
practice on a bear. [LAUGHTER] And I said, What? He said, Yeah. Practice on a bear. And I said, Are you kidding me? He said, I know. I know it sounds crazy, but we
have all the residents do that. It’s a very good
learning device. Either practice on
a bear or an apple. Oh. Oh. Here we see the dangers
of making mistakes about differences between B and
P under certain circumstances. So we see one of
the dangers there, which is when you are paying too
much attention to categories, you can’t differentiate
two facts that fall within the same category. Next example. I remember back at various
points of anxiety during exams, and such back when
where there was a world of difference between
getting a 65 on a test and a 66 on a test. Not particularly different. But because there is
this boundary drawn there between passing and failing,
there is this dramatic differentiating we make. When you put up
boundaries, you have trouble seeing how
similar things are on either side of it. Next example, one
additional problem that you get when you
think categorically. And for this,
everybody needs to turn over one of the
pieces of paper– the paper you’re going to
hand in, the questionnaire. And what I’m going to do is read
you a series of phone numbers, and I want you to write them
down as accurately as possible. OK, ready? 243-2649, 650-3260, 256-5779,
832-2449, 291-3171, 231-4026, 593-2449, 743-8840, 831-5287. OK. Now what that
exercise is– and no, that doesn’t count
towards the grade. What that will
show, I’m sure, when in some obsessive burst
of procrastination I actually look
through the answers tonight, what it’s going
to show is the accuracy is going to tank the second
you go from the phone number pattern of three digits followed
by four, break up that pattern. And suddenly we all get screwed
up because we’re saying, Wait a second. I thought it was a phone number. That was one digit. Now two digits. I can’t. And it’s gone, and you’re
on to the next one. And what we see there is
the third example, which is when you pay too much
attention to boundaries, you don’t see the big picture. All you see are categories. All you see are, Wait
a second, phone numbers are supposed to come with
three digits followed by four. Another example where we
use categorical thinking. OK, I’m putting up a
number series here. OK. What’s– oh, my god. OK, what’s the next
number in this series? And why? [INAUDIBLE] 42. How come? [INAUDIBLE] OK, so we’re kind of oscillating
all over the place there. OK, so that’s as valid
as anybody else’s. Who else has a next
number in line there? [INAUDIBLE] What’s that? [INAUDIBLE] 45. How come? [INAUDIBLE] OK. Are you going to take that? 45. That’s very– OK. What else? Let me make it a
little bit easier here. OK. So what’s the next
number in that series? And what I’m telling
you is if you think about the world with a certain
set of categories in your head, you will know the next
number in the sequence. So what’s the next one? [INAUDIBLE] Seven billion. [INAUDIBLE] OK. That one. OK. Seven billion. That’s another possibility. Although presumably, it
would be seven billionth. Anything else? Any other guesses here
as to what happens next? 4th, 14th, 23rd, 34th. What’s the next one
in the sequence yes? [INAUDIBLE] 44. How come? [INAUDIBLE] OK. But remember, it’s
got to be 44th. What’s that? Ordinal? Cardinal? Whatever it is. What? 42nd. How come? The subway? You were right. You were right. Anybody who is a New Yorker
will know what the next one is. These are the subway stops. And you get a bagel
with cream cheese. [APPLAUSE] So you get New Yorkers,
and while everybody else is thinking logical things
like 43, and 41, and 45, and seven billion,
and all of that, you’ve got this whole world
of dividing numbers by. Subway stops. We think in categories. We think in categories. But as you just saw,
there are these problems. First one being, when
you think in categories, you underestimate how
different two facts are when they fall in the same category. When you think in
categories, you overestimate how
different they are when there happens to be a
boundary in between them. And when you pay attention
to categorical boundaries, you don’t see big pictures. Now, what our goal in this
class is going to be is think about this
big, complex issue of the biology of
behavior without falling into thinking in categories. What do I mean in this regard? Thinking categorically
about a subject like this? There’s some chicken. And the chicken is
standing somewhere. And there’s some
rooster over there that does some sexually
solicitive, exciting thing for the female. And in response to
that, the female picks up and goes running
over to the rooster. And thus, we have our first
behavioral biology question here. Why did that chicken
cross the road? To get to that rooster. So you could answer that
like an endocrinologist and say, Well the female had
certain levels of estrogen in her bloodstream, which
made this key hypothalic areas responsive to the stimulus. Or you could answer
it like an anatomist, saying, Well, because
the fulcrum of her pelvis or whatever it is chickens
have that allow them to run. Or you could answer
it in the category of an evolutionary biologist. That over the
millennia, chickens that didn’t respond to sexually
solicitive gesture from males left fewer copies
of their genes. And there’s all these
different categories that we can use to
explain what’s going on. All of these different buckets. All of these different
buckets which begin to pull you towards all
of the problems we just saw. Now, having trouble telling how
different or similar two facts are. Having trouble
seeing big pictures. Over emphasizing the
importance of the bucket you happen to live inside of. And thus, suddenly everything
about this behavior is explained by a gene, a
neurotransmitter, a childhood trauma, a living
inside one bucket. Whet we are going to be
doing over and over in here as the main point of the course
is looking at how what goes on in your body influences
behavior, emotions, memories. How what goes on there
influences your body, looping over. And at every one
of those points, resisting the pull to
think categorically. Oh, this is the explanation for
where this behavior came from. Here’s what we’re going
to be doing instead throughout in terms of
the structure of the class when we get to actual behaviors. For each behavioral
category, we will start off by looking at what the
behavior looks like. Because often, that takes
a lot more objectivity than we initially assume. What does the
behavior look like? Then we will say, Well, what
went on in that organism a half second before
that behavior occurred to cause it to occur? Which is the world of what’s
going on with neurons. What’s going on with circuitry. Where’s the explanation
for the behavior. Aha. This behavior happened
because this part of the brain got activated. But just as we’re about
to settle in happily into that bucket,
we push back a bit and say, Well, what
smell, what sound, what sensory stimulation
in the environment caused those neurons
to get activated and produce that behavior? And then pushing one
step further behind. OK, well, what do hormone
levels, various hormones in the bloodstream of
that animal or individual for the past few hours,
how do those hormones change how sensitive you
are to those sounds, smells, et cetera, that
cause those neurons to get activated and
produce the behavior? And all we’re going to be
doing is working our way back, all the way through early
development, fetal life, the genetic makeup up of an
individual, the genetic makeup up entire populations, species,
the evolutionary pressure on, all the way back to there. How do you explain each
one of these behaviors in the context of
those outposts? And how are they
not really outposts? All they are, are different
ways of expressing the same biological influences. If you say, Ooh,
here’s a hormone that explains this behavior. This behavior is caused
by Hormone X. Hormone X is coded for by a gene. So suddenly you’re not just
talking about endocrinology. You’re talking about genetics. And if there’s a
gene there, it has been the subject to selection. So suddenly you’re
talking about evolution. If you were talking about what
smells, sights, et cetera, are the acute triggers
for a behavior, by definition
you’re also talking about fetal development
that determined how sensitive those systems
were to those sorts of stimuli. What we’re going to be
having over and over again is any one of these buckets
that we spend some time in, all we’re going to do is think
of that bucket is at that point the most convenient
way of describing all of the influences
that came beforehand. And in that regard,
there’s no buckets. All they are, are
temporary platforms. And each platform is simply the
easiest, most convenient way of describing the outcome of
everything that came beforehand starting with millennia
back in evolution. OK. So that sounds great. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do this. And we’re going to be very
sophisticated and fancy in our thinking about it. And we’re not going to fall
for categorical thinking. OK, this is a complicated
subject, and we’re smart. So we’re going to try to
think about it smartly. That’s great. But like maybe this is just an
irritating song and dance here of, Ooh, we’re not going to
fall for categorical thinking like people out there. Obviously when
people are thinking about stuff like behavior, and
they do this professionally, professional biologists, yes,
and they understand also. This is just the strawman. Ooh, we’re going to be more
sophisticated in our thinking than endocrinologists, and
geneticists, and all of those. They obviously know that
these things interact, and there’s not just
one explanation. And it’s just the
area they focus on. They understand that. Let me read you a
few quotes to show just how much some of these
folks don’t understand that. First quote. “Give me a child at birth
from any background, and let me control the total
environment in which he is raised, and I will
turn him into anything I wish him to be–
whether doctor, lawyer, or beggar, or thief.” This was John Watson, 1912,
one of the founding fathers of the school of psychology
called behaviorism. Behaviorism– that sort
of reached its apogee with this guy BF
Skinner in the 1950s. This notion that if
you could control the rewards, the
punishments, the positive, the negative reinforcements,
you could turn anybody into anything you want,
whether doctor, lawyer, beggar, or thief. And we know that isn’t the case. We know that’s not possible. We know that. All you have to do is
throw in one other factor and like a lot of protein
malnutrition during fetal life, and you’re not going
to be able to do that. That being a crude example of
just how wrong this guy was. You cannot have all the control
over the environment and turn somebody into whatever you want. Here’s a guy living
pathologically in this bucket that behavior could be explained
solely by understanding reward and punishment. Interesting factoid–
this John Watson guy. Shortly after that,
he was driven out of academia for a wild scandal
that he was involved in. And he spent the
rest of his career apparently as an extremely
successful advertising executive. Going to show you
something– he may not have been able to turn
people into anything he wanted, but
apparently he could make them buy all sorts
of geegaw nonsense. OK, next quote. “Normal psychic life depends
upon the good functioning of brain synapses.” If you don’t know what synapses
are, don’t panic at this point. They’re ways brain cells
connect with each other. OK. “Normal psychic life
depends on the good functioning of brain synapses,
and mental disorders appear as a result of the
synaptic derangements. Synaptic adjustments will then
modify the corresponding ideas and force them into
different channels. Using this approach, we
obtained cures and improvements but no failures.” Synaptic adjustments. What do you suppose those little
old synaptic adjustments are that this guy is referring to? Any guesses? [INAUDIBLE] Somebody shout it out. [INAUDIBLE] Electroshock therapy. Electroshock therapy– you
know, a little synaptic. You wish it were as gentle
as electroshock therapy. This is even more dramatic
synaptic adjustments. Any other guesses? [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, frontal lobotomies. You want to adjust
somebody’s synapses, so you slice off the front
third of their brain or so. This was Egas Moniz, a
Portuguese neurologist who invented frontal lobotomies. It had a different
name at the time. But was the person
who started this, and something that was done to
tens and hundreds of thousands of people who had absolutely
nothing wrong with them. One of the darkest chapters
of where psychiatry gets in bed with ideology. Massive criminal destruction
of people’s brains. This is what he had to say about
the procedure on his acceptance of his Nobel Prize in
Physiology and Medicine for having invented it. So here we have
somebody pathologically living in a world of understand
how synapses are working, adjust them. And with that, we obtain
cures and improvements but no failures. Final quote. Worst one of all. “The selection
for social utility must be accomplished by
some social institution if mankind is not to be
ruined by domestication induced degeneracy. The racial idea as
the basis of our state has already accomplished
much in this respect. We may, and we must, rely
on the healthy instincts of the best of our people
for the extermination of elements of the population
loaded with dregs.” Anybody want to
guess who that was? [INAUDIBLE] Hitler? Hitler, that
behavioral biologist. He was a little bit
busy at the time. This was instead one of Hitler’s
main scientific propagandists. This was somebody living
pathologically in a box– a box that doesn’t even
exist– having notion of race, and ethnicity, and
genetics, and all of that, saying let me fix that one. Let me exterminate the elements
of the population loaded with dregs, and I’ll fix up
that little problem of fixing something that ain’t broken. Who was this? This was a scientist
named Conrad Lorenz. Conrad Lorenz, who probably a
lot of us are familiar with. Conrad Lorenz was one of the
founding fathers of ethology. We’ll learn all about that. But he, like everybody
knows him winding up in all the little
kid nature books, Conrad Lorenz discovered
imprinting in birds. And he’d be going around. He was this little Austrian guy
with this cherubic white beard. And he’d always have these
little Austrian shorts and suspenders. And there would be a whole
bunch of duckies following him because they thought he
was mom, and he was totally charming and irresistible. This sort of old imprinting
with his ducky kids. And he also happened to be a
rabid Nazi propagandists who went to his grave
saying that there was nothing wrong with what he did. These are not crappy,
fourth-rate scientists. These are not people working
at the University of the Desert of Podunk or whatever. These are among the most
influential scientists of the last century. These are people who influenced
how people were educated, and when we decided it wasn’t
worth the effort of doing it. These are people whose influence
led to the brains being destroyed of
hundreds of thousands of people who had
nothing wrong with them. These are the people
who led to the notion that you fix up a problem that
doesn’t exist by exterminating nine million people. These are not minor scientists. These are the most
influential people of the last century coming
out of science in many ways living pathologically
inside their own buckets and how they could
explain the entire world. And thus, again, our goal is
going to not fall for that. To think about human
behaviors, and in some cases to think about some
of the most disturbed, some of the most
frightening, damaged human behaviors, and
resist the temptation to think inside a bucket
and find the explanation. Again, every level we’re
going to talk about– genes, hormones, neurons, environmental
influence, whatever it is– that point will simply
be the easiest way of describing all of the
influences that came before. They’re not even
temporary buckets. There’s no buckets. That will be our goal. Now, in thinking about
this and approaching human behavior, the biology
of human social behavior, often the biology of abnormal
human social behavior, we’re going to have three
intellectual challenges. The first one is
recognizing circumstances where there is nothing
fancy about us whatsoever. We are just like every
other animal out there. And where the challenge
is to accept that. Let me give you an example. You are a hamster. You are a female hamster. And you’re sitting in your cage. And, as a female
hamster, what you do is you ovulate every
five days or so. And you’re going
about your business, and everything’s great. Now, somebody puts
another female hamster in the cage with you. And over the subsequent month or
so, what happens is both of you will begin to
lengthen your cycles and eventually synchronize
them so that you are both ovulating the same afternoon
on a regular basis. Amazing. This actually works this way. And menstrual ovulatory
synchrony– people understand how this
works in hamsters. It is done with olfaction,
with pheromones, with chemical airborne signals
from one female to another. And you can prove this
by electrically recording from olfactory systems. Or, if you don’t
have much funding, you could take like a paper clip
over the female hamster’s nose, and she doesn’t
synchronize then. It’s all done with olfaction. And what’s most amazing is you
put the two females together, and there is a way
of disrupting it. Put a male hamster in there,
and suddenly the cycles desynchronize and shorten,
and you break it up with male pheromones. And what’s even more remarkable
is you put the two females together, and it’s not random
who synchronizes the other one. The dominant female synchronizes
the subordinate one. Totally understood. People have been working
on this for years. And it works this way in goats,
and sheep, and dogs, and cats, and pigs. Apparently, you could go to
a 7-Eleven somewhere in Iowa, and you could buy a can of pig
ovulatory synchronization spray and take it home,
and just run wild. I have no idea why you
would want to do that. But nonetheless,
that’s how you– it’s up there with the cans
of Cheese Whiz or whatever. And it’s that well understood. And what’s remarkable is it
works exactly the same way in us humans, where it is
known as the Wellesley Effect. The fact that over
the course of freshman year, this was first
shown in Wellesley, 1970. Over the course of
freshman year, women– freshman year roommates– tended
to lengthen and synchronize their cycles. And it was done with olfaction. Women who had olfactory
deficits didn’t synchronize with their roommates. They would synchronize
unless they were having close
intimate relationships with a male, in which
case they desynchronized. And what’s most cruel of
all is, it’s not random who synchronizes to who. The studies tend to show is the
individual who is more socially outgoing, extroverted,
dominating, is the one who synchronizes the other one. And this is well
enough understood that when I went
in college, people would sit around at the dinner
table and say stuff like, Oh, when we roomed
together in the summer, I had her synchronized
by August 1st. This is what happens if you
hang out with biologists. But we’re exactly the same. The challenge here
is recognizing there is nothing fancy about us. At various points
in the class, we will look at comparisons between
the human and the chimp genome, and it’s virtually the same. Some of the time, we are just a
plain old off-the-rack animal. Second challenge is going to be
circumstances where we appear to be just like everybody
else, all the other organisms out there, but we
do something very different with the similarity. Let me give you an example here. You have two humans,
two individuals, who are going through a ritual. They are sitting at a table. They’re absolutely silent. They’re making no
eye contact, and they do nothing more physically
taxing than every now and then, one of them
picks up their hand and moves a little piece
of wood on the table. And if these happen
to be the right two individuals in the middle of a
chess grandmaster tournament, these people are
maintaining blood pressure for six hours running that you
only see in a marathon runner. These people are going through
thousands of calories a day doing nothing more
than thinking. And this is outrageous. Because you look at
one of these chess grandmasters who’s just
taken down an opponent and took their
queen, or whatever, and they will have the
exact same physiology as some male baboon
on the Savannah who’s just ripped the stomach
open of his worst rival. And we’re doing it
there just with thought. And some of the time what’s
remarkable about us is we have absolutely typical,
boring physiology, but we use it in ways that
no other animal could. We get stressed by the
inevitability of our mortality. We get stressed by reading
something awful that has happened to a child on
the other side of the planet. We get stressed by
somebody zooming past us in some sports car, and
we decide that we are now economically inadequate. And you never even
see the person’s face. You just see the car. We get stressed reading about
something awful happening to a character in a novel. This is a whole realm
of things that we could do that nobody else does. And on the flip side, we can
feel compassion and empathy for a loved one. But we can also do
the same for someone on the other side of the
planet in a refugee camp. We can feel compassion for
a member of another species. We feel badly when
our pets are injured. This is another realm where the
physiology of the response– the empathy, the emotional
bonding, all of that– it’s the same boring physiology
as every other animal out there, and we are
using it in a way that is unrecognizable. Now, some of the
time the challenge is the third category, which
is when we are doing something that no other
animal out there has anything remotely similar to. Let me give you an example
here, a shocking example. You have a couple. They live together. They come back at the
end of the day from work. They talk. They eat dinner. They talk some more. They go to bed,
and they have sex. They talk some more. They fall asleep. The next day, they do
the same exact thing. They come home from work. They talk. They eat. They talk. They go to bed. They have sex. They talk some more. They do this every single
night for 30 days running. Hippos would be
repulsed by this. Because hardly anybody out
there in the animal kingdom has non-reproductive sex,
let alone day after day. And nobody else out there
talks about it afterward. And what we’ve got here
is a whole novel domain of human behavior– language
use, aspects of our sexuality, this profoundly damaging
human uniqueness of some individuals confusing
aspects of sexuality with aggression. In some cases, we are going
to be out there on our own trying to understand what’s up. OK. So that will be the general
strategy for the course. We will resist
categorical thinking over, and over, and over. Not just because that’s cool,
and nuanced, and subtle, all of that. But fall into
categorical thinking, and you can do unspeakable
damage in a realm of science that makes the difference. We will do so thinking
constantly about ourselves as a boring species just like
all the others out there. As a species that has the
same boring physiology, but uses it in ways
that are unrecognizable. As a species that does
some things that are simply without precedent out there. And constantly struggling
with what does biology have to do with it? General structure of the
course– the first half of the course is going
to be an overview, an introduction to
the various buckets, the various categories. And what we’re
going to go through is understanding an introduction
to evolutionary theory, an introduction to what
molecular genetics has to do with behavior,
behavioral genetics, ethology, the brain, endocrinology,
each of these buckets. And you know what
happens next, which is in the second
half of the course. We will look at specific
behaviors, and in each case rip apart the buckets. And in each case,
do the strategy of what does the
behavior look like? What happened a second before? The world of neurons. What happened with the
sensory stimuli that trigger those neurons, et cetera? All the way back to the
evolutionary selective pressures. So the first half
of the course is going to be the
introduction to the buckets. And I will tell you
right off the bat it is a total pain in the rear. Because what we’re
going to be doing is like every 2.5 lectures–
just when you were getting the vocabulary
down– we’re going to jump to a completely
different bucket. It is going to be dizzying, and
unpleasant, and all of that. And then second
half of the course, oh, the rewards finally come
of then putting all the pieces together, looking at individual
categories of behavior– sexual behavior, aggressive
behavior, parental behavior, schizophrenia, depression,
personality disorders, language use. In each of these cases, what’s
going on a second before? What’s going on 10
million years before? Where do all these buckets
disappear in the interactions? So that’s going to be the
strategy for the course. Something critical about
how the course was designed is it’s got no prerequisites. Because I really think this is a
subject that everybody on Earth should be forced to learn
about it at gunpoint. And thus, it’s a
good thing, I think, to have this not be one of
those upper level bio classes. Let me just get a
sense of who’s here. How many of you are bio
types, bio majors, hum bio? Psychology? Anthro? Are there any English Lit
grad students in here? Yeah. OK. Good for you. Thank you for coming here. See what you think
in three months. But nonetheless, the class
has been designed explicitly to have no background
whatsoever. How are we going to do that? We’re going to do the usual song
and dance of weekly sections, and reviews, and all
that sort of thing. But in addition,
during this first half of the course when we’re jumping
from category to category, we’re going to have each
week additional sections– a catchup section–
which is for people who have no background
in that area, getting you through the
basics, and getting you up to speed so that you
will be able to then know what’s up during the lectures. So those will be posted. The first one of these is–
let me make sure I’ve got this. Yes. It will be Thursday at
7:30 in the room next door. And this is going to
be the introduction to evolutionary
theory and getting you ready for what will be the
evolution lectures Wednesday and Friday of this week. If you don’t have a
strong background, go to these catchup sections. The TAs who will be
giving that are really expert in those areas, lots
of background, and this will be your chance to catchup. Look through the handout. I think I have a
bunch of terms there or something where if
you are not terribly familiar with those terms in
some discipline, that’s a sign that you should probably go
for some of the catchup stuff. If you really are
just doing this, sort of being very adventurous
with no background, if you can take it pass/fail,
that will take off a lot of the pressure as well. Because you could then actually
pay attention to stuff here. And the whole
point here is to be able to do this even if
you don’t have a science background. Because the obvious
argument I would make is everybody has to
learn behavioral biology because we’re being behavioral
biologists every time we serve on a jury. Every time we vote
whether or not money should be spent
on solving some problem, whether it’s a problem, and
whether it’s solvable or not. Every time we try to
make sense of a family member sunk in depression. Are they having a
biochemical disorder, or are they just
indulging themselves? We’re behavioral
biologists all the time. So it’s probably a good thing
that we be informed ones. So the catchup sections
there– take advantage of them. What else? We will have weekly
sections, the usual type. People are not
assigned to sections. There’s going to be 18 of them
or so a week at various times. Go to whichever works for you. There will be a midterm in
the middle, the midterm coming as we finish the last of
those categories, last of those buckets. There will be a final. There’s no paper or
anything like that. So that will be the pattern. What else? Other stuff here. Office hours– my office
hours are up on the handout. Other things– breaks. We will, with any
luck, be able to be able to be organized enough
so that during each stretch of class, there will be a five
minute break in the middle so you can stand
up, and just get to the front of the
line for the bathroom, and then we will resume promptly
before you get in there. So just to let you
clear your heads a bit. Assignments, books, reading. There are two books that I
have assigned for the course. One is by me. And you don’t even
have to read it. Just go buy a bunch of copies
of and bring me the receipt, and you’ve got a
great grade in there. OK, so that’s what
is going to be pertinent to the second
half of the course. We’re going to give you a
list of the chapters that make the most sense to read. The other book is a
book by an author named James Gleick called Chaos. Chaos, year, after year,
after year, in this class provokes the strongest opinions. A quarter of the
people decide it is the most irritating,
irrelevant thing that could possibly have been
assigned in the class and hate it. About half the
people never quite figure out what’s up with it. And a quarter of the people,
their life is transformed. They no longer have to meditate. They no longer have to
have a– they are at peace. At peace, I tell you. Because what this
book does is introduce this whole radically different
way of thinking about biology, taking apart a world
of reductionism. For 500 years, we all have
been using a very simple model for thinking about
living systems. Which is, if you want
to understand something that’s complicated, you break
it apart into its little pieces. And once you understand
the little pieces and put it back
together, you will understand the complex thing. And what Chaos as an
entire field is about– and this was pretty
much the first book that was meant for the lay public
about it– what Chaos shows is that’s how you fix clocks. That’s not how
you fix behaviors. That’s not how you
understand behaviors. Behavior is not like a clock. Behavior is like a cloud. And you don’t
understand rainfall by breaking a cloud down
into its component pieces and gluing them back together. So read through that book. A lot of it is from physical
sciences rather than biological, so we’ll
just be suggesting the chapters you should read. I will tell you it
is the first book since Baby Beluga where
I’ve gotten to the last page and immediately started reading
it over again from the front. Because along with
Baby Beluga, it’s had the greatest
influence on my life. I found this to be the most
influential book in my thinking about science since college. So that is a sign. There will also be
a bunch of lectures in the second half of the course
covering these fields of chaos and complexity. And if you really
think about it, it is going to force a
change in everything else that you bring to thinking
about this subject. In addition, at this moment
there is not a reader. Because I’m trying to
avoid having to get you guys to have
to buy a reader. I’m trying to redo all
the assigned readings so that will just be from papers
that are available online, that you’ll be able to download. I’m about halfway through
getting them there. With any luck, there will
not have to be a reader. But if it does exist,
it’s not going to be big. It won’t be terribly expensive. But there will be a bunch of
readings online to download, and it will vary. In some cases, it will be
reading the whole paper. In some cases, I’ll
be suggesting you just read the abstract. In some cases, it will be to
understand what’s happening in the paper in detail. In some cases,
this is an example of how people in this bucket
think about this problem. Just read the abstract. So all of that will be
assigned and made clear. What other stuff? There’s going to be a huge
amount of information online. The coursework is going to
be set up for the class. There will be copies
of the handouts. There will be lecture notes. Lecture notes that I have that
will be about five to 10 pages covering each lecture,
which we’ll get to about the middle of the course. And I suspect I will run
out of steam by then. So they won’t occur
for the second half. There will be commonly
asked questions. There will be a Q&A. There
will be course logistics. Some of the slides will
be put up in there. Make use of that. There will be announcements
about time changing for office hours, and things like that. Make sure you make use of that. And people who are
not formally enrolled, we are figuring
out a way for you to get access to it as well. We’ve also made the decision
that after this lecture, the handouts will
not be on paper. And that is because
roughly for each lecture, we will go through about
5000 pieces of paper, even double sided. All of this stuff will get
posted on Coursework the day before. And if that’s going
to make it impossible for you to follow what happens
in class because you are the last human on Stanford
who was not living off of a computer screen,
come and talk to me. And we will slip you an actual
paper copy of the handouts. Most of them, with
any luck, we can avoid using paper just because
of how many people there are in here. Let’s see. Other stuff. Sections will start
this Thursday. The regular sections– all
of those will be posted, the times for that. Office hours won’t
start until next week. The midterm will
be in an evening rather than during a class time. And if we are on schedule,
the class time that day will be used for review. And anything else? Oh, a very good suggestion
just now given that the class before
here is humongous, and thus we have the
impossible problem of a lot of people
trying to get out of that while a lot of people
are trying to get into that. It might work best for everybody
to come in from the top so that you flow down
the stairs seamlessly and drive out those other people
before us out the door there. That might work a
whole lot better. Final thing is we have
a team of TAs here. And they are great. Here they are. TAs, stand up and
be embarrassed. OK, stand up, guys. There they are. There is all but one of
them, who is in transit. There you are. These guys are great. They have either taken
the course before. In some cases they have
TA’d the course before. They are grad
students in various of the bucket specialties. I would strongly suggest taking
advantage of the sections. What will evolve after
the first few weeks is there will be the regular
sections going over the course material in the usual way. There are also being more
advanced sections for people who have stronger backgrounds. Take advantage. OK, you guys can sit down. Leaving them standing there
awkwardly for hours afterward. Take advantage of the sections. Really greatly skilled TAs. OK so that’s basically
what we got going here. Are there any questions? [INAUDIBLE] Units. OK, somebody
emailed about units. The class is five
units, and it’s because we are meeting
for so many hours a week. Actually, for a while the
class was a six-unit course. And that was because
of Condoleezza Rice. Because when she was
the provost here, she totally screwed
the biology department by upping our
teaching requirements under really nasty conditions. So what we all decided
was to find ways, every single sleazy
trick we could do to puff up the
number of units we were supposedly teaching. So for a while,
the five unit class here would get you six units. But eventually they caught
us, so we stopped doing that. So first she did that, and then
weapons of mass destruction. [LAUGHING] So it’s a five unit
class at the moment. Say hi for me if you
run into her on campus. So five units. The workload, I think, will
be commensurate with that. But it’s mainly because
of heavy class time. One additional
thing– lectures are going to be taped and put
up online with a day or so on Coursework. The reason for that is given
that this spans two hour block, a lot of people have to
miss one of the hour blocks. And in the past, it has worked
to be able to get the stuff up online. So that will be
advantageous for some folks. OK. Question? Yes, there was a
question up there. [INAUDIBLE] OK, you take it back. OK, any other questions? Bagel guy. Did you get your bagel,
or did somebody eat it? [INAUDIBLE] OK, good. Good. The social contract
comes through. Yeah? [INAUDIBLE] What’s that? [INAUDIBLE] Yes. I don’t remember. [LAUGHTER] May 3rd. May 3rd for the midterm. 7:30 in the evening. It is a Monday. June 4th for the final. OK, more questions? Yeah? [INAUDIBLE] What’s the format of the
midterm and the final? In an ideal world,
given the whole emphasis here on no buckets,
blah blah, et cetera, It would be long essays,
and requirements of sonnets, and sensitive haikus
about the hypothalamus. But simply because
of numbers in here, we are reduced to sort of like
the lowest common denominator, a lot of multiple
choice questions, just to make things
saner for the TAs. Because it is an
unbelievable job to try to grade this
many papers that quickly. Broadly, intellectually,
what the midterm is going to be about
is just touching base, making sure you understand
the basics of each of those buckets, each
of those disciplines. A little bit of forcing you
to think across disciplines. What the final is going
to be entirely about is forcing you to think
across the disciplines, across the buckets there. So it’s going to be some very
different intellectual foci in there. Midterm– have the facts down. Hopefully it won’t be
quite as mindless as that, but that’s the main
function of the midterm. OK, more questions? [INAUDIBLE] OK. TAs, did you guys decide to
videotape the catchup section? [INAUDIBLE] Audio, OK. [INAUDIBLE] OK. Other office hours, or it’s
going to be taped and put up online on Coursework. And if there’s critical
handouts, visuals, those will be posted
there as well. Good. More questions? [INAUDIBLE] Yes. And it’s going to be for each. It’s going to be in advance
of the next three lectures. [INAUDIBLE] Final is at 7:30 for two hours. [INAUDIBLE] The final? Oh, the final, the final. 5:15. [INAUDIBLE] 12:15. [LAUGHTER] Just to get that up there. 12:15. More questions? For more, please visit
us at standord.edu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *