Yale’s Psych 110: Your Brain on Bloom

Psych 110, Introduction to Psychology, was the third Open Yale Course I listened to by podcast (others reviewed in posts listed under the Yale tag). In it, Professor Paul Bloom surveys the broad field of psychology, including topics such as what infants know, the meaning of dreams, gender differences in sexual desire, non-human primate language acquisition, and other areas of human perception, memory, cognition, feelings, decision-making, and behavior.

To my mind, untrained in psychology, the course was a reasonably complete survey. As such, no topic received a great deal of attention. To some extent, just skimming the surface of so many interesting questions and topics was a bit unsatisfactory. But that is the nature of an intro, survey course.

The instructor, Bloom, was a pleasure to listen to. A few of the lectures were given by his Yale colleagues and I missed Bloom in each one. He is a gifted lecturer, witty, very articulate, and with a command of language better than most. He ended each topic with a solicitation of questions. In response to questions he could not necessarily anticipate he almost always had a ready and nuanced answer, delivered in well-formed paragraphs. As someone who has spoken before a room full of students I know that is no easy task!

Of the Yale courses I’ve listened to by podcast, this is the first that didn’t work well aurally. First, it is clear that only some of the course content was delivered by lecture, the rest through readings, which I did not have (nor would I have read if I had them). Second, about 20% of the content of each class was provided by in-class video, none of which was included in the podcast (copyright issues (?)). Finally, many topics in psychology are illuminated by demonstrations that rely on the visual: comparing two images, for example. I could see none of those, though likely they’re available on the video downloads.

Given all of that, I missed some of what probably made the course a lot of fun. The up-side is that the audio podcasts are shorter than those of other courses (all under one hour). Plus there are only 20 classes. So, relative to the previous Yale courses I listened through, this was a brief one.

In conclusion, Yale’s Psych 110 is a good way to survey psychology by podcast. From it I certainly learned some things about basic psychology and enjoyed my time doing so. But for the reasons explained above, as a podcast it falls short of the quality of the Yale econ courses I listened to previously (Econ 159 and Econ 252). If you missed intro psych in college, give it a try. If you’re looking for truly excellent podcast material though this is not the place to start.

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