Title: 1. Introduction to Human Behavioral Biology
Lecturer: Robert Sapolsky
YouTube Channel: Stanford
Published: 1 Feb 2011
Description: (March 29, 2010) Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky gave the opening lecture of the course entitled Human Behavioral Biology and explains the basic premise of the course and how he aims to avoid categorical thinking.
Excerpt: 8:08 - 8:46
It is a huge, messy process trying to make sense of the biology of human social behavior. And, just as [in] 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 can be extremely useful.
Excerpt: 10:54 - 11:08
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 ".
Excerpt: 12:30 - 12:38
Thinking in categories makes it easier for us to remember stuff, and it makes it easier for us to evaluate stuff.
Excerpt: 12:45 - 20:22
[my notes, not an exact transcription]
Problems with categorical thinking:
- First example, in the realm of language differences: There's a continua of sounds that humans can make. Different languages draw boundaries at different points as to what count as similar sounds or different sounds. This will affect your ability to remember stuff - the ease of remembering one word instead of another will depend on whether it is on a dramatically different sound boundary or not, whether it sounds different to you or not.
- Problem: When you are paying too much attention to categories, you underestimate how different two facts are, when they fall into the same category.
- Problem: When you are paying too much attention to categories, you have trouble seeing how similar things are on either side of a categorical boundary.
- Problem: When you are paying too much attention to boundaries between categories, you don't see the big picture.