The Floating University

Glossary

  • Psychology: the study of the human mind 

  • Neuroscience: studies the brain 

  • Developmental psychology: studies human mental development 

  • Social psychology: studies relationships 

  • Cognitive psychology: studies mental processes; examples: how do we understand language, recognize faces, remember facts, etc.  

  • Evolutionary psychology: studies the evolution of the mind 

  • Clinical psychology: studies mental illness 

  • Compassion: concern for other people 

  • Neurons: basic cells that process and transmit information 

  • Jeff Hawkins (b.1957): American, founder of Palm Computing and the Redwood Neuroscience Institute; says the key to human intelligence is the ability to make predictions about the world via patterns; compared the baby’s brain to filling a football stadium with  cooked spaghetti, shrinking it to the size of a soccer ball, then vastly multiplying density 

  • Tabula Rasa: Latin for “blank slate”; philosopher John Locke viewed this as how the human brain starts out, knowing nothing, and development is all about learning from the environment  

  • John Locke (1632-1704): English philosopher and physicist, one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment 

  • Early specialization: view of the human brain as starting off having extraordinary early understanding; American evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides (b. 1957) and John Tooby (b. 1952) described the brain as a Swiss Army knife with each part specialized for different functions 

  • Stranger anxiety: toward strangers the natural default reaction is a mix of fear and hatred; kicks in at around 9 months old 

  • Jared Diamond (b.1937): American anthropologist; studied small-scale societies in Papua New Guinea  

  • Margaret Meade (1901-1978): American cultural anthropologist who championed broadened sexual morals within a context of traditional Western religious life; helped popularize the incorporation of anthropological findings into modern Western culture; said there was a lot to learn from “primitive" cultures, but their treatment of strangers wasn’t one of them 

  • Paul Rozin (b. 1936): psychologist; described disgust as the “body/soul emotion” 

  • In-group: a category you belong to  

  • Out-group: a category you do not belong to 

  • Self-interested altruism: caring for others because their fate is linked with your own 

  • Robert Wright (b. 1957): American evolutionary psychologist (among other subjects); said global interconnectedness and interdependence have expanded our moral circle 

  • Joseph Stalin (1878-1953): a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary who helped bring about the October Revolution and was Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 until his death; said “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” 

  • Mother Teresa (1910-1997): beatified Catholic nun regarded for her philanthropic work;  said “If I look at the mass, I will never act.  If I look at the one, I will.” 

  • Paul Slovic (b.1938): American psychologist; showed through experiments that people are more likely to give, and give more, to a charity if they are presented with an individual’s story of suffering than if they're presented with statistics of suffering 

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896): American abolitionist and author; wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1952, a novel that depicted the life of African-American slaves 

  • David Hume (1711-1776): Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian; considered one of the most important thinkers in Western philosophy, and grouped with the British Empiricists; argued that a sense of compassion is central to becoming a fully moral being 

  • Stereotypes: heuristic categories of people conforming to a general pattern of assumed characteristics 

  • Robert Trivers (b. 1943): American evolutionary biologist; said males have less parental investment than females 

  • Parental investment: any investment by the parent in an individual offspring that increases the offspring’s chances of surviving at the expense of the parent’s ability to invest in other offspring 

  • Judith Langlois: American psychologist; showed women prefer more masculinized men when ovulating and more femininized men when not ovulating, suggesting that our sexual psychologies are linked to our reproductive preferences 

  • David Buss (b.1953): American psychologist; showed that across 37 different cultures the number one thing both men and women look for in a mate is kindness