Understand the Mind: 15 Fascinating Psychology Studies

Learn About the Human Mind Through the Research in Social Psychological Science
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  • Lectures 33
  • Length 2.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 5/2015 English

Course Description

**UPDATE: I just added 3 NEW BONUS VIDEOS to expand on and discuss some of the core experiments.

If you've ever wanted a quick and easy way to know more about people and psychology, this is the course for you! More than 11,000 people have enrolled in my online psychology courses to learn more about the human mind and social behavior. You can be one of them!

Although you could read dense textbooks on psychological research, this simple and engaging course will give you quick access to some of the most interesting and unique studies in psychology.

When you finish this course, you'll have a new appreciation for human behavior, persuasion, and influence, and you'll quickly be able to impress your friends and family with your surprising knowledge of human psychology. Not only that, but you'll know exactly what science behind those findings was!

The studies in this course reveal…

  • how we can persuade someone to do what we want without even providing good persuasive reasons
  • why people started to walk more slowly after solving a few word puzzles
  • why men were more attracted to a woman when they stood on a terrifying bridge
  • why praising some kids for their intelligence vs. their hard work dramatically changed their test scores
  • why people who held a hot cup of coffee instead of an iced coffee automatically started thinking a stranger was especially generous and caring
  • …and much more!

Carefully designed experiments tell us a great deal about the choices we make, the ways we behave, and why we think the way we do. Throughout this course, you'll learn about a bunch of these experiments and see exactly what they say about yourself and the people you meet every day.

I'm a social psychologist myself, and I thought about which studies most interested me early in my education and which studies are my current favorites. I even reached out to my colleagues to ask them what studies have most inspired them and are important for everyone to know about.

This could be the beginning of your new-found interest in psychology. After taking my classes, many of my students have begun pursuing psychology themselves! But even if you just want an easy introduction to psychology, you'll want to check out these fascinating studies now.

So enroll in this fun introductory course and start seeing how simple research in psychology tells us amazing things about human thought and behavior!

What are the requirements?

  • An openness to surprising results from psychological research.
  • A motivation to understand the bigger picture by applying individual research findings to a variety of possibilities.
  • You don't have to know anything about psychology already, and even if you do, these studies are not necessarily mainstream and the findings and level of detail are likely to be new to you.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Use psychological research to reach your personal goals and desires
  • Apply psychology to engineer more effective group interactions
  • Consider ways of using real psychological science to solve the big problems of our day
  • Gain insight into simple changes that make big differences in learning, liking, judgment, and perception.

Who is the target audience?

  • People whose jobs involve dealing with other people. Retail, service, and customer service workers can benefit from knowing more about human nature.
  • Speakers, trainers, and writers who wish to more effectively understand their audiences and how to help them address important problems
  • Coaches and counselors who need to more deeply understand the complexities of their clients
  • Students looking to supplement their psychology education with unique and compelling illustrations of psychology in action
  • People with a desire to more deeply understand psychology

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction
Welcome and Introduction
A Quick Word About Reviews
Section 2: 15 (or so) Amazing Experiments

"Priming" is a huge deal in psychology. In this lecture, you'll see examples of priming in action. At their core, they show how subtle reminders of trait information have a direct effect on our behavior. This lecture covers one study (and a bonus study) about priming. The first subtly reminded some people of stereotypes about the elderly, and this simple reminder made them unconsciously walk more slowly as a consequence. The other study considers how subtle reminders of "rude" vs. "polite" instantly made people act in either a more rude of polite way.


Key Point: Simply using the word “because” makes people more likely to agree to help you.

This study examined whether people would let a stranger cut in line at the copy machine. The big determinant of this decisions was not how compelling the person's reasons were, but instead the simple inclusion of a reason at all.


In this quick learning exercise, you'll think about the previous study in a way that you can make into a strategy for persuasion. How can this change your own life?


Key Point: In some ways, physical sensations and mental sensations are interchangeable.

The study described in this lesson shows how the physical feeling of "warmth" can bias your judgment such that you see more emotional "warmth" in a stranger. A bonus study considers the effects of actual fish smells on behavior.


I hinted at this study at the end of the last lecture, but I'll mention a bit more about it. Using the common pain reliever Tylenol, researchers were able to show evidence that physical pain and psychological pain are treated similarly in the brain. Simple taking Tylenol was enough to reduce people's experiences of social rejection.


Key Point: As soon as we own something, we place more value on it.

Lots of research has shown that we're willing to pay less for things we don't have than we're willing to sell exactly the same items for if we already own them. This lesson describes a study in which mere ownership of a mug or a candy bar automatically makes that item more valuable to the (now) owner.


Key Point: The fear of confirming a stereotype can make people unintentionally act according to it.

Lots of evidence shows that grades tend to differ between men and women and between racial groups. This research suggests that these differences only occur as a result of pre-existing stereotypes and doesn't at all reflect real ability differences. This study shows how Black and White students score differently on an intelligence test only when it's called a test of intelligence. Under controlled conditions, these groups perform equally well.


Key Point: Praising someone for working hard is better than praising them for their ability.

In this fascinating study, 5th grade students show huge changes in their school performance and motivation simply because they received a compliment on their hard work instead of a compliment on their intelligence.


Key Point: It is beneficial to view our abilities as changeable rather than fixed.

In this study, students who were at risk for academic failure made huge changes and reversed their academic decline when they started to view their intelligence as something they had control over. Thinking that intelligence is fixed and permanent only reinforced some students' downward trajectory.


Mindsets, Stereotype Threat, and Praise have more in common than you might think. In this quick video, I'll tell you about two ways in which these concepts are linked.

Interview with Carol Dweck about Praise and Mindsets

In this quick learning exercise, we'll think about how the research on entity vs. incremental mindsets can have a powerful influence on people outside of a school context. Could the same lessons that we learned from that study be applied to the workplace?


Key Point: We like people who like what we like.

In this classic study, people were led to think that a stranger either shared their same opinions or had different opinions. This simple change in perception had a direct influence on how much they like this other person, how much they wanted to work with him, and how intelligent and moral they thought he was.

(This is a bonus from my course on the psychology of likability.)


Key Point: Our expectations of others can be proven to ourselves because we unconsciously make them so.

This elegant study showed how one person's (baseless) expectations dramatically change the course of a conversation. When men thought they were talking to an attractive woman on the phone, they talked in a more friendly way, which made the real women (who didn't even look like the photo the men were given) act in a more friendly way in response, compared to when men thought they were talking to an unattractive woman.


The study I explained in the last lesson showed all of the "self-fulfilling prophecy" pieces together. In this video, though, I'll describe the classic study that gave rise to this notion that our expectations can change reality. You may have heard of the "pygmalian effect"--this is the experiment that started it all.


Key Point: Sometimes we're wrong about why we feel the way we do.

In one of my favorite studies, these researchers showed how men who were approached by an attractive woman ended up thinking they were more attracted to her when there was another reason for them to feel butterflies in their stomachs (namely, when they were standing on a rickety bridge).


Key Point: Ironically, the more we try not to think of something, the more it comes to mind and influences judgments.

In this lesson, I'll review a study that's bad news for anyone who thinks they can just wish away the use of stereotypes. In this study, people who were told not to use stereotypes in making judgments later went on to use stereotypes even more than people who were told nothing about suppressing the stereotypes.


Key Point: What we “see” depends on our own wishes and desires.

In a classic study, Hastorf and Cantril showed how students who watched exactly the same football game footage saw something completely different depending on which team they were rooting for.


Want to know more about motivated perception? In this video, I'll review another study that showed "motivated perception" in a new context. The results are that people see something different depending on what they hope will come up on a randomized computer program.


Key Point: We are especially likely to be skeptical when it is in our own interest.

In this study, participants showed different degrees of skepticism depending on what answers they wanted to receive. When people thought that a diagnostic test showed that they had an unwanted medical condition, they doubted the test more and came to see the condition as less serious than when people thought that the test showed that they didn't have the condition.


Key Point: We judge our satisfaction by thinking about what could have happened.

Data that come from the 1992 Olympics shows how 2nd place winners are less satisfied than 3rd place winners even though their performance was objectively better. The reason is "counterfactual thinking"--or thinking about how things could have gone differently.


Key Point: We discriminate between our own groups and other groups even when those groups are meaningless.

This study shows how even when we know that we've been put into a group at random, we still come to favor whichever group we've been assigned to even though it doesn't benefit us in the least.


In this quick learning exercise, you'll think about the ingroup bias in a new way. Rather than always being something that drives discrimination, we'll think about how it could also be a strategy for reducing discrimination.


Key Point: When processing information feels easy, it makes us more likely to trust it.

In this study (and two bonus studies!), we'll see how little things that make information easier to read automatically make people trust that information more. This is true for factual statements as well as real stock market performance.

Section 3: Bonus: "Halloween Psychology"
Halloween Psychology #1: Deindividuation
Halloween Psychology #2: Who Likes Scary Movies?
Halloween Psychology #3: Self-Awareness
Section 4: Conclusion
Conclusion and Farewell
Bonus Lecture: More from Andrew Luttrell
Bonus Lecture: Get a Free Psychology PDF Ebook

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Instructor Biography

Andrew Luttrell, Ph.D., Social Psychologist

I am a social psychologist. My expertise is in the domain of attitudes and persuasion, but I have extensive experience with all corners of the social psychology world. The research in this field is so interesting that I can't help but want to share it! I look forward to the chance to share the world of social psychology with you.

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