Genes, Memes, and Behavior

Course Description

How can we explain the complexities of human life? How did we get here? Where are we going? What can genetics, psychology, and neuroscience tell us about it? In this course, students will come to understand the world from an integrated natural science perspective. We will examine how natural selection operates to shape successful genes in the gene pool; how cultural selection operates to shape successful "memes" in the pool of cultural ideas. We will also examine how selection by consequences operates to shape successful behaviors in our repertoires. Once you fully understand how genes, memes, and behaviors are shaped and molded by the effects that they have on their environments, you will be ready to appreciate the greater complexity of everyday life. You will be required to study examples in class where selection produces undesirable consequences (e.g., genetic mutations, cultural problems, and aberrant behaviors in children). You will come away with a greater appreciation of modern natural science, its role in understanding complex behaviors, and why it's important to study the complexity of human life from an interdisciplinary perspective. You will be therefore provided with a framework for understanding not just yourselves, but also why people do what they do, and where we go from here.

Course Details

Stanford Introductory Seminars are small, discussion-based classes. Therefore, enrollment is limited. Preference is given to rising Stanford first- and second-year students who haven't had the opportunity to take an Introductory Seminar previously. A portion of seats are open to students participating in Summer Session. Interested students may self-enroll in Axess whenever there is an open space.

PSYCH 54N is part of the Non-Standard Summer Quarter Schedule. Please refer to the Stanford Explore Courses website for more information on the course dates.  

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