Cannibals?

Right, so I’m not really the sort who scripts what I say.  Yes, if I know I am going to be asked to speak or do an interview I do think about the issues I’d like to mention and I do a rough mental pre-organization; but then when the time comes I just talk.  Nobody, myself included, is really sure of what I will say.  I like to tell myself that this keeps things fresh and spontaneous feeling rather than over-rehearsed.  I also tell myself that if I had more time I would prepare more, I’m just too busy for that.  The truth is, it’s become a habit, and one that seems to work more often than not, with me only occasionally saying something I regret.  So I just trust it and go.

That was my mindset when I sat down to tape the “trailer” for my Coursera Introductory Psychology course.  I was to press record and talk for about 2 minutes or less, letting prospective students know why this course was going to be great.  So I pressed the button and started talking.  I made the point that for many centuries our minds had been hungry for information about chemistry, biology, geography and physics, using the scientific method to separate the good ideas that seem true from those that, while still good, seem not to predict data.  And yet it was only just over a 100 years ago that the mind turned its ravenous appetite on itself … and that’s when we became cognitive cannibals … minds that feed on minds!

When I replayed it that bit definitely caught my ear.  To me it sounded appropriately provocative, an implied analogy that concisely encapsulated the scientific study of psychology.   I had my Project Manager for the course listen to it, and she liked it too.  So we went live with it … and that’s when something else happened.

I had included my twitter feed on the Coursera page (@stevejoordens) and people who were tweeting me were using #CognitiveCannibals … they were embracing it as a description of who they now were … minds about to feed on minds!  This immediately reminded me of a similar incident.  A few months prior while being interviewed on The Agenda (a show on TVO featuring the rediculously smart Steve Paikin) he asked exactly how large my UTSC Introductory Psychology class was … I replied 19o0 students … he looked aghast at such a large number but I countered by saying “Ah, but it is a warm 1900!”.  From that point on, THAT class became “The Warm 1900” … we referred to each other that way, as co-members of the Warm 1900, and you know, it felt warmer!

One of the major potential issues in any large classes is developing a so-called community of learners, and in seeing the embrace of the name “Cognitive Cannibals” I was seeing one very simple factor related to community playing out … communities need unique names to rally around.  I should have known this well from Sherief’s clever research on prejudice (i.e., The Eagles vs. The Rattlers), but I think sometimes we “educational psychologists” can overthink things.  Every town becomes a town when it adopts a name … suddenly all those individuals in the town have a common link … one degree of separation as it were.  In both case above, the classes ceased to be another instance of an Introduction to Psychology class … they became a very specific class, a very specific community of learners; the Warm 1900 followed by the Cognitive Cannibals!  So much more human that “the students of Introductory Psychology”.

OK, so I ran with this a little.  I asked if someone might create a flag.  There are now about 5 contenders, but one of these caused minor concern.  It had a Jolly Roger inspiration, featuring a skull with it’s top off and it’s brain exposed … below the skull was a crossed knife and fork.  Brilliant!   OK, it was really more of a patch that a flag but I loved it, and still do.

But here is the interesting counterpoint to all this.  By attaching my terminology to the Jolly Roger schema a slightly more sinister vibe was created.  Someone raised the point that, generally speaking, humans frown on murder and on cannibalism, and the term Cannibal kind of implies both of these things.  Did we really want to refer to ourselves as Cannibals?  This is part of teaching to 30,000 people.  Of course I did not intend to – in any way – condone murder or the eating of human flesh by other humans (or even the eating of human flesh by animals … or humans eating animal flesh even, but that’s another story!)  I meant minds consuming information about minds, hence the use of the critical word “Cognitive”.  Every analogy is only so good, and often one can often look at it in a different light and see something darker.  I understand this dark side, and yet I love the community of learners vibe I see with every tweet containing #CognitiveCannibals.  What’s a MOOCster to do?

I thought about this for a while … would I come to regret not only saying the term “Cognitive Cannibal” but then turning it into a team jersey?  Will me Dean or Provost look at me one day and say “You called your class Cannibals?  And asked them to make a flag?  And produce an Anthem (right, I forgot to mention the anthem)?  And you did this with some amount of glee?”  Should I retreat and try to come up with something safer … less provocative?  Ultimately it seemed to me that the Cannibal was already out of the barn so to speak … many more people were embracing it than we upset and it is fun when not taken too seriously.  So I came up with a different idea … I could just write a blog post explaining my original intentions, why I think this actually makes for a better learning experience, and leave it there.  Now I want to get those flag/badges made into stickers that we somehow get to all the MOOCsters!  Heck, I may need another tattoo!  Ha!

54 Replies to “Cannibals?”

  1. Hey now Prof Steve:
    Just wanted to say how much Iam enjoying your class- I have a daughter in college and I figured it was time to have my own synapses re-fired!

    Your enthusiasm for the subject matter is clearly projected in your video lectures and I am really enjoying learning- somehow, when I was in University, I never took “Intro To Psych” !!!!!)

    Please let us know if you can stream your band—- do you play any Rush 🙂 ?

    also- I would be curious as to any metrics as to how many of the 50,000 plus registered students are actually “taking” the class every week.

    1. As of now … 66,000 registered, about 41,000 are listed as “active” (which I think means they clicked at least one video link since the course began) and about 27,000 are categorized as “active last week”. Now, I’m not sure exactly what this last category means as it seems to grow by the day … so it could be “active since Saturday (or some week-specific day)” but it doesn’t seem to mean last week is in last Sunday to Saturday (or it shouldn’t change). That’s all I know right now … I need to learn how to drill down more.

      It seems that the streaming thing should be doable. Everyone tells me it should be easy enough to pull off, so I think it will happen. RUSH? Ha! Ummm, not yet, though I wish. I’ve only been playing for about 8 years, and the first 2 were twinkle twinkle little star. So nothing too fancy yet. We’ll be doing mostly some 60s and 70s rock … Beatles, Kinks, maybe some Neil Young … that sort of stuff. Listen to my lead in of Brown Eyed Girl and you’ll get a sense of where my skills are right now … ha!

      Great to have you in the course Rich, and I wish your daughter great success in college.

  2. Can you please make the side Dish Videos printable like the other Lectures. Please email me to discuss more in detail about this if needed. thanks

    Amy Gaines

    1. You mean the powerpoints I assume … I’ll ask Hanan how the works and try to do it that way from now on. Thanks.

  3. hi, steve! thank you for pointing the way to this blog; it’s simply amazing that you find the time to write a blog on top of all the other big things you do…

    i love your relaxed style of speaking on the video lectures; it’s very endearing, and makes for easy listening. i’d guessed that you don’t script your lectures, and it’s nice to have that confirmed here. so your style comes across as conversational, and i feel i’m sitting with you and learning from all the fascinating stuff you’re showing me. you’re certainly one who delves into opportunities and doesn’t shirk them; this i made out from your experimenting with doing things differently, and bringing in special ‘treats’ for us, like the afterimage in week 3. you enjoy doing stuff that’ll surprise and refresh.
    i’m glad to be speaking personally with you here. you come across as very human, with your little comments about your joy in riding your mobike and now we know you’re playing in a band. i’d love to watch that! i can understand how you must feel about your father. i feel that strong connection with my grandmother, who is no more, but always is present with me. i think he loved you, and knew you’d do big, wonderful things. i love my son–he’s 25–and know he’ll do big, wonderful things.

    i’m one of those who’s tight for time, but tries to do it all. loving your course. oh, yes…i’ve been a staunch vegetarian all my life, and feel good that you are, too. it’s important. tell me, were you always vegetarian? what’s your story?

    gratefully, anjali

    1. I certainly was NOT always a vegetarian … in fact, it’s more like 3 or 4 years of being a complete vegetarian. It’s a long story but the short version would go like this.

      In class I like to get students to think critically, and to be willing to argue things that go against the norm, and I say this often. On class I was challenged by a student who said the following “if scientists really believed in evolution theory then they should not treat animals any differently than humans in research settings since there is no fundamental difference between the two according to evolution theory … but they do treat them differently, doing research on animals they would consider unethical if performed on humans … so clearly scienitists don’t believe in evolution theory”. Wow. I honestly had to tell this student that he voiced a very interesting argument there and I’d have to think about it. I did … deeply. Either he was right or scientists hadn’t really thought about the implications of their ethical standards. Those thoughts lead to a paper I published … here is a draft version http://psych.utoronto.ca/users/psy3001/files/Joordens.pdf

      So then I started giving talks challenging our treatment of animals in research settings, and people would come up to me after and say “well you must be a vegetarian then right?”. And I say, no. And they’d be all confused “how can you be upset about the way we treat animals in research labs and NOT be upset about how we treat them in the food industry?” The fact is that like many people, despite the fact that I had heard things about the food industry that I didn’t like, I had never really looked into it very deeply … willful ignorance as I think of it now. I liked meat, ate it almost every day, did I really want to know how it came to me?

      Around that time my stepdaughter gave me a book called The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands. I love dogs, this was a book about a young philosophy prof (well, he ain’t so young now! Love ya Mark!) who decided to adopt a wolf. I loved the book on many levels, but at one point he brings up the food industry from a philosophical perspective, and he mentions a book he wrote about it called Animals Like Us. Well I read that next … then I read Eating Animals (J Foer), then I tried to find some author who would defend the food industry to hear the other side of the story and I could find none. It seemed (and still seems to me now) that there is no other side of the story. By then my rational mind was convinced that factory farms are evil and given that 98% of the meat we eat comes from them, I knew I really did not agree with eating meat.

      Now, it then took years for me to slowly eliminate first pork (come on, pigs are sooo freakin cute! And smart!), then beef, then chicken (birds are smarter than you think … and they mate for life … capable of love?) … and after an even longer time … fish. And now I would say I am pretty much vegan. Sometimes I have cheese when I eat out, or cream in my coffee … and I know those days are numbered too. The last leg of the journey.

      It’s not an easy journey. Habits and culture are powerful forces, and for those surrounded by meat eaters in their close social circle, it’s even harder … one feels like an odd ball for giving a damn about the suffering of animals … or of even daring to cast that shadow over the happy ignorance of others. My wife and I took this journey together, and that was a huge help, yet still it was awkward. It makes for a lot of social discomfort and biting of one’s tongue … but I firmly believe that if others would also read and think, they’d end up in the same place. So I try not to push vegetarianism too hard … I try to push thought … that’s all I ask of anybody. Just read about the industry and come to your own position … it you can defend it and feel good about your stance … then cool.

      I’ve also come to believe in the following notion. One can be one place cognitively, and another place behaviorally … behavior can lag behind cognition and that should be acceptable. So for a long time I was a vegetarian wanna be … I knew that cognitively that was who I wanted to be … but it took me a while to change habits, find substitutes, find out about B12 supplements, prepare friends and family, etc … so my behavior took literally years to get to where my mind was. Now I am cognitive vegan … and my behavior is getting there. I sincerely believe that many people don’t want to look into or think about the food industry because they think that if they don’t like what they find out, then they must change overnight … give up meat just like that. 13 year old girls do that, but 30 year olds (especially men) do not, and that should be OK … one should be able to say “I want to be X, and I’m working my way to it” and the rest of us should be cool with that.

      OK, shutting up! Unless you really want more … then check out http://www.academicmatters.ca/2010/10/you-can-lead-students-to-knowledge-but-how-do-you-make-them-think/

      1. Dear Prof Steve
        I would like to get your permission to share your article related to ethical standards with my friends (not part of this course). I’m seldom consuming meat but this is because I think meat is not good for my health and I love animals (ok, cats, dogs, dolphins and even cows, not so much pigs &birds) but I never consider this from the ethical angle. Your article made me think about it and realize that I thought only to myself when I’ve decided to eat less meat and not at all to the other parties involved. Now, maybe my super-ego will use the “ethical” reason to cover my selfishness but, as you said (in the Academic Matters article), after reading the article you have two choices: “One is to simply assume that I have somehow tricked you, that there must be a good reason to eat meat given that so many people do it, and then think about this no more. That is, accept indoctrination over rationality. The other choice is to think about meat eating, read about it, and learn more. Resist the defence, open your mind to the arguments, and see where they lead you…” So, I want to share with my friends (one of them even vegetarian for more than 16 years).

        1. Of course! Share at will whatever you wish to share! Most everyone who writes hopes others will read and think along with them. SO thank you for thinking and for sharing … and remember, it’s one thing to ultimately agree that eating meat is something you’d rather not do, and something else to get to that point. Even if you just start cutting back, or cutting out certain kinds of meat and replacing them with veggie options … that’s a great start. Think of it more as a process that a sudden life-style change … unless you really feel you can pull off the life-style change of course.

          Oh, one other thing. If you do end up dramatically reducing your meat intake, then at some point you should get a blood test to check your levels of B12. B12 is the only thing we get easily from meat sources, but not so easily from other sources. I, for example, need to take a supplement twice a day or else I’d become anemic. But aside from that, proteins and everything else can be gotten quite easily from other foods … though it may take you a while to learn which other foods you should be getting more of (nuts, legumes, and many other things) and to work them into your diet.

      2. Hello Professor,
        I’d like to ask for your permission to take you out of the Hall of Echoes (a place in the world, where other people also voice the same thing as you) here. I personally have no issues with people eating veg., I just wanted to point out a few things about the arguments you have given for this. And I am really focusing on the part of eating Non-Veg. here and not on the other aspect; I might come back to that later on.
        Let me list out a few axioms I shall be using for my arguments here, and I believe they qualify to be called as axioms by themselves and would not require further explanations:
        1. To Live, all animals, including humans, need to eat.
        2. Rules, should be simple, fair and applicable to everyone.
        Let me start my argument by contradicting the first fact that led you to this path: “there is no fundamental difference between the two (animals and humans) according to evolution theory … (implied -> so our behavior towards them should be no different from our behavior towards another human)”. Lets say, I agree to this fact. So, now I’d argue that: Trees also came to existence due to evolution. At one point of time there were no life in earth, and then all life came to existence from the same source, and given that Trees historically came before animals, and even today, to sustain the life as we know it in earth, Tress take the most vital role. Your parents have given birth to you, but without the precious oxygen from trees, you would not have lived for a single second. Now only the most illogical person with no sense of consequences would go to destroy things that are sustaining him. So by all forms of sensible logic, we should not eat tress as well. That leaves you with the sole choice of having 100% synthetic food for the rest of your life, for you can’t violate axiom 1. Well, you can still eat fruits, but you need to make sure you plant the seeds after eating them.
        Lets come to the point you made about having double-standard ethics. First let us discuss the principles that lead us to say if something is ethical. From my limited knowledge, I have come to the conclusion that there are two basic ideas that play roles here: 1. The Utilitarian Concept, 2. The Care Principle. I’d suggest two articles that discuss these philosophies, in case you are interested: ‘Utilitarianism’ by John Stuart Mill and ‘Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education’ by Nel Noddings. I find all the moral answers that are given are answered from a mixture of these two concepts and the concept of “Fairness”, to which I’ll jump later in the argument. So, now say I agree that the ethics we have needs to be changed and together we come up with some unified code of conduct towards everyone. Now by axiom 2, it should apply on animals as well, i.e. they should also behave ethically with us. Now if you come across a hungry Tiger in your way back home, I doubt pleading about ethics will save you! So then we need to agree that we are bound to behave “ethically” towards animals, but they are not bound by the same rule. But that is not Fair! This idea will be supported by the “Care Principle” but not by the other two aspects. Then again, “Care Principle” inherently assumes superiority among the people concerned and says the superior people need to take care of the inferior people, by sacrificing some of their amenities. But I already agreed with you that there is no difference between animals and humans, so I can’t possibly assume superiority. So we need to discard either of the ideas. So let me discard the first assumption and apply Care Principle to the first aspect to still keep it valid.
        So now we have reached at a point where I’d assume it’d be safe to say we are superior to the animals at least in some aspect, so we need to take care of them. Would you be kind enough to let me know if I am right upto this point and point out any objections that you might have towards any of my arguments? Then I’ll proceed with the next level of arguments tomorrow. I’ll try my best to fulfill the lack of rational arguments on this side of the table :). Thank You.

        P.S. there is this wonderful book on Ethics that discusses these two and many other ideas: “Ethics: The Essential Writings” edited by Gordon Marino. you can check that out if you are interested in Ethics 🙂

        1. First off, thanks for providing a different perspective on what is a complex issue. The best friend one can often has is an honest critic, they provide a real chance to work through ideas in a deep way. I’m wondering if I should have another blog post (or video series) where I lay out my ideas more clearly, but for now let me try responding to some of your points.

          OK, just read through your post Tapajit and you have a lot of intermingled and interesting ideas going on there. I think we might have the basis for a really great deep conversation on this important topic, but I now think this conversation should not be buried in this blog … and dang it I have other things I need to be doing right now and I know how much I want to say!! So how about we do the following … I’ll start a new blog post just on this issue, one where I lay out my current position (always subject to change by strong arguments and data), then try to answer your points … then you and others chime in, and we just see where it all goes.

          I hope that’s cool. I’m chomping at the bit to spend the next few hours on this, but the day won’t allow … in fact it could be the weekend before I have the time to do the blog post. But it will appear shortly and we’ll have fun from there, OK?

          And thanks again!
          Steve

        2. Oh, one more quick point though, which I may echo again in the main blog post, as I sorted through all this in my head I had to come to some sort of “moral compass” … something that I could feel comfortable as defining right from wrong. Contrary to what some in the course seem to believe, I do not identify with any organized religion, and I kneel mostly to the alter of critical thought … that is, I like to come to what I see as rationale positions. So here is what I came up with as a starting point …

          If I commit an action that intentionally and unnecessarily causes pain and suffering to an entity, that is bad.

          Simple sentence but there is a lot in it, some of which is relevant to your points.

          Plants? I remain unconvinced they feel pain and suffering, and one cannot cause pain and suffering to something that cannot experience it.

          Hungry tigers? If they need to each me to survive, or vice versa, either of us has the right to eat the other. Now if a Tiger goes mad and is just killing to kill, then it is being bad and I am OK with it being put down. But otherwise there is a critical imbalance … I do not need to kill other animals to live, it does … the necessary part.

          And then there is that “intentional” word. This is in acknowledgement that we cannot possibly know every consequence of every action we emit, and sometimes we do commit actions that ultimately cause pain and suffering. I understand that … although I also often think that this is the word many consumers of factory farmed meat are essentially hiding behind. If I never take the time to learn how the food gets to me then I remain ignorant of the pain and suffering I am supporting, and hence my actions are not bad.

          One last subtlety. Although I myself eat no meat, and very little dairy, I don’t really think “eating meat” is the primary issue here. For me, the great evil (perhaps the greatest evil humans continue to perform on such a wide scale) is factory farming. For an animal in a factory farm the best day of its life is the day of its death. One can make some contracturian arguments for the raising of animals for livestock, or for hunting or fishing of wild game … but it’s REALLY hard to mount any sort of rational defense for factory farms. Their only goal is to minimize the price of meat, and their only tool for doing that is to maximizing the suffering of animals. We should not allow it … we should all be very angry about it … whoops, my emotional side is showing through! 🙂

          1. I have some counter arguments for your primary axiom, but I’ll hold off till we get this thing in a new mount point 🙂

      3. dear steve,

        only came in today and read what you’ve written in response to my query about your vegetarianism. thank you so much for writing about it. i respect you tremendously for listening to your students and taking the trouble to deeply mull over bothersome issues and our impact on other creatures.

        however, i write today for help. i am unable to access our intro to psychology class, all of a sudden. every time i hit the usual link that takes me there, it now takes me to a list of the coursera courses i have subscribed to, and gets stuck there. hitting ‘Go to class’ does not help at all. there seems to be no way at all for me to access the class and all the materialo there. as i am trying to revise for the mTuner test, i really need to get in. could you do something to help?

        sincerely, anjali

  4. “You called your class Cannibals? And asked them to make a flag? And produce an Anthem (right, I forgot to mention the anthem)?”

    You know, when you say it like that, it starts sounding like the premise of the movie Die Welle / The Wave. You’re not running some kind of elaborate psych experiment on us, are you? 😉

    1. Hmmm, I’m a little movie and TV challenged … maybe I spend too much time working . I’ll check that one out when I get the chance.

      But no, I didn’t get into the ethics of psychology experiments but one rule is that a psychologist cannot perform an experiment on anyone who is not told they are in an experiment. So no, not in the sense you mean. But yes, I am trying to do things that I hope will create a great learning context, and I am watching to see how many of you guys stick with the course … so in that sense, sure!

      1. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Ron Jones’ social experiment The Third Wave? That’s what the movie is based on. I’m very bad at writing summaries without giving anything away, but I think you might enjoy the movie. The more recent version is in German, but there’s a TV movie in English too, if you prefer. If you ever get a chance to watch it, my comment will make a bit more sense.

      2. Hello Professor,
        I was wondering about the rule you mentioned, is it a thumb rule kind of rule, or like some non-written guideline everyone follows, or more of a formal rule. I’m asking because I do experiments on people (in a very very small level though) every now and then and try to predict their behavior on specific inputs, and try to come up with some logic for that particular behavior. I never tell them about it, just feeding my mind, if you know what I mean 😛
        Anyway, I was wondering why it is wrong, because as you know, the behavior of a person changes when you tell them about it, that’s why wildlife photographers also try to capture photos of animals when they are unaware. I want the most accurate data I can get for my experiments, and do not see any reason of not doing whatever I can to make sure it is that way.

        1. If one is looking to government funding sources for assistance with research, then their work must conform to some formal set of ethical guidelines. In Canada for example there are three agencies that channel taxpayer money to research; NSERC, SSHRC, and CIHR. Together they have come up with what is called the Tri-Council Rules of Ethics. These are the funds that professors apply for to support their work, and before any funds are released every investigator must submit an ethics form for every study … and yes the two requirements for human research is consent, and an ability of a participant to withdraw from the study at any time.

          Now, you might see practical joke shows on TV where they are “experimenting” with people without the previous consent of those people … those shows are not publicly funded. If one is not publicly funded, then there is no real mechanism for enforcing ethical conduct aside from the law of the land … as long as you don’t break laws, then technically you can do what you wish. Now, you might annoy people!

  5. I suppose that’s just a ‘side effect’ of so many people interacting…someone will find fault with just about anything. I agree, though- the majority seems to be in favor of it. I love all of the cannibal pride! 🙂

    1. Yeah, and we all have little pet peeves … things that really annoy us even though they don’t annoy most people. With 30,000 plus people, someone is bound to be bothered by the “fun” use of a term that has darker connotations. That’s reasonable enough … that’s why I want to be clear that I agree with them on some level and want to be clear about what I do and do not mean to imply by the term.

  6. I confess that I was surprised to be called canibal in the email we’ve received from you. I’m part of the Cousera’s “Cannibals” and now I undersdant why I was called like that….hahaha. Please, visit my blog…I write poetry. Thanks. See you. 🙂

    1. Well, I’ve been reading a lot about the subject that we are studying in this course (and others I’m making) and I can say that this morning, while walking on the street, I looked at people differently. I almost could “see” their brains brighting with synapses and I tried to “guess” what they were thinking about looking at their faces(expressions)… crazy thing.

      1. Dear Professor, I did not mention my blog with the intent to advertise, ok? I love writing, but I am not a poet. I’m falling in love with Psychology, although I am a Mathematician. I want to thank you for your spontaneity. Thank you. (sorry if I make some English mistake) 😉

        1. Advertising poetry? I think we could all use more of that! You know, there is a subfield of Psychology called Mathematical Psychology … one can do both! Wow, math and poetry, interesting left brain / right brain co-ordination you have going there!

          Oh, and to all of you for whom English is a second language. I assure you, you all speak and write English far better than I speak or write any language other than English. You should feel very proud of your ability to speak additional languages. No need whatsoever to apologize.

          1. Our brain, our passion (a tribute)

            When one falls in love he/she wants to meet increasingly the loved person, the loved issue, the loved place
            There is something extraordinary that is in us and that confuses us: our brain
            Perhaps, because it is so “changeable”, it is so difficult to be understood
            Because of its neurogenesis and its plasticity it can even increase in size!
            But synapses are responsible for what we think and what we are
            And think that they are exchanging ions, potassium, sodium!
            Billion neurons, quadrillion connections
            Nerve signals, our being
            Our thinking, our being and decide
            How to understand something that, as we know it is modified to be exactly known a little more?
            It’s almost like an infinite mathematical series whose pattern can even be manipulated, but has no known value at the end of everything
            And probably never will
            Because the mystery that surrounds infinity is untouchable
            Which appears gradually, in small or large portions of finite things and understandable to us
            Perhaps what causes us more alluring is the fact that even being ourselves, our brain does not let himself be fully known
            We have not met ourselves in full!
            So, we have no boundaries and our passion for this “giant” in us has no end.
            Fernanda Fer Perl (www.trilhadapoesia.blogspot.com)

            obs.: a tribute to Professor Steve Joordens and team and Idan Segev and team and my colleagues who love the brain!

          2. Thank you for your words. Yes, I know there is a subfield of Psychology called Mathematical Psychology, but here we don’t have it. It’s really a shame. So, I look for both and “make things”(come to conclusions) by myself, you know? 🙂

      2. Dear Professor, I’m writing some poetry with the topics we are studying in Coursera(even if it is implicit). The last one I named “Between (im)balance and elegance” and I talk about our Senses, specially “propioception”, that I didn’t know before the Course. If you can, read it, please? Thank you. 😉

  7. Thank you for the opportunity to learn a little about psychology and for the soul & enthusiasm that you are putting in making this catchy and fun :):). Really enjoying 🙂
    And love to be a cognitive cannibal :). I know, I’m using to many smiles… :):)

  8. Hi Dr. Joordens (or Dr. J, as I call you, after the basketball player),

    I’m a proud Cannibal – erm, COGNITIVE Cannibal. Just thought I’d drop you a note to say thanks for offering the class. I’m a high school sophomore aged 16 and find it supremely interesting as I would like to become a psychologist.

    I agree with your reasoning on creating a community name. I have been in 3 other MOOCs and have found yours to be the most entertainingly informative yet. The rapport and camaraderie I’ve found in the forums is terrific. As I saw someone comment, “We’re all in this together!”

    Meggie

    P.S. Are you a Toronto Blue Jays fan? Perhaps you’d like my columns on MLB.com – I’m their Youth Correspondent. I hope this MOOC will help me gain even more insight into the minds of the players I interview.

    1. Great to have you in the course Meggie, and really glad you’re enjoying it!

      Am I a Blue Jays fan? I am now … because they’re finally playing well again! It’s been a hard couple of decades to be a fan of Toronto sports … baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer. Every year we are given hope and every year it’s not just that we don’t win, we suck! I know, a “real” fan sticks with a team when they suck. Well, I have lots of things I like to do and if my teams suck I find something else to do. Sorry, just venting a little … ha!

      Of all sports, it was the Blue Jays that I was most into as a boy and young man. At one point I would predict every pitch, and the outcome that would come from it … and I used to get genuinely angry when they lost or did something I thought was stupid. So yeah, I was in deep for a while. But then life did get busy and sports became more of a form of light entertainment.

      Now that the Jays are playing well though I will pay more attention and I’ll certainly check out your reports on MLB.com. You know, as a young psych student I once sent a letter to the Jays telling them how they should deal with batting slumps … they never wrote back! 🙂

    1. Yeah, I have to approve all these things before they show … which is a good thing because it’s amazing how much spam is being filtered!

  9. I’m really enjoying the course… Thank you…. last week, as I was walking to work, my mind was going nuts, or I was…. I was walking and thinking about what part of my brain was doing what, as I smelled the nice Lilacs, went up some stairs, without looking and knowing how high to take the step, the wind, omg! everything…. It was really funny how I felt like I was discovering a new way of looking at things… really cool!

    1. I love that! You’re becoming a full out psych nerd Patricia … and that’s a good thing! Makes you appreciate the amazing orchestra underlying virtually everything you do.

  10. Hi, I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your coarse, it’s such a pleasure to watch your videos, you make learning fun. I hope you will continue to make more coarse’s after this one has finished. I have always wanted to study psychology but felt I was not smart enough(left school early to work), so I can’t tell you how much this coarse means to me, I only wished I could attend your lectures in person.
    I was a vegetarian when I was 13 but found it very hard to fit in with family, friends etc. I really would like to go back to being vegetarian as I have a real empathy for the way animals are treated and I am for ever feeling guilty for eating animals. So I am slowly introducing vegetarian recipes with my family but its difficult to break the habits of a life time, I think I take a leaf out of your book , sounds like a good way to change.
    Thank you so much for being a great teacher.

    1. Yeah exactly, habits are very powerful, especially when they are constantly triggered by the people or contexts that surround you. Any change of life-style should be done slowly, but with constant forward motion. Even adding exercise for example. People tend to jump into 3 days a week in the gym when they know they just don’t have the time or energy to sustain that long term … so they do it a while, then bail and feel bad. So much better to add a morning walk that you can fit into your routine without much disruption … and then keep it up. So with the meat eating, yeah, find a meal or two that are meatless but that you like … and try to have them each (or various others) once a week … stick with it and feel good that you’re moving the right direction (assuming you feel that is the right direction of course … “right” is a charged word). As you develop the new habits the old ones are easier to put behind you.

    1. Mr. Hyde may make an appearance in the upcoming gig, but likely a one song appearance. Perhaps appropriately, his neck is a little bent and messing with truss rods still scare me! Though I might anyway. Cool tune … good theme song for the course!

  11. I can’t believe I haven’t commented here yet. I’ve been following, but… Three classes, writing a novel, being a full time mom… I’m afraid that things get lost in the mix! (Plus, I’m more active on facebook anyway)

    Anyhoo, I’m off to watch some lectures, but I wanted to see the latest post. Thank you for all you’re doing here!

    1. Writing a novel … excellent! That’s on my list too. Hey, we Cannibals have hungry minds which tends to correlate with busy lives. I understand completely!

  12. Hi Steve,

    I must say you are an amazing teacher and i am learning a lot!
    I am not following the course as i would yet, because this is too much of information “on line” but i think i will be up date one of these days! I am enjoying the videos too!
    Thanks for your availability on giving us this course and your fresh language!
    And as you say, “Cool”!

  13. Hello,Professor and thank you for this awesome experience!Chewing is kind of a habbit of mine-both good and bad-and so, out of the blue the other day, Summer Cannibals by Patti Smith popped to mind.I don’t know how you’re doing on the anthem thing but still, I think you’ll enjoy playing it out loud!Take care!

  14. Hi Prof! Just wanted to say thank you for all your work on the course, I am absolutely loving it. I took Intro to Psych in first year of Uni (alongside Sociology, English Lit and Philosophy) and adored it – 7 years later I still have my course text, which I’m revisiting as a supplement to your lectures. So what I’m getting from your course is largely a refresher, but man is it one heck of an awesome refresher. Where were you when I was doing Psych in college?! I might have kept it on through my final years!

    Anyway, I have one question that’s somewhat unrelated to the course, but you piqued my interest with that last sentence – ‘another tattoo’? I’m a fellow appreciator of ink, so I’m curious if you’ll tell about the tattoo/s you already have?!

    Thanks again for the course, it really is an absolute joy.

    1. Ah, excellent! You’ve given me a chance to talk about my Dad on a day when that is appropriate. As I likely have mentioned, Dad passed away about 2 and a half years ago. One of his many projects was the creation of an organization to represent NATO veterans (www.natoveterans.org if anyone is interested in joining). Upon his death they created an award in his name honoring character and perseverance, an award given to air cadets. I have the honor of presenting the award each year, something I will do tonight. So Dad is on my mind … he’s never far from it.

      OK, so as implied by the above, Dad was a military guy, a civil engineer in the army. Like most military guys he has tattoos … LOTS of tattoos … some he even did himself (yikes!). So at one point after I was hired at the University of Toronto we’re talking on the phone and the issue of tattoos came up. Dad said something like “you probably think I’m stupid for getting all these tattoos” … and he genuinely sounded … embarrassed? I try hard to just accept people for who they are, I never had a problem with Dad having tattoos, and actually I think some tattoos are kind of cool … and I told him so. At that point I did not have any, but I suggested may when I visit next we should get some kind of father/son tattoo … something we both had. He loved the idea … but Mom did not! I think her words were something like “If you’re father gets another tattoo I am leaving!”. Right … plan B!

      Plan B was for me to get a tattoo that Dad already had. Well, Dad’s biggest tattoo was our family crest (which I think he created himself … he was like that!). His took up his whole chest and abdomen. I liked the tattoo, it seemed appropriate for a father/son one, but I wasn’t quite ready to go THAT far. So I now have a much smaller version of that tattoo on my left shoulder. While we were at it, my wife and I also each got a small red maple leaf (Canada’s symbol … we’re proud Canadians) on our left chest. So that’s it for me now, two relatively small tattoos, a family crest and a maple leaf.

      Now, since I have been learning guitar I have fantasized about taking it further. Specifically, I like that whole sleeve look, and I have imagined having a “Sleeve of Souls” on my right arm … essentially a mosaic depiction of every animal that we could fit from shoulder to wrist … every “soul” (which I use in a semi-non-religious way) that deserves respect. Will that ever happen? Likely not … but I like the idea of it a lot! 🙂

      1. Your dad sounds like a great guy! I’m sure it meant the world to him that you got that tattoo, it sounds awesome. I think tattoos make great mementos, and I love hearing about ones that genuinely mean something to their owners rather than just being picked off a flash card in a shop!

        The Maple leaf one sounds cool too – I’m a proud Irish girl, and I’d never thought of getting a tattoo to represent that but maybe I will someday! Never been to Canada, though I’m aiming to visit Toronto in October if I can afford it. It just so happens that’s where a (Supernatural – tv show!) convention is on, but I’ve always wanted to visit Canada regardless; I get the impression it’s a heck of a place! (I hear there’s a place called Ireland Park and a famine memorial foundation in Toronto… very cool stuff.)

        As for the sleeve… well…. you only live once (I believe, anyway!) so if you like the idea for long enough you should totally go for it some day!

        Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. Dear DR. Steve,
    I was trying to get your email address, as I have been sick and in the hospital. I couldn’t finish the course, will take it again when well. Please excuse me from the class.
    As far as I got it was a very interesting class, I loved it. You are a fantastic instructor and I wish you could have taught this class when I was in college, but I don’t think you were born you as I am almost 71. Have a great summer!
    Thanks,
    Dianne Horn
    Rutheron, NM, USA. Rutheron55@yahoo.com

    1. Hi Diane. Get well soon! The course will be up for 2 weeks after the official end date. It may be repeated later, I’m not sure.

  16. Hi
    I’m a mechanical engineering student in iran and trying your “Psych.Intro” class(Because I’ve heard about psychology before and I thaught thats what I need to know about! ). Looks interesting for me , both the course itself and your teaching !
    Unfortunately I’m at the middle of my university exams and I’m simultaneously trying hardly to participate in your class .
    I want to tell that I appreciate the time you spend for us !

    1. Keep in mind that we are being pretty flexible with due dates and the like … worry about doing well on your exams and do my course when you can.

  17. Dear professor Joordens,
    First of I really appreciate the material you have chosen for the course and the way you teach them. Psychology has always been my passion and I’m very happy to follow your course.
    Secondly, I’m university student and now I’m very busy with my exams so I was so nervous for not being able to take my midterm for your course but when I heard the mTuner is open until the end of the course I felt relief. Thank you for being so understanding and flexible regarding our activities.

    Third, last term in the university, we covered some concepts in cross-cultural psychology and I found them very intriguing , I think may be for week 8, it’s not a bad idea to have some topics like perception which we have covered on week 3 from different point of view and this time we take the role of culture into account.
    Thank you for your time,
    Mitra

    1. So maybe post a thread in the Week 8 Discussion Forum suggesting a lecture on Cross Cultural Psychology. If it gets enough votes I am certainly willing!

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