A Science Odyssey Title
Human Behavior Title
table version

Nothing yet has shaken human beings' conviction that we are special. Not the knowledge that the universe is 15 billion years old, nor that it holds 100 billion galaxies. Not the discovery that we evolved from other primates, nor that our DNA differs from some modern apes' by less than 2 percent. Yet throughout the century, scientists have asked: How do we know what we know? How do we become who we are? Can we solve the mystery of human behavior and harness the forces that govern it? Of all things in the universe, we may be the hardest to understand.

Program Contents

It's all in the genes. Or is it . . . ? "In Search of Ourselves" traces the pendulum swing of psychological theory from nature to nurture and back again. Case studies, classic experiments, and research on the brain blaze this trail of discovery, revealing what we have learned about ourselves and what still remains a riddle. We also see the dark side of our faith in the perfectibility of human nature, as scientific ideas are twisted to fit political agendas. "In Search of Ourselves" is a story of the lessons learned, as well as the ways in which we have learned them. As the century ends, the workings of our minds remain an irresistible frontier.

Hour 1 subtitle


Why do we think, act, and
feel the way we do?

Societal and medical explanations
  • A grab-bag of symptoms
  • A woman's disease?
  • J. M. Charcot blames poor heredity
  • Neurologist Sigmund Freud questions Charcot
  • Freud's new theory of mind
  • Psychoanalysis gains critics and followers
Horrors of War
War trauma puts new theory to the test
  • W.W.I. brings shell shock, male hysteria
  • Physicians find no causes for symptoms
  • Talking cure heals many soldiers
Eugenics vs. Behaviorism
War of ideas
  • Army intelligence testing
  • Is there a gene for intelligence? Poverty?
  • John Watson introduces behaviorism
  • Scientific child rearing
  • Behaviorism fits the American Dream
Theories in Practice
The downsides
  • Eugenicists fear immigrants' genes
  • Laws and customs promote "good" heredity
  • Genetic research shows eugenics' flaws
  • Watson and advertising -- behaviorism at work
  • Hitler uses behaviorism to promote eugenics

Hour 2 subtitle

Environment theory leads postwar era

Bringing Science Home
Postwar optimism
  • B.F. Skinner -- operant conditioning
  • Behaviorism in education
  • Benjamin Spock's baby book
  • Harry Harlow -- scientific study of love
How powerful is it?
  • Frieda Fromm Reichmann's technique
  • Case study -- Joanne Greenberg
Pills for the Mind
An empirical advancement
  • Standard treatment of psychotics
  • Chlorpromazine's accidental discovery
  • Successful chemical therapy
Understanding the Brain
Why do medications work?
  • Brain chemicals
  • Neurotransmitters' link to behavior
  • A biological breakthrough
A New Synthesis
Environment and biology interact
  • Genealogy and genetics
  • Colombian family study
  • Search for early Alzheimer's gene
  • Genes, brain, and environment shape human behavior

Activities subtitle

Testing, Testing
Conditioning Consumers
Brave Old World
In-Depth Investigation: Memory Lane

Appendix: Sample Army Intelligence Test, 1917

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