How the Mind Works: 10 Fascinating TED Talks

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How memory works, what visual illusions reveal, the price of happiness, the power of introverts and more…

1. Peter Doolittle: How “working memory” works

“Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it.”

In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance — and limitations — of your “working memory,” that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what’s happening right now.”

2. Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?

“What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.”

3. Michael Shermer: Why people believe weird things

“Why do people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”?

Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer shows how we convince ourselves to believe — and overlook the facts.”

4. Al Seckel: Visual illusions that show how we (mis)think

“Al Seckel, a cognitive neuroscientist, explores the perceptual illusions that fool our brains. Loads of eye tricks help him prove that not only are we easily fooled, we kind of like it.”

5. Barry Schwartz: Our loss of wisdom

“Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for “practical wisdom” as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.”

6. Benjamin Wallace: The price of happiness

“Can happiness be bought? To find out, author Benjamin Wallace sampled the world’s most expensive products, including a bottle of 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc, 8 ounces of Kobe beef and the fabled (notorious) Kopi Luwak coffee. His critique may surprise you.”

7. Susan Cain: The power of introverts

“In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.”

8. Daniel Wolpert: The real reason for brains

“Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement. In this entertaining, data-rich talk he gives us a glimpse into how the brain creates the grace and agility of human motion.”

9. Charles Limb: Your brain on improv

“Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds.”

10. Helen Fisher: The brain in love

“Why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped.”

 

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 25 April 2014

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