best ted talks on psychology

Best TED talks on psychology

Recently, I’ve come across a few useful and captivating talks. Many of these aren’t classed as psychology, but I am using a broad definition.

Generally, I am not a massive fan of TED/TEDx talks. There are certainly many that are superb, but many desperately oversimplify the problems they discuss in order to reach a wider audience – defeating the purpose of the TED project. Their so called new ideas are generally not new at all. Here are my highlights:

  1. 10 myths about psychology: debunked | Ben Ambridge

In short, he talks about a number of popular misunderstood statistics and experiments. Interestingly, he talks about how men and women’s psychological differences are grossly overblown.

How did it come to be? Well, it sells. Cosmopolitan & co. made a business out of explaining to women that men are a different species – and I am sure, there are equivalent resources for men. I often wondered about this before I heard this talk. Ambridge doesn’t really go into the specifics of the differences except where there is hard data to show that the differences are marginal.

My own hypothesis here is that emotionally men and women are much more similar than they are different – certainly more similar than pop culture has us believe.

We have these memes, a complex Marge and primitive Homer, an overthinking ruminating woman and a direct man. Not so, I believe.

emotional differences between men and women are exaggerated
This couldn’t be further from the truth as a generalisation

He also talks about how it is impossible to spot a liar. I think that with the popularisation of the concept of emotional intelligence, those who don’t think that they have a lot of it, think that there are those who can see right through other people. My own impression is that some people are better than others, but nobody gets it right consistently. I have seen people get it so unbelievably right, I began to think of them as having genius-level EQ, if there is such a thing. Observing these people more closely, I have seen them make terrible faux pas in social settings that really weren’t consistent with exceptionally high EQ. My guess is that a lot in EQ, or at least being able to effectively apply it, boils down to how much attention one are paying to the people around them.

2. The great porn experiment | Gary Wilson | TEDxGlasgow

Phenomenal talk explaining evolution and addiction in a novel way without a social agenda making for a blissful 16 minutes.

The concepts of brain plasticity, reward pathways and misdiagnosed psychiatric problems beautifully explained.

3. Your body language shapes who you are | Amy Cuddy

One of the top TED talks of all time. Cuddy has popularised the concept of power poses. Her main message is that body language isn’t a one way street from the brain to the body. Instead, the body signals things to the brain – and, it can be gamed to our advantage.

4. The art of misdirection | Apollo Robbins

This is a practical demonstration of what I call cognitive curiosities relating to attention. This eerily charming individual (you will know what I mean by the end of the talk) doesn’t go into any of the fancy science – he just shows how attention works. It made me feel both entertained and vulnerable.

I would be happy to expand this list, so your suggestions are welcome. If you are new to cognitive curiosities, this is a good (and hilarious – if you watch till the end) starting point: Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

You may also like:

Our brains are story-telling machines

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48 thoughts on “Best TED talks on psychology”

  1. Agreed on TED talks, in general -some are brilliant, while others are, as you say, perhaps too generalized. Admittedly there are all sorts of men, but there are actual differences in the male vs.female brain that make them wired differently. One article that might be of interest:

    Having counseled people professionally for over 30 years of my life, I can attest to the fact that men and women process emotions quite differently. But that’s only my experience.

    Aloha, Martina!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – that’s an interesting article. There are massive differences, of course, physiologically etc. However, at least now, in my late 20s, I am under the impression that I’ve been sold a concept of men as having *simpler emotions – *not sure if that’s the right word. The article talks about basic science, my question is – what does it actually look like in practice. As a professional, you would probably have a few interesting insights? Thanks again Bela!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do think men’s emotions are ‘simpler,’ yes. I don’t mean to be contentious. At your age, I expected boyfriends and partners/husbands to meet me on level of emotional understanding that I now, at 63, realize most were simply unable to do, on some level. So many years of frustration! So when I began counseling clients in my 30’s, I learned as much from them as they did from me. I began to really appreciate that simpler version of things and began easing up on my own emotional expectations, both as a practitioner as well as a woman. Men I counseled appreciated my sense of humor most – it helped break ideas down into nonconfrontational bits that were easier to examine and digest. And yes, they did seem to take longer to shift than women. I’d say I had about half and half men/women as clients, as well.

        In the personal arena, I realized men I encountered preferred to cut through the riffraff as quickly as possible and get to the crux of the matter – something I’ve discovered many women have a harder time doing. Women tend to circular logic, and I think when infused with emotions, this can seem to go on and on for many (most?) guys. They become frustrated, because all they’d like is resolution and to move forward.

        I think we all want validation for our unique sensitivities, men included. And sometimes those sensitivities are harder to access, buried deeper, and need time to process. For those of us whose feelings are easier to access, it’s difficult not to want resolution right away, or at least to be heard and received on compassionate ground. But that’s unreasonable in many cases, and finding a compatible rhythm with another is most respectful.

        I’ve also studied the Enneagram at some length, which helped and helps me realize that there are exceptions to every rule and that some people need more emotional engagement than others. But I stand by the ‘simpler’ emotions of men, in my experience. And I truly appreciate that about them, especially these days when all I want is peace and quiet! (It’s also why I went back to school for a degree in Interior Design. Burnout can be real in any counseling profession.) Aloha.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting insights. I agree with you, just on a personal level I think overestimated the extent to which they are simpler. I always wondered about burnout in this profession. A lot of people who work in psych suffer from it even though they genuinely love their work – you seem to have too!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting. Thankyou. I will check these out. BTW – on the topic of lying, Welsh academic Dave Snowden mentions a couple of times in lectures a useful tool to determine if someone is lying: have them tell the story *backwards*. There appears to be a functional-psychological barrier in place that makes it almost impossible for us to maintain a false, fictional or explicitly deceitful narrative through recounting a backwards, time-reversed sequence of events. Or at least, it is exceedingly difficult to perform convincingly but then – most skills can be trained for given the right approach and enough time, no ? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi. Just a little addendum. I was thinking more that in a clinical setting that being able to identify fictional narratives would be of use. To be able to understand when a client is lying to you or themselves, you would need to understand how to disassemble the narrative. Perhaps this may be more for psychoanalysis, counselling or therapy. I wasn’t thinking so much of a social situation although you could technically use the method there, it would require considerably more tact. 🙂


  3. TED Talks lack interaction. It is a one step in the right direction of dissemination of information but two steps backwards in terms of self-validation and shameless plus for one’s one products and services.

    Self reflection and Aesop’s Fables can replace hours in front of the screen window shopping one-way conversations by supposed “experts.”

    You are your own guru.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I do it for me. Whoever is interested can discuss. The intention was never to peddle one’s image or brand in the effort to push product. That’s very blatant in TED Talks.

        Blogging styles differ. I’m not enterprising through it and simply sharing ideas so in that sense it is more of like an open journal to some pathways of my thinking.

        Makes sense?


  4. Men and women ARE similar. We are all humans – it is just that children are bought up according to dogmatic patterns which means that males and females tend to hide certain traits while feeling more comfortable exposing others. It’s a pity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had TED and TEDx. People are full of themselves hording and exercising their gluttonous habits of clout gathering and crowd validating. Now, they got the world to listen to whatever ideas they’ve rebranded from books that no one reads anymore in our libraries and call it their own!

      You want TED/TEDx? Get a library card. It’s more interesting.


      1. Life’s about perspective. You see tedx as a way for pretentious snobs to seek validation while I see it as a way for different people to come together and share ideas. Even if they’re ideas from books, maybe it’ll get people interested in reading books again!


      2. Or you can DIY and just talk to people you actually know in real life about these so called “deep and philosophical” ideas:

        Stop drinking the coolaide and start doing your own homework. No one is going to live for you.


      3. Because they are automatons, sheep, and tools. Sheep get slaughtered.

        Here’s the text version of my WSO post:

        “Solid post @dcrowoar ! Modern narcissism with leverage via technology and validation by other clueless automatons. Gary V’s serving up some cool-aide, who’s ready to drink first?

        As I sit here I begin to realize what TED/TEDx Talks are behind the facade…

        Purgatory!!! (Dante’s Inferno) @AndyLouis


        Some Examples:

        The weirdos and Xbox/4Chan types are in Hell.
        The ones’ who’ve made it are in Heaven and they rarely if ever show up in TED talks. Why? They are too busy enjoying life (Heaven) and don’t need to go to Purgatory to crowd-validate and atone for their Sins; they’ve got real work to do or they are chilling.
        $150K Exit Startup Demi-Gods (dogs) are the ones that need the extra “Boost” (bone) to go up to the next level of Purgatory and maybe even Heaven after they’ve atoned for their Sins. Go Fetch. @MonopolyMoney 🙂
        TED Talk is Dante’s Divine Comedy reincarnated. It’s where all the characters with the slew of the Seven Deadly Sins (Pride. Envy. Wrath, Gluttony and Lust. Sloth and Greed) and other evils congregate. All TED Talk speakers can be readily assigned any combinations of the Seven Deadly Sins and the enlightened audience can tell exactly why it is they are still on stage telling their tales of being in Purgatory. All aboard to explore the various tranches of Sinners!”

        If the library is direct contact with God and divine truth, you who look up to these demi-Gods are simply love worshiping pharisees.

        With knowledge and experience sufficient, anyone can attain wisdom. Put down the cool-aide, the party is over.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. @Martina –
        If YouTube is the new Forum, how are you going to leverage it?

        How you stand out among all the snakeoil salesman, slapstick comedy (prank/fail/etc), and whores (guys and girls who use sex appeal to gain view count)?

        What do you gain, money or otherwise, from doing this?

        Why are you even doing it?

        What is your vision and when will you get there?

        Who’s going to help you and why should they?

        Where are you going to find your audience and who might they be?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. With Martina’s Permission, I am posting some ideas for everyone to think about who needs to rely on TED Talk for information.

    Here’s a sample of my most recent work:

    What’s the Game of Life and How do you Advance?

    Friends or Acquaintances? You Decide (Basically stealing from Clooney’s Backpack pitch from 2009 movie ‘Up in the Air’)

    Perception Skewed? You bet! Because you still believe in Pharisees from TED Talk.

    What’s my Self Worth? Read on good lad, read on.

    Skip the TED Talk cool-aide. Start reading stuff by good people like Martina and, if you can withstand my dark humor, exhaustive cynicism, and exorbitant facetious attitude, read my stuff as well. These are REAL people that you can RELATE with sharing the SAME DAMN IDEAS peddled by these so called “Experts.”

    Or learn to read and get a library card.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love that TED talks oversimplify in some instances. They spark my curiosity and encourage me to seek out further information. I think I’d be disappointed to have it all given to me in one go 🙂 Loved these recommendations though!

    Liked by 1 person

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