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

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