10 Of The Best Psychology TED Talks

Here are some of the best talks about psychology from some of the giants of this and related fields.

1. Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil

This has to be one of the best Ted talks I have ever come across to do with psychology.

“Philip Zimbardo knows how easy it is for nice people to turn bad. In this talk, he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials. Then he talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge.”

2. Alison Gopnik: What do babies think?

“Alison Gopnik takes us into the fascinating minds of babies and children, and shows us how much we understand before we even realize we do.”

3. Rebecca Saxe: How we read each other’s minds

“Sensing the motives and feelings of others is a natural talent for humans. But how do we do it? Here, Rebecca Saxe shares fascinating lab work that uncovers how the brain thinks about other peoples’ thoughts — and judges their actions.”

4. Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness — from the inside

“Is it okay if I totally trash your office?” It’s a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn’t a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.

5. VS Ramachandran: 3 clues to understanding your brain

“Vilayanur Ramachandran tells us what brain damage can reveal about the connection between celebral tissue and the mind, using three startling delusions as examples.”

6. Dan Dennett: Dangerous memes

Starting with the simple tale of an ant, philosopher Dan Dennett unleashes a devastating salvo of ideas, making a powerful case for the existence of memes — concepts that are literally alive.

7. Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong

Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes — and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create “memories” they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum. Editor’s note: In the original version of this talk, Scott Fraser misspoke about available footage of Two World Trade Center (Tower 2). The misstatement has been edited out for clarity.

8. Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence

Steven Pinker charts the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present, and argues that, though it may seem illogical and even obscene, given Iraq and Darfur, we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

9. Kevin Briggs: The bridge between suicide and life

If there is one talk out of all these that you do watch, make it this one.

For many years Sergeant Kevin Briggs had a dark, unusual, at times strangely rewarding job: He patrolled the southern end of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a popular site for suicide attempts. In a sobering, deeply personal talk Briggs shares stories from those he’s spoken — and listened — to standing on the edge of life. He gives a powerful piece of advice to those with loved ones who might be contemplating suicide.

10. Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity

One of the most watched TED talks and brings a really funny view onto a serious subject.

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

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2 comments

  1. Zimbardo’s psychology of evil is fab – I often have it on as background noise whilst getting on with something else. I’m looking forward to reading the Lucifer Effect when I finish my degree!

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