1. Martin Seligman: The New Era of Positive Psychology
Martin Seligman says psychology has proven to be effective in making “miserable people less miserable,” but it should do more than that. Psychologists have become “victimologists,” he posits, and they ignore those with normal lives and/or high talent. Seligman argues that, in addition to repairing damage, psychology should also be about building strength. He then outlines the three types of happy people and the differences between the pleasant life, the good life and the meaningful life.
2. Nancy Etcoff: Happiness And Its Surprises
Freud may have said the pursuit of happiness is doomed, but celebrated cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff asserts that increasing one’s happiness is achievable. We are wired to want happiness, she says, but we’re not very good at increasing it because psychology focuses too much on “me” to the exlusion of “we.” She goes on to show how biophilia, cooperation, socialization and flow can contribute to everyone’s well-being.
3. Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness
In this engaging TED Talk, Dan Gilbert shows how our brains have evolved into complex experience simulators in the past 2 million years. Sadly, our simulators work poorly as they struggle with “impact bias”: the tendency to overestimate the impact of future events. Gilbert speaks of a “psychological immune system” and illustrates how synthetic happiness, which we create in ourselves, is more valuable than the “natural happiness” brought on by external circumstances.
4. Vilayanur Ramachandran – 3 Clues to Understanding Your Brain
Acclaimed neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran expertly conveys how brain damage helps us understand brain function in this fun and fast-moving TED Talk. Illustrative insights are brought to the fore with thorough and entertaining explanations (and Freudian refutations) of the Capgras delusion, phantom limb syndrome, synesthesia and some peoples’ inability to recognize metaphors.
5. Jill Bolte Taylor: My Stroke of Insight
In this powerful and moving TED Talk, neuroanatomist and brain researcher Jille Bolte Taylor vividly recounts a time during which she was able to research her own brain and psyche from the inside out when a stroke took her through various stages of awareness, disability and epiphany. She literally shows us the two hemispheres of the brain, talks us through their differences and finally challenges us to choose between them.
6. Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds
Noted neurologist Oliver Sacks teaches us about what our minds sometimes see, through vivid exploration of hallucinatory conditions such as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Sacks also points out that, while 10 percent of hearing and visually impaired people either see or hear things that aren’t there, would-be patients are afraid to seek help for fear of being labeled insane. Differences between hallucinations and psychopathy are described.
7. Jonathan Haidt: Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-Trancendence
In this TED Talk, the celebrated psychologist Jonathan Haidt speaks of altered consciousness — how it feels and the ways we humans seek to achieve it. Emile Durkheim’s concept of sacred and communal ecstasy is explored, and questions are addressed as to whether the loss of self-interest in the name of collective gain is an evolutionary feature or flaw.
8. Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Evil
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, infamous for his role as warden/leader of the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, further explains how the line between good and evil is not fixed nor impermeable. Zimbardo had inside access to the trial of an Abu Ghraib guard, and many disturbing images from the notorious prison are shown. He describes the systemic circumstances that can push people into roles as villains or heroes.
9. Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work
Popular psychologist and Harvard counselor Shawn Achor attempts to help us escape the “cult of the average” in this energetic and oftentimes hilarious 12-minute presentation, which shows how happiness is mostly based on internal intentions rather than external factors. He presents various ways to train one’s brain to become more positive and successful.
10. Jon Ronson: Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test
Writer/filmmaker Jon Ronson tells the tale of a man who faked madness to escape a prison sentence, and how it’s easier to convince the psychological establishment that someone is insane than it is to show them someone is sane. The psychopathy of CEOs, business leaders and capitalism itself is discussed.