10 Awesome TED Talks About Psychology and the Mind

The human mind is always on the minds of those at TED Talks around the country, and there are some particularly fascinating discussions of its functions and its potential. From using the brain in a supercomputer to determining why some people are good Samaritans and others are monsters, TED Talks panelists have some very interesting ideas about what it means to be human, how the mind works, and why it functions the way that it does. There are ten talks, in particular, that will change the way most people think about the human mind.

10. Sherwin B. Nuland – A Discussion of Electroshock Therapy

Electroshock therapy has long been controversial, but Sherwin B. Nuland uses his TED Talk to discuss how it worked miracles for him after a particularly challenging divorce. With ECT treatment, Nuland was able to make what he describes as a “remarkable” recovery from depression.

9. Oliver Sacks – What Hallucination Says About Our Mind

Oliver Sacks is easily one of the foremost experts in neuroscience, and his TED Talk about hallucinations is a fascinating new way to think about the human mind. Sacks delivers a presentation that puts hallucination in a new light, especially when it’s due to a number of different medical conditions. In this TED Talk, he argues that hallucination reveals the minds inner workings, its most prioritized thoughts, and its most intimate desires. Hallucination, then, is almost a way for people to get to know themselves better than they otherwise could.

8. Philip Zimbardo – How Ordinary People Become Monsters… or Heroes

Anyone familiar with Zimbardo’s work knows that this psychology professional can talk a bit at length about both monsters and heroes. In this TED Talk, Zimbardo discusses what causes people to rise to the best of times, or succumb to the worst of times, very quickly.

7. Nancy Etcoff – The Surprising Science of Happiness

Happiness is often described in emotional terms, but Etcoff declares that this emotion is actually chemically driven. Stress, elation, and other emotions, all produce a chemical that can control whether or not people are happy, sad, stressed, or just too busy to have any emotions at all.

6. Henry Markram – A Brain in a Supercomputer

If there’s one thing psychology professionals and neuroscientists can agree on, it’s that the human brain is endlessly complex and is the biggest asset of human evolution and success. It’s easy to see, then, why putting a human brain into a computer might be the key to major advances in our technological world and the amount of new discoveries that can be made about humans and everything else in the universe. The power of a human brain can easily transform how a computer operates, and Henry Markram makes the case in his TED Talk that this would create faster, better, more powerful supercomputers that can propel the human race dramatically forward.

5. Helen Fisher – The Science of Love, and the Future of Women

It might be hard to believe, but the human brain wasn’t originally designed for feelings like love and attachment to a mate. Indeed, there was a time when the brain’s primary function was merely to procreate and move on. Helen Fisher describes the evolution of the brain that came to allow things like love and attachment, and relates them to the treatment of women society in the past, the present, and in the future. For those who are fascinated by the development of human emotions over time, this is a fascinating way to discover a more primal side to the human experience.

4. Vilayanur Ramachandran – 3 Clues to Understanding Your Brain

One of the foremost scholars on the human brain, Vilayanur Ramachandran delivers a TED Talk that discusses something very basic, but also very advanced: What it means to be human. Most people associate being human with high-functioning things that range from the use of computers to the ability to adapt to virtually any environment. Vilayanur Ramachandran, though, makes a case that being human is far more basic. It’s why people don’t stop being human, or acting human, when their brain has been damaged or disabled. Being human is a base characteristic, he argues, in this fascinating discussion.

3. Temple Grandin – The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

We’ve all heard that humans and animals are inherently connected, but undeniably different. It’s something that most people have come to accept. Temple Grandin takes a slightly different approach in her talk about autism, the human mind, and what it tells us about animals. Grandin believes that there are major lessons to be learned about how animals and humans are connected through the development of their minds and thought processes, and what happens when those things can’t be used as efficiently as they would be in high-functioning individuals.

2. Dan Ariely – Why We Think It’s OK to Cheat and Steal (Sometimes)

Dan Ariely is the great mind behind the book “Practically Irrational,” which might explain the basis of his TED Talk about cheating and stealing. Ariely actually went “undercover” as a cheater to understand the psychology behind things like the Enron scandal. What he found is that humans actually have a threshold for cheating, allowing them to do it just a little bit without feeling bad. No one wants to cross the threshold into guilt, though, and this tends to regular behavior in most well adjusted adults.

1. Daniel Goleman – Why Aren’t We All Good Samaritans?

While people have a built-in threshold for finding cheating or stealing acceptable, others have a built-in desire to do something good in the world. We call those people good Samaritans. Unfortunately, however, this behavior is not universal. In his TED Talk, Daniel Goleman discusses why everyone can’t be a good Samaritan. He argues that many people are able to “turn off” their feelings of compassion toward those who are suffering, removing the compelling urge to help those in need.

Great Ideas from Today’s Leading Professionals

The ten talks presented here are among the most innovative ways of characterizing the human mind, the behavior of people worldwide, and the evolution of the human race. There is perhaps nothing more fascinating than learning the origins, evolutions, and destinies, of the human race itself.