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Psychology TED Talks

Browse this fantastic range of recommended TED Talks which will help you enhance your knowledge beyond the AQA Psychology Specification. 

Attachment theory is the science of love

Attachment theory now has a global reach through social media and provides insights and support to individuals, parents, couples and professionals who provide care. This talk tells the story of attachment theory’s emergence in 1950s London and provides three key takeouts from John Bowlby’s thinking: that all behaviour makes sense in context, security enables curiosity and learning to regulate our feelings gives us new opportunities in relationships.

Emotional Mastery: The Gifted Wisdom of Unpleasant Feelings 

What often blocks people from feeling capable in life and from having greater success with finances, health or relationships is how they handle unpleasant feelings. Psychologist Joan Rosenberg unveils the innovative strategy and surprising keys for experiencing the challenging emotions that lie at the heart of confidence, emotional strength, and resilience.

How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas

Do you sometimes have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular? It's because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Learn to love being bored as Manoush Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.


The power of introverts 

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated. 

Optical illusions show how we see 

Beau Lotto's color games puzzle your vision, but they also spotlight what you can't normally see: how your brain works. This fun, first-hand look at your own versatile sense of sight reveals how evolution tints your perception of what's really out there. 

This could be why you're depressed and anxious 

In a moving talk, journalist Johann Hari shares fresh insights on the causes of depression and anxiety from experts around the world -- as well as some exciting emerging solutions. "If you're depressed or anxious, you're not weak and you're not crazy -- you're a human being with unmet needs," Hari says. 

Twins: A window into human nature 

Twins tell us about our humanity - who we are and where we came from, says Nancy Segal. In her fascinating and entertaining talk, we learn that genes play a much bigger role in our decisions and behaviour than scientists previously believed. 

10 myths about psychology, debunked 

How much of what you think about your brain is actually wrong? In this whistlestop tour of dis-proved science, Ben Ambridge walks through 10 popular ideas about psychology that have been proven wrong — and uncovers a few surprising truths about how our brains really work. 

The new era of positive psychology 

Martin Seligman talks about psychology -- as a field of study and as it works one-on-one with each patient and each practitioner. As it moves beyond a focus on disease, what can modern psychology help us to become? 

How reliable is your memory? 

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn't happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. 

What do babies think? 

"Babies and young children are like the R&D division of the human species," says psychologist Alison Gopnik. Her research explores the sophisticated intelligence-gathering and decision-making that babies are really doing when they play.

The psychology of your future self 

That’s precisely what Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explores in this short and pause-giving TED talk on the psychology of your future self and how to avoid the mistakes you’re likely to make in trying to satisfy that future self with your present choices. 

The riddle of experience v memory 

If you're looking for highly credentialed TED speakers, Kahneman's résumé won't fail to impress. A Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and bestselling author, Kahneman uses his 20 minutes on the TED stage to explain that there are actually two flavours of happiness: the kind we experience in the moment and the kind we experience in our memories. Maximizing your own well-being in life means keeping both in mind. 

The surprising science of happiness 

Dan Gilbert, author of "Stumbling on Happiness," challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. 

Are we in control of our own decisions? 

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions 

How we read each other’s minds 

According to Saxe, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, you don't need tarot cards or ESP to read people's minds. A functioning right temporo-parietal junction will do just fine. In her talk, Saxe explains how this brain region allows humans to be uncannily good at sensing other people's feelings, thoughts, and motivations. 

The paradox of choice 

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. 

The power of believing that you can improve 

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field. 

Flow, the secret to happiness 

In this talk, legendary psychologist Csikszentmihalyi dares to ask one of life's biggest questions: What makes us happy? The answer isn't fame or money, he insists, but flow -- that lost-in-time feeling you get when you focus intensely on work you're good at. 

The psychology of evil 

Psychology isn't all happiness and flourishing, of course. The discipline also delves into the darker sides of human nature and what drives us toward unethical or even downright evil behaviour. That's the topic of this talk by ‘superstar’ Zimbardo in which "he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials." But don't worry, it's not all gloom and doom. He also ‘talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge.’ 

Everything we think we know about addiction is wrong 

What really causes addiction — to everything from drugs to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions. He started to wonder why we treat addicts the way we do — and if there might be a better way. 

The tragedies of orphanages 

Orphanages are costly and can cause irreparable damage both mentally and physically for its charges -- so why are they still so ubiquitous? Georgette Mulheir gravely describes the tragedy of orphanages and urges us to end our reliance on them, by finding alternate ways of supporting children in need. 

The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans 

Daniel Gregory Amen is a famous psychiatrist who specializes in brain disorders and is also a Times bestselling author on the side.  In his TED talk, he talks about the most important lesson we can learn from 83,000 different brain scans. 

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness 

Lessons from the longest study on happiness. ... As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. 

Strange answers to the psychopath test 

Is there a definitive line that divides crazy from sane? With a hair-raising delivery, Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, illuminates the gray areas between the two. 

All it takes is 10 mindful minutes 

When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.) 

The voices in my head 

To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn't know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive. 

Why domestic violence victims don’t leave 

Leslie Morgan Steiner was in "crazy love" -- that is, madly in love with a man who routinely abused her and threatened her life. Steiner tells the story of her relationship, correcting misconceptions many people hold about victims of domestic violence, and explaining how we can all help break the silence. 

Does money make you mean? 

It's amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there's good news too. 

Depression: the secret we share 

"The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment." In a talk equal parts eloquent and devastating, writer Andrew Solomon takes you to the darkest corners of his mind during the years he battled depression. That led him to an eye-opening journey across the world to interview others with depression -- only to discover that, to his surprise, the more he talked, the more people wanted to tell their own stories. 

Everything I believed about poverty was wrong 

"Ideas can and do change the world," says historian Rutger Bregman, sharing his case for a provocative one: guaranteed basic income. Learn more about the idea's 500-year history and a forgotten modern experiment where it actually worked -- and imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all. 

How does income affect childhood brain development? 

"The brain is not destiny," Noble says. "And if a child's brain can be changed, then anything is possible." Neuroscientist and paediatrician Kimberly Noble is leading the Baby's First Years study: the first-ever randomized study of how family income changes children's cognitive, emotional and brain development. 

The mysterious workings of the teenage brain 

Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain, in this TED Talk.  

Why we love, why we cheat 

Anthropologist Helen Fisher takes on a tricky topic – love – and explains its evolution, its biochemical foundations and its social importance. She closes with a warning about the potential disaster inherent in antidepressant abuse. 

Brain Magic 

First, Keith Barry shows us how our brains can fool our bodies — in a trick that works via podcast too. Then he involves the audience in some jaw-dropping (and even a bit dangerous) feats of brain magic. 

Battling Bad Science 

Every day there are news reports of new health advice, but how can you know if they're right? Doctor and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre shows us, at high speed, the ways evidence can be distorted, from the blindingly obvious nutrition claims to the very subtle tricks of the pharmaceutical industry. 

What it's really like to have autism 

"Autism is not a disease; it's just another way of thinking," says Ethan Lisi. Offering a glimpse into the way he experiences the world, Lisi breaks down misleading stereotypes about autism, shares insights into common behaviors like stimming and masking and promotes a more inclusive understanding of the spectrum.

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