15 Inspiring TED Talks on Intelligence and Critical Thinking

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Here are 15 of the most-viewed TED talks on intelligence and critical thinking.

1. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cuddy

June 2012


We are fascinated by body language. We know others judge our body language, but does it change the way we feel about ourselves? Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s experiment shows that high-power poses can make us feel more assertive, confident, and comfortable. Our bodies change our minds. Minds change behavior. Behavior changes outcomes. And this can change our lives in meaningful ways.

2. The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain

February 2012


“Solitude matters,” author says Susan Cain, “for some people it is the air that they breathe.” From a young age, she was given the message that she needed to be less quiet and introverted. Transformative leaders in history, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi, have been self-described introverts. In her talk, Cain suggests giving introverts more freedom and more privacy (in schools and the workplace) to increase their creativity and productivity. She hopes attitudes will change regarding introversion and solitude and offers three calls for action to those who share her vision.

3. The Surprising Science of Happiness – Dan Gilbert

February 2004


If we don’t get what we want, we won’t be happy. Not the case, says psychologist Dan Gilbert. We have a “psychological immune system” that kicks in even when things don’t go our way. In an engaging and funny talk, Gilbert discusses synthetic happiness versus natural happiness. Happiness can be synthesized, but is it real?

4. The Happy Secret to Better Work – Shawn Achor

May 2011


Psychologist Shawn Achor offers a fast-paced and highly entertaining look at the link between happiness and success. He says we need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Having more positivity in the present will create “the happiness advantage.” He shares five ways to train your brain to work more optimistically and successfully. By doing these things, we can reverse the formula and create a real revolution in education and business.

5. How To Spot a Liar – Pamela Meyer

July 2011


We’re all liars. Studies show we’re lied to anywhere between 10 to 200 times in a given day. Lying is an attempt to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be, says social media expert Pamela Meyer. Liespotters have scientific knowledge to spot deception, but we can all look for the red flags. In this talk, she gives us two truths about lying and shares how to go from liespotting to truth speaking to trust building.

6. Listening to Shame – Brene Brown

March 2012


“Vulnerability is not weakness,” says researcher Brene Brown, “and that myth is profoundly dangerous.” Vulnerability fuels our daily lives; it is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. It is the most accurate measure of courage. Shame is an epidemic that is highly correlated with addiction, depression, suicide, and other broken behaviors. To get out from underneath it, we have to understand how it affects us and the way we’re parenting, the way we’re working, the way we’re looking at each other. We need to learn to embrace our vulnerability and to quiet down shame.

7. The Psychology of Evil – Philip Zimbardo

February 2008


The world will always be filled with good and evil, says psychologist Philip Zimbardo. In his talk, he examines “the Lucifer effect,” understanding how good people turn evil. Zimbardo discusses his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment and also the case study of Abu Ghraib, including graphic pictures from those trials. He closes with the idea that heroism is the anecdote to evil and reminds us the importance of our teaching our children that heroes are everyday people.

8. The New Era of Positive Psychology – Martin Seligman

February 2004


Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, tells us his mission: Curing the mentally ill, making miserable people less miserable, and making people happier. He reveals that happiness has three different dimensions that can be cultivated – the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life.

9. Love No Matter What – Andrew Solomon

April 2013


In his research, writer Andrew Solomon spoke to parents of children with dwarfism, Down syndrome, and even the parents of Columbine shooter, Dylan Klebold. In an emotional and powerful talk, Solomon shares what he learned from these parents – that acceptance may take time, but love is there unconditionally. Solomon believes it’s our differences and negotiations of our differences that unite us.

10. The Power of Believing That You Can Improve – Carol Dweck

November 2014


Are we raising kids for “now” instead of “yet”? In her talk, psychologist Carol Dweck talks about the power of yet. How do children cope with difficulty? With a fixed or growth mindset? Her research on growth mindset – the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems – is powerful. “When educators create growth mindset classrooms steeped in yet,” says Dweck, “equality happens.”

11. How We Read Each Other’s Minds – Rebecca Saxe

July 2009


How do we think about other people’s thoughts? Cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe shares her research in this TED talk. It’s the job of a special region of the brain that develops over the course of childhood and into adolescence. Differences in this brain region can explain the differences among adults in how we think about and judge other people.

12. What Do Babies Think? – Alison Gopnik

July 2011


Child development psychologist Alison Gopnik studies babies and children and says they are far more aware than we think. The amazing thing about babies and children is how it’s possible for them to know and learn so much. She says we should think about babies as being a different developmental stage of the same species – like caterpillars and butterflies – except they’re actually the brilliant butterflies who are flitting around the garden and exploring, and we’re the caterpillars who are inching along our narrow, adult path.

13. Want to Be Happier? Stay In The Moment – Matt Killingsworth

November 2011


More than anything in life, people want happiness. The paradox of happiness is that even though the conditions of our lives have improved dramatically, we haven’t actually gotten happier. In hopes of discovering the big causes of happiness, researcher Matt Killingsworth created an app, Track Your Happiness, that allows people to communicate feelings in real time.

14. The Pattern Behind Self-Deception – Michael Shermer

February 2010


Founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer says belief is the natural state of things; it’s uncomfortable not to believe things. Why? We have a belief in engine in our brain, our pattern-detection device. Shermer calls the process patternicity. He discusses how the brain works to find those patterns and make those connections.

15. The Origins of Pleasure – Paul Bloom

July 2011


Why do origins matter so much? Some say because we’re focused on status. But psychologist Paul Bloom believes it’s because we’re natural-born essentialists. Using examples of art, food, and sex, he shows how our responses are conditioned on our beliefs. Everything he says about pleasure applies to pain as well; pain under the right circumstances, can transform into pleasure.

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