Category Archives: Videos

Bargaining with Monkeys Like Us

In this excellent TED talk, primatologist  Laurie Santos discusses the roots of human irrationality by uncovering the way our primate relatives make decisions. Is it possible that the errors we make–like failing to save money–are not “mistakes” (in the conventional sense) but actually hardwired into our natures?  Santos’ experiments in “monkeynomics” suggest answers to that question that might make human exceptionalists a little nervous.

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Looking into the Mind of a Murderer

In the first video below, Dr. Jim Fallon discusses his studies of murderers’ brains and the surprising patterns that he has identified, including an overabundance of serotonin in utero for male children (turns out, being “bathed” in the so-called feel-good neurotransmitter isn’t a good thing).  He also discusses an amazing family discovery that he stumbled upon while conducing his research.

The second and third videos are the first two parts of an absolutely chilling interview with the “Ice Man,” Richard Kuklinski, a mafia contract killer and perhaps the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.

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What Makes Us Human?

I’ve posted below three videos that I think collectively do a nice job of addressing major issues underlying the perennial question: what makes us human? 

In the first video, the always engaging neurobiologist, primatologist and stress expert Robert Sapolsky talks about human-animal similarities and differences, at the 2009 Stanford commencement.  Skip to the 5:00 minute mark to go directly to Sapolsky’s talk. 

The second video, entitled “What Makes Us Human?”, was produced by The Leakey Foundation, and effectively summarizes several interesting findings from leading researchers on what distinguishes us from other primates.  The final and longest video (about 57 minutes) is a presentation by cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno that focuses on the origin of the human mind and why humans have significantly more cognitive power than other primates.

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Delving Deep into Human Emotion

As we move farther away from rational /emotional dualism–a tough habit to break–psychobiological research is increasingly focusing on the development and role of emotion in the brain.  

The first of three videos below features neuroscientist Antonio Damasio contending that even though we view emotion as a human trait, it is probably one of the earliest evolutionary advancements, significantly predating human evolution. He explains that emotions are “a way to live for as long as possible”, asking “if you were a gene, what would you do?”

In the  second video social psychologist Dacher Keltner discussess the evolution of emotion with a focus on Darwin’s principle of antithesis, which attempts to illuminate the role of body langauge in the matrix of human emotion.

Both of those videos are short (less than 10 minutes total), but the last one is a full-scale lecture from neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, called: “Ancestral Memories: Brain Affective Systems, Ancient Emotional Vocalizations, and the Sources of Our Communicative Urges.” Panksepp’s book, Affective Neuroscience: The Foundation of Human and Animal Emotions, is the definitive textbook for the field of affective neuroscience. Settle in with a beer or two for this one.

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The Dynamics of Human Tribes

At TEDxUSC, business professor David Logan talks about the five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form — in schools, workplaces, even the driver’s license bureau. Initially, Logan’s discussion may come across as a how-to for ascending ‘tribal stages’ and a bit reductionistic, but around 11:00 the message gels, and it’s a good one. 

Below that is a video, also from TED, with author Seth Godin discussing how the Internet has revived the human social need for tribes and people to lead them.  If you’re interested, you can download a free PDF “Tribes Case Book” from Godin right here.

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What Would You Do?

ABC News in the U.S. occasionally runs a TV show called “What Would You Do?” that puts people in difficult situations to see how they’ll react.  The host, John Quinones, then approaches the unknowing subjects to let them know that the situation was staged and debrief about why they acted as they did.  It all amounts to a well-done, real-world experiment in social psychology. 

The first video clip below features a situation involving a young girl approached by a stranger in a park.  Watch how people nearby react and how the reaction changes, or doesn’t, when the nature of the stranger changes. The second video features a situation involving a guy who won’t leave a woman alone at a bar.   (In the first video, by the way, only 12 of 50 people took action — sad commentary.)

 

 

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Neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe Discusses How We Read Each Other’s Minds

We know that we can sense the thoughts and feelings of others, but how do we do it?  From the TED 2009 Global Conference, Rebecca Saxe, professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT, shares fascinating research that uncovers how the brain thinks about other peoples’ thoughts — and judges their actions.

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