Edge Video Library

The Science of Gender - A Debate

Elizabeth Spelke, Steven Pinker
[5.16.05]

...on the research on mind, brain, and behavior that may be relevant to gender disparities in the sciences, including the studies of bias, discrimination and innate and acquired difference between the sexes.


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THE NATURE OF NORMAL HUMAN VARIETY

Armand Marie Leroi
[3.13.05]

"Of course, there will be people who object. There will be people who will say that this is a revival of racial science. Perhaps so. I would argue, however, that even if this is a revival of racial science, we should engage in it for it does not follow that it is a revival of racist science. Indeed, I would argue, that it is just the opposite."


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YOU CAN'T BE A SWEET CUCUMBER IN A VINEGAR BARREL

Philip Zimbardo
[1.17.05]

"When you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external factors together, it creates an evil barrel. You could put virtually anybody in it and you're going to get this kind of evil behavior. The Pentagon and the military say that the Abu Ghraib scandal is the result of a few bad apples in an otherwise good barrel. That's the dispositional analysis. The social psychologist in me, and the consensus among many of my colleagues in experimental social psychology, says that's the wrong analysis. It's not the bad apples, it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people. Understanding the abuses at this Iraqi prison starts with an analysis of both the situational and systematic forces operating on those soldiers working the night shift in that 'little shop of horrors."


 

AFFECTIVE FORECASTING...OR...THE BIG WOMBASSA: WHAT YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO GET, AND WHAT YOU DON'T GET, WHEN YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT

Daniel Gilbert
[12.31.04]

"The problem lies in how we imagine our future hedonic states. We are the only animals that can peer deeply into our futures—the only animal that can travel mentally through time, preview a variety of futures, and choose the one that will bring us the greatest pleasure and/or the least pain. This is a remarkable adaptation—which, incidentally, is directly tied to the evolution of the frontal lobe—because it means that we can learn from mistakes before we make them. We don't have to actually have gallbladder surgery or lounge around on a Caribbean beach to know that one of these is better than another. We may do this better than any other animal, but our research suggests that we don't do it perfectly. Our ability to simulate thefuture and to forecast our hedonic reactions to it is seriously flawed, and that people are rarely as happy or unhappy as they expect to be."


 

A FULL-FORCE STORM WITH GALE WINDS BLOWING

Robert Trivers
[10.16.04]

"For the last ten or fifteen years, I've been trying to understand situations in nature in which the genes within a single individual are in disagreement—or put differently, in which genes within an individual are selected in conflicting directions. It's an enormous topic, which 20 years ago looked like a shadow on the horizon, just as about a hundred years ago what later became relativity theory was just two little shadows on the horizon of physics, and blew up to become major developments. In genetics it's fair to say that about 20 years ago a cloud on the horizon was our knowledge that there were so-called selfish genetic elements in various species that propagated themselves at the expense of the larger organism. What was then just a cloud on the horizon is now a full-force storm with gale winds blowing."


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Flow: Positive Human Behavior

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
[8.1.04]

The work that I'm best known for is flow theory and the studies of flow experience. People have applied the studies all over the world, and it has influenced many schools, factories, offices, and even political systems.

If I were to try to go back to the origins of the theory, I would say that it probably started germinating in 1944-45, when I was ten years old. At that time the war was creating a lot of anxiety everywhere, and as a ten-year-old I saw the whole world I took for granted crumbling. I realized, however, that when I played chess, I completely forgot what was going on, and for hours I had a great time. I felt completely involved, my mind was working, I had to be alert, and I had to process information about what was happening. I didn't have any chance to be distracted or any chance to worry about anything. I also noticed then that if I played against somebody really good, it wasn't much fun. If I played against somebody who played badly, it wasn't fun either because I started getting distracted and thinking about other things. But if my opponent was somebody in my own range of abilities, then the game was fun.

MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI (1934-2021) (pronounced "chick-SENT-me high") was a Hungarian-born polymath who recognized and named the psychological concept of "flow," a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. He was Distinguished Professor of Management at Claremont Graduate University and the former head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago and of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College. 

His research and theories in the psychology of optimal experience have revolutionized psychology and have been adopted in practice by national leaders such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as well as top members of the global executive elite who run the world's major corporations. Csikszentmihalyi is the author of several popular books about his theories, including the bestselling Flow: The Psychology of Optimal ExperienceThe Evolving Self: A Psychology for The Third MillenniumCreativity; and Finding Flow. The Wall Street Journal has listed Flow among the six books "every well-stocked business library should have."


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NATURAL-BORN DUALISTS

Paul Bloom
[5.11.04]

"In the domain of bodies, most of us accept that common sense is wrong. We concede that apparently solid objects are actually mostly empty space, consisting of tiny particles and fields of energy. Perhaps the same sort of reconciliation will happen in the domain of souls, and it will come to be broadly recognized that our dualist belief system, though intuitively appealing, is factually mistaken. Perhaps we will all come to agree with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and join the side of the "brights": those who reject the supernatural and endorse the world-view established by science."


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LEARNING TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
[4.17.04]

"A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias, prevents us from adequately learning from the past."


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LANGUAGE, BIOLOGY, AND THE MIND

Gary Marcus
[1.26.04]

"For a long time the fields of biology and psychology have been quite separate, and only in the last few years people have started thinking about brain imaging and about how the brain and mind relate. But they haven't really thought that much about another part of biology: developmental biology. Brain imaging tells you something about how the brain works, but that doesn't tell you anything about how the brain gets to be the way that it is. Of course, we also have the human genome sequence and have made enormous advances in genetics and related fields, and what I've been trying to do in the last few years is to relate all of the advances in biology to what people have been finding out in cognitive development and language acquisition."


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THE LANDSCAPE

Leonard Susskind
[12.2.03]

"What we've discovered in the last several years is that string theory has an incredible diversity—a tremendous number of solutions—and allows different kinds of environments. A lot of the practitioners of this kind of mathematical theory have been in a state of denial about it. They didn't want to recognize it. They want to believe the universe is an elegant universe—and it's not so elegant. It's different over here. It's that over here. It's a Rube Goldberg machine over here. And this has created a sort of sense of denial about the facts about the theory. The theory is going to win, and physicists who are trying to deny what's going on are going to lose."


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