Apr 25th 2016

The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology (FutureLearn)

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Make better personal and professional decisions and consider the psychological dimension to key ethical and political choices. What are the forces shaping human behaviour? How do we think and decide? This course, from Professor Nick Chater and Warwick Business School, explores the origins of human rationality and irrationality.

Explore our illusion of mental depth

Our everyday conception of how our minds work is profoundly misleading. We are victims of an ‘illusion of mental depth’ - we imagine that our thoughts and behaviours arise from hidden motives and beliefs, and that we can understand ourselves by somehow uncovering these hidden forces, whether through therapy, lab experiments or brain scanning.

This course will suggest that this conception is not entirely correct, that we’re inventing these motives and beliefs at the very moment of decision. Professor Chater’s central proposition will be that there is no mental depth, that mental depth is an illusion.

Understand mystifying aspects of human behaviour

This course consists of six weeks of material. Each week we’ll start with a paradox, some mystifying aspect of human behaviour, before looking at insights into it, gained over decades of psychological and behavioural research. You’ll have a chance to try out a classic psychological experiment online.

Some of the really exciting things we’ll be looking at are:

- why we take risks and why we fear them;

- how people succeed or fail to work with other people successfully;

- how our behaviour, governed by a plethora of complicated psychological forces, makes sense at all;

- the theory that we are creating an improvised character and trying to stay in our role;

- and finally, how we can make society more coherent and create a better world.

Meet behavioural science experts from academia, government and industry

You’ll learn from Warwick Business School’s leading behavioural science group, as well as a diverse range of people who have thought very deeply in a practical context about the nature of human behaviour.

We’ll be talking to Rory Sutherland, ad man and behavioural economics impresario; Tim Harford, the Financial Times undercover columnist; Gus O’Donnell, former head of the Civil Service; and many other senior representatives in high-profile organisations.