Welcome to The Mind is Flat

A warm welcome to our course ‘The Mind is Flat’.

A warm welcome to our course ‘The Mind is Flat’.

During the course, I will be arguing that our intuitive picture of how our minds work is highly misleading and that a more accurate story has some rather surprising implications for understanding ourselves, each other, and the society we live in.

Over the next six weeks, we will be thinking about how understanding our minds can help us understand some of the social and economic forces that surround us, from stock market booms and crashes, to the origin of communication and language, to our rather mysterious collective ability to construct societies which are far more complex than any of us can possibly comprehend.

I will very much be giving you my perspective, rather than any kind of consensus — in psychology and in other areas of social science, there is very little consensus to be had! I will try to convince you with experimental evidence and, I hope, solid arguments. But there will, of course, be a lot of room for discussion and debate.

Each week you will have the chance to take part in an online experiment, both to highlight some of the key issues — hopefully in a vivid and fun way — and also to give you a sense of how psychologists gather experimental evidence.

Week 1 begins with us asking the question ‘is mental depth an illusion?’ We then go on to look at improvisation, perception, inference, change and choice blindness.

Meet the team

I am Professor Nick Chater, the main presenter for this course, and you will be hearing from me in each step. I am a co-founder of Decision Technology, a research consultancy which started as a Warwick University spin-out and am a member of the advisory board of the Behavioural Insights Team at the UK Cabinet Office. I am the scientific advisor and regular contributor to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Human Zoo’, which looks at daily life and current affairs through the lens of psychology.

Throughout the course, I will be talking to a range of people, many of whom I have worked closely with over the years, with a diverse variety of views about how the mind works and why understanding minds and behaviour matters for everyday life, business, and government.

Also responsible for helping me create this course is Jess Whittlestone, a current PhD student in Behavioural Science at Warwick, who will help me discuss some general themes, which we will present at the end of each week.

I will be encouraging you to take part in online discussions, to support fellow learners and to share knowledge where possible. I won’t be able to directly respond to any comments myself, but I hope that you will enjoy interacting with and learning from each other in this way.

Following the course

We appreciate that the number of comments could become overwhelming at time, so we recommend using the activity feed link at the top of every page, which will help you see what is happening, or when using the ‘following’ filter in any comments or discussions.

Join in the conversation

We encourage you to discuss your interests, knowledge, and experiences with other learners throughout the course. You can leave a comment on each step, as well as in specific steps designed for a discussion activity. You’re welcome to post comments and share your work outside of the course, too — don’t forget to use the hashtag #FLthemindisflat on social media platforms.

Learn at your own pace

At the start of each week, we’ll email you to introduce the week’s topics. You should learn at your own pace, but we encourage you to join the conversations happening in the current week if you can. If you haven’t completed the course by the end of the final week, don’t worry, the course materials will remain open to you indefinitely on FutureLearn.

Statement of Participation

This certificate provides a record of your engagement in the course and can be used as evidence of your Continuing Professional Development, your commitment to your career, or just as a memento of your engagement with the course. To be eligible, you must have marked at least 50% of the course steps as complete. You’ll also need to have attempted every test question.

Ready to begin?

When you’ve finished reading this step and want to get started, click the pink ‘Mark as Complete’ button below and then click Next to move on. Marking steps as complete will update your progress page and will help you to keep track of the steps that you’ve done on the to do list.

I really hope you enjoy the course as much as we have enjoyed putting it together and I very much look forward to hearing your queries, insights and ideas over the coming weeks.

Best wishes,

Nick Chater

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This article is from the free online course:

The Mind is Flat: the Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology

The University of Warwick

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: