• University of Warwick

The Mind is Flat: the Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology

Make better personal and professional decisions and consider the psychological dimension to key ethical and political choices.

100,580 enrolled on this course

The mind is flat: the shocking shallowness of human psychology
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours

What are the forces shaping human behaviour?
How do we think and decide?
What are the origins of human rationality and irrationality?

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 show you that the very idea of these ‘mental depths’ is an illusion. When this is stripped away, our understanding not only of minds, but also morality, markets and society is transformed.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds So my name’s Nick Chater. I’m Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School. This is a MOOC for everyone. The aim of this MOOC is to introduce you to the science of human decision making. If you have a mind you’re interested in and you want to understand it better, then this is a course for you. Intuitively, we feel that our decisions are underpinned by rich and mysterious motives and beliefs. And I want to suggest that’s completely the wrong picture. We’re inventing them at the very moment of decision. There is no mental depth. Mental depth is an illusion. So this MOOC consists of six weeks of material.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds And each week, we’ll start with a paradox, some mystifying aspect of human behaviour, insights that have been gained over decades of psychological and behavioural research. We’ll talk to leading figures in government and industry. And 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 this plethora of complicated psychological forces, makes sense at all. One of the essences of that– I’ll suggest we are creating an improvised character and trying to stay in our role.

Skip to 1 minute and 25 seconds And finally, how can we make society more coherent– essentially, make a better world? We brought together a diverse range of people who thought very deeply in 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. Warwick Business School has one of leading behavioural science groups in Europe, and it’s a great opportunity for us to share some of things we’ve learned over many decades of research.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds So if you’re interested in how your mind works, to understand better the people around you and the society you live in, join me for The Mind is Flat.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

No special knowledge or previous experience of studying is required.

Who will you learn with?

I have over 200 publications and four awards for my research. I've recently co-hosted two series of The Human Zoo on the UK’s BBC Radio 4.

Who developed the course?

The University of Warwick

The University of Warwick is forward-looking, entrepreneurial and globally connected. With new ways of thinking and achieving it stands out from its competitors as an inspiring place to study.

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