Over the past several decades, cognitive neuroscientists have made immense strides in understanding how the human brain is organized and how the brain mediates our behaviours. This course describes many of these breakthroughs and demonstrates how this knowledge can be used to enhance our everyday lives. A crucial foundation of this course is the fact that many of our decisions and behaviours are controlled by brain systems that function outside our conscious awareness. While these systems are tremendously significant to our everyday lives, they have many shortcomings. By hacking into these unconscious behavioural-control systems, we can change our behaviours to produce increased happiness, enhanced well-being, and positive outcomes.
For example, if you are eating a snack, most people presume the reason is that you consciously decided to eat that snack. However, many unconscious factors influence that decision to eat, such as how previous eating behaviours have influenced the neural system that controls hunger perception. We can consciously decide to eat or not to eat in a particular situation, but automatic, underlying brain systems control most of our behaviours.
This course applies the knowledge of cognitive systems to a wide variety of topics: procrastination, bad habits, dieting, sleep, phobias, depression, creativity, multitasking, persuasion techniques, anger, love, happiness, and the ageing brain.
The human brain is the most impressive information-processing system that science has ever encountered. Much of its power comes from the brain’s ability to perform many processes simultaneously. As astonishing as it is, however, the brain has limits. This course considers one significant bottleneck: Your brain can make only one decision at a time. By avoiding multitasking and instead of creating situations in which you can engage in monotasking, you can improve your mental performance tremendously.
This course explores in depth the brain systems that mediate our emotions and considers how you can maintain and improve your close relationships to increase the love in your life. In addition, much has been learned about how your brain processes anger. By intentionally controlling your verbal and physical responses to that anger, you can substantially alter the course of your underlying emotional experience. Similarly, a few simple strategies can turn fear and anxiety into excitement and openness to new experiences.
The human brain is a physical organ that requires particular care to thrive. Sleep and dreaming are critical aspects of that brain-maintenance process. This course outlines the details of what your brain accomplishes while you are asleep and what happens when you disrupt specific parts of that sleep process. This knowledge leads to several easy strategies that will improve your memory and creativity and even your happiness. Simple meditation and imagery practice can augment these benefits as well.
In addition to considering how you can influence the function of your own brain, this course also explains how you can influence the brains of the people around you. We present a variety of techniques that can be used to persuade other people. In addition to actively using these techniques, you should be aware that others will try to use them on you.
This course adopts a sceptical, scientific perspective throughout. Each year, the self-help industry produces thousands of books filled with tips about how to boost your brain performance and achieve happiness. However, many of those tips are based on individual, anecdotal experiences rather than careful science and empirical evidence. This course focuses on proven scientific research and presents results from replicated studies. The course also suggests several strategies that students should use to become scientists themselves. By collecting data on your own experiences, you can more effectively change your behaviour, influence your own mind, and outsmart yourself.