Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

8 Psychology-Backed TED Talks That'll Help You Understand Why You Do What You Do

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Do you ever have those days when you think, Why did I just do that to myself? or I wish I could get inside my boss’ head and understand what he’s thinking when he sends those emails?

It’s your lucky day, because you can! Well, not exactly—but there’s a little thing called psychology, and plenty of experts are talking about it. They know the scientific reasons why you make certain decisions at work, why you feel stressed or tired some days, and why you succeed, and fail, in your career. And, they know why your colleagues act a certain way, too.

So, do you really want to know just what’s going on in everyone’s brain in your office, including yours? Here are eight TED Talks that’ll shed a lot of light on some pretty typical situations.

1. When You’re Boss Throws in Another Project Due Tomorrow: How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative by Tim Harford

Cleaning up messes and facing obstacles is a pain—except that it just might make you more creative. Harford will argue that throwing a bit of “randomness” or uncertainty into your processes will make you more effective and less complacent at work.

2. When You Keep Changing Learning Styles: 10 Myths About Psychology, Debunked by Ben Ambridge

Did you ever consider yourself an auditory or visual learner? Or, think you’re more left- or right- brained? Well, psychologist Ben Ambridge will turn your whole world upside down when he debunks your most prized psychological beliefs.

3. When You Can’t Seem to Stick to Your Goals: Why Some People Find Exercise Harder Than Others by Emily Balcetis

You know how what you see isn’t necessarily what your colleagues see? Social psychologist Emily Balcetis will explain why that is, how it affects your judgement, decisions, and goals, and why you have a right to envy your co-worker who runs first thing in the morning. Plus, why keeping your eye on the prize actually works.

4. When You’re Afraid of Making a Career Change: The Psychology of Your Future Self by Dan Gilbert

When you picture your future self, what does it look like? Are you different? Are you the same? Do you have the same or different likes and dislikes? Gilbert is a psychologist and happiness expert that will show you that no matter what you see your future as, change will (and already has) happened—so you might as well embrace it.

5. When Your Co-worker Brags About His New Promotion: Does Money Make You Mean? by Paul Piff

This may shock you (or it may not) but money affects your emotional intelligence. That’s right—this means that the more you make, the more likely you are to feel entitled to break rules, lie, cheat, and be mean to your colleagues. And social psychologist Paul Piff will prove to you why in some really interesting studies.

6. When You Can’t Focus Because You Went to Bed Late the Night Before: One More Reason to Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Jeff Iliff

Yup—we have your scientific excuse for why you should get more sleep (and why your boss should stop sending you so many late-night emails). Neuroscientist Jeff Iliff explains how your brain works during the day, and why you need sleep to rejuvenate it.

7. When You’re More Stressed Than Your Older Colleagues: Older People Are Happier by Laura Carstensen

Now, before you disagree, Carstensen, a psychologist, doesn’t believe that older individuals are solely “happier.” However, they are more positive, and more likely to embrace their mixed emotions. No matter how old you are right, this talk will convince you that aging isn’t all that bad.

8. When You Keep Forgetting To-Dos: Feats of Memory Anyone Can Do by Joshua Foer

Science journalist Joshua Foer spent a good portion of a year studying the mind—and he knows just the tricks to remember anything. His research, and funny stories, will show you that anyone can have a spectacular memory, even if you’re typically a forgetful person.

Photo of man on laptop in office courtesy of Caiaimage/Tom Merton/Getty Images.