Am I the Only One Who Has Mixed Feelings About TED Talks?


So for my second experiment, I’m going to write and produce slides for a Ted Talk about a paper titled “The neuropharmacology of sleep paralysis hallucinations: serotonin 2A activation and a novel therapeutic drug” (My overlaying topic being “abnormal dreams”.)

The idea to do a Ted Talk came from another class I’m taking concurrently (PSYCH 440) in which we all have to give four Ted Talk-like presentations about various neuroscience/psychology related papers. Before my Psych class started, we had to read around 100 pages from the book “TED Talks: The Official Ted Guide to Public Speaking” by Chris Anderson the apparent ‘Head of TED’. Which had a lot of helpful information about giving talks in general but only used examples from popular TED Talks to go off of.

The article I’m using for my second experiment was rejected by my Psych prof because it didn’t have enough citations and he wants us to to presentations on topics “people care about”. But sleep paralysis is extremely difficult to study in the way I want to study it so there is very little literature out there related to this paper and I thought it deserved a change to be heard. So I’m taking this opportunity to write a Ted Talk for a paper that I’m still bitter about having been rejected.


I’ve been watching and listening to a lot of Ted Talks this semester and I can generally categorize them into three types of talks:

  1. Well put together talks that I like because they promote thinking
  2. Talks that bother me because they are just straight up boring
  3. Talks that are well put together but bother me in a different way…

The third type of talk presents complicated information in a way that is palatable for an audience with little to know knowledge of the material. They embezzle information in a way that makes it more interesting and more sexy. I think this type of talk leads to a couple of problems:

Problem One: Some audience members might walk away thinking “wow that was amazing I learned so much”, when in reality the information was dumbed down and the potential applications were overstated, so in reality they really only have the illusion of learning . Now the audience thinks they know more than they do and have these grander than life ideas about what is to come or what is when in fact, they were mislead. Because it’s more complicated than that.

Problem Two: For those in the audience who may have a higher level of expertise or who are “immune to the bs”, these TED talks become annoying. They’re telling us things we already know and making reaching conclusions about the future possibilities of a certain algorithm or approach to psychotherapy for instance. To these members of the audience, the speakers become a self righteous group of individuals who sell out their work for what is a whole host of possible reasons. These people see through the illusion of learning. Because it’s more complicated than that.

I know doing more Ted Talk research is going to be difficult to me because it seems like the majority of Ted Talks are either boring or go the embezzlement route. So sorry if this was a rant but it just felt good to get this off my chest to make it easier for me to dive into watching more Ted Talks.

Does anyone have any examples of the first of the three types of talks I defined above? If so please share. That’s what I want for my experiment. Thanks ! -Aleczander

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