December 20, 2011

Happy Christmas Lectures 2011: Meet your Brain with Bruce Hood

Filed under: Science — Duncan Hull @ 5:25 pm
Tags: , , , , ,
Bruce Hood

An animated Bruce Hood. Creative Commons licensed picture by Dave Fayram

The holiday season is upon us which means it’s time for the Royal Institution Christmas lectures. This year the lectures are on the meaty subject of how our brains work and are delivered by psychologist Professor Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol [1,2]. Broadcast over three episodes at 8pm on BBC4  (27th, 28th and 29th December) the talks will also be freely available online afterwards, see trailer.  Here’s the blurb on the first episode: What’s in your head?

Why does your brain look like a giant walnut, how does it fit in enough wiring to stretch four times around the equator and why can a magnet on your head stop you in mid-sentence? In the first of this year’s Christmas Lectures, Professor Bruce Hood gets inside your head to explore how your brain works. He measures the brain’s nerve cells in action, reads someone’s mind from 100 miles away and reveals how the brain ultimately creates its own version of reality.

The second episode is titled Who’s in charge here?

Your brain is constantly being bombarded with information, so how does it decide what to trust and what to ignore, without you even being aware? Professor Bruce Hood leads us through the second of this year’s Christmas Lectures – testing the limits of our memory, finding out how we learn, how our brain takes shortcuts and why multi-tasking can be dangerous. Bruce will make you say the wrong thing and fail to see what’s right in front of you. Can you really believe your eyes? Possibly not.

The final episode is Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?

Have you ever seen a face in a piece of burnt toast, or given your car a name? Why do you feel pain when someone else is hurt? Why are people so obsessed with other people? In the last of this year’s Christmas Lectures, Professor Bruce Hood investigates how our brains are built to read other people’s minds. With a little help from a baby, a robot and a magician, Bruce uncovers what makes us truly human.

This year the Royal Institution have relaunched their website at richannel.org and made some of the previous lectures available at richannel.org/christmas-lectures. Hopefully Santa will eventually get around to adding many more lectures from this fantastic series to the archive soon.

This will (probably) be the last post of the year at O’Really, so if you’ve visited, thanks for reading during 2011. It’s been an eventful twelve months, with not much time for blogging, maybe that will change next year…

Wherever you are, whatever you’re up to, have a happy holidays and a prosperous 2012.


  1. Hood, B., Willen, J., & Driver, J. (1998). Adult’s Eyes Trigger Shifts of Visual Attention in Human Infants Psychological Science, 9 (2), 131-134 DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.00024
  2. Hood, B. (2009) Supersense: From Superstition to Religion – The Brain Science of Belief. ISBN:1849010307

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