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The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology

The University of Warwick via FutureLearn

This course may be unavailable.


Explore the forces shaping human behaviour

We are often told that our minds are shaped by ‘deep’ factors – subconscious motives or hidden beliefs that can be uncovered through therapy, lab experiments, or brain scanning.

While not entirely incorrect, the brain also improvises – inventing these motives at the moment of decision. Understanding this could help make the world a better place.

On this course, you’ll explore why we take risks, and why we fear them. You’ll learn from top behavioural experts in numerous fields about how our minds are ‘flatter’ than we think, uncovering the influence of marketing and peer behaviour in the process.

Now an award-winning book: The Mind is Flat: The Illusion of Mental Depth and The Improvised Mind (Winner, American Association of Publishers PROSE award for best book in Clinical Psychology, 2019).

No special knowledge or previous experience of studying is required.


  • The mind is flat
    • The mind is flat
    • Why your mind is like a rainbow
    • The illusion of mental depth
    • The shallow nature of how we decide to buy
    • Conclusion: Self-test and talking point
  • Psychological relativity
    • Relativity of the mind
    • Relativity of happiness
    • Relativity in perception, action and decision making
    • Does money make you happy?
    • Conclusion: Self-test and talking point
  • The weight of reason
    • The weight of reason
    • Money pumps
    • Why we make such wildly unstable trade-offs
    • Irrationality, rationality, and markets
    • Conclusion: Self-test and talking point
  • The invented self
    • The invented self
    • The puzzling contrast between lab experiments and real life
    • What makes our behaviour make sense?
    • How society and our environment shapes our decisions
    • Conclusion: Self-test and talking point
  • Working together
    • From I-thinking to we-thinking
    • Coordination games
    • The psychology of coordination and communication
    • Coordination and communication in adults, children and chimps
    • Conclusion: Self-test and talking point
  • Spontaneous order
    • Spontaneous order
    • Termite society?
    • Evolution of communication
    • Towards a better world?
    • Conclusion: Self-test and talking point

Taught by

Nick Chater


2.2 rating, based on 8 Class Central reviews

4.2 rating at FutureLearn based on 36 ratings

Start your review of The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology

  • Peter Howarth
    At the end of the first week I wrote that I found this course 'frustrating, infuriating, unconvincing'. I still felt that way at the end. Halfway through the course I gave up posting any comments because they were all negative. The impression give…
  • Stephen Lee
    I found this course disappointing. I can accept the 'flat mind' idea, but as I see it, it implies that we are influenced by others much more than we think, and our trust may be misplaced. I was expecting illustrations of this, e.g. we trust banks e…
  • Natrina
    "The Mind is Flat" is a course focused on arguing a certain type of conceptualization about the human mind. In the process, good psychological research is presented, which is good for beginners who just have had introductory classes to general psychology. As I have studied Psychology in college, the contents were not groundbreaking to me (and I did not reach the conclusion that the mind is flat either), but it be so for the few people out there that might still think that human beings (including you, dear reader and myself!) are rational in the Homo œconomicus sense.
  • Anonymous
    Example of UK's rotten class system. Laughably bad professor and laughably bad class because it tries so hard to be "intelligent" but comes off as pompous. I was really amused how this class was so obviously bad and how people finally called out the professor out in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I was amused when there was a Skype call (as a part of the class) with some "classy" friend of the professor which went along the lines "Oh dare say Old Chap how about Electro Physics chakras of Siberian tunradas?" I'd give it 10/10 as pure comedy gold, 1/10 as educational value. Shameful
  • Marcus
    Found it boring. Too much reading. Insufficient number of videos. Probably one of the worst MOOCs I have been on.
  • Sue
    Pretentious BS. I felt like it was more Nick Charter & Co trying to show off one pretentious idea after another. When you listen to someone talk about something for 20 minutes and you realise nothing has really been said.
  • Will Gunby
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