Friday, August 23, 2013

Documentary - The Truth About Personality

Horizon: Michael Mosley put on his thinking cap for The Truth About Personality.

BBC Two's Horizon produced this episode on the Truth About Personality with Michael Mosley as our anxious and curious host. Here is some of the review of this episode (of what appears to be a rather lame series, this episode withstanding) from The Telegraph UK:
Mosley’s personal experience forming the narrative thread through the science bits. Mosley said from the get-go that he was pessimistic and anxious. So he went to the University of Essex, where a slimy electronic skull cap showed that his right brain was much more active than his left (very bad, apparently).

Then, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mosley put on two bracelets that were straight out of the Seventies’ sci-fi drama Blake’s 7. They measured the activity of his autonomic nervous system, which showed his “arousal level” – that’s just anxiety, by the way, nothing exciting – to be rather high.

Having established scientifically that he was indeed pessimistic and anxious, Mosley did an actual experiment – with method, results and conclusion – to see if he could be engineered into cheering up. “Cognitive bias modification” was a fancy way of asking Mosley to repeatedly choose the one picture of a cheerful face out of a screen full of miserable ones. More profound, perhaps, were Mosley’s attempts at mindfulness meditation, which he learned from Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. 
Mosley then started to witter about whether he was feeling more cheerful or not, sounding like a clubber who’d taken an ecstasy pill and wasn’t sure if it was working. But there was still more fascinating science to come – especially at the macabre Quebec Brain Bank, where hundreds of human brains are pickled in Lock & Lock food containers. Their data indicated that a lack of maternal love in early life could make the brain less able to deal with stress 
Like the programme’s approach to difficult science, the results of Mosley’s seven-week self-improvement programme were admirably clear. When Mosley went back to the Essex boffins, his right brain and his left were much more in balance. Just this breath going in, just this breath going out – that’s the meditative secret to true happiness. Oh, and always search out the one happy face on your train to work.
It's cool television - and nothing we are likely to see in the US on any of our hundreds of stations producing mind-numbing and soul-deadening drivel.

The Truth About Personality

Michael Mosley explores the latest science about how our personalities are created and whether they can be changed.

Despite appearances, Mosley is a pessimist who constantly frets about the future. He wants to worry less and become more of an optimist. He tries out two techniques to change this aspect of his personality – with surprising results.

He travels to the frontiers of genetics and neuroscience to find out about the forces that shape all our personalities.
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