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ORIGINAL

The restrained brain

5 minutes

This adorable sea slug is a sneaky little thief

4 minutes

The human voice

3 minutes

Mobilize

4 minutes

Frames of reference

27 minutes

Self-restraint goes hand in hand with the good life. Can brain science help us get a grip?

Temperance was one of the four virtues identified by Plato’s Republic as essential to an ideal state – a framework that was later adapted by Catholicism and Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, one of the five articles of faith of the Sikh religion is the kacchera – a drawstring undergarment meant to guard its wearer against lust. Indeed, almost every major religious or philosophical tradition heavily emphasises the value of self-restraint as a pathway to a virtuous and satisfying life. It makes sense that impulse-control has been held in such high regard historically: the ability to curb destructive urges and prudently delay gratification makes life easier in the long run. So what does modern brain science tell us about the best ways to approach willpower? This Aeon Video original mines the work of the US neuroscientist David Eagleman and the US psychologist Walter Mischel (known for his controversial ‘marshmallow test’) to explore what modern psychology and brain science say about the best strategies for resisting those feel-good things – big and small – that we know are bad for us.

Director and Writer: Adam D’Arpino

Producers: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn

Research Assistant: Tamur Qutab

Narrator: Ashley Klanac

Self-restraint goes hand in hand with the good life. Can brain science help us get a grip?

Temperance was one of the four virtues identified by Plato’s Republic as essential to an ideal state – a framework that was later adapted by Catholicism and Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, one of the five articles of faith of the Sikh religion is the kacchera – a drawstring undergarment meant to guard its wearer against lust. Indeed, almost every major religious or philosophical tradition heavily emphasises the value of self-restraint as a pathway to a virtuous and satisfying life. It makes sense that impulse-control has been held in such high regard historically: the ability to curb destructive urges and prudently delay gratification makes life easier in the long run. So what does modern brain science tell us about the best ways to approach willpower? This Aeon Video original mines the work of the US neuroscientist David Eagleman and the US psychologist Walter Mischel (known for his controversial ‘marshmallow test’) to explore what modern psychology and brain science say about the best strategies for resisting those feel-good things – big and small – that we know are bad for us.

Director and Writer: Adam D’Arpino

Producers: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn

Research Assistant: Tamur Qutab

Narrator: Ashley Klanac

Far from sluggish: the remarkable sea creature that weaponises its dinner

Nudibranchs, also commonly known as sea slugs, are a group of snail-like sea invertebrates. Despite appearing more or less defenceless, nudibranchs broadcast their whereabouts with their flamboyant, brightly coloured bodies. From an evolutionary standpoint, it might seem like a curious move, but their luminous skin actually serves as a warning to would-be predators to let them know they’d make for a dangerous meal. While some nudibranchs accumulate toxins and other defensive chemicals in their bodies, others – like the star of this film – have an even craftier method of warding off enemies. This remarkable short from the science and nature documentary series Deep Look details the clever way that some nudibranchs protect themselves by stealing defences from stinging sea animals known as hydroids. You can read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Josh Cassidy

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

‘My God! Where’s the human voice?’ A charming reflection on our pre-recorded world

From to Siri to subways to customer service calls, pre-recorded and robotic voices are becoming an increasingly inescapable part of the human experience. In this short animation from StoryCorps, the US author, historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel (1912–2008) reflects on this trend away from human interaction and toward disembodied sentence fragments. Recalling a scene from a tram ride at Atlanta airport with exceeding wit and charm, he considers the richness of the human voice, and what we lose when it’s replaced.

Director: The Rauch Brothers

Producer: Lizzie Jacobs

From canoes to cities, a frenetic celebration of the power of indigenous Canadians

In her short film Mobilize, Caroline Monnet – a Canadian filmmaker and artist of French and Algonquin origin – uses archival documentary footage to honour the restless diligence of Canada’s indigenous people. Given access to more than 700 films from the National Film Board of Canada for the project, Monnet crafts a fervent visual collage that spans the country’s rural north, where indigenous craftsmen are seen fashioning canoes, to scenes from skyscraper construction in the urban south. According to Monnet, in making the film, she sought to explore the trajectory of her own family’s history, as well as to simply bombard viewers with ‘images of indigenous people kicking ass on screen’. Heightened by a feverish score from the Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq, Monnet’s film offers a deeply original and personal perspective on the indigenous Canadian experience.

Director: Caroline Monnet

Score: Tanya Tagaq

Producer: Anita Lee

Website: National Film Board of Canada

This clever and stylish 1960 film is the most fun you’ll ever have at a physics lecture

Directed by the pioneering UK documentarian Richard Leacock, Frames of Reference is a slick and surreal dive into physics fundamentals and, in particular, why everything is indeed relative. Produced for high-school physics classes, the 1960 film features the physics professors Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey of the University of Toronto explaining, through an intertwined series of lectures and clever demonstrations, how frames of reference shape perspective. Using rotating sets, camera tricks and a visual style that suggests the film noir of Alfred Hitchcock, this is perhaps the most peculiarly entertaining half-hour physics lecture you’ll ever have.

Director: Richard Leacock

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Essay/
Neuroscience
The inner voice

From a very early age, children learn to talk to themselves. That voice in your head is the thing that makes you, you

Philip Jaekl

Essay/
Neurodiversity
Autism from the inside

Too many depictions of autistic people rely on tired clichés. The neurotypical world needs to take note of our own voices

Katherine May