Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You

Course No. 1670
Professor Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D.
The College of William & Mary
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Course No. 1670
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Use insights from neuroscience to “hack” the human brain with practical, evidence-based strategies for living a better life.
  • numbers Delve into the brain to find out why we behave the way we do, and learn how to change our unconscious behaviors to improve our day-to-day lives.
  • numbers Understand the unconscious mechanisms for human behavior, and use insights from neuroscience and psychology to improve your life.

Course Overview

What if you aren’t as in control of your actions as you think you are? What if your subconscious is driving your decisions without your approval? Is there a way to “hack” your brain to perform better, live healthier, and break your bad habits? We all can think of things about ourselves we’d like to change, but as neuroscientists are coming to realize, changing our behaviors isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Many of our everyday decisions are rooted in the subconscious, which means we have to “outsmart” our own brains to see results.

Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You will give you insights into how your mind works and the tools you need to make lasting change. Taught by Professor Peter M. Vishton, Associate Professor of Psychology at William & Mary, these 24 exciting lectures give you a wealth of practical strategies for enhancing your thinking and improving your well-being. You’ll see how the subconscious guides much of our behavior, leading to a kind of autopilot through much of life, including when it comes to making important decisions.

The brain is an amazing instrument, and neuroscientists today have more information than ever about how it works—as well as strategies for helping us live better every day. The surprising thing is just how counterintuitive some of these strategies can be. For instance, the best way to combat procrastination is often to…do nothing for 20 minutes. By forcing yourself to do nothing, you won’t get caught up in time-sucking avoidance behaviors like checking email. After 20 minutes, you’ll find yourself focused and ready to get to work.

Neuroscientists have stumbled onto countless insights for living better, many of which go against the grain of what you might think you know. Examine why exercise is less helpful for weight-loss than we had previously believed (but is valuable in other ways), why talent is an overrated predictor of success, how the effects of mindfulness meditation have benefited us since our hunter-gatherer days, what procrastination can do for your creativity, and more.

Whether we’re distracted by too many tasks, being influenced by crafty marketers, or simply living in a rut of bad habits, our conscious brains aren’t always guiding us toward the best actions. Fortunately, Professor Vishton offers the latest in scientific research to outsmart the automatic workings of your brain. Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You empowers you take charge of your life and harness your brain’s full potential.

Uncover Evidence-Based ‘Hacks’ For Your Brain

One common misconception is that we only use 10 percent of our brains. In fact, Professor Vishton explains, it’s clear that we use much more than that, but we may only understand 10 percent of our brains. The good news is that recent years have seen an explosion of knowledge about the brain, and with that knowledge comes new opportunities to perform better. One key theme running through Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You is that a few simple practices really can offer dramatic results in our performance, creativity, physical health, and mental well-being.

From the myth of multitasking to the mechanisms behind falling—and staying—in love, Professor Vishton shows you what is happening inside your brain, which will help you achieve your goals like never before.

  • Improve Your Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health: Curb your unhealthy snacking, unlearn your phobias, improve mindfulness, and combat depression. These things are easier said than done, but brain-based strategies for living healthfully offer immeasurable dividends.
  • Master the Mental Game: Researchers have discovered that simply imagining yourself performing an exercise can make as big an impact on your strength as physical practice. From how language shapes your brain to the practice of “monotasking,” encounter ways to improve your performance.
  • Hone the Subtle Art of Persuasion: Learn the tricks of the salesperson’s trade, from after-dinner mints at a restaurant to the pricing strategy at your local watering hole. Researching the art of persuasion will empower you in your negotiations and make you a savvier consumer.
  • Uncover the Key to Happiness: If money doesn’t buy happiness, where do you turn for a fulfilling life? Based on longevity studies, see why valuing your time and deepening your friendships might be the most important thing you can do for yourself.

Build a Toolkit of Strategies for Better Living

When you complete this course, you will have an abundant list of practical, everyday ways to strengthen your creativity, improve your problem-solving, enhance your health, and generally operate on a higher level:

  • Examine why keeping a notebook might be the easiest way to shake bad habits such as biting your fingernails.
  • Delve into the psychology of anger and emotional mirroring, which will help you better diffuse interpersonal tensions.
  • Perform a bit of time travel to outsmart your “present self” to make life better for your “future self.”
  • Consider eating fermented foods next time you feel the blues and need an emotional pick-me-up.
  • If you want to boost your creativity, try taking a walk—preferably in a nice outdoor green space.

These are just a few of the many tips and strategies Professor Vishton offers to help you overcome your brain’s hardwiring.

In each lecture, he backs up each of his strategies with evidence from psychological studies and the recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience. You’ll explore some of the classic experiments in psychology, from John Watson’s behaviorism to Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies. Thanks to research with EEGs, fMRIs, and other technologies, you’ll go inside the brain to find out how our neurochemistry drives our behaviors—and what we can do about it.

Participate in Each Lecture

One thing that makes this course so unique is that not only do you walk away with practical tips, you also get the chance to put these tips into practice during the lectures. How do you use a five-gallon and a three-gallon jug to measure out exactly four gallons? How do you connect two ropes hanging from the ceiling if they’re more than an arm’s width apart? Professor Vishton gives you ample opportunities to test your creativity and problem-solving skills with engaging puzzles, brainteasers, word games, and more. These mental calisthenics are sure to get your neurons fired up.

Whether you are looking for a mental stimulus or want increased clarity for the challenges of everyday life, Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You offers a satisfying blend of theoretical knowledge and practical know-how to help you jumpstart a more productive and fulfilling life.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Take Control of Your Automatic Brain
    Recent decades have seen an explosion of understanding about our brains, and with this new information come some surprising and counterintuitive conclusions about our behavior and decision-making processes. In this first lecture, examine the disconnect between our actions and our consciousness of those actions. Are we as in control of ourselves as we like to think? x
  • 2
    Beat Procrastination by Doing Nothing
    From time to time, procrastination affects us all. Here, you'll discover several evidence-based strategies for reducing procrastination by attacking it at its source. Three tips show you how to be more efficient and effective. Along the way, you'll study the neurochemistry of why we procrastinate-and what makes it so tempting. x
  • 3
    Train Yourself like a Dog
    The unconscious plays a strong role in developing bad habits. To help you examine and modify your behaviors, Professor Vishton gives you several tips, ranging from the very simple (keep a notebook of your activities) to the complex (employ behavioral psychology). Which of your habits would you most like to change? x
  • 4
    Clean Your Kitchen, Improve Your Diet
    What can neuroscience tell us about healthy eating? Can scientific insights help you curb unhealthy snacking? In this first of two lectures on food, see how simple changes such as cleaning your kitchen and changing your food's packaging may have a measurable effect on unhealthy eating habits. x
  • 5
    Eat Slow, Eat Small, Eat Smart
    To be healthy, you must eat healthy. This second lecture on food considers the hormones that drive hunger cues and how your body responds to different foods. Find out why high fructose corn syrup is bad for you-and why exercise might not help you lose much weight. x
  • 6
    The Myth of Multitasking
    Our modern world seems to demand multitasking. We constantly check email, make phone calls, and live on the go. But recent research clearly shows that we are more efficient and creative if we can focus on one task at a time-a strategy known as monotasking." Consider how the brain works when confronted with multiple tasks." x
  • 7
    Future You and Better Decisions
    Enter the fray of a negotiation between the present you" and the "future you." Do you take $10 today, or wait for $15 next week? While the answer may seem logically clear, we have a powerful, built-in desire for instant gratification. Learn what you can do today to make decisions you will approve of tomorrow." x
  • 8
    How to Become an Expert on Anything
    You might think talent is ingrained, and that either you have it or you don't. But cognitive research reveals that practice is just as-if not more-important for success in a given task. Discover strategies for how to practice any skill, and how to stick with it until you become an expert. x
  • 9
    Tune Up Your Brain with Meditation
    We all have a conception of what meditation is-but what actually happens inside your brain? Could it be that meditation built into our evolutionary makeup? And how can regular practice benefit us? Reflect on the answers to these questions and more in this eye-opening lecture. x
  • 10
    Take the Sleep Challenge
    Explore the mysterious realm of sleep. While your body may shut down, your brain performs important, fascinating work to help you be more focused, creative, and productive in your waking life. Here, you'll discover why eight hours of sleep is so crucial. Then you'll consider the role of dreams. x
  • 11
    Boost Insights and Creativity
    Have you ever wished you could be more creative? From listening to the right music to getting into a creative frame of mind, Professor Vishton offers several practical, easy-to-implement strategies for finding more creative solutions, solving puzzles, and enhancing your mental prowess. x
  • 12
    Enhance Performance with Imagery
    Imagine you could lift more weights or better perform an athletic task without once putting on your sweats or driving to the gym. It turns out that mental training has genuine physical effects, all because the human imagination is such a powerful tool. Learn how to use imagery and the imagination to boost your performance. x
  • 13
    Overcome Your Aging Brain
    There's no doubt that neurons die off and mental decline occurs, but the good news is that we can stave off these ill effects through exercise, new experiences, and more. In this lecture, delve into the aging brain to see what happens as we get older, and what you can do to mitigate the force of time. x
  • 14
    Grow Your Brain Out of Depression
    Even if we never experience a major depression in our lives, mild depression is like the common cold" of mental illness. Yet most people fail to seek help, instead trying to power through these unfortunate down periods. Here, Professor Vishton offers several ways to fight these mild depressions." x
  • 15
    Hack Your Brain to Unlearn Fear
    From flying to public speaking, we all have a number of arguably irrational phobias. Where do these fears come from? How do we learn them? And most importantly, how do we overcome them? Go on a step by step journey through the world of fear, and learn what you can do to minimize common phobias. x
  • 16
    Use Your Body to Alter Your Mind
    Jog your brain into activity-literally. In this fascinating lecture on the relationship between the body and the mind, you'll learn why forcing yourself to smile has genuine mental benefits, see how physical activity can aid your problem-solving skills, and more. Test yourself at the end to see these theories in action. x
  • 17
    Suppress-Don't Repress-Anger
    Here, Professor Vishton considers the mechanisms behind anger, which leads to an explanation of how humans mirror each other's behaviors and emotions. Understanding the roots of our anger then provides a way to diffuse tense situations and gain better control of our emotional landscapes. x
  • 18
    How Little Things Cause Big Persuasion
    Shift your attention from outsmarting yourself to the ways people try to outsmart you. This first of a two-lecture unit on persuasion examines how the reciprocity effect," apparent expertise, and scarcity are all subtle methods of persuasion. Uncovering these techniques will make you a savvier consumer, negotiator, and more." x
  • 19
    How Framing Changes Decisions
    Continue your study of persuasion with a look at two common techniques in sales: getting your foot in the door" with a small request and asking for a big, "door in the face" kind of favor-using either as a prelude to what you really want. Whether you are in the business of persuasion or simply want to be better informed, this lecture is invaluable." x
  • 20
    How Language Changes Your Brain
    Humans have a language instinct unlike any other living creature. Explore the exciting world of linguistics and the brain, discovering how language influences our behaviors-even when we are not conscious of it. What you'll learn is that for your physical health and mental well-being, words most certainly matter. x
  • 21
    How Your Brain Falls in Love
    Poets have been ruminating about love for ages, but what do the neuroscientists have to say? Here, consider why people fall in love, and what role simple exposure, facial symmetry, and eyes play in romantic attraction. Review what happens inside the brain when you fall in love. x
  • 22
    The Neuroscience of Lasting Love
    Look beyond the superficial qualities of attraction and delve into love as a long-term emotional commitment. Examine the three main "love systems" in the brain and what we can learn from them. This lecture shows us why staying in love can be a bigger challenge than falling in love. x
  • 23
    How Your Brain Creates Happiness
    We all want to be happy, but achieving this state of being is the million-dollar question. In this first lecture on happiness, find out precisely why money truly doesn't buy happiness. You'll investigate the effects on your brain of earning a higher salary or winning the lottery, and then reflect on the way time is ultimately more valuable for happiness. x
  • 24
    Happy Brains Are Smart Brains
    Round out your course with some helpful tips for living a happy, fulfilled life. From exercising in green, natural surroundings to putting more value on your time, happiness is most definitely achievable-and it can even become a habit. All it takes is a little work to outsmart yourself. x

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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 216-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 216-page printed course guidebook
  • Illustrations and photographs
  • Questions to consider
  • Suggested reading

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Your professor

Peter M. Vishton

About Your Professor

Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D.
The College of William & Mary
Dr. Peter M. Vishton is Associate Professor of Psychology at The College of William & Mary. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Cornell University. Before joining the faculty of William & Mary, he taught at Northwestern University and served as the program director for developmental and learning sciences at the National Science Foundation. A consulting editor for the journal Child Development,...
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Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 123.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Explains what the course is about. This professor is so knowledgeable and is an excellent presenter. We really liked him. He uses much information based on scientific experiments. We learned a lot about our brain and how it works.
Date published: 2020-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delightful. Outsmart Yourself was my first Great Course, and was a marvelous beginning. There were practical "tips" for everything from weight loss to diminishing phobias. It was a nice mix of technical brain functions, Prof. Vishton's personal stories, and student application of his principles. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outsmart Yourself I am on lesson #8 and I have been getting great bits of info from each one. Some things I aleady knew and needed refreshing, others I think I knew but had forgotten. I enjoy Peter Vishton's presentations, he's easy to look at :) and he has lots of examples of what he's talking about. Each lesson is easy to follow and he inspires me to keep notes and DO what I need to make changes in my life. I have to say that I don't care for the faces in the background. I find them distracting when trying to listen.
Date published: 2020-05-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Was not advised of US exchange The book that we ordered from was send to our home in Canada with the CA Flag all over it. No where on our order or invoice Did it say that there was an exchange from CA toUS. We thought you were was a Canadian company. We are enjoying the courses and was going to order more and even had others interested until we seen our credit card bills. Very disappointed
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Describes course perfectly Very informative and explained in an interesting and captivating way!
Date published: 2020-04-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I have watched five of the lectures. It's taking me a while to get through them because I just don't find them very interesting, instructional, entertaining, or memorable (ironic?). I'm thinking about asking for a refund.
Date published: 2020-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome content! I I’ve never been disappointed with any of the courses that I’ve purchased. They are all, in my opinion, some of the best material available. You can’t go wrong!
Date published: 2020-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting, Great Value, Great Course This course was on sale and I'm glad I took advantage of the other! The self improvement information is fascinating, relevant and usable. The professor is pleasant to listen to and easy to watch. I like being able to watch a segment, take time to implement changes and watch the next class on my schedule.
Date published: 2020-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from PICK THIS COURSE AND DO IT!! I will use the information in this course both in my work as an attorney and law professor as well in my personal life. Interesting and engaging, Prof Viston's lectures move succinctly and seamlessly through fascinating material -with incredible tips and hands on instruction that I'm already using. Loved his presentation. Worth every minute- especially loved the lecture on smiling, adopting a power pose, and how to influence people. Because his tip is to do something different every month to keep the brain from aging, I have already enrolled in two activities!!! Thanks, Prof Viston for these useful, life changing strategies...so glad I enrolled even if my strained neck has to take another two hours of sitting in front a blue screen. Kudos to you. My first Great Course...this dude may be one hard act to follow!!!
Date published: 2020-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course! I have taken a lot of self-improvement courses in my day so I was worried that I really wouldn't learn much from this one. I was so wrong! This course has so many interesting ideas and concepts that I have never heard of before. I am practicing these things and really seeing results! I will definitely be buying more from Great Courses. Thank you!
Date published: 2020-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I am only part way through this course but am finding it very interesting. The presentation is good and I find I always look forward to the next lecture.
Date published: 2020-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to Understand As someone who has studied psychology to PhD level, I was aware of much of the content. However it was put over in a straightforward and engaging manner and I enjoyed past material being refreshed and getting an insight into new ideas. I liked the Professors teaching style, very approachable and the addition of personal anecdotes further humanised and enhanced the content. I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend. thank you.
Date published: 2020-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The lost art of cooking I haven’t finished it yet but love it! Enjoy watching it and making the recipes
Date published: 2020-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hack Your Brain for Your IMprovement Here are easy to implement examples of ways to hack your brain to improve your thinking and performance. Wish I had found this about, oh, 50 years ago!
Date published: 2020-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Met expectations So far, I am happy with it. We have 14 other courses - mostly arts, ethnography, history, and natural history.
Date published: 2020-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful video I have not finished this course yet-am a little over half way through, however I am thoroughly enjoying it and plan to watch it again. It has alot of very useful information. The meditation chapter was particularly helpful as it was something I had struggled with. No more. I would buy this again.
Date published: 2020-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Old Testament—mindfulness—- algebra —-etc I have purchased a few. The narrators are excellent and the content is so informative and intensely presented.
Date published: 2019-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating & Highly Applicable Content I was skeptical at first if I was going to like this course let alone find it useful based upon the title of 'Outsmarting Yourself' which is a bit cliche. In this course is a great wealth of new information about the discoveries in the field of human brain research which in many cases runs counter intuitive to what I thought was true about our brains. The instructor has a strong presence and though from time to time he might slip up reading from the teleprompter I found him to be quite knowledgeable. Out of the 70+ courses that I own I can say that this is one of my favorites.
Date published: 2019-08-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from May Be I'm To Old, But... I found this course to be a complete waste of time. For a couple of lectures I did 'Outsmart' myself, with the earlier help of one your excellent copywriters. In the 1st or 2nd lecture the Prof. said, and I almost quote, 'Happy music will make you feel better.' I knew this was not going to be even '101.' This course probably is for some one half my age, as I've gone through a lot in life and found myself a deal ahead of the lecturer. And he, himself, was like a paper cutout with little personality. I've had much more interesting professors in a number of others courses in previous year. In short I immediately obtained a refund. Sorry folks, you can't win 'em all!
Date published: 2019-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from News you can use. Lots of solid science mixed artfully in to a "how to" guide to helping you lead a happier life
Date published: 2019-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely Helpful! I started learning right out of the gate in lecture one! Tips and explanations in that lesson have already made a marked improvement in my productivity. Thank You!
Date published: 2019-06-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from difficult to understand without CC i purchased this dvd and download and am in the process of calling the company to see about returning the two (2) programs i bought which remain unopened. i do not understand why these programs are configured without closed captions. now i have to pay to return them.
Date published: 2019-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Purchased this course a couple weeks ago, very well designed format, easy to understand concepts, valuable insights and self help.
Date published: 2019-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outsmart Your Brain This is a wonderful series and I highly recommend it! When I purchased the series I invited friends and now 13 of us watch it every week in two lecture chunks which leaves us time for discussion! We were all impressed with the instructor and his delightful and informed presentations!
Date published: 2019-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies I am extremely grateful for this research on the brain that is changing my whole life! This course has enhanced also those around me because the Professor has scientific data to back up his well organized tips for happiness and wisdom. Thank you
Date published: 2019-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent tips! Professor Vishton is a top notch lecturer. The course is well developed with fascinating research findings and great tips. I don't care for the physical background - stage? and find it a bit distracting. Overall though, I'm delighted with the course.
Date published: 2019-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It’s at a moderate pace. Gives me a chance to incorporate and practice the strai. Book and video are redundant. It’s ok as it cements the content.
Date published: 2019-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fundamentals of Photography This is an excellent course. I appreciated the fact that Joel Sartore took us "behind the scenes" to show how he accomplished some of the shots. The demonstrations throughout the course are a great teaching tool and Mr. Sartore is an excellent communicator.
Date published: 2019-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love the Professor's style I bought this to help me understand why I am having so much trouble with procrastination and goal "reaching." Man, what an eye opener. I have watched the complete set of DVD's and now have started on the book. I am planning on reading and viewing until I have these concepts mastered. So many questions answered.
Date published: 2019-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent tips! I bought this within the month and am really enjoying it. It is clear and concise and has great tips for a better you. {great for New Year's resolutions. I suffer from depression and found the tips for understanding this very helpful.
Date published: 2019-01-28
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