Columbia University in the City of New York

Sep 28, 20216:00 pm

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture: How our Brains Decide, Create and Innovate

Featuring Michael N. Shadlen, MD, PhD, and Sheena S. Iyengar, PhD, moderated by Anne Loffler, PhD

September 28th, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm at Online

Register Here

Registration is required. RSVP by Monday, September 27, 2021. This event will be live-streamed. Drs. Shadlen and Iyengar welcome your questions! Please submit them via the registration link no later than Monday, September 27, 2021.

How our Brains Decide, Create and Innovate

Decision making is one of the most complex processes that occurs in our brains, but it relies on the same processes as other forms of cognitive function. In this pair of talks by two experts in related, but different fields, they will discuss how our brains make decisions and how to harness that understanding to generate our best ideas.

Michael Shadlen, MD, PhD, will open the event by describing how our brains use information from our senses or memory to make decisions, a process that is deliberate and intentional, although not always rational. He will describe how decisions incorporate the main ingredients of cognitive function, and how understanding them can help us understand ourselves. Sheena Iyengar, PhD, will then discuss how we can use our understanding of cognitive processes to harness our power for decision making and complex thought. She will discuss what it means to "think outside the box," using her new innovation method, Think Bigger, which draws upon neuro and cognitive science to show us how to get our best ideas.

Following the two talks, Anne Loffler, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the Sensorimotor Learning Group at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, will then moderate a discussion with the speakers. Audience questions are welcomed, either submitted during registration or live during the event.

Decision Making as a Model of Thought - Dr. Michael N. Shadlen
Our brains make decisions by taking in evidence from the environment via our senses or memory and committing to a plan or proposition. This process harnesses the same building blocks that make up cognitive function, but rather than happening quickly or reflexively, they take time and intention, and do not need to lead to immediate action. Dr. Shadlen will discuss how we can understand decisions as models of thought, and how our brains use decisions to make sense of a complex world.

How to Think Bigger - Dr. Sheena S. Iyengar
When coming up with creative ideas, we are always told to "think outside the box." But what does it actually mean to "think outside the box?" In this 15-minute talk, Professor Sheena Iyengar discusses her new innovation method, Think Bigger, which draws upon neuro and cognitive science to show us how to get our best ideas. We often believe the best ideas come in those magical, aha moments - when the apple fell on Newton's head or when Steve Jobs realized personal computing was the future. Professor Iyengar challenges this narrative and presents us with a structured approach to understanding, practicing, and solving the most complex problems we face. Rather than leaving behind our creative ideas in a single spark that burns out, she will tell you how the Think Bigger Innovation Method enables innovation that burns bright.


This talk is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture series, offered free to the public to enhance understanding of the biology of the mind and the complexity of human behavior. The lectures are hosted by Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

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