UCL News


UCL neuroscientist wins British Psychological Society Book Award

4 October 2018

Prominent UCL neuroscientist Dr Tali Sharot has been awarded with the British Psychological Society Book Award for 2018 in the Popular Science category.

Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Experimental Psychology, and director of the Affective Brain Lab, won the prize for 'The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about our Power to Change Others'.

Her book, first published in September 2017, gives an in-depth look at how people form beliefs, why those beliefs can be stubborn, but how change is possible if we have a better understanding of the human mind.

Dr Sharot shows that we systematically fall back on suboptimal habits when trying to change other's beliefs and behaviours. Many of these instincts - from insisting the other is wrong or attempting to exert control - are ineffective, because they are incompatible with how the mind operates.

"The main message is - when trying to communicate information, give advice, guide - we need to take into account the way the human brain works with all its biases and seemingly irrationalities.

"We cannot treat humans as if they are simply information processing machines. We need to take into consideration people's motives, desires and fears. Otherwise our well-meaning attempts may backfire."

In the book Dr Sharot illustrates the critical role of emotion in influence, the weakness of data and the importance of curiosity. Relying on the latest research in neuroscience, behavioural economics and psychology, the book provides insights into the complex power of influence, good and bad.

Dr Sharot said she was thrilled to find out she had received the award. "It is a great honour to have fellow scientists recognise my work with this award. I am very grateful to The British Psychological Society for the book award."

"I have been touched by the many emails I have received from readers across the world in different fields - from political activists to parents, business professionals and medical doctors - sharing stories of how the book helped them professionally and in their daily lives," she said.

Dr Sharot has previously been honoured by the Society, picking up the same award in 2014 for her book 'The Optimism Bias... Why We're Wired to Look on the Bright Side'.