A series of talks from specially invited speakers. Talented and persuasive presenters will be invited to address the audience for one hour on a diverse range of topics, which could include law, medicine, politics, conservation or the media.
Called on to be fresh, riveting and original, these speakers will ignite your curiosity and challenge your perspective on matters of substance, before responding to your comments and questions from the floor.
With a similar format to the groundbreaking TED Talks, this series is sure to spark some crisp debate.
Keep an eye on this page for updates on Think Talks throughout the year as we plan to add topics as new speakers become available. Each talk is held only once.
If you would like us to email you reminders when Think Talks are running, please email us here and let us know: Think Talk Reminder Emails
|Price (inc. GST)
|Think Talk: What Should New Zealand do with regard to Climate Change?
|Think Talk: Generative AI - What's Going On!
|Think Talk: Toitū te marae o Tāne, toitū te marae o Tangaroa, toitū te iwi. If the land and sea are healthy, the people will be healthy
|Think Talk: Moving Forward: Sustainable Transportation in the Climate Change Era
|Think Talk: The Criminal Justice System in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Critical Introduction
|Think Talk: The Use of Fear in Marketing
|Think Talk: Urban Issues - What is Our City Coming To?
|Think Talk: The Two Treaties
With Dr Jessica Maxwell.
Current research by Dr Jessica Maxwell indicates that our beliefs about sex have important implications for our relationship well-being, and our sex lives. Do you need sexual chemistry with a partner right from the start? Is ‘makeup sex’ truly more passionate? How does sex contribute to the well-being of New Zealanders? The talk will cover the answer to these questions and more using recent findings from social psychology. Attendees will leave with a greater understanding of how they can keep the sexual spark alive in their long-term relationships, and what harmful myths about sex they should abandon. This was an R18 talk.
With Professor Alison Jones
This talk is about the process of writing This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir. According to the book’s blurb: “This book is about my making sense here, of my becoming and being Pākehā. Every Pākehā becomes a Pākehā in their own way, finding her or his own meaning for that Māori word. This is the story of what it means to me. I have written this book for Pākehā – and other New Zealanders – curious about their sense of identity and about the ambivalences we Pākehā often experience in our relationships with Māori”
With Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley
New Zealand’s demography began to change in 2010, and elements of these changes – declining fertility, rapid ageing of the population, major regional differences in population change – became more pronounced through the decade from 2010 to 2020. One of the most profound changes came in the period 2017 to 2020 when immigration contributed significantly to very high levels of annual population growth. COVID-19 has accelerated some of these changes and completely altered others. This talk will explore what we might expect through the 2020s, both in relation to ongoing demographic change and the various impacts of COVID. Should we be talking about “depopulation”? We will also look at the the extremism visible at the parliament protest has been growing in NZ for years – is enough being done?
With Associate Professor, Timothy Kuhner
Government by the people is under threat, even here in New Zealand. Rising inequality, political distrust, rampant corruption, authoritarianism, and climate change threaten political communities world-wide. Why are democracies performing so poorly? How are these problems manifesting locally? What can people here and abroad do to revitalize democracy, and ensure a brighter future? This lecture addresses the underlying causes of democratic decline and proposes a series of reforms that would ensure greater integrity.
With Suresh Muthukumaraswamy
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Current treatments for depression are hampered by only limited effectiveness and slow onset of response. Recently new therapies have emerged that have shown promise for many patients who suffer from this disorder. Some of these therapies include transcranial magnetic stimulation, ketamine and psychedelics for depression and various types of talking and exercise therapy. Science is only just beginning to understand how some of these therapies can be combined for optimal patient outcomes.
There is a global trend toward urbanisation, and New Zealand is no different, with >85% of people living in urban areas. While urban areas are often considered of low biological value, this is far from true. Recent research shows a huge amount of biodiversity living within our cities. Furthermore, studies show that people's physical and mental health is linked to nature, meaning maintaining urban biodiversity is important for both us, and the ecosystems in which we live. Dr. Margaret Stanley discussed the biodiversity living here in our city and how we ensure its future survival. Margaret is the Director of the Masters in Biosecurity and Conservation at the University of Auckland. Her research interests in ecology are diverse, but much of her research seeks to understand and mitigate human impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, particularly invasive species and urban development.
In her talk, Dr. Luders will first introduce the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, the brain’s remarkable capacity to adapt and to change in response to internal or external demands. Then, Dr. Luders will demonstrate how the study of mindfulness fits into this field of research. More specifically, she will present outcomes from an ongoing science project designed to analyse brain features in long-term meditation practitioners. The project comprises more than a dozen studies – all of them revealing exciting insights into the unique brain anatomy of meditators, including evidence for their seemingly younger brains.
Eileen Luders is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Trained in neuroscience and neuropsychology, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Luders’ research is focused on understanding the human brain using high-resolution neuroimaging and state-of-the-art brain mapping techniques. Central themes of her studies are the brain’s sexual dimorphism, brain development and aging, as well as abnormalities in brain anatomy as often associated with specific diseases, disabilities, and disorders.
"Technology influences the nature of communication”. This is what Neil Postman (1986) meant when he said ‘you can’t do philosophy with smoke signals’. By this he meant that the unique form of every communication medium forces us to engage in different ways.
We currently live in a world where communication through Facebook, Instagram and ‘txt’ is often our principal means of communication. What is this doing to what is being communicated and how it is being communicated? Pip Mules will examine how the technology of writing, especially print, allows us to develop abstract ideas but disengages us from close empathic connection with others. She will use as an example the ‘like’ button on Facebook which allows users to express positive emotions such as support or approval, and now a ‘dislike’ button allows users to express disapproval or lack of support. “We need to encourage forms of media that expand our capacity for humanity, empathy and wellbeing."
Pip Mules is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication Studies at AUT University. Her teaching and research areas are interpersonal communication, public relations communication and persuasive communication.
With Dr Stephen Noakes, Lecturer, The University of Auckland.
This talk explores how one party rule persists in China despite mounting pressure for reform from both international and domestic sources.
Taking the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising as its starting point, it examines how institutional and ideological innovations undertaken by successive generations of communist party leadership not only forestall systematic collapse (as in the case of the Soviet Union), but work to protect and preserve the non-democratic status quo.
Lisa Marriott will report on research findings showing that individuals in New Zealand are likely to receive different treatments in the justice system depending on whether their crime is ‘white-collar’ or ‘blue-collar’. The presentation will also report on a range of other situations where individuals who have fewer resources will be treated more harshly than those who have greater resources.
Lisa Marriott is an Associate Professor of Taxation at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Accounting and Commercial Law. Lisa’s research interests include social justice and inequality, and the behavioural impacts of taxation. In 2013 Lisa was awarded a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant to investigate the different treatments of tax evasion and welfare fraud in the New Zealand justice system. Lisa has worked in industry in the private sector in the United Kingdom and in the New Zealand public sector. For the past eight years, Lisa has worked in academia.
Why do humans create and appreciate art? Has art played a role in the biological survival of our species? Brian will discuss these questions posed at The Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart (often called the most interesting art museum in the world) in 2016.
Brian Boyd has written on literature and art from Homer to the present, from epics to comics, especially on Shakespeare, Vladimir Nabokov, and Art Spiegelman. His work has won awards on four continents and has been translated into eighteen languages. He is currently researching a biography of philosopher Karl Popper.
From the Bible to Chomsky, it has been argued that language is unique to humans, and emerged in a single miraculous step. This is contrary to Darwin’s theory of evolution. I will argue instead for a naturalistic account, based on the gradual evolution of such faculties as mental time travel and empathy, and on the development of expression through bodily gestures.
Michael Corballis was born in New Zealand received most of his education here before completing his PhD at McGill University in Montreal, where he subsequently taught for 10 years. He works on brain imaging of mental processes, brain asymmetry, and the evolution of language. His most recent book is “The Truth about Language: What it is and Where it came from.”
While New Zealand was once considered a ‘land of milk and honey’, after more than thirty years of neoliberalism many in our society are excluded from opportunities to live well. This talk will focus on some of the key arguments about social inequalities presented in a new collection of papers written by many of the country’s leading social scientists – A Land of Milk and Honey? Making Sense of Aotearoa New Zealand. As the ethos of individual choice and responsibility becomes more and more natural to New Zealanders’ ways of thinking, the book highlights the social and structural forces that shape the lives and opportunities of us all in New Zealand.
Avril is a Pakeha sociologist from the Far North of Aotearoa New Zealand. Her major area of teaching and research interest is the ongoing impact of colonial history in contemporary New Zealand society. She is the author of Relating Indigenous and Settler Identities: Beyond Domination (2014, Palgrave Macmillan) and numerous academic papers and book chapters on related topics.
The talk will examine the power struggles that occur between politicians and journalists in interrogative exchanges. It will discuss the nature of contemporary political performance and consider the functions of political journalism. Examples will be drawn from the 2017 New Zealand election campaign. With Professor Geoffrey Craig, Director of Research in the School of Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology.
Is it bad for people to be fat? Would policies to reduce obesity rates make people better off? This talk will give some surprising philosophical reasons for the answer `maybe not.’ We will discuss:
Martin Wilkinson has undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Oxford University. He worked in the Department of Political Studies from 1993-2002 and returned in 2009 after several years working in the medical school. In recent years he has worked on ethics in organ transplantation and public health ethics. His book Ethics and the Acquisition of Organs (Oxford University Press, 2011: pbk 2015) has been described in reviews as `slim, rigorous and entertaining' (Journal of Applied Philosophy) and `a first-rate work of philosophy, independent of sub-field' Res Publica. He was Chair of the Bioethics Council and Deputy Chair of the National Ethics Advisory Committee.
There are considerable human and environmental costs associated with producing clothes. These include the poor conditions and low wages of garment workers and the pollution caused by the manufacture and disposal of clothes. This talk will discuss two sides to Western consumption. First, why it is that endless new clothes are considered an essential identity statement to so many people, and second why we ignore the considerable damage caused by the abundant and cheap clothes that fill our stores. Ethical eating and sustainable transport are regular topics of conversation – surely it is time to get talking about wearing clothes that promote, rather than detract from, human and ecological flourishing.
Niki Harré is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. She also has a Sustainability leadership role in the Faculty of Science. Her recent research projects have focused on sustainable communities and schools, positive youth development and political activism.
Summary: Medical research and clinical trials in particular are designed to help patients live better and/or longer. Large sums of government and charitable money are spent every year on basic, clinical and translational research in laboratories, hospitals and research centres around the world. How do doctors and scientists develop research projects that will achieve realistic outcomes for patients? Do they optimally capture and utilise the information they generate? And do they avoid inefficiencies or duplication of efforts with other researchers? How are regular people receiving improved quality of life or other real benefits from medical research? Using her experience in cancer drug trials, Dr Wilson will explain these facets of medical research.
Dr Michelle Wilson is a Medical Oncologist and Clinical Senior Research Fellow in Oncology at the University of Auckland. She is undertaking her Doctor of Medicine where she investigates the challenges facing clinical trial design in medical oncology.
Dr Robin Toomath, Clinical Director of General Medicine at Auckland Hospital, has a simple thesis. It goes like this: it is not their fault. Obese people did not choose to be that way. In her talk, she discussed her research and her book "Fat Science, Diets and exercise don't work - what does". This book is written for the people (and their spouses, children, parents and doctors) who try to lose weight but fail. Dr Toomath explained how overweight people are at the whim, first of their genes - especially those that control appetite - and then, of an environment that is saturated in energy-dense, crappy food options.
Nickola Overall, Associate Professor at University of Auckland talked to how close relationships can have a powerful impact on our psychological and physical health, the source of the greatest joy and happiness, but also, sadly, sometimes the source of our greatest pain. The talk outlined how people's relationship insecurities influence the way they perceive their partners and manage conflict. Importantly, Nickola also identified factors that overcome these dysfunctional patterns.
We have effective treatment for large numbers of medical conditions but the ability of doctors to improve the health of patients is limited by the fact that large numbers of patients are non-adherent to prescribed treatment. Non-adherence has been called the largest problem facing medicine today. In this talk Keith will discuss how non-adherence is largely driven by the beliefs patients have about their illness and treatment. He will look at some of the background beliefs in modern life that encourage non-adherence and give some examples of how health psychology can develop interventions to improve adherence.
Keith Petrie is a Professor of Health Psychology at Auckland University Medical School. Keith Petrie worked as a clinical psychologist in medical settings before taking up a faculty position at Auckland University. His primary research focus involves how patients’ perceptions about their illness and treatment influence coping and recovery. His research group also does work on adherence to treatment, psychological influences on symptom reporting, as well as the placebo and nocebo response. Professor Petrie’s work in this area published in major international medical and psychology journals and is highly cited. His recent awards include a Fulbright Senior Fellowship to Harvard Medical School, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Applied Psychology, the Gluckman Medal for Research Excellence and a Distinguished International Scholar Award from the American Psychological Association. In 2015 Professor Petrie was the recipient of the Durie Medal, which is awarded annually by the Royal Society to New Zealand’s pre-eminent social scientist.
For much of its colonial history, immigrant arrivals to Auckland were dominated by those from the UK and Ireland, with modest numbers from other origins. This changed dramatically in the 1960s with migration flows from elsewhere in the Pacific, and has changed again (dramatically) in the 1990s with the significant increase of arrivals from various parts of Asia. It is now an incredibly diverse city, one of the most diverse in the OECD. This has implications for just about everything, from food and education, to who plays what sports, political engagement (or disengagement), housing and consumption. This talk will outline the demographic changes that have – and will – occur and explore some of the implications for Auckland.
Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University, New Zealand. He was the Programme Leader for the “Integration of Immigrants Programme” ($3.2 million, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment/MBIE) and Nga Tangata Oho Mairangi which researches population change ($800,000 MBIE, 2012-2014) and is one of the Principal Investigators on Capturing the Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa New Zealand ($4.8 million, MBIE, 2014-2020). He is the author or editor of 27 books on politics, employment and labour markets, ethnic identity and immigration. He was awarded the Royal Society’s Science and Technology Medal for leadership in intercultural relations in 2009, he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of California Berkeley in 2010 and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2011. In 2013, he was a Visiting Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen. The award of the recent MBIE grant enables the New Zealand research team to work with their colleagues on the Max Planck hosted project on Global Diversity which examines the way in which immigration has contributed to superdiversity in global cities. Auckland will become a new site for this research.
Neoliberalism could easily be understood as one of academia’s most recent “buzzwords.” It has been utilized in various ways and inflected with multiple meanings. This talk will explore some of these meanings and focus on how neoliberalism is re-shaping the core components of criminal justice, such as policing, courts, prisons, and probations. While all of these areas will be touched upon, the major emphasis will be on lower-level courts, which process most of the individuals charged with a criminal offense.
Ronald Kramer teaches courses in criminology at the University of Auckland. His research focuses on power asymmetries and social control. This relationship has been explored through studies of graffiti-writing, prison fieldwork, and an ethnography of New Zealand’s district courts. He has recently published articles in Theoretical Criminology, British Journal of Criminology, and Punishment and Society.
One of the great mysteries of biology is intelligence. Why does it evolve? What structure does it take? Can its evolution be predicted? In this talk Alex will talk about his research into the minds of adults, children, crows and keas, using theoretical and experimental approaches from both biology and psychology, in order to gain insight into this area. Can we discover whether the same cognitive structures evolve time and again in response to the same selection pressures?
After studying Biology at Oxford University, Alex completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of Auckland in 2010, supported by a Commonwealth doctoral scholarship. This work focused on understanding the intelligence of the New Caledonian crow, one of the few species on the planet to make sophisticated tools. He was then awarded a prestigious Junior Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge to work with Professor Nicola Clayton. During this time he developed a theoretical framework for mapping the evolution of causal understanding, which formed the basis of a successful application for a European Research Council grant with Professor Clayton. He returned to New Zealand in 2012 as a Lecturer in the School of Psychology
What exactly are war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide? And why do these serious international crimes matter for policymakers and analysts of contemporary world affairs? In this brief talk, Dr Damien Rogers will discuss the legal definitions of these crimes, describe some examples of these crimes in their various contexts, and outline the international community’s major responses to mass atrocity.
Dr Damien Rogers lectures within the Politics Programme at Massey University’s Albany Campus and is Author of Postinternationalism and Small Arms Control: Theory, Politics, Security (Franham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2009), Rogers’ current research interests include the UN Secretaries-General, international armed conflict, and civil war, as well as the international prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
What do New Zealanders do and say about having a family or having more children when a genetic 'disability' is a strong likelihood? This talk examines the moral reasoning of people and families with genetic conditions, of people who work with these families, and of parliamentarians and others who deliberate to make laws and guidelines governing these decisions. The concepts of 'disability' and 'choice' are critically examined.
Professor Julie Park is an anthropologist in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Auckland. This talk is based on her and her Otago University colleagues', Associate Professors Ruth Fitzgerald and Michael Legge, RSNZ Society Marsden funded project: "Troubling Choice", and her long-standing research with people with haemophilia.
Physical IN-activity is a global health problem. It is well known that lack of exercise adversely impacts our cardiovascular health. But did you know that lack of exercise reduces the number of neurons in our brains, and also dulls our memory and our ability to resolve conflict? This presentation will describe the science of exercise and brain health, and provide you with some simple and low stress tips on how to “preserve your brain”.
Dr Jim Stinear is the Academic Director of postgraduate programmes in Exercise- and Neuro-rehabilitation at the University of Auckland, and a member of the Centre for Brain Research. Dr Stinear leads the Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology programme, and conducts research on how the brain recovers control of walking after stroke.
Life expectancy in New Zealand is tracking upwards year on year, and indeed, for men at least, we are closing again on the world leaders. What are the implications for health care, public health priorities and social policy? This session will be based on a book - The Healthy Country? A History of Life and Death in New Zealand, by Alistair Woodward and Tony Blakely, recently published by Auckland University Press.
Alistair Woodward is a Professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. Present research projects include impacts of rapid climate change in China, the history of birthweight and the influence of road design on transport choices.
Great Power Rivalry and the Obama Administration’s Policy toward Syria 2011-2014
By most standards, the record of the Obama administration’s policy towards the Syrian uprising has been decidedly mixed. While the administration avoided embroiling America in another Middle East conflict, it has not been able to stabilise what is a bloody civil war. In particular, the Obama administration has failed to broker a diplomatic solution and prevent the conflict from spilling over to Iraq through the rise of ISIS. Two countries – Russia and Iran – have played a significant part in frustrating Obama’s policy toward Syria, but there is little evidence to support the claim that Obama’s ‘weakness’ fuelled Russian and Iranian support for the brutal Assad regime in Damascus.
Professor Robert G Patman is HOD of Politics at the University of Otago.
His research interests concern US foreign policy, international relations, global security, great powers and the Horn of Africa. He is an editor for the journal International Studies Perspectives, and the author or editor of 11 books. Recent publications include a volume called Strategic Shortfall: The 'Somalia Syndrome' and the March to 9/11 (Praeger, 2010) and three co-edited books titled: The Bush Leadership, the Power of Ideas, and the War on Terror (Ashgate, 2012); China and the International System: Becoming a World Power (Routledge, 2013); and Science Diplomacy: New Day or False Dawn? (World Scientific Publishers, 2014). He is a Fulbright Senior Scholar, an Honorary Professor of the NZ Defence Command and Staff College, Trentham, and provides regular contributions to the national and international media on global issues and events.
Have you ever wondered why social inequalities are so entrenched, or why an individual’s ethnicity, gender, or sexual preferences can so profoundly shape the course of their life? The sociological imagination is an illuminating theory that provides us with a powerful way of thinking about how individual biography, social structure, and history interact, connect, and influence each other. It enables us to look under the surface of things and to realise that some of what we believe to be our personal troubles are in reality social issues with deeper and often hidden causes.
Vivienne Kent is a sociologist and historian who teaches sociology in the New Start Programme, a bridging course that provides a pathway to undergraduate-level study at The University of Auckland. She also runs courses on the history and society of Aotearoa/New Zealand for international students.
When eminent historian David Hackett Fischer published his 2013 comparative history of New Zealand and the USA, Fairness and Freedom, commentators and scholars in both nations took notice. The two nations share a heritage as Anglo settler societies, but their dominant ideals—fairness for New Zealand and freedom for the USA—differ. These contrasting ideals have shaped the development and trajectory of both nations. In this talk, she will discuss the book’s exploration of the two nations’ histories, the discussion and debate surrounding the book’s main arguments, and offer a perspective as a US historian living and teaching in New Zealand.
Jennifer Frost is Associate Professor of History at the University of Auckland. A historian of the 20th century USA, she focuses on social, cultural, and political history, has written books about the 1960s and Hollywood, and co-teaches a course on race in New Zealand and the USA.
Read our blog about Jennifer and her talk here.
Bill McKay, School of Architecture and Planning, University of Auckland, traced the fascinating development of state housing in New Zealand. Looking at the Liberal Government's first houses in 1906, NZ Railways' mass production of workers' houses in the 1920s, the Garden Suburb philosophy and the famous houses of the first Labour Government, his talk exploded a few myths about the state house programme.
Jian Guan from the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland has been investigating the effects of nutrition on brain development, premature aging and cognitive function, and the association of metabolic syndrome with brain degeneration. The seminar focused on how lifestyle can either positively or negatively affect your brain function during aging and what we can do to help the brain age gracefully. Read our blog about Jian Guan here.
The presentation explored how the experience of removal, dismissal, disconnection and deprivation contributes to and sustains the transfer of prison experience across generations. It identified different forms of institutional confinement mapping the effects of residential training schools and borstals in the 1970s and the implications of these on present prison populations. Delivered by Tracey McIntosh (Tuhoe), Associate Professor teaching into the sociology and criminology programme at the University of Auckland. Read our blog about Tracey McIntosh here.
Whether we like it not, the brain is always active, often taking us away from the present into imaginary worlds or the soap-operas of other people's lives. The spontaneous activity of the brain is to be welcomed and appreciated, because it is critical for creativity, our future plans and hopes, and the consolidation of our memories. Delivered by Michael Corballis from the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland, the talk explained how the neuroscience of mind wandering is revealing new aspects of how our minds work.
Many psychological barriers can hinder perceiving, understanding, and acting upon environmental issues. In particular, psychological distance refers to feelings that environmental problems are too uncertain, will occur far away (geographical distance), far in the future (temporal distance), and to people different from oneself (social distance). In this talk Taciano L Mifont will summarise research on the negative effect of psychological distance. Results suggest that public engagement in pro-environmental actions might increase by making environmental problems less psychologically distant and more tangible. Practical and theoretical implications of this research programme will be discussed.
Taciano is interested in the contributions psychology can make to the science of human–environment interactions. His research has been supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand (Marsden fund), Wellington City Council and other internally and externally-funded grants. He received the 2013 GV Goddard Early Career Award from the New Zealand Psychological Society for achievement and excellence in research and scholarship.
For most of us, seeing is effortless. We open our eyes and the world is instantly available to us. But the ease of the process belies its complexity and we are only just beginning to understand how the brain creates our visual sense of the world. In this lecture Will will talk about what it means to see and how the brain is more important than the eyes for accomplishing this feat. He will discuss a range of visual phenomena, like 3D TVs and visual illusions, and why you can’t safely talk on your phone while you’re driving.