What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

The Neurology of Where Habits Come From

September 10, 2013, 1:31 PM
Shutterstock_133806461

I first got interested in habits about a decade ago when I was a reporter in Iraq.  I had gone to Iraq as a reporter for the LA Times and I worked for the New York Times and thought that being in battlefields would be super cool and it turns out that being in battlefields is actually terrifying. 

So I was looking for stories that I could write that would not put me into places where people could shoot at me.  

I heard about this Army Major down in a city named Kufa, which is about an hour south of Baghdad.  And I flew down to meet him.  He had stopped riots from happening by taking kabob sellers out of the plazas.  And I thought this was totally fascinating. What would happen is people would get hungry, the crowds would develop and there were no kabob sellers there, so they’d all go home and the riot would never happen. 

And I asked him how he knew this because the riots had been a problem in Kufa for a year.  And he said that the military is like this giant habit formation experiment.  Everyone learns how to work in the military by learning how to manipulate their own habits and other people’s habits.  

That got me super interested.  So when I got back to the U.S., I wanted to learn about habit formation and I wanted to learn how to change my habits. I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to be able to exercise easier. I felt like I was a successful person and yet I was powerless over changing these patterns in my life. 

And so, the more I researched it, the more people told me, this is really a neurology issue and a neurobiology problem.  And the more I did research the more I learned that we are living through a huge evolution in our understanding of habits.  And it’s being driven primarily by understanding the neurology of where habits come from. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

The Neurology of Where Habi...

Newsletter: Share: