By Sarah Geegan
Psychology Associate Professor Nathan DeWall will showcase his expertise on the Discovery Channel's new series "Head Games," premiering at 10 p.m. this Sunday, June 3.
The show, narrated by actor John Krasinski, invites viewers to explore brain games, mind puzzles and social experiments that display how the human mind works. Both viewers and on-screen subjects will be challenged to participate in these puzzles to better understand how and why people conform, perceive, react in certain ways or make moral judgments — all relating to the complex inner workings of the brain.
DeWall will appear in the "Conformity" episode, the premier, and is featured on the trailer saying, "Now we are going to see if we can make people walk in circles that don't make any sense."
"Every day, we go along with others without knowing it," DeWall said. "Most of the time this helps us have better relationships. Occasionally it causes us to do things we might later regret. What does this say about the human mind? Are we hard-wired to conform? This episode illustrates our built-in "herd mentality" using social experiments."
DeWall said that the show's producers approached him because the series covered science specifically in his area. His research focuses on social exclusion and acceptance, exploring how social exclusion influences aggression, emotional responses such as empathy, pro-social behavior, physical sensitivity to pain and self-regulation.
"They told me the show used engaging social experiments, brain puzzles and cutting-edge science to help viewers understand the human mind," DeWall said. "Of course I was interested!"
The "Head Games" episode was unscripted; DeWall improvised all of his appearances on camera, which he said he enjoyed.
"My mission is to communicate and invigorate interest in psychological science to a broad audience," DeWall said. "This show attempts to do just that. I'm deeply honored that they included me. Plus, the people at the Discovery Channel are extremely nice, hard-working and professional. Let's hope Head Games gets picked up for another season!"
In addition to DeWall's position in the Department of Psychology, he serves as a co-director of A&S Wired, a residential college of the College of Arts and Sciences.