Paul Zak

Popular TED Speaker | Author, Trust Factor

Paul’s research is a quest to understand the neuroscience of human connection, human happiness, and effective teamwork. He describes an eight step trust-boosting program that every organization can use to have happier, healthier, & more productive employees. Paul also uses neuroscience to quantify the impact of movies, advertising, stories, and consumer experiences.

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Human connection. Paul Zak’s two decades of research have taken him from the Pentagon to Fortune 50 boardrooms to the rain forest of Papua New Guinea. All this in a quest to understand the neuroscience of human connection, human happiness, and effective teamwork. His academic lab and companies he has started develop and deploy neuroscience technologies to solve real problems faced by real people.

His latest book, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies, uses neuroscience to measure and manage organizational cultures to inspire teamwork and accelerate business outcomes. His 2012 book, The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, recounted his unlikely discovery of the neurochemical oxytocin as the key driver of trust, love, and morality that distinguish our humanity. In another obsession, Paul’s group uses neuroscience to quantify the impact of movies, advertising, stories, and consumer experiences. Along the way, he has helped start several transdisciplinary fields, including neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing.

Paul earned a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Professor of Economic Sciences, Psychology, and Management at Claremont Graduate University. He was given 5 TED Talks and has spoken in 30 countries, including at NATO Supreme Headquarters, Google, Facebook, Harvard University, Microsoft, Association for Talent Development, the World Experience Organization, the World Bank, DARPA, ING Bank, Finsbury, and HSM.

Speech topics

Emotional Wellness

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the necessity of wellness broadly understood. In order to perform well as an employee, family member, and human being one must be physically and emotionally healthy. Much is known about how to maintain one's physical health, but the science of emotional wellness has only recently emerged. This talk discusses why emotional health has been ignored for so long and why it is an essential dimension of life satisfaction. Drawing on data from Dr. Zak's laboratory as well as new wearable technologies, this talk provides practical ways to measure and monitor emotional wellness to improve one's health and happiness.

TRUST: The Neuroscience of High Performance Organizations

Trust is the secret ingredient of high performance organizations. Dr. Zak describes the science and applications of a management tool he developed called Ofactor that has been used by numerous organizations to increase trust between colleagues and improve the bottom line. It is based on the latest brain science developed in his lab. He describes an eight step trust-boosting program that every organization can use. In a surprising twist, he shows why high trust organizations have happier and healthier employees. It’s not rocket science, but it is neuroscience.

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Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and Source of Customer Happiness

No one wants to see a bad movie or watch an exquisitely bland Super Bowl commercial, or suffer through a rage-inducing call with tech support, but it happens all the time. There is a scientifically-grounded way to not only prevent them, but create extraordinary customer experiences. Immersion, a neurologic state I discovered in two decades of research, identifies when the brain values an experience and and creates a desire to repeat it. This talk reveals how to create mind-blowing experiences illustrated by the hard problems that I have helped the US government, Fortune 500 companies, and even public schools solve. These applications show that immersion accurately predicts with 83-95% accuracy who will purchase an advertised product, why some stores handily outsell others, which movies and TV shows will be hits, and which students will remember a lesson weeks later. While the talk based on science, it is animated by engaging narratives that show listeners how to create the extraordinary.

Hacking the Happiness Molecule

Evolution does not promote happiness. Most creatures live on the edge of survival and do whatever it takes to get through another day. Yet, many human beings seek to be, and often are, happy. How did that happen? Dr. Paul Zak's discovery that oxytocin functions as a moral molecule, led him to investigate the biology of happiness. His experiments show that oxytocin significantly improves happiness and health. He then used himself as a test subject to "hack" his happiness. This engaging and practical talk shows how we can embrace our biology to live better, healthier, and happier lives.

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Books

Packed with examples from The Container Store, Zappos, and Herman Miller, Trust Factor harnesses our neurochemistry to effectively cultivate work places where trust, joy, and commitment compound naturally.

The Moral Molecule reveals nothing less than the origins of our most human qualities—empathy, happiness, and the kindness of strangers.

Drawing on converging evidence from neuroscience, social science, biology, law, and philosophy, Moral Markets makes the case that modern market exchange works only because most people, most of the time, act virtuously.

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