The Mind, Explained

This short series available on Netflix features the most popular topics about the mind: memories, dreams, anxiety, mindfulness and psychedelics. An episode is twenty minutes long; the content is easy to digest; it gives light but thorough explanations. When watching it, the viewers get a sense they are catching up with their high school biology studies to pass the next exam. The show uses illustrations in order to depict the brain and give a more understandable insight into our own mind. Involving examples of literature, history and art, it is constantly ensured that the less biology-minded viewers are able to enjoy the series as well.

As someone who is more interested in humanities than natural sciences, the show has been surprisingly capable in maintaining my focus due to its ability to find the sweet spot between being condescendingly superficial and using scientific terminology which could only be understood by those choosing this particular field of study. Directors have also done a great job bringing real life people in to give interviews, ensuring the explained concepts do not seem too out of touch with reality, but can be seen as phenomena occurring in everyday life as well. In the first episode discussing memory they used the example of 9/11 to show how people who were in New York that day recall the terrifying events. A bonus point can also be given to the critical perspective taken, since when discovering the inaccuracy of memories of the day, the show includes a diagram depicting the average number of details one can remember over time, therefore they pay extra attention to avoiding misinterpretations.

In spite of giving a scientific but still understandable and exciting explanation about the working mechanisms of the human mind, the episodes stick with a normative approach on controversial issues, as in the cases of psychedelics or anxiety. One could argue their goal is to explain biological backgrounds behind experienced phenomena, therefore it is perfectly adequate to avoid political or medical debates. However, forming opinion on the aforementioned topics is almost awkwardly avoided. We do not hear about debates either on medical treatment in cases of different levels of anxiety, or on the use of psychedelic drugs. Despite the great narration given by the Oscar-winning Emma Stone, The Mind stays purely informative, rather than challenging or self-consciously artistic. It is not necessarily problematic, since one cannot see aims to produce anything beyond an explanatory series. However, for those looking for something more challenging or opinionated, this might not be the best possible choice.


Image: johnhain via needpix