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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mind Field is a series in which a curious host explores various psychological/scientific concepts through experiments and a look at existing research in the field. The show may take on ticklish topics such as criminal justice practices or the potential for artificial intelligence to become human-like. It also has an academic bent, with a lot of vintage footage of classic experiments, so young children may find it uninteresting. Some demonstrations of concepts show distressing things -- such as lab rats running in a maze or a cell that held an inmate during solitary confinement -- or disgusting things -- such as subjects being asked to handle dog feces. There's a bit of strong language ("s--t," "dick"; "f--k" is bleeped), and experiments are occasionally mildly dangerous (smashing glass objects, electrical shocks), but otherwise the show is both educational and interesting for tweens and up.
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What's the story?
Known to millions of YouTube fans as the host of the Vsauce channel and producer of quirky educational/scientific videos, Michael Stevens turns his attention to human behavior in MIND FIELD. What can isolation do to the brain? Why is conformity such a crushing pressure to people? How does smiling influence your feelings when faced with a revolting task? On each episode, Stevens combines demonstrations on real subjects with footage from classic experiments to show why human nature works the way it does -- and what we don't know about why we do the things we do.
Is it any good?
Host Stevens has said that his new series was inspired by Beakman's World, and it's easy to see the DNA of that 1990s weird-science favorite in this "did you know?" show. But there's no lime-green lab coat -- Stevens favors vintage button-downs with wild patterns -- and the subject matter is more mature; conformity, memory, and aggression are a few of the topics Stevens digs into, instead of snot and the earth's rotation. Stevens is less goofy in his demonstrations, too; there's no mugging, cheesy costumes, or put-on accents. Instead, Stevens does things like trying out a sensory-deprivation tank to prep for a three-day stint in solitary confinement or stranding test subjects in a boring room for half an hour to see if they succumb to the urge to give themselves an electric shock just for something to do.
Though adults won't be gobsmacked by Stevens' various conclusions -- if you've taken a basic psychology class, you've probably already grasped many of the concepts the show delves into -- tweens and teens probably haven't explored many of these ideas at school and will be interested both in what they're learning and in Stevens' zippy, ironic delivery. If you're looking for a show you can watch with tweens/teens, particularly if they're of an investigative or curious bent, Mind Field could fill the bill.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does Stevens demonstrate curiosity in Mind Field? Why is this an important character strength? How does teamwork factor into his demonstrations? Even when he's ostensibly performing demonstrations alone, how does this teamwork make experiments and broadcasts possible?
Do demonstrations ever yield a different result than Stevens expects? How do these results change what he concludes on each episode? Do your opinions change when you get new facts?
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