Subjects

Ian Robertson

Chair in Psychology, Trinity College Dublin
Best-selling author, The Winner Effect

The neuroscience of success and failure.

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Biography

Ian Robertson is one of the world’s leading researchers in neuropsychology. A trained clinical psychologist, Dr. Robertson is an expert at applying the latest psychological and neuroscience research to contemporary political, health, social, economic and business affairs in a very accessible manner.

He is the author of The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper (Bloomsbury, Jan 2017). Professor Robertson, armed with over four decades of research, reveals how we can shape our brain's response to pressure and answers the question: can stress ever be a good thing? The Stress Test is a revelatory study of how and why we react to pressure in the way we do, with real practical benefit to how we live.

Ian writes for several publications including Nature, Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Bulletin and London’s Daily Telegraph, as well as for the Guardian and Times. His numerous articles and blogs on contemporary and business affairs in the international press have been widely acclaimed. One recent article, in London's Daily Telegraph, was described as “a sensation” by its editor.

Ian holds the Chair in Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, and is a visiting professor at University College London. Dr. Robertson is also T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Scientist at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. He has held senior academic appointments at Cambridge, Edinburgh and Columbia Universities. He has also been elected a Fellow of the US Association for Psychological Science and the British Psychological Society.

Ian's book, The Winner Effect, Mind Sculpture and The Mind’s Eye, has been translated into dozens of languages. In The Winner Effect, Ian describes the mental and physical changes that take place in the brain of a “winner,” how they happen, and why they affect some people more than others. He explains the science behind success and how individuals, teams, businesses and even countries can build success by using this knowledge.

Ian is an engaging presenter who can hold an audience’s attention for extended periods through his uniquely interactive style of presentation. He captivates and activates audiences during his presentations and workshops at leadership, business, political, social policy and educational conferences across the globe. Participants leave with tangible take-home messages and practical strategies for change.

Books

The Stress Test

How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper

Ian Robertson

Why is it that some people react to seemingly trivial emotional upset — like failing an unimportant exam — with distress, while others power through life-changing tragedies showing barely any emotional upset whatsoever? How do some people shine brilliantly at public speaking when others stumble with their words and seem on the verge of an anxiety attack? Why do some people sink into all-consuming depression when life has dealt them a poor hand, while in others it merely increases their resilience?

The difference between too much pressure and too little can result in either debilitating stress or enduring demotivation in extreme situations. However, the right level of challenge and stress can help people to flourish and achieve more than they ever thought possible.

In The Stress Test, clinical psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Professor Ian Robertson, armed with over four decades of research, reveals how we can shape our brain's response to pressure and answers the question: can stress ever be a good thing? The Stress Test is a revelatory study of how and why we react to pressure in the way we do, with real practical benefit to how we live.

Bloomsbury USA (January 3, 2017)

Praise

“You can change, and here's the proof. This compelling examination of a scientific revolution helps us understand how we can learn to harness stress”
— Oliver James

The Winner Effect

The Neuroscience of Success and Failure

Ian Robertson

What makes a winner? Why do some people succeed both in life and in business, and others fail? Why do a few individuals end up supremely powerful, while many remain powerless?

The “winner effect” is a term used in biology to describe how an animal that has won a few fights against weak opponents is much more likely to win later bouts against stronger contenders. As Ian Robertson reveals, it applies to humans, too. Success changes the chemistry of the brain, making you more focused, smarter, more confident, and more aggressive. The effect is as strong as any drug. And the more you win, the more you will go on to win. But the downside is that winning can become physically addictive.

By understanding what the mental and physical changes are that take place in the brain of a “winner,” how they happen, and why they affect some people more than others, Robertson answers the question of why some people attain and then handle success better than others. He explains what makes a winner—or a loser—and how we can use the answers to these questions to understand better the behavior of our business colleagues, family, friends, and ourselves.

Thomas Dunne Books (October 16, 2012)

Videos

The Biochemistry Behind the Winner Effect

Can Money Be Addictive Like Cocaine

Four Steps to Unleashing The Winner Effect

Podcasts

The Neuroscience of Success and FailureLeonard Lopate Show

The Winner EffectBBC Radio 4

The Winner EffectRadioNational

Praise

“A book that will help you understand what makes winners, and what paths to avoid when you get power.”
MindYourDecisions.com

"Fascinating."
The Sunday Times (UK)

"Compelling stories combine with cutting-edge science to show why coming first is not the same as being a real winner — engrossing."
— Oliver James, author of They F* You Up

“Like a masterful detective, Dr. Robertson provides a captivating and insightful journey into understanding the mystery of the effects of power on human behavior and thinking.”
— Mike Hawkins, award-winning author of Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others

“He tells a compelling, vivid and instructive story of how we are empowered and how we are disempowered and how we succeed and how we fail. I really enjoyed it — it is a must read.”
— Raymond Tallis, author of Aping Mankind

“A fascinating topic dealt with in a fascinating way. … I love the book.”
— Matt Cooper, author of How Ireland Really Went Bust

“What does it take to be a winner; to be successful and achieve at an optimal level? Professor Robertson has masterfully synthesized cutting edge social, cognitive, and developmental psychology, as well as neuroscience with fascinating stories of notable people in the public eye to answer this question. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written by an international scholar, once you begin reading this book it will be difficult to put down. Whatever your profession, this remarkable book will most assuredly resonate with you.”
— John B. Arden, PhD, author of Rewire Your Brain

"Utterly fascinating."
Publishers Weekly

“Ian Robertson is a rare combination: a cutting edge neuroscientist whose important research is done in great depth and with careful detail, who also has the ability to step back, take risks, and explore the big picture, with a vivd, clear, engaging style, and enviable energy.”
— Norman Doidge, Author of The Brain that Changes Itself

"The winning habit: Ever wondered why some people are born winners and others losers? In his book The Winner Effect, the neuroscientist Ian Robertson reveals how coming first actually alters brain chemistry, making people who have won in the past more focused, confident and aggressive. The result? next time they are challenged, they are more likely to succeed. Besides advising how you can exercise your winning muscle, Robertson explains what makes a natural winner and loser, and how understanding this will help you to decode the behaviour of friends, family and colleagues. A timely read for medal season — or if you still can’t fathom your high-achieving sister."
— Sally Brampton, Sunday Times

"His book engagingly relates the nuances of why and how we win, and the pitfalls of getting juiced up on dopamine in extreme success and hungering for adulation and worship"
— Claire O’Connell, Irish Times

“What does it take to be a winner; to be successful and achieve at an optimal level? Professor Robertson has masterfully synthesized cutting edge social, cognitive, and developmental psychology, as well — as neuroscience with fascinating stories of notable people in the public eye to answer this question. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written by an international scholar, once you begin reading this book it will be difficult to put down. Whatever your profession, this remarkable book will most assuredly resonate with you."
— John B Arden PhD, Author of Rewire Your Brain

"This is a brilliant book in the Malcolm Gladwell style."
— Tom Dunne, Newstalk Radio

"In The Winner Effect, Ian Robertson takes us on a compelling journey through an array of topics to help us understand winners. He uniquely combines evidence from biology, neuroscience and psychology to give the reader a series of eureka moments. The book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding high performance."
— Dr Tagdh MacIntyre, irishsportpsych.com

"It’s a brilliant piece of work and explains so much about the human condition."
— wiredintorecovery.com

"The Winner Effect offers a map explaining what is sometimes referred to as the dark side of leadership. The implications are profound and extend far further than academic research into leadership. Discussions are already arising over the possibilities of not just understanding, but managing the adrenaline rush in humans not just in the board room but in combat, human relationship, sport and so on."
— From Leaders We Deserve

"What makes someone a winner?"
Times

Mind's Eye

An Essential Guide to Boosting Your Mental Power

Ian Robertson

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say. Yet our world, our civilisation has grown up on a foundation of words — laws, constitutions, treaties, charters, creeds — words that have tamed and liberated in equal measure. Our education, from earliest childhood, emphasises the importance of words. We take the world before our eyes and define it in a verbal language, and in so doing we capture it, understand it, celebrate it. But there are costs. In our reliance on the cold efficiency of language we have neglected the wordless ways of the brain. The uniquely complex human mind is capable of the most exquisite images and visions. But visualisation is not merely about sight and the imagined, it is about the way we interact with the world through our five senses. In "The Mind's Eye" Ian Robertson demonstrates how we are underutilising our brain's powers of visualisation. Taking the lessons of hard science, he explains how the brain works and how important visualisation can be; but more importantly, how we can all unleash the awesome power of our brains. Following simple exercises Ian Robertson describes how visualisation can: improve memory and learning power; be the key to creative thinking and problem solving; offer powerful ways of combating stress; fight physical illness and pain; enrich musical and artistic experience; and, enhance sporting skill and strength. In his trademark accessible and imaginative style, Ian Robertson brings to life the hidden workings of the brain, and teaches us all how we can best capitalise on our innate abilities. This is a must read for anyone interested in how the brain works, or unlocking our mind's full potential.

Bantam (December 1, 2011)

Opening the Mind's Eye

How Images and Language Teach Us How To See

Ian Robertson

Ian Robertson has always been fascinated by how the mind makes images, for that awesome power directly and deeply affects our lives. All of us "visualize" the world differently, and how we do so dictates the way we feel, remember, and think — and therefore our health, memory, and creativity. In this lively, accessible and fascinating book, Robertson explains that most of us employ language as a basis for visualization. In effect, we think in words more than in images. The result is an imbalance between the logical and the intuitive, between imagery-based thought and language-based thought. Opening the Mind's Eye is both an enlightening and stimulating explanation of how we "see," and a compelling argument for extending the mind's powers to improve the quality of our lives. Like Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, it combines insight and application.

St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (March 25, 2003)

Mind Sculpture

Ian Robertson

Discover how your brain is physically changed by what you do and think. How education moulds your brain, growing new connections between brain cells, building brain power, and proving it's not all down to genetics.

Bantam Books (October 5, 2000)

Topics

Ian offers both lucid and inspiring keynote-style addresses as well as more lengthy (two hours or more) workshop-style sessions: he can engage and enthuse an audience of 600 or more using a combination of micro-presentations interspersed with structured exercises that leave participants with tangible take-home strategies.

Ian is a master problem-solver who specializes in tailoring his presentation to the concerns and challenges of specific audiences and using structured interactive exercises to help solve real problems in real time during the session.

Ian tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Ian is happy to perform in a keynote capacity or to talk over longer periods by providing workshops or executive education classes of any duration from 30 minutes to 7 hours.

The Winning Mindset: Combining Achievement with Happiness

Imagine someone could find life-extending treatment equivalent to curing all cancers for all time. We would all live on average for four years longer if that was the case. But there is something that can extend life by an average of four years — success — albeit the rare and ultimate success of winning an Academy Award. Compared to Oscar nominees, Oscar winners live on average four years longer. Nobel Prize winners live on average up to two years longer than Nobel nominees.

Success is a key ingredient in not only health, but in every aspect of our lives — relationships, mental wellbeing, wealth and wisdom. The higher our status, the longer we live, the happier and wealthier we are. Success also makes us bolder and smarter. In his presentation, neuropsychologist Ian explains how success and failure in life shape us more completely than any drug or gene.

He explains how we can increase the success we experience in life and business and minimize the impact of failure on our minds and bodies.

See Ian Robertson’s 3 two minute videos on the winning mindset:
About The Winner Effect

The Biochemistry Behind the "Winners" Effect

4 Easy Steps to Unleashing "The Winner Effect"

Power and Gender

Can women handle power better than men? Would the 2008 financial crash have happened had there been more women in the board rooms and trading floors of the financial centers? What is power and why does it change people so profoundly? Ian explains that power is one of the greatest brain-changing drugs in the world and that it can change for better and for worse. He explains that there are two types of power motivation — p power and s power and that s power motivation – where you want to hold power, but not for purely egotistical reasons, can act as an antidote to the drug-like effects of power. In this presentation, participants will learn to analyze their own power motivations and those of their colleagues and staff, leaving with a new set of analytic tools for understanding the most under-recognized source of risk, lost productivity and conflict in any organization.

The Winner Effect: The Science of Success and How to Use It.

What makes a winner? Why do some succeed both in life and in business, and others fail? The ‘winner effect’ is a term used in biology to describe how an animal that has won a few fights against weak opponents is much more likely to win later bouts against stronger contenders and Ian shows that this applies to human beings too. Success changes the chemistry of the brain, making you more focused, smarter, more confident and more aggressive. The effect is as strong as any drug. And the more you win, the more you will go on to win. But the downside is that winning can become physically addictive.

By understanding what the mental and physical changes are that take place in the brain of a ‘winner’, how they happen, and why they affect some people more than others, Ian answers the question of why some people attain and then handle success better than others. He explains what makes a winner — or a loser — and how we can use the answers to these questions to understand better the behaviour of our business colleagues, employees, family and friends. And, more importantly, he shows how you can use these principles to boost their success.

Motivation — Insights into how to build highly motivated employees and a success-oriented organization.

What motivates you? What motivates your colleagues and staff? Understanding motivation is the key to understanding human behavior. The secret to a happy, productive organization is that to find the right match between the role and the motivational profile of the individual doing that job. Our basic motivations — for achievement, acceptance and power — are matched by corresponding fears — of failure, rejection and loss of control. People will devote enormous amounts of mental and physical energy trying to satisfy their own type of motivation and — more importantly often — stave off their own particular fears. In this presentation, Ian will help you learn how to analyze motivational patterns and understand the sort of problematic situations that afflict every organization and how to solve them. He can do this in a short keynote, or an extended workshop. There is no limit to audience size for the workshop.

The Psychology of Social Capital and how to build it in your organisation.

Employers spend considerable time and money selecting the right person for a particular job, and the more senior the job, the more they spend which, of course is right, because an organization is only as good as its people — particularly its leaders. But talent can be squandered if the social capital of the organization is absent or diminished. The nature of power relationships — formal and informal — is crucial for determining social capital. This presentation will help attendees in:

  • Assessing the nature of the power relationships within workplace networks.
  • Assessing whether individual power-holders are having a negative effect on the network.
  • Assessing positive and negative relationships in the network.
  • Assessing degree of individual and group competitiveness in network.
  • Assessing whether individuals are identifying with the organization/network
  • Pinpointing conflicting identities which weaken social capital

How well groups function, and how committed individuals are to group versus selfish goals, depends on a number of psychological factors.

Take this finding, for instance: when a chicken colony has too many high egg producers, the overall egg production of the colony plummets and profits fall. This is because the most productive chickens are the most dominant and too many dominant chickens end up fighting about who is top of the pecking order. Energies are squandered and so the profitability of the group is decimated.

Similar things happen in human groups — including sports teams — and the most productive groups tend to have a balance of people with high, medium and low dominance levels.

Many organizations suffer this loss of productivity because of high status managers fighting with each other as to who is top of the pecking order. This costs corporations billions of dollars every year.

This presentation will allow managers to better understand these crucial obstacles to productivity and give them tools for improving them.

Finding the Sweet Spot of Stress — How to turn stress into energy-giving challenge.

While some people respond well to pressure and function better in difficult situations, others have the opposite reaction and fall apart. The difference between too much pressure and too little can result in either debilitating stress or demotivation. The right level of challenge and stress, however, can help people flourish and achieve more than they thought possible. This level varies hugely between individuals and situations, but when it is reached it is what Ian refers to as the ‘sweet spot’. This spot can be changed, and in this book, based on his own research and clinical observations, Robertson reveals how we can use the sweet spot to control stress and boost performance.

Solving Business Problems

Problems are a part of life. Ian is a master problem-solver and has developed a unique presentation that shows you how to apply a systematic problem-solving strategy to your own unique business and organisational problems. Ian can do this with audiences of a thousand in a 45 minute presentation or in small group workshops over the course of a few hours. Unlike any other conference presentation you have attended, Ian’s presentation starts with your current preoccupations and offers you a systematic strategy for analyzing your problems, using specific techniques for identifying possible solutions and other techniques for homing in on the most promising solution. Ian also shows how you can use the relationships between people in your organization as the best potential source of innovation, entrepreneurial ideas and solutions to business problems.

Understanding The Science Of Successful Learners

The compelling research underpinning Ian’s book, The Winner Effect, should inform the craft of all teachers. Ian will explore the power of success and failure experiences in shaping children’s brains and entire lives. He will show primary school educators are like brain surgeons, physically crafting the brains of their pupils at a time in their lives when their brains show exquisite malleability.

Videos

The Winning Mindset | Happy Conference 2015

Ian begins speaking at 1:45 minutes

Its Official We Cant Multi Task - That Includes Women

The Resilient Leader

Feedback

A knowledge and networking society conference:
Ian Robertson was great!!! Tremendously great, the theme, the presentation, the communication style, wonderful, what a wonderful [ . . . ] Conference 2015!!

Several comments from attendees at a commercial law firm event:
Just a quick email to thank you very much for organizing the launch in Dublin this morning and in particular, such an amazing speaker in Professor Ian Robertson. I passed on my praises for the event to [ ] whom you may know, who recommended it to me and then unfortunately missed it! Her loss ! ... Kind regards and well done !

I found the presentation fascinating and while I had some innate feelings on the topic during my career I wish I had the benefit of Ian's structured and logical presentation sooner. Your organization and introductions were top drawer...... Already begun to read the book and by coincidence I am mid way through Alasdair Campbell diaries and will now have the benefit of Ian's wisdom on power etc. Thank you.

Just a quick note to thank you very much for organizing the launch in Dublin this morning and in particular, such an amazing speaker in Professor Ian Robertson. Kind regards and well done!

Just a very quick note, while the iron is hot, to say thanks very much for organizing the talk this morning. Prof Ian Robertson's presentation was truly fascinating. It was also very thought provoking. As you said yourself, his will be a very hard act to follow.
Best regards for the moment.

A leadership excellence conference:
Dear Ian,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for speaking at the [ . . . ].

I know that delegates found your session a very useful part of a demanding and challenging learning programme. I can say without reservation that this year’s event has surpassed all expectation, and has been hailed as the best to date.

The feedback we have received for Thursdays programme suggests that the delegates found your keynote session extremely “inspiring”, they felt your presentation was an “engaging and fascinating”. Your session was enlightening and fitted well into the overall theme – Outstanding Leadership.

Thank you so much for coming to [the conference] to share your expertise and experience with our delegates as part of what has been a highly successful week.

An international leading executive resourcing firm:
Ian, Many thanks once again for a fantastic and engaging presentation this morning. The feedback from our guests was an overwhelmingly positive one.

Articles

— Arizona Daily Sun
— Thrive Global
— Fortune
— The Financial Express
— The Irish Times
— TalkRadio
— The Guardian
— The Telegraph
— IanRobertson.org
— The Independent
— Quartz
— Center for BrainHealth | University of Texas at Dallas
— Irish Independent
— The Washington Times
— The Telegraph
— The Winner Effect Blog
— The Winner Effect Blog
— The Conversation
— The Conversation
— The Huffington Post
— The Huffington Post
— The Guardian