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Prof. Nick

Linguist, Thinker, Author, and Ig Nobel Laureate


Nick Enfield is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney and a highly original human thought and behaviour researcher.

He has done award-winning research on how language influences how we think and act, with special attention to cultural and cognitive diversity. His many books include “How We Talk: The Inner workings of Conversation” (2017) and “Language vs. Reality: Why Language is Good for Lawyers and Bad for Scientists” (2022). His 2022 book won a PROSE award for best (language and linguistics) from the Association of American Publishers. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American Mind, the Sydney Morning Herald, and many more outlets.

Nick directed the research team that won an Ig Nobel Prize for discovering that “Huh?” is a universal human word - perhaps the only universal word ever identified.

Nick has more than twenty years of experience speaking to thinking audiences around the world, both scientific/academic and general public, including Google, Integrity20 in Brisbane, TEDxSydney partner stage, DISRUPTED festival of Ideas in Perth, Museum of Contemporary Art, Woollahra Public Library, and many instalments of the Sydney Ideas series at the University of Sydney. Nick is highly experienced in media appearances (radio and television), MCing, and moderating on-stage panels.

Nick is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Royal Society of New South Wales, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Talking Points

Overcoming the Biases and Limitations of The Mind

The human mind is brilliant and yet seriously flawed. I break down the key limitations of how we think, and lay out some ways in which we can avoid and exploit our limitations for better outcomes.

What is Truth, Why it Matters, and How to Talk About It

Truth matters. A lot. But it is not easy to get at the truth, especially in this age of polarized discourse. I outline the cultural changes we need in order to talk well, reason well, and make good decisions for all.

The Surprising Science of Conversation: What Makes Language Unique

I describe my award-winning research on the unique and surprising elements of human language that distinguish us from the other animals: the inner workings of conversation, from 'um' to 'Huh?'

Cognitive Literacy: How to Red-Team your Mind

Organizations that are serious about performance employ ‘red teams’ to find vulnerabilities and holes in the system so that these can be patched; I argue in this talk that as critical thinkers we need to understand our own cognitive flaws and install cognitive red-teams in our own minds; this is a scientifically-informed talk with actionable ideas for overcoming cognitive bias.

Communicating for Humans

If we can’t speak or write clearly, how can others understand us clearly? If we can’t be understood, how can we create the change we wish to make? This talk draws on the science of how human beings understand and process language to lay out fundamental design principles for communicating effectively.
I’ve had the pleasure of having Nick speak at a few of our events. He has a great rapport with the audience and offers thought-provoking and entertaining insights to his field of expertise. We consistently receive excellent feedback from our audiences and would not hesitate to invite Nick to speak again in the future. Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Nick has the exceptional capacity to take big, complex ideas and make them accessible and compelling. He is engaging, articulate and rigorous in his thinking but relaxed and humorous in his presentation. He has the capacity to talk on a wide range of topics. He can work well with large audiences and in more tailored, personal environments. I highly recommend Nick Enfield, he is professional and easy to work with and always delivers a thought-provoking, insightful and entertaining presentation.

University of Sydney

Professor Nick Enfield was an absolutely professional, engaging, knowledgeable yet approachable speaker. He had the ability to captivate an audience quickly, field incredibly challenging questions … with utter professionalism and grace. He left a lasting impact on the Rising Minds audience, with attendees taking the time to come to us to ensure we personally thanked him on their behalf. On top of his demeanour and approach to speaking, the topic he spoke on was absolutely spot on, relevant and topical - and unsurprisingly incredibly well researched. We would most definitely recommend Nick.

Rising Minds
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