Psychologist Lisa Damour’s online talk gains global attention

Before last spring, Lisa Damour had never attended a TED event. Instead, the clinical psychology instructor often enjoyed watching the talks available for viewing online. Less than a year later, the tables have turned: Now, thousands of people are staring at their laptop screens, enamored with Damour’s TEDxCLE talk, “The Difference Between Adults and Grown Ups.”

Her talk, which earned praise locally following the event, now is being touted globally, with the official TED organization promoting it through social media, its website and other outlets last week. It is the first talk from TEDxCLE to be promoted by the global TED organization.

TED—which stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design”—is an annual event that brings together some of the world’s leading thinkers, including Steve Jobs and Stephen Hawking. Videos of the event’s talks often go viral online, with many receiving millions of views. TEDxCLE is an independently organized TED event that began in 2010 and is one of the hottest tickets in Cleveland; last year’s event sold out in less than 40 minutes. Organizers selected four Case Western Reserve University community members—Damour, Brian Grimberg, Yohannes Haile-Selassie and Philip Niles—to be among the 11 speakers at the event.

Damour’s talk focused on the differences between people who simply age into adulthood and those who mature into a “real grownup.” She used her experience as a psychologist and the director of the Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School to compare the attitudes of teenagers—who are nearing adulthood—and grownups.

“Everything I know about what it means to be a grownup, I’ve learned from teenagers,” she began. She then gave examples of the differences, including how adults vs. grownups assess risk. “The way I see it, people who are merely adults—who haven’t really grown up—assess risk in terms of the chances of getting caught engaging in risky behavior,” she noted. “In contrast, people who are really grown up assess risk in terms of the actual consequences of the behaviors they’re exhibiting.”

She then provided concrete examples of these behaviors and takeaway advice for parents raising teenagers and ushering them into the world of grownups. Though she “didn’t intend for the talk to be particularly funny,” her experience and examples provided the audience with plenty of laughs—perhaps in particular those who remember themselves at that age or who are raising teens. It’s allowed her to reach a broad audience with whom she otherwise likely would not connect.

“Since the talk, I’ve heard from audience members and from people who saw the talk online,” she said. “The TEDx phenomenon lets people to share their thinking with a wide audience—it means a lot to me to be able to connect with parents who are doing the hard work of raising teenagers.”

To watch her talk, visit;Featured-Talks or view the video above.