Podcast

Hidden Brain

Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.

Episodes

  • You 2.0: Rebel With A Cause

    Aug 19 2019

    Francesca Gino studies rebels — people who practice "positive deviance" and achieve incredible feats of imagination. They know how, and when, to break the rules that should be broken. So how can you activate your own inner non-conformist? This week, we ponder the traits of successful rebels as we revisit our 2018 conversation with Gino.

  • You 2.0: Our Better Nature

    Aug 12 2019

    If you live in a big city, you may have noticed new buildings popping up — a high-rise here, a skyscraper there. The concrete jungles that we've built over the past century have allowed millions of us to live in close proximity, and modern economies to flourish. But what have we given up by moving away from the forest environments in which humans first evolved? This week, we revisit our 2018 conversation about the healing power of nature with psychologist Ming Kuo.

  • You 2.0: Tunnel Vision

    Aug 05 2019

    When you're hungry, it can be hard to think of anything other than food. When you're desperately poor, you may constantly worry about making ends meet. When you're lonely, you might obsess about making friends. This week, as part of our You 2.0 series, we bring you a favorite 2017 episode about the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. Researchers say this form of tunnel vision can affect our ability to see the big picture and cope with problems in our lives.

  • You 2.0: The Empathy Gym

    Jul 29 2019

    Some people are good at putting themselves in another person's shoes. Others may struggle to relate. But psychologist Jamil Zaki argues that empathy isn't a fixed trait. This week: how to exercise our empathetic muscles. It's the first episode in our You 2.0 summer series.

  • Facts Aren't Enough

    Jul 22 2019

    Sometimes when we believe something, we resist data that can change our minds. This week, we look at how we rely on the people we trust to shape what we believe, and why emotions can be more powerful than facts. This episode features new reporting and favorite conversations with neuroscientist Tali Sharot and philosopher of science Cailin O'Connor.

  • Finding Your Voice

    Jul 15 2019

    At some point in our lives, many of us realize that the way we hear our own voice isn't the way others hear us. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the relationship between our voices and our identities. Plus, we hear how advances in technology might help people with vocal impairments, and consider the ethical quandaries that arise when we can create personalized, customized voices.

  • The Fox And The Hedgehog

    Jul 08 2019

    The Greek poet Archilochus wrote that "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." This week, we'll use the metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog as a way to understand the differences between tacticians and big-picture thinkers. We'll explore the story of a pioneering surgeon whose hedgehog tendencies led him to great triumphs, and a heartbreaking tragedy. This episode first aired in May 2017.

  • I Buy, Therefore I Am

    Jul 01 2019

    All of us are surrounded by brands. Designer brands. Bargain-shopper brands. Brands for seemingly every demographic slice among us. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself how brands influence you? This week, we look at how companies create a worldview around the products they sell, and then get us to make those products a part of who we are.

  • The Lazarus Drug

    Jun 24 2019

    More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017 — many of them from heroin and other opioids. One of the most widely-used tools to confront this crisis is a drug called naloxone. It can reverse an opioid overdose within seconds, and has been hailed by first responders and public health researchers. But in 2018, two economists released a study that suggested naloxone might be leading some users to engage in riskier behavior — and causing more deaths than it saves. This week, we talk with r...more

  • Our Animal Instincts

    Jun 17 2019

    Does living with animals really make us healthier? Why do we eat some animals and keep others as pets? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with psychology professor Hal Herzog about the contradictions embedded in our relationships with animals.

  • Me, Myself, and IKEA

    Jun 10 2019

    Are women named Virginia more likely to move to Virginia? Are people with the last name of Carpenter more likely to be carpenters? This week on Hidden Brain, we bring you a favorite 2017 episode about our preference for things that remind us of ourselves, and why this tendency can have larger implications than we might at first imagine.

  • People Like Us

    Jun 03 2019

    Generations of Americans have struggled against segregation. Most of us believe in the ideal of a colorblind society. But what happens when that ideal come up against research that finds colorblindness sometimes leads to worse outcomes?

  • More Divided Than Ever?

    May 27 2019

    Many of us intuitively feel that the bitter partisanship of American politics is bad for our nation. So should we be concerned about the health of our democracy? This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit two of our favorite conversations about U.S. politics. We start by talking with political scientist John Hibbing about the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Then, we explore the role of conflict in democracy with historian David Moss.

  • Losing Face

    May 20 2019

    It happens to all of us: someone recognizes you on the street, calls you by name, and says hello. You, meanwhile, have no idea who that person is. Researchers say this struggle to read other faces is common. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit a favorite 2016 episode about "super-recognizers" and the rest of us.

  • What's Not On The Test

    May 13 2019

    Smarts matter. But other factors may play an even bigger role in whether someone succeeds. This week, we speak with Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman about the skills that predict how you'll fare in life. We'll also look at programs that build these skills in the neediest of children – and new research that suggests the benefits of investing in kids and families can last for generations.

  • Creating God

    May 06 2019

    If you've taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And what purpose does it all serve? This week, we bring you a July 2018 episode with social psychologist Azim Shariff. He argues that we should consider religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to thrive and flourish.

  • A Dramatic Cure

    Apr 29 2019

    Placebos belong in clinical trials, not in the doctor's office. At least, that's been the conventional wisdom for decades. This week, we ask whether placebos have more to offer than we've realized, and what they might teach us about healing. For research related to this episode, please visit: https://n.pr/2B9v2B0

  • Why No One Feels Rich

    Apr 22 2019

    If you've ever flown in economy class on a plane, you probably had to walk through the first class cabin to get to your seat. Maybe you noticed the extra leg room. The freshly-poured champagne. Maybe you were annoyed, or envious. Social psychologist Keith Payne says we tend to compare ourselves with those who have more than us, but rarely with those who have less. This week, we explore the psychology of income inequality, and how perceptions of our own wealth shape our lives.

  • The Sorting Hat

    Apr 15 2019

    The desire to find our tribe is universal. We like to know who we are and where we belong. This fascination has led to a thriving industry built on the marketing and sale of personality tests. These tests offer individuals – and, increasingly, employers – quick and easy insights that can be used to make some of life's biggest decisions. But most fail to stand up to scientific scrutiny. This week, we revisit our 2017 episode about the world of personality testing, and explore the many different w...more

  • Radically Normal

    Apr 08 2019

    For generations, living openly as a gay person in the United States was difficult, and often dangerous. But there's been a dramatic change in public attitudes toward gay people. This week, we explore one of the most striking transformations of public attitude ever recorded. And we consider whether the strategies used by gay rights activists hold lessons for other groups seeking change.

  • Don't Panic!

    Apr 01 2019

    Chaos is a part of all of our lives. Sometimes we try to control it. And other times, we just have to live with it. On this week's Hidden Brain, we bring you two of our favorite stories about coping with chaos. They come from our 2016 episodes "Panic in the Streets" and "Embrace the Chaos."

  • What Twins Tell Us

    Mar 25 2019

    In December 1988, two pairs of twin boys were born in Colombia. One twin from each pair was accidentally given to the wrong mother — a mistake that wasn't discovered for decades. The twins' story is a tragedy, a soap opera, and a science experiment, all rolled into one. It also gives us clues about the role that genes and the environment play in shaping our identities. We talk with psychologist Nancy Segal about her work with twins, and her encounters with these now-famous brothers. For research...more

  • Never Go To Vegas

    Mar 18 2019

    All social classes have unspoken rules. From A-list celebrities to teachers, doctors, lawyers, and journalists — there are social norms that govern us, whether we realize it or not. This week on Hidden Brain, we look celebrity culture, as well as another elite group: the yoga-loving, Whole Foods-shopping, highly-educated people whom one researcher calls the new "aspirational class." This episode is from December 2017.

  • Unreal Sex

    Mar 11 2019

    From stone statues to silicone works of art, we have long sought solace and sex from inanimate objects. Time and technology have perfected the artificial lover: today we have life-size silicone love dolls so finely crafted they feel like works of art. Now, with the help of robotics and artificial intelligence, these dolls are becoming even more like humans. This week we talk with researcher Kate Devlin about the history of the artificial lover, and consider what love and sex look like in the ag...more

  • For Sale, By Owner

    Mar 04 2019

    You own your body. So should you be able to sell parts of it? This week, we explore the concept of "repugnant transactions" with the man who coined the term, Nobel Prize- winning economist Al Roth. He says repugnant transactions can range from selling organs to poorly-planned gift exchanges — and what's repugnant in one place and time is often not repugnant in another.

  • Radio Replay: Playing The Gender Card

    Mar 01 2019

    Annie Duke was about to win $2 million. It was 2004, and she was at the final hand of the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions. But as a woman at a table full of men, she wasn't sure she deserved to be there. In this week's Radio Replay, we tell the stories of two people who grappled with gender stereotypes on the job. Annie Duke shares her experiencing at the World Series of Poker, and then we hear the story of Robert Vaughan, a former Navy sailor who decided to pursue a new career as ...more

  • Better Than Cash

    Feb 25 2019

    Our modern world is saturated with awards. From elementary school classrooms to Hollywood to the hallways of academia, there's no shortage of prizes — and people who covet them. Yet we rarely stop to ask, do they work? We pose that question to economist Bruno Frey, who argues that awards can have a powerful, positive effect on our behavior — but only if they're designed well.

  • Emma, Carrie, Vivian

    Feb 18 2019

    In 1924, a 17-year-old girl was admitted to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. The superintendent of the colony classified her as "feeble-minded of the lowest grade, moron class." With that designation, this girl, Carrie Buck, was set on a path she didn't choose. What happened next laid the foundation for the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people. This week, we revisit a 2018 episode about the eugenics movement and one of the most tragic social experiments i...more

  • Close Enough

    Feb 11 2019

    Today, more and more of us are living through the people on our screens and in our headphones. It's a world just beyond our reach, where we can get the ocean without the seaweed and sunsets without clouds. Where we can experience love without the risk of rejection. It's not real, but for many of us, it's close enough. This week, we explore the dangers, and the delights, of living vicariously.

  • One Head, Two Brains

    Feb 04 2019

    This week, we search for the answer to a deceptively simple question: why is the brain divided? Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains why popular distinctions between the "left brain" and "right brain" aren't supported by research. He argues that one hemisphere has come to shape Western society — to our detriment. For more information about this episode, please visit https://n.pr/2SxITco

  • Radio Replay: Creative Differences

    Feb 01 2019

    What happens when we connect with people whose view of the world is very different from our own? In this month's Radio Replay, we bring you stories about the relationship between diversity, conflict, and creativity. This episode features reporting from our July 2018 podcast, "The Edge Effect," and from one of our 2016 shows, "Tribes and Traitors."

  • Rewinding & Rewriting

    Jan 28 2019

    All of us are time travelers. We go back in history to turning points in our lives, and imagine how things could have turned out differently. Psychologists refer to this as "counterfactual thinking." This week on Hidden Brain, we look at why some events prompt these "What if?" questions, while others do not. This episode originally aired in May 2018.

  • The Vegetable Lamb

    Jan 21 2019

    We like to think that science evolves in a way that is...rational. But this isn't always the case. This week, we look at how information and misinformation spread in the world of science, and why evidence is often not enough to convince others of the truth. We talk with philosopher and mathematician Cailin O'Connor. For more information about this episode, please visit https://n.pr/2S3onzK

  • The Best Medicine

    Jan 14 2019

    If you listen closely to giggles, guffaws, and polite chuckles, you can discern a huge amount of information about people and their relationships with each other. This week, we talk with neuroscientist Sophie Scott about the many shades of laughter, from cackles of delight among close friends to the "canned" mirth of TV laugh tracks. You can find more about the research discussed in this episode here: https://n.pr/2RORlDs

  • The Cowboy Philosopher

    Jan 07 2019

    In 2009, an old man died in a California nursing home. His obituary included not just his given name, but a long list of the pseudonyms he'd been known to use. In this episode, we trace the life of Riley Shepard, a hillbilly musician, writer, small-time con man and, perhaps, a genius.

  • Loss and Renewal

    Dec 31 2018

    Maya Shankar was well on her way to an extraordinary career as a violinist when an injury closed that door. This week, we revisit our December 2015 conversation with Maya, in which she shares how she found a new path forward after losing an identity she loved.

  • Compassion

    Dec 24 2018

    The adage "be kind to others" is simple enough that even young children can understand it. But that doesn't mean adults always remember the importance of being kind or understand how compassion might affect them. This week, we look at the science of compassion, and why doing good things for others can make a big difference in your own life.

  • Radio Replay: Yum and Yuck

    Dec 21 2018

    Paul Rozin has been studying the psychology and culture of food for more than 40 years. And he's come to appreciate that food fills many of our needs, but hunger is just one. On this week's Radio Replay, we chew over the profound role that food plays in our lives. Then, we spit it all out — we study the ick factor that turns us off to cockroaches, skunks, and poop. Rachel Herz explains the sensation of disgust, and why it doesn't always come naturally. For more information about the research in ...more

  • Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

    Dec 17 2018

    Arguments and bickering can sour family gatherings during the holiday season. This week, we share tips on how to avoid miscommunication from our January 2018 conversation with actor Alan Alda. You might know him from his roles on television shows like M*A*S*H, The West Wing and 30 Rock, but in recent years Alda has also focused on helping scientists, and the rest of us, communicate better. His book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of...more

  • Starving the Watchdog

    Dec 10 2018

    When a newspaper shuts down, there are obvious costs to the community it serves: job losses, fewer local stories. But new research suggests there's another consequence that's harder to spot—one that comes with a hefty price tag for residents. This week on Hidden Brain we ask, who bears the cost when nobody wants to pay? For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2zSPraS.

  • Spoiler Alert!

    Dec 03 2018

    Why do we always fall for surprise endings? It turns out that our capacity to be easily fooled in books and movies is made possible by a handful of predictable mental shortcuts. We talk this week with Vera Tobin, one of the world's first cognitive scientists to study plot twists. She says storytellers have been exploiting narrative twists and turns for millennia — and that studying these sleights of hand can give us a better understanding of the contours of the mind.

  • A Founding Contradiction

    Nov 26 2018

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." These words, penned by Thomas Jefferson more than 240 years ago, continue to inspire many Americans. And yet they were written by a man who owned hundreds of slaves, and fathered six children by an enslaved woman. This week, we talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed about the contradictions in Jefferson's life — and how those contradictions might resonate in our own lives.

  • Radio Replay: Bringing Up Baby

    Nov 23 2018

    This week we focus on the behavior of the youngest members of the human race. We try to translate the mysterious language of babies. And we ask, when should we step back and just let our children be? For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2TuxEz3.

  • The Edge of Gender

    Nov 19 2018

    Gender is one of the first things we notice about the people around us. But where do our ideas about gender come from? Can gender differences be explained by genes and chromosomes, or are they the result of upbringing, culture and the environment? In this encore episode from October 2017, we delve into debates over nature vs. nurture, and meet the first person in the United States to officially reject the labels of both male and female, and be recognized as "non-binary."

  • Zipcode Destiny

    Nov 12 2018

    There's a core belief embedded in the story of the United States: the American Dream. The possibility of climbing the economic ladder is central to that dream. This week we speak with Raj Chetty, one of the most influential economists alive today, about the state of economic mobility in the U.S. and whether the notion of the American Dream is still useful. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2z8cvSs.

  • Sounds Like a Winner

    Nov 05 2018

    We're used to the idea that rhetoric sways voters. But what about another element of language: a candidate's voice? This week on Hidden Brain, what happens when our political system and ancient biological rules meet. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2Pe1Fog.

  • The Lazarus Drug

    Oct 29 2018

    More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year — many of them from heroin and other opioids. One of the most widely-used tools to confront this crisis is a drug called naloxone. It can reverse an opioid overdose within seconds, and has been hailed by first responders and public health researchers. But earlier this year, two economists released a study that suggested naloxone might be leading some users to engage in riskier behavior — and causing more deaths than it saves. This week, we...more

  • Radio Replay: Too Little, Too Much

    Oct 26 2018

    Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing? On this week's Radio Replay, we bring you a March 2017 story about the phenomenon of scarcity, and how it can blind us to the big picture. Then, we go to the opposite end of the spectrum to look at the perils of excess. We'll bring you an October 2016 conversation with Brooke Harrington, a sociologist who wanted to know what it's like to be one of the richest peop...more

  • Be The Change

    Oct 22 2018

    "Be the change you wish to see in the world." It's a popular quote that's made its way onto coffee mugs and bumper stickers — but it's not the easiest principle to live. On this week's Hidden Brain, we meet Royce and Jessica James, a couple who decided to raise their daughter in a gender-neutral way. It was far harder than they ever could have imagined. For further reading on children and gender norms, visit us at https://n.pr/2AmmiW1.

  • Voting With Your Middle Finger

    Oct 15 2018

    There is one truth that has endured through the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency: he has kept the support of the core voters who propelled him to the White House. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore two competing perspectives on the motivations of Trump supporters, and what they can tell us about the state of our union.

  • Red Brain, Blue Brain

    Oct 08 2018

    When most of us think about how we came to our political views, we often give a straightforward answer. We believe our stances on taxes, immigration or national security are shaped by those around us — our friends, parents, teachers. We assume our life experiences are the root of our political ideologies. But what if there is something deeper in us that drives the music we listen to, the food we eat — even the politicians that we elect? This week, we explore the role of biology in shaping our po...more

  • "Man Up"

    Oct 01 2018

    You've certainly heard some variation of the phrase "be a man." But what does that even mean? This week, we question our existing definitions of masculinity. We'll meet a man who works in a field traditionally considered "women's work." And we'll hear from a researcher who says manhood is "hard to earn and easy to lose."

  • Why Now?

    Sep 24 2018

    Nearly a quarter century ago, a group of women accused a prominent playwright of sexual misconduct. For the most part, the allegations went nowhere. In 2017, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, more women came forward to accuse the same playwright of misconduct. This time, everyone listened. On this episode — originally broadcast in February 2018 — we explore the story through the lens of social science research and ask, "Why Now?" What has changed in our minds and in our culture so that alleg...more

  • Radio Replay: Eyes Wide Open

    Sep 21 2018

    When Randy Gardner was 17, he won a world record for going eleven days without sleeping. On this Radio Replay, Randy shares insights from that experience and warns others against copying his stunt. Later in the program, we speak with neuroscientist Matthew Walker about the mind and body benefits of eight full hours of sleep.

  • The Cassandra Curse

    Sep 17 2018

    After a disaster happens, we want to know whether something could have been done to avoid it. Did anyone see this coming? Many times, the answer is yes. So why didn't the warnings lead to action? This week, we explore the psychology of warnings with a visit to a smelly Alaskan tunnel, a gory (and fictional) murder plot, and even some ABBA.

  • Our Better Nature

    Sep 11 2018

    If you live in a big city, you may have noticed new buildings popping up — a high-rise here, a skyscraper there. The concrete jungles that we've built over the past century have allowed millions of us to live in close proximity, and modern economies to flourish. But what have we given up by moving away from the forest environments in which humans first evolved? This week, we discuss this topic with psychologist Ming Kuo, who has studied the effects of nature for more than 30 years.

  • Bullshit Jobs

    Sep 04 2018

    Have you ever had a job where you had to stop and ask yourself: what am I doing here? If I quit tomorrow, would anyone even notice? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with anthropologist David Graeber about the rise of what he calls "bullshit jobs," and how these positions affect the people who hold them.

  • You 2.0: Check Yourself

    Aug 28 2018

    The simple "to-do" list may be one of humanity's oldest tools for getting organized. But checklists are also proving essential in many modern-day workplaces, from operating rooms to the cockpits of jumbo jets. As part of our summer You 2.0 series, we explore the power of the humble checklist to help us stay on track and focus on what's important, particularly when pressure is intense and the stakes are high.

  • You 2.0: Originals

    Aug 21 2018

    What does it mean to be an original? As part of our summer series, You 2.0, we talk with psychology professor Adam Grant about innovators and the challenges they face. Adam gives his take on what makes an original, how parents can nurture originality in their children, and the potential downsides of non-conformity.

  • You 2.0: When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

    Aug 14 2018

    There are signs it's getting even harder. In this episode, we explore how long-term relationships have changed over time and whether we might be able to improve marriage by asking less of it.

  • You 2.0: The Ostrich Effect

    Aug 07 2018

    Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power...right? As part of our summer series, You 2.0, we try to understand why we stick our heads in the sand.

  • You 2.0: Dream Jobs

    Jul 31 2018

    Finding a new job may be the solution to your woes at work. But there may also be other ways to get more out of your daily grind. This week, we talk with psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale University about how we can find meaning and purpose in our jobs.

  • You 2.0: Rebel With A Cause

    Jul 24 2018

    Francesca Gino studies rebels — people who practice "positive deviance" and achieve incredible feats of imagination. They know how, and when, to break the rules that should be broken. So how can you activate your own inner non-conformist? We kick off this year's You 2.0 series by pondering this question.

  • Radio Replay: Watch Your Mouth

    Jul 20 2018

    If you're bilingual or multilingual, you may have noticed that different languages make you stretch in different ways. In this month's Radio Replay, we ask whether the structure of the languages we speak can change the way we see the world. We'll also look at how languages evolve, and why we're sometimes resistant to those changes.

  • Creating God

    Jul 17 2018

    If you've taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And most of all, what purpose does it all serve? This week, we explore these questions with psychologist Azim Shariff, who argues that we can think of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to survive and flourish.

  • Snooki and the Handbag

    Jul 10 2018

    Look down at what you're wearing. You picked out that blue shirt, right? And those sandals — you decided on those because they're comfortable, didn't you? Well, maybe not. Researcher Jonah Berger says we tend to be pretty good at recognizing how influences like product placement and peer pressure affect other people's choices...but we're not so good at recognizing those forces in our own decisions. We talked with him in December 2016.

  • The Edge Effect

    Jul 03 2018

    There is great comfort in the familiar. It's one reason humans often flock to other people who share the same interests, laugh at the same jokes, hold the same political views. But familiar ground may not be the best place to cultivate creativity. From science and business to music and the world of fashion, researchers have found that people with deep connections to people from other countries and cultures often see benefits in terms of their creative output. This week on Hidden Brain, we look a...more

  • Fake News: An Origin Story

    Jun 26 2018

    Fake news may seem new, but in reality, it's as old as American journalism. This week, we look at a tension at the heart of news coverage: Should reporters think of the audience as consumers, or as citizens? Should the media give people what they want, or what they need?

  • Radio Replay: Looking Back

    Jun 22 2018

    Why are we so often pulled into memories of the past? In this month's Radio Replay, we'll find out why we all get stuck reliving the old days, ruminating on what we could have done differently, and what we wish we could do again.

  • Summer Melt

    Jun 19 2018

    As many as 40 percent of students who intend to go to college don't actually show up to their new campuses in the fall. Education researchers call this phenomenon "summer melt," and it has long been a puzzling problem. These kids have taken the SATs, written college essays, applied to and been accepted by a school of their choice. Often they've applied for and received financial aid. So why would they not show up at college? This week, we bring you a 2017 episode looking more closely about the p...more

  • Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus

    Jun 12 2018

    Anyone who's tried (and failed) to follow a diet knows that food is more than fuel. This week, we dig into the psychology behind what we eat, what we spit out, and when we come back for more.

  • When Everything Clicks

    Jun 05 2018

    There can be a lot of psychological noise involved in teaching. But what if we replaced all that mental chit chat....with a click? This week, we explore an innovative idea about how we learn. It will take us from a dolphin exhibit in Hawaii to a top teaching hospital in New York. It's about a method to quiet the noise. The sort of clutter that can turn learning into a minefield of misery.

  • Kinder-Gardening

    May 29 2018

    Many parents think they can shape their child into a particular kind of adult. Psychologist Alison Gopnik says the science suggests otherwise. This week, we revisit our December 2017 conversation with Gopnik, who thinks we'd all be better off if we had a different understanding of the relationship between parents and kids.

  • Rewinding & Rewriting

    May 22 2018

    All of us are time travelers. We go back in history to turning points in our lives, and imagine how things could have turned out differently. Psychologists refer to this as "counterfactual thinking." This week on Hidden Brain, we look at why some events prompt these "What if?" questions, while others do not.

  • Radio Replay: This Is Your Brain On Ads

    May 18 2018

    How many ads have you encountered today? On this week's radio replay, we discuss the insidiousness of advertising in American media. We begin with new reporting about the effects cereal commercials have on children. Later in the program, we revisit one of our favorite episodes of 2018, Buying Attention.

  • Baby Talk

    May 15 2018

    Babies are speaking to us all the time, but most of us have no clue what they're saying. To researchers, though, the babbling of babies is knowable, predictable, and best of all, teachable to us non-experts. This week, we'll get a primer on how to decipher babbling — the unique dialect of tiny humans.

  • Rap on Trial

    May 08 2018

    Olutosin Oduwole was an aspiring rapper and college student when he was arrested in 2007. He was charged with "attempting to make a terrorist threat." Prosecutors used his writings — which he maintains were rap lyrics — to build their case against him. The week, we revisit our June 2017 story about Oduwole, and explore how public perceptions of rap music may have played a role in his prosecution.

  • The Fox and the Hedgehog

    May 01 2018

    The Greek poet Archilochus wrote that "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." This week, we'll use the metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog as a way to understand the differences between tacticians and big-picture thinkers. We'll explore the story of a pioneering surgeon whose hedgehog tendencies led him to great triumphs, and a heartbreaking tragedy. This episode first aired in May 2017.

  • Emma, Carrie, Vivian

    Apr 24 2018

    In 1924, a 17-year-old girl was admitted to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. The superintendent of the colony classified her as "feeble-minded of the lowest grade, moron class." With that designation, this girl, Carrie Buck, was set on a path she didn't choose. What happened next laid the foundation for the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people. This week, the story of the eugenics movement and one of the most tragic social experiments in American history....more

  • Radio Replay: The Weight of Our Words

    Apr 20 2018

    Political correctness. Free speech. Terrorism. On this week's Radio Replay, we look at the language we use around race and religion, and what that language says about the culture in which we live. This episode draws upon two of our favorite podcasts, "Is He Muslim?" and "Hiding Behind Free Speech."

  • Romeo and Juliet in Kigali

    Apr 17 2018

    How do you change someone's behavior? Most of us would point to education or persuasion. But what if the answer lies elsewhere? Today we explore a revolutionary insight about human nature, one that will take us on a journey from Budapest to the hills of Rwanda.

  • Liar, Liar

    Apr 10 2018

    We all lie. But what separates the average person from the infamous cheaters we see on the news? Dan Ariely says we like to think it's character — but in his research he's found it's more often opportunity. Dan Ariely is a professor at Duke University and the author of the book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves. We spoke to him in March 2017.

  • Tunnel Vision

    Apr 03 2018

    When you're hungry, it can be hard to think of anything other than food. When you're desperately poor, you may constantly worry about making ends meet. When you're lonely, you might obsess about making friends. This week, we bring you a March 2017 episode about the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. Researchers say this form of tunnel vision can affect our ability to see the big picture and cope with problems in our lives.

  • Crickets and Cannibals

    Mar 27 2018

    Imagine seeing a cockroach skitter across your kitchen counter. Does that thought gross you out? This week, we take an unflinching look at the things that make us say "ewww." Plus, why disgust isn't as instinctive as we might assume.

  • The Lonely American Man

    Mar 20 2018

    Boys get the message at a young age: don't show your feelings. Don't rely on anyone. This week, we take a close look at misguided notions of masculinity in the United States. We explore how those notions create stressed-out romantic relationships, physical health problems, and a growing epidemic of loneliness. Plus, we consider how we might begin to tell a different story about what it means to be a man.

  • Radio Replay: The Mind of the Village

    Mar 16 2018

    A culture of racism can infect us all. On this week's Radio Replay, we discuss the implicit biases we carry that have been forged by the society around us.

  • Think Fast with Daniel Kahneman

    Mar 13 2018

    Do humans act rationally? Economic theory has long told us the answer is "yes." But a half century ago, two psychologists — Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky — began to challenge this notion. Their work laid the foundation for behavioral economics and influenced many scholars who've followed in their footsteps. This week, we mark our 100th episode by talking with Daniel Kahneman about his collaboration with Tversky, and how their work transformed our thinking about judgment, memory, and the mind ...more

  • Men: 45, Women: 0

    Mar 06 2018

    More women are running for political office than ever before in American history. But in politics and many other fields, women still struggle to attain positions of power. Researchers say they're often trapped in a "double bind" — a series of unconscious, interlocking stereotypes we have about men, women and the nature of leadership. This week, we take a closer look at the double bind as we revisit a favorite episode from October 2016.

  • Counting Other People's Blessings

    Feb 27 2018

    Envy is one of the most unpleasant of all human emotions. It also turns out to be one of the most difficult for researchers to study. And yet, there's mounting evidence that envy is a powerful motivator. This week, we explore an emotion that can inspire us to become better people — or to commit unspeakable acts.

  • Filthy Rich

    Feb 20 2018

    Several years ago, sociologist Brooke Harrington decided to explore the secret lives of billionaires. As she told us in this favorite episode from 2016, what she found shocked her.

  • When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

    Feb 13 2018

    Marriage is hard — and there are signs it's becoming even harder. This week on Hidden Brain, we examine how long-term relationships have changed over time, and whether we might be able to improve marriage by asking less of it.

  • Why Now?

    Feb 06 2018

    Nearly a quarter century ago, a group of women accused a prominent playwright of sexual misconduct. For the most part, the allegations went nowhere. In 2017, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, more women came forward to accuse the same playwright of misconduct. This time, everyone listened. On this episode, we explore the story through the lens of social science research and ask, "Why Now?" What has changed in our minds and in our culture so that allegations of sexual harassment and assault ar...more

  • Lost in Translation

    Jan 30 2018

    Learning new languages can help us understand other cultures and countries. Cognitive science professor Lera Boroditsky says the languages we speak can do more than that—they can shape how we see the world in profound ways.

  • Radio Replay: The Power Hour

    Jan 26 2018

    Call it adulation, adoration, idolization: we humans are fascinated by glamour and power. But this turns out to be only one side of our psychology — we also feel envious and resentful of the rich and powerful. In this Radio Replay, we explore the evolutionary history behind this ambivalence. Plus, we look at how we gain influence, and what happens to us once we have it.

  • Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

    Jan 23 2018

    We've all experienced miscommunications. Their consequences can range from hilarious... to disastrous. The actor Alan Alda — yes, THAT Alan Alda — wants to help us avoid them. You might know him from his roles on television shows like M*A*S*H, The West Wing and 30 Rock, but in recent years Alda has also focused on helping scientists, and the rest of us, communicate better. His new book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and...more

  • Give Me Your Tired...

    Jan 16 2018

    Our airwaves are filled with debates about immigrants and refugees. Who should be allowed in the United States, who shouldn't, and who should decide? In the wake of President Trump's vulgar remarks about some immigrants — remarks that he has since denied — we're going to revisit a favorite episode from 2016 that explores the patterns and paradoxes of immigration in the U.S. Historian Maria Cristina Garcia joins us.

  • Radio Replay: I, Robot

    Jan 12 2018

    Do you ever catch yourself yelling at your Alexa? Or typing questions into Google that you wouldn't dare ask aloud? On this episode, our changing relationship with technology and what big data knows about our deepest, darkest secrets.

  • E Pluribus Unum?

    Jan 09 2018

    The tone of American politics can be...nasty. But is this nastiness really worse than in previous eras, and if so, what does that mean for our democracy? Historian David Moss takes the long view — arguing that American democracy is much more resilient than we realize. This week on Hidden Brain, we turn to history for insight about our current moment in American politics.

  • Buying Attention

    Jan 02 2018

    Have you ever opened your computer with the intention of sending one email — only to spend an hour scrolling through social media? Maybe two hours? In this episode, we examine the strategies media companies use to hijack our attention so they can sell it to advertisers.

  • Radio Replay: Fresh Starts

    Dec 30 2017

    Unpredictable things happen to us all the time. In the process of getting back on your feet, you may realize that something's different. On this Radio Replay, we mark the new year with two of our favorite stories of loss and the change it brings.

  • I'm Right, You're Wrong

    Dec 26 2017

    There are some topics about which it seems no amount of data will change people's minds: things like climate change, or restrictions on gun ownership. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot says that's actually for good reason. As a general rule, she says, it's better to stick to your beliefs and disregard new information that contradicts them. But this also means it's very difficult to change false beliefs. In this favorite episode from earlier this year, we look at how we process information, and why it's...more

  • Radio Replay: Don't Panic!

    Dec 22 2017

    Chaos is a part of all of our lives. Sometimes we try to control it. And other times, we just have to live with it. On this week's Radio Replay, we explore different strategies for coping with chaos.

  • Never Go To Vegas

    Dec 19 2017

    All social classes have unspoken rules. From A-list celebrities to teachers, doctors, lawyers, and journalists — there are social norms that govern our decisions, whether we realize it or not. This week on Hidden Brain, the invisible qualities that all celebrities have in common, and how our interest in them builds because of cues we get from one another. Later in the episode, we look at another elite group: the yoga-loving, Whole Foods-shopping, highly-educated group that researcher Elizabeth C...more

  • Kinder-Gardening

    Dec 12 2017

    Many parents think they can shape their child into a particular kind of adult. Psychologist Alison Gopnik says the science suggests otherwise. She thinks we'd all be better off if we had a different understanding of the relationship between parents and kids.

  • Radio Replay: Loving the Lie

    Dec 08 2017

    In this week's Radio Replay, we bring you stories of fakes, phonies, and con men — and the people who fall for the false worlds they create. First, the tale of a middle-aged man who impersonates a series of women and gets thousands of men to fall in love with his creations. Then, we'll hear about a painter who tricks the world's greatest art experts into believing they're looking at masterpieces.

  • The Sorting Hat

    Dec 05 2017

    The desire to find our tribe is universal. We like to know who we are and where we belong. This fascination has led to a thriving industry built on the marketing and sale of personality tests. These tests offer individuals — and, increasingly, employers — quick and easy insights that can be used to make some of life's biggest decisions. But most fail to stand up to scientific scrutiny. This week, we delve into the world of personality testing, and explore the many different ways we assess person...more

  • Radio Replay: Life, Interrupted

    Dec 01 2017

    What price do we pay for the constant interruptions we get from our phones and computers? And is there a better way to handle distraction? In this week's Radio Replay we bring you a favorite conversation with the computer scientist Cal Newport. Plus, Shankar gets electrodes strapped to his head to test a high-tech solution to interruptions.

  • Money Talks

    Nov 28 2017

    How do you spend your money? On shoes, cars, coffee, fancy restaurants? You might think you use money just to, you know, buy stuff. But as Neeru Paharia explains, the way we spend often says a lot about who we are, and what we want to project. We use money to express our values — by going to the local coffee shop instead of Starbucks, or by boycotting — or buycotting — Ivanka Trump shoes. In this April 2017 episode of Hidden Brain, we explore the way we use money to tell stories about ourselves,...more

  • An American Secret

    Nov 21 2017

    All countries have national myths. The story of the first Thanksgiving, for example, evokes the warm glow of intercultural contact: European settlers, struggling to survive in the New World, and Native American tribes eager to help. As many of us learned in history class, this story leaves a lot out. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore a national secret: that from the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World until 1900, there were as many as five million Native American people enslav...more

  • Radio Replay: Crime As A Disease

    Nov 17 2017

    In moments of anger, it can be hard to take a deep breath or count to ten. But public health researcher Harold Pollack says five minutes of reflection can make all the difference between a regular life and one spent behind bars. This week, we visit a Chicago program that helps young men learn how to pause and reflect. Plus, we ask whether we should think of violence as a disease, similar to a blood-borne pathogen in its ability to spread from person to person.

  • Eyes Wide Open: Part 2

    Nov 14 2017

    What does the song "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones have in common with the periodic table of elements? Both are the products of dreams. The sleeping brain is far more active than we realize, argues neuroscientist Matthew Walker in this second part of our series on sleep.

  • Eyes Wide Open: Part 1

    Nov 07 2017

    Randy Gardner broke a world record in 1963, when he was only 17 years old. His feat? Going 11 days without sleeping. Randy, now 71, shares his wisdom about staying up past your bedtime — and why none of us should attempt to recreate his teenage stunt — on this week's Hidden Brain.

  • Radio Replay: Prisons of Our Own Making

    Nov 03 2017

    Discussions about healthy living usually revolve around diet and exercise. Social interaction is often left out of the conversation, even though research shows that it's critical to our well-being. On this week's radio replay, we'll explore research on the extremes of social interaction: from the consequences of constant connection, to the high cost of solitary confinement.

  • Check Yourself

    Oct 31 2017

    The simple "to-do" list may be one of humanity's oldest tools for keeping organized. But checklists are also proving essential in many modern-day workplaces, from operating rooms to the cockpits of jumbo jets. This week, we explore the power of the humble checklist to help us stay on track and focus on what's important, particularly when pressure is intense and the stakes are high.

  • Radio Replay: What's In It For Me?

    Oct 27 2017

    Coincidences can make the everyday feel extraordinary. But are they magical, or just mathematical? On this week's Radio Replay, we explore our deep fascination with these moments of serendipity. New research suggests they reveal important things about how our minds work, and have a far more powerful effect on our lives than any of us imagine. We'll also explore the phenomenon of "implicit egotism" — the idea that we're drawn to people and things that remind us of ourselves.

  • Misbehaving with Richard Thaler

    Oct 24 2017

    We don't always do what we're supposed to do. We don't save enough for retirement. We order dessert — even when we're supposed to be dieting. In other words, we misbehave. That's the title of Richard Thaler's most recent book: Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics. If you've read Thaler's previous book, Nudge, you know he's an economist who studies why people don't really act the way traditional economists say they will. Thaler recently won a Nobel Prize for his contributions to the fi...more

  • The Good Old Days

    Oct 17 2017

    Is nostalgia an emotion that's bitter, or sweet? Why are we so often pulled into memories of the past? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk about what prompts us to feel nostalgic, and the harms and benefits of this emotion. Plus, how Donald Trump employed nostalgia to win the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • The Edge of Gender

    Oct 10 2017

    Gender is one of the first things we notice about the people around us. But where do our ideas about gender come from? Can gender differences be explained by genes and chromosomes, or are they the result of upbringing, culture and the environment? This week, we delve into the debate over nature vs. nurture, and meet the first person in the United States to officially reject the labels of both male and female, and be recognized as "non-binary."

  • Be The Change

    Oct 03 2017

    "Be the change you wish to see in the world." It's a popular quote that's made its way onto coffee mugs and bumper stickers — but it's not the easiest principle to live. On this week's Hidden Brain, we meet Royce and Jessica James, a couple who decided to raise their daughter in a gender-neutral way. It was far harder than they ever could have imagined.

  • Just Sex

    Sep 26 2017

    We all know casual sex isn't about love. But what if it's not even about lust? Sociologist Lisa Wade believes the pervasive hookup culture on campuses today is different from that faced by previous generations. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit a favorite episode exploring what this culture means for those who choose to participate, and for those who opt out.

  • The Ostrich Effect

    Sep 19 2017

    Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power...right? In this episode of Hidden Brain, we explore why we sometimes avoid information that's vital to our well-being.

  • Regrets, I Have A Few...

    Sep 12 2017

    We all have regrets. By some estimates, regret is one of the most common emotions experienced in our daily lives. This week we'll hear listeners' stories of regret, and talk with psychology professor Amy Summerville. She runs the Regret Lab at Miami University in Ohio. Summerville says regret doesn't always have to be a negative force in our lives. Sometimes, it can be a hopeful emotion.

  • Hiding Behind Free Speech

    Sep 05 2017

    Several weeks ago, white supremacists took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in a demonstration that left many Americans asking a lot of questions. Who are we as a nation? What do we stand for, and what do we tolerate? The United States goes further than many other countries to protect speech — even hate-filled speech like that used in Charlottesville. In this episode, we look at how people use free speech arguments, and why the motivations behind these arguments may not be apparent —...more

  • You 2.0: Getting Unstuck

    Aug 29 2017

    At one time or another, many of us feel stuck: in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong city – the wrong life. Psychologists and self-help gurus have all kinds of advice for us when we feel rudderless. This week on Hidden Brain, we conclude our You 2.0 series with a favorite episode exploring a new idea from an unlikely source: Silicon Valley.

  • You 2.0: Decide Already!

    Aug 22 2017

    In the latest in our You 2.0 series, we bring you a favorite conversation with Harvard researcher Dan Gilbert. He tells us why we're bad at predicting our future happiness, how that affects our decision making, and why we are actually happier after making a decision that feels irrevocable.

  • You 2.0: WOOP, There It Is

    Aug 15 2017

    Many of us have heard that we should think positively and visualize ourselves achieving our goals. But researcher Gabriele Oettingen finds this isn't actually the best advice. Instead, she says, we should use her strategy — which she calls WOOP.

  • You 2.0: Embrace the Chaos

    Aug 08 2017

    Many of us spend lots of time and energy trying to get organized. We tell our kids to clean their rooms, and our politicians to clean up Washington. But economist Tim Harford says maybe we should embrace the chaos. This week, as part of our You 2.0 series, we bring you our November 2016 conversation with Harford.

  • You 2.0: Dream Jobs

    Aug 01 2017

    Why do you work? Are you mostly in it for the money, or do you have another purpose? Popular wisdom says your answer depends on the nature of your job. But psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski finds it may have more to do with how we think about our work. She finds we're about evenly split in whether we say we have a job, a career, or a calling. As part of our You 2.0 series, we bring you this March 2016 conversation with Amy about how we find meaning and purpose at work.

  • You 2.0: Deep Work

    Jul 25 2017

    When your phone buzzes or a notification pops up your screen, do you stop what you're doing to look and respond? That's what many of us are doing. Even though we think we should be less distracted by technology, we haven't admitted the true cost of these interruptions. This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with the computer scientist Cal Newport about how to cultivate our attention, and what we gain by immersing ourselves in meaningful work. It's part of our series You 2.0, in which we'll explore h...more

  • Summer Melt

    Jul 18 2017

    According to research from Harvard, as many as 40% of kids who intend to go to college at the time of high school graduation don't actually show up in the fall. Education researchers call this phenomenon "summer melt," and it has long been a puzzling problem. These kids have taken the SATs, written college essays, applied to and been accepted by a school of their choice. Often they've even applied for and received financial aid. Why would they not show up at college? This week on Hidden Brain, w...more

  • Could You Kill A Robot?

    Jul 11 2017

    Will we one day create machines that are essentially just like us? People have been wrestling with that question since the advent of robotics. But maybe we're missing another, even more intriguing question: what can robots teach us about ourselves? We ponder that question with Kate Darling of the MIT Media Lab in a special taping at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

  • Losing Face

    Jul 04 2017

    It happens to all of us: someone recognizes you on the street, calls you by name, and says hello... and you have no idea who that person is. Researchers say this struggle to read other faces is common. This week on Hidden Brain, super-recognizers, and the rest of us.

  • Guessing Games

    Jun 27 2017

    Pundits and prognosticators make predictions all the time: about everything from elections, to sports, to global affairs. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore why they're often wrong, and how we can all do it better.

  • "Is he Muslim?"

    Jun 20 2017

    In a five year period from 2011 to 2016, just twelve percent of terrorist attacks in the United States were perpetrated by Muslims. More than fifty percent, on the other hand, were carried out by Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or other far right groups. So why do Americans spend so much time worrying about "radical Islamic terrorism?" This week on Hidden Brain, we look at how the media over-covers some acts of terrorism — and quickly forgets others. We also look at some of the psychological reas...more

  • Rap on Trial

    Jun 13 2017

    Olutosin Oduwole was an aspiring rapper and college student when he was arrested in 2007. He was given an unusual charge: "attempting to make a terrorist threat." Prosecutors used his writings — which he maintains were rap lyrics — to build their case against him. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit Oduwole's story, and how public perceptions of rap music may have played a role.

  • In The Air We Breathe

    Jun 06 2017

    After a police-involved shooting, there's often a familiar blame game: Maybe the cop was racist. Maybe the person who was shot really was threatening. Or maybe, the bias that leads cops to shoot affects us all. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore how unconscious bias can infect a culture — and how a police shooting may say as much about a community as it does about individuals.

  • Broken Windows

    May 30 2017

    In the early 1980s, a couple of researchers wrote an article in The Atlantic that would have far-reaching consequences. The article introduced a new idea about crime and policing. It was called Broken Windows. The idea was simple: A broken window is a sign of a neglected community, and a neglected community is a place where crime can thrive. The researchers said, if police fixed the small problems that created visible signs of disorder, the big ones would disappear. Today, we explore how ideas s...more

  • Me, Myself, and IKEA

    May 23 2017

    It's normal to feel drawn to people you share something with — whether that's a name, or a birthday, or a common background. But did you know that women named Georgia also gravitate toward the state of Georgia? And Virginias are slightly more likely to move to Virginia? Or that people with the last name Carpenter are actually more likely to be carpenters? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk about all the subtle ways we prefer things that have something to do with us, and why that means, for examp...more

  • Ep. 71: The Fox and the Hedgehog

    May 16 2017

    The Greek poet Archilochus is known for the phrase, "The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one big thing." This week, we'll use this metaphor as a way to understand two different cognitive styles. The first is that of a tactician who is comfortable with nuance and contradiction (the fox), the second is that of a big thinker, motivated by one organizing idea (the hedgehog). We'll explore this idea through the story of a pioneering surgeon whose hedgehog tendencies led him to great triumphs, and...more

  • Encore of Ep. 45: What Are The Odds?

    May 09 2017

    This week on Hidden Brain: coincidences. Why they're not quite as magical as they seem, and the reasons we can't help but search for meaning in them anyway.

  • Ep. 70: Who We Are At 2 A.M.

    May 02 2017

    Have you ever googled something that you would never dream of saying out loud to another human being? Many of us turn to Google when we have a deeply personal or embarrassing question. And we're often more honest when we type our questions into search engines than when we answer surveys or talk to friends. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former data scientist at Google, says our online searches provide unprecedented insight into what we truly think, want, and do. This week on Hidden Brain, what big ...more

  • Episode 69: Money Talks

    Apr 25 2017

    How do you spend your money? On food, transportation, or housing? On shoes, cars, coffee, fancy restaurants? You might think you use money just to, you know, buy stuff. But as Neeru Paharia explains, the way we spend often says a lot about who we are, and what we want to project. We use money to express our values — by going to the local coffee shop instead of Starbucks, or by boycotting — or buycotting — Ivanka Trump shoes. We delete Uber; we refuse to fly United. We seek out or avoid Chick-fil...more

  • Ep. 68: Schadenfacebook

    Apr 18 2017

    Millions of people around the world use social media every day to stay in touch with friends and family. But ironically, studies have shown that people who spend more time on these sites feel more socially isolated than those who don't. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore the psychological effects that social media has on us, and how FOMO — or, the fear of missing out — can lead to actually missing out.

  • Encore of Ep. 35: Creature Comforts

    Apr 11 2017

    This week, Hidden Brain considers the power of touch. First, Alison MacAdam tells us the story of her security blanket, called Baba. Then, Shankar interviews writer Deborah Blum about groundbreaking experiments into the importance of affection for young children.

  • Ep. 67: The Hole

    Apr 04 2017

    Imagine a concrete room, not much bigger than a parking space. You're in there 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the reality of solitary confinement at prisons across the United States. Keramet Reiter, a criminology professor at UC Irvine, says that while some inmates in solitary are dangerous, others are there because they're difficult for prisons to manage, or because of bureaucratic inertia. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at what happens in solitary confinement, and the psychological...more

  • Ep. 66: Liar, Liar

    Mar 28 2017

    Everybody lies. This is not breaking news. But what separates the average person from the infamous cheaters we see on the news? Dan Ariely says we like to think it's character — but in his research he's found it's more often opportunity. Dan Ariely is a professor at Duke University and the author of the book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves.

  • Episode 65: Tunnel Vision

    Mar 21 2017

    When you're hungry, it can be hard to think of anything other than food. When you're desperately poor, you may constantly worry about making ends meet. When you're lonely, you might obsess about making friends. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore the psychological phenomenon of scarcity and how it can affect our ability to see the big picture and cope with problems in our lives.

  • Ep. 64: I'm Right, You're Wrong

    Mar 14 2017

    There are some topics about which it seems no amount of data will change people's minds: things like climate change, or restrictions on gun ownership. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot says that's actually for good reason. As a general rule, she says, it's better to stick to your beliefs and disregard new information that contradicts them. But this also means it's very difficult to change false beliefs. This week, we look at how we process information, and why it's so hard to change our views.

  • Encore of Ep. 24: Tribes and Traitors

    Mar 07 2017

    Nearly a year ago, we ran an episode about one of the world's most intractable divides: the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Since that story aired, a solution seems even more out of reach. We wanted to play this episode again, because it offers something we don't often hear in the news: empathy for the other side.

  • Ep. 63: "I'm Not A Terrorist..."

    Feb 28 2017

    Making jokes about politics is a tradition as old as America itself. These days, of course, comedians have a new target: President Donald Trump. We talk with Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani about finding humor in the midst of deep political divides, and how he uses an understanding of human nature to craft a successful punchline.

  • Episode 62: On The Knife's Edge

    Feb 21 2017

    What would drive someone to take another person's life? When researchers at the University of Chicago asked that question, the answer was a laundry list of slights: a stolen jacket, or a carelessly lobbed insult. It made them wonder whether crime rates could be driven down by teaching young men to pause, take a deep breath, and think before they act. We'll go inside a program that teaches Chicago teens to do just that, and explore the research on whether this approach actually works.

  • Episode 61: Just Sex

    Feb 14 2017

    We all know casual sex isn't about love. But what if it's not even about lust? Sociologist Lisa Wade believes the pervasive hookup culture on campuses today is different from that faced by previous generations. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore what this culture means for those who choose to participate, and for those who opt out.

  • Encore of Episode 20: Remembering Anarcha

    Feb 07 2017

    A recent paper found that black patients receive less pain medication for broken bones and cancer. Black children receive less pain medication than white children for appendicitis. The research is new, but the phenomenon is not. This week, we revisit an episode from our archive that looked at the intersection of race, pain, and medicine. It might not be suitable for young children.

  • Episode 60: Fortress America

    Jan 31 2017

    Barely a week after assuming office, President Donald Trump set off a worldwide firestorm when he decided to temporarily ban entry to migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from all over the world. In response, many people are looking to the past, to see what history can teach us. But this process can fraught with psychological peril. On today's Hidden Brain, we revisit a specific incident from World War II – the American decision to refuse entry to Jewish refugees aboard the...more

  • Episode 59: The Deep Story

    Jan 24 2017

    In the months since the presidential election, many have noted that lots of Americans live in bubbles — echo chambers filled with the voices of people who mostly agree with us. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild felt this long before the rise of Donald Trump, and five years ago she went on a mission to understand the other side. She left her own liberal bubble in Berkeley, California for a conservative one, deep in the Louisiana bayou.

  • Episode 58: Pedestals and Guillotines

    Jan 17 2017

    It's inauguration season, which means balls, parades, and celebrations. We may love the pomp and circumstance, but there's another, darker side to our psychology, too. Whether we like the new president or not, human beings have a strange and contradictory relationship with power and celebrity. We idolize the rich and famous, but also enjoy seeing them fall from their pedestals. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore this paradox: from Hollywood, to the White House, to the forests of Tanzania.

  • Episode 57: Slanguage

    Jan 10 2017

    Young people have always used language in new and different ways, and it has pretty much always driven older people crazy. But the linguist John McWhorter says all the "likes" and LOLs are part of a natural – and inevitable –evolution of language. This week on Hidden Brain, why language can't "sit still."

  • Episode 56: Getting Unstuck

    Jan 03 2017

    At one time or another, many of us feel stuck: in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong city – the wrong life. Psychologists and self-help gurus have all kinds of advice for us when we feel rudderless. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore a new idea, from an unlikely source: Silicon Valley.

  • Encore of Episode 15: Loss and Renewal

    Dec 27 2016

    Maya Shankar was well on her way to an extraordinary career as a violinist when an injury closed that door. This week, we look at how she wound up at the top of another field: the social sciences.

  • Encore of Episode 32: The Scientific Process

    Dec 20 2016

    There is a replication "crisis" in psychology: many findings simply do not replicate. Some critics take this as an indictment of the entire field — perhaps the best journals are only interested in publishing the "sexiest" findings, or universities are pressuring their faculty to publish more. But this week on Hidden Brain, we take a closer look at the so-called crisis. While there certainly have been cases of bad science, and even fraudulent data, there are also lots of other reasons why perfect...more

  • Episode 55: Snooki and the Handbag

    Dec 13 2016

    Look down at what you're wearing. You picked out that blue shirt, right? And those boots — you decided on those because they're warm, didn't you? Well, maybe not. Researcher Jonah Berger says, we tend to be pretty good at recognizing how influences like product placement and peer pressure affect other people's choices... but we're not so good at recognizing those forces in our own decision-making.

  • Episode 54: Panic in the Streets

    Dec 06 2016

    It sounds like the plot of a movie: police discover the body of a young man who's been murdered. The body tests positive for a deadly infectious disease. Authorities trace the killing to a gang. They race to find gang members linked to the murder... who may also be incubating the virus. This week on Hidden Brain... disease, panic, and how a public health team used psychology to confront an epidemic.

  • Episode 53: Embrace the Chaos

    Nov 29 2016

    Many of us spend lots of time and energy trying to get organized. We KonMari our closets, we strive for inbox zero, we tell our kids to clean their rooms, and our politicians to clean up Washington. But Economist Tim Harford says, maybe we should embrace the chaos. His new book is Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

  • Episode 52: Losing Face

    Nov 22 2016

    It happens to all of us: someone recognizes you on the street, calls you by name, and says hello... and you have no idea who that person is. Researchers say this struggle to read other faces is common. This week on Hidden Brain, super-recognizers, and the rest of us.

  • Episode 51: What Happened?

    Nov 15 2016

    On the morning after election day, pundits, pollsters, politicians, and citizens woke up feeling stunned. All signs, all year, had been pointing towards a victory for Democrat Hillary Clinton. So, what happened? We ask one of the few people who didn't get it wrong: the historian Allan Lichtman.

  • Encore of Episode 27: Losing Alaska

    Nov 08 2016

    We didn't hear very much about climate change during this election cycle — and social science research might give us some insight as to why not. This week, an encore of one of our favorite episodes about why it's so hard for us to wrap our heads around climate change.

  • Episode 50: Broken Windows

    Nov 01 2016

    In the early 1980s, a couple of researchers wrote an article in The Atlantic that would have far reaching consequences. The article introduced a new idea about crime and policing. It was called Broken Windows. The idea was simple: A broken window is a sign of a neglected community, and a neglected community is a place where crime can thrive. The researchers said, if police fixed the small problems that created visible signs of disorder, the big ones would disappear. Today, we explore how ideas s...more

  • Episode 49: Filthy Rich

    Oct 25 2016

    Several years ago, sociologist Brooke Harrington decided to explore the secret lives of billionaires. What she found, she said, shocked her.

  • Episode 48: Men: 44, Women: 0

    Oct 18 2016

    A century after women won the vote in the US, we still see very few of them in leadership roles. Researchers say women are trapped in a catch-22 known as "the double bind." Note: an early version of this episode incorrectly stated that Carol Moseley Braun was the first African-American U.S. Senator. She was in fact the first female African-American Senator.

  • Episode 47: Give Me Your Tired...

    Oct 11 2016

    Our airwaves are filled with debates about migrants, refugees, and undocumented immigrants... Who should be in the United States, who shouldn't, and who should decide? Immigration is, without question, a flash point in this year's political debates. It's an issue that seems to get to the core of who we are, who we want to be, and where we're headed as a nation. Today we're going to take a fresh look at the issue by exploring what history can teach us about the patterns and paradoxes of immigrati...more

  • Episode 46: Blessings in Disguise?

    Oct 04 2016

    We have lots of ways to describe the good that can come from bad: a blessing in disguise, a silver lining — but what if the bad thing was truly awful? This week on Hidden Brain, framing and re-framing a tragedy.

  • Episode 45: What Are The Odds?

    Sep 27 2016

    This week on Hidden Brain, coincidences. Why they're not quite as magical as they seem... and the reasons we can't help but search for meaning in them anyway.

  • Trailer: Hidden Brain 2.0

    Sep 22 2016

    We have an anniversary to celebrate. We've been bringing you Hidden Brain for a year now, and we are so glad and thankful you've come along with us. We've learned a lot about what you like, and what we like. Specifically, deep dives into stories or topics that reveal something true about human behavior. Now, it's time to double down on that with a string of ambitious new episodes. Here's a sneak peek.

  • Update: #AirbnbWhileBlack

    Sep 20 2016

    A few months ago, Hidden Brain investigated claims that Airbnb users were facing discrimination on the platform. Now, we bring you an update on the company's response.

  • Episode 44: Our Politics, Our Parenting

    Sep 13 2016

    In the midst of a rancorous election, we present a new theory to explain why the two sides of the aisle seem irreconcilable sometimes.

  • Episode 43: The Perils of Power

    Sep 06 2016

    We've all heard the old adage that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but psychologist Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley has found evidence to prove it. His book is The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence.

  • Encore of Episode 21: Stroke of Genius

    Aug 30 2016

    Derek Amato wasn't born a musical savant. He became one—almost instantly—after hitting his head on the bottom of a swimming pool.

  • Episode 42: Decide Already!

    Aug 23 2016

    This week, Harvard researcher Dan Gilbert tells us why we're bad at predicting our future happiness, how that affects our decision making, and why we are actually happier after making a decision that feels irrevocable.

  • Encore of Episode 11: Forgery

    Aug 16 2016

    This week on Hidden Brain, we explore real and fake, from fine art to fine wine. Shankar speaks with Noah Charney, author of The Art of Forgery, about why art forgers are compelled to spend their lives copying the great masters, and why so many of them want to get caught. Also this week: why we love studies that prove wine connoisseurs wrong.

  • Episode 41: Defeated

    Aug 09 2016

    While everyone is focused on the Olympic winners in Rio, we're zooming in on loss. We have the story of how a world-champion judo player reacted to a devastating defeat, plus a Stopwatch Science on how losing affects us all.

  • Episode 40: Silver and Gold

    Aug 02 2016

    The rush of victory or crush of defeat in the Olympics can flash by very quickly. But if you slow those moments down, there's a lot to learn about human behavior.

  • Encore of Episode 7: Lonely Hearts

    Jul 26 2016

    Jesse always wanted to fall in love. So when the perfect woman started writing him letters, it seemed too good to be true. Because it was. This week, a story about a con — with a twist. When the con was exposed, its victims defended the con artists. They still wanted to believe the lie

  • Episode 39: Vacations

    Jul 19 2016

    Summer vacations often take time, energy and money to plan. Expectations can run unreasonably high. This week in Stopwatch Science, we dive into what research says about how to have a better getaway.

  • Episode 38: Me, Me, Me

    Jul 12 2016

    It doesn't take a psychologist to see narcissism in our culture of selfies. But we decided to talk to one anyway. Jean Twenge is a researcher and author of the books The Narcissism Epidemic, and Generation Me.

  • Episode 37: Smoke & Mirrors

    Jul 05 2016

    Six months ago, Hidden Brain's Max Nesterak made a resolution to quit smoking. But as we all know... resolutions are made to be broken. This week, we check in with Max to find out how he's fared, and give you social science insight to help you quit your bad habits too.

  • Episode 36: Science of Deception

    Jun 28 2016

    This week on Hidden Brain, we find out what makes humans of all ages cheat. Plus in Stopwatch Science, Dan Pink comes armed with studies on how our social context influences our cheating habits.

  • Episode 35: Creature Comforts

    Jun 21 2016

    This week, Hidden Brain considers the power of touch. First, Alison MacAdam tells us the story of her security blanket, called Baba. Then, Shankar interviews writer Deborah Blum about groundbreaking experiments into the importance of affection for young children.

  • Encore of Episode 13: Terrorism

    Jun 14 2016

    In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, we explore how groups such as the Islamic State explicitly try to capitalize on the grievances and individual frustrations of potential "recruits."

  • Episode 34: Google at Work

    Jun 07 2016

    This week on Hidden Brain, Shankar talks to Google's Laszlo Bock for insider tips and insights about what works — and what doesn't work — in recruiting, motivating, and retaining a talented workforce.

  • Episode 33: Food for Thought

    May 31 2016

    What do large tables, large breakfasts, and large servers have in common? They all affect how much you eat. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the hidden forces that drive our diets.

  • Episode 32: The Scientific Process

    May 24 2016

    Lots of psychology studies fail to produce the same results when they are repeated. How do scientists know what's true?

  • Episode 31: Your Brain on Uber

    May 17 2016

    Uber is built on the scourge of surge. When demand is high, the company charges two, three, even NINE-POINT-NINE times as much as normal for a ride. Riders hate it . . . but not so much that they stop riding. Yep, "dynamic pricing" has helped the company to grow into one of the largest taxi services in the world. What's the psychology behind it? Shankar sits down with Uber's Head of Economic Research Keith Chen to talk about when we're most likely pay for surge, when we hate it the most, and why...more

  • Episode 30: WOOP, There It Is

    May 10 2016

    Many of us have heard that we should think positive... Visualize ourselves achieving our goals. But researcher Gabriele Oettingen finds, this isn't actually the best advice. Instead, we should use her strategy — which she calls WOOP.

  • Episode 29: Traffic

    May 03 2016

    Traffic. You hate it, we hate it, the rest of the world hates it, and unfortunately, our best efforts to curb it usually only make it worse. This week on Hidden Brain, we visit a few of the world's most congested cities, and investigate a few options to make driving safer and less maddening.

  • Episode 28: #AirbnbWhileBlack

    Apr 26 2016

    The sharing economy is great. It gives us opportunities to connect with strangers... to pool resources... to get a cheap ride, or a weekend away. But this week on Hidden Brain, we'll look at how these new platforms can amplify some old biases.

  • Episode 27: Losing Alaska

    Apr 19 2016

    Human beings would be better at fighting climate change if we weren't so, well, human. In this episode, we explore the psychological barriers to addressing climate change.

  • Encore of Episode 16: Misbehaving

    Apr 12 2016

    From eating marshmallows to spending lottery winnings, Shankar Vedantam talks with behavioral economist Richard Thaler about Misbehaving.

  • Episode 26: Grit

    Apr 05 2016

    Grit is a quality that parents strive to teach to their children, and teachers strive to teach their students. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore grit, and ask, does it also have a downside?

  • Episode 25: Dream Jobs

    Mar 29 2016

    Why do you work? Are you just in it for the money, or do you do it for a greater purpose? Popular wisdom says your answer depends on what your job is. But psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski at Yale University finds it may have more to do with how we think about our work. Across secretaries and custodians and computer programmers, she finds we're about equally split in whether we say we have a job, a career, or a calling. This week on Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam talks with Amy about how we find mea...more

  • Episode 24: Tribes and Traitors

    Mar 22 2016

    This week on Hidden Brain, two remarkable stories of empathy... And why showing empathy for another group can feel so threatening to our own tribes.

  • Episode 23: Boredom

    Mar 15 2016

    We've all been there: bored in class, bored at work, bored in standstill traffic. But why do we find boredom so unbearable? And, if we hate being bored so much, why do we still take boring jobs? This week on Hidden Brain, we try to answer these questions and more — hopefully, without boring you.

  • Encore of Episode 9: Aziz Ansari on Modern Love

    Mar 08 2016

    Hidden Brain host Shankar Vedantam talks to comedian Aziz Ansari — star of Master of None and coauthor of Modern Romance — about Tinder, texting and how dating is a bit like... buying jam.

  • Episode 22: Originals

    Mar 01 2016

    Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, tells us what makes an original, how parents can nuture originality in their children, and its potential downside.

  • Episode 21: Stroke of Genius

    Feb 23 2016

    Derek Amato wasn't born a musical savant. He became one—almost instantly—after hitting his head on the bottom of a swimming pool.

  • Episode 20: Remembering Anarcha

    Feb 16 2016

    J. Marion Sims is remembered as the father of modern gynecology. Forgotten are the mothers—the enslaved women whose bodies were sacrificed for the advancement of his research.

  • Episode 19: Dating and Mating

    Feb 09 2016

    It's almost Valentine's Day, but this week we're not talking about love. Instead, we explore the other forces that drive our romantic relationships.

  • Encore of Episode 2: Near Victories

    Feb 02 2016

    Shankar Vedantam explores "almosts" and "not quites" on this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast, with the help of Monica Wadhwa, Dan Pink, and country music singer Kacey Musgraves.

  • Episode 18: The Paradox of Forgiveness

    Jan 26 2016

    After more than a decade of brutal civil war, perpetrators and victims attempted to find peace around bonfires across Sierra Leone. This week on Hidden Brain, a story about forgiving the unforgivable, and the cost of reconciliation.

  • Episode 17: Resolutions

    Jan 19 2016

    Today is the perfect day to (re)start your resolution. Here's how.

  • Episode 16: Misbehaving

    Jan 12 2016

    From eating marshmallows to spending lottery winnings, Shankar Vedantam talks with behavioral economist Richard Thaler about his book Misbehaving.

  • Encore of Episode 3: Stereotype Threat

    Jan 05 2016

    Annie Duke was often the only woman at the poker table, which influenced the way people saw her, and the way she saw herself. Feeling like an outsider can come at a cost, but also can be an advantage.

  • Episode 15: Loss and Renewal

    Dec 29 2015

    Maya Shankar was well on her way to an extraordinary career as a violinist when an injury closed that door. This week, we look at how she wound up at the top of another field: the social sciences.

  • Episode 14: Christmas

    Dec 22 2015

    This is the time of year for giving--whether that's a holiday gift for someone we love, or a charitable donation to a good cause. But why do we give? And how can we do it better? This week on Hidden Brain: how to be more generous, get your friends and family what they actually want, and why it's okay to regift.

  • Episode 13: Terrorism

    Dec 15 2015

    Why do young people join ISIS? Is it nihilism, or, as social scientists suggest, a perverse idealism? This week on Hidden Brain, we explore the psychology of terrorist groups, and why so many young people leave behind promising futures to join them.

  • Episode 12: Humor

    Dec 08 2015

    This week on Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam looks at what we find funny and what, well, crosses the line. Comedian Bill Burr joins us to talk about why race, gender and Caitlin Jenner can be so funny.

  • Episode 11: Forgery

    Dec 01 2015

    This week on Hidden Brain, we explore real and fake, from fine art to fine wine. Shankar speaks with Noah Charney, author of The Art of Forgery, about why art forgers are compelled to spend their lives copying the great masters, and why so many of them want to get caught. Also this week: why we love studies that prove wine connoisseurs wrong.

  • Episode 10: Thanksgiving

    Nov 24 2015

    The holidays are all about generousity, gratitude, and spending time with the people we love. But we all know the whole "spending time with the people we love" part has its challenges. Hidden Brain is here to help — with science-based tips to give you a happier holiday.

  • Episode 9: Aziz Ansari on Modern Love

    Nov 17 2015

    Hidden Brain host Shankar Vedantam talks to comedian Aziz Ansari — star of a new Netflix show and coauthor of Modern Romance — about Tinder, texting and how dating is a bit like... buying jam.

  • Episode 8: Back Up Plans

    Nov 10 2015

    This week on Hidden Brain, researcher Katy Milkman explains why backup plans may make us less motivated, Dan Pink is back to discuss moral hazard, and NPR's Adam Cole ties it all together with a song.

  • Episode 7: Lonely Hearts

    Nov 03 2015

    Jesse always wanted to fall in love. So when the perfect woman started writing him letters, it seemed too good to be true. Because it was. This week, a story about a con — with a twist. When the con was exposed, its victims defended the con artists. They still wanted to believe the lie.

  • Episode 6: The Science of Fear

    Oct 27 2015

    This week, for Halloween, the Hidden Brain podcast gets spooky. We explore the science of fear — traveling to a haunted house curated by a scientist to investigate what scares us, and why some people enjoy this sensation more than others.

  • Episode 5: Compassion

    Oct 20 2015

    On this week's episode of Hidden Brain, we'll explore the science of compassion, and how being kind to others can make a real difference in your own life.

  • Episode 4: Students and Teachers

    Oct 13 2015

    In this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast, the connections between students and teachers, and how finding things in common between them might be a tool for closing the achievement gap.

  • Episode 3: Stereotype Threat

    Oct 06 2015

    Annie Duke was often the only woman at the poker table, which influenced the way people saw her, and the way she saw herself. Feeling like an outsider can come at a cost, but also can be an advantage.

  • Brain Bonus: Magic Brain

    Oct 02 2015

    In time for your Friday commute, we introduce you to a new segment called Magic Brain. Shankar explores the social science behind magic, and discovers that free choice is sometimes just an illusion.

  • Episode 2: Near Victories

    Sep 29 2015

    Shankar Vedantam explores "almosts" and "not quites" on this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast, with the help of Monica Wadhwa, Dan Pink, and country music singer Kacey Musgraves.

  • Episode 1: Switchtracking

    Sep 22 2015

    The first episode of Hidden Brain explores switchtracking: a common pattern in conversations you'll be accusing your partner of in no time! Plus speedy science, a cup of tea and a song from Adam Cole.

  • Hidden Brain: A Sneak Peek

    Sep 04 2015

    Check out a few minutes of the latest podcast from NPR: Hidden Brain. Shankar Vedantam explores what happens when two people think they are talking about the same thing, but in reality are speeding down separate tracks. It usually doesn't end well.

  • Welcome to the Hidden Brain Podcast

    Aug 09 2015

    A conversation about life's unseen patterns. Discover what's inside your Hidden Brain... subscribe now.