Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain

npr.org/series/423302056/hidden-brain
A conversation about life’s unseen patterns.
Be The Change
Oct 22 • 52 min
“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…
Voting With Your Middle Finger
Oct 15 • 49 min
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…
Red Brain, Blue Brain
Oct 8 • 26 min
When we think about how we came to our political views, we often assume our life experiences are the root of our political ideologies. But what if there is something deeper at play?
“Man Up”
Oct 1 • 42 min
You’ve certainly heard some variation of the phrase “be a man.” But what does that even mean? On this episode of Hidden Brain, we discuss masculinity.
Why Now?
Sep 24 • 52 min
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…
Radio Replay: Eyes Wide Open
Sep 21 • 49 min
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…
The Cassandra Curse
Sep 17 • 35 min
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…
Our Better Nature
Sep 10 • 25 min
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…
Bullshit Jobs
Sep 3 • 45 min
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…
You 2.0: Check Yourself
Aug 27 • 51 min
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…
You 2.0: Originals
Aug 20 • 22 min
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…
You 2.0: When Did Marriage Become So Hard?
Aug 13 • 51 min
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 6 • 27 min
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 30 • 23 min
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…
You 2.0: Rebel With A Cause
Jul 23 • 47 min
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…
Radio Replay: Watch Your Mouth
Jul 20 • 49 min
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…
Creating God
Jul 16 • 53 min
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…
Snooki and the Handbag
Jul 9 • 25 min
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…
The Edge Effect
Jul 2 • 38 min
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…
Fake News: An Origin Story
Jun 25 • 27 min
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…
Radio Replay: Looking Back
Jun 22 • 50 min
Why are we so often pulled into memories of the past? This week, two emotions we just can’t shake: regret and nostalgia.
Summer Melt
Jun 18 • 25 min
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,…
Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus
Jun 11 • 28 min
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 4 • 51 min
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…
Kinder-Gardening
May 28 • 29 min
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…
Rewinding & Rewriting
May 21 • 30 min
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…
Radio Replay: This Is Your Brain On Ads
May 18 • 51 min
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…
Baby Talk
May 14 • 30 min
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…
Rap on Trial
May 7 • 55 min
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 Fox and the Hedgehog
Apr 30 • 37 min
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.…
Emma, Carrie, Vivian
Apr 23 • 41 min
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…
Radio Replay: The Weight of Our Words
Apr 20 • 49 min
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…
Romeo and Juliet in Kigali
Apr 16 • 51 min
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…
Liar, Liar
Apr 9 • 29 min
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…
Tunnel Vision
Apr 2 • 36 min
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…
Crickets and Cannibals
Mar 26 • 33 min
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 19 • 48 min
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,…
Radio Replay: The Mind of the Village
Mar 16 • 49 min
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 12 • 48 min
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…
Men: 45, Women: 0
Mar 5 • 22 min
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,…
Counting Other People’s Blessings
Feb 26 • 51 min
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…
Filthy Rich
Feb 19 • 22 min
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 12 • 51 min
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 5 • 52 min
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…
Lost in Translation
Jan 29 • 35 min
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 • 49 min
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…
Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations
Jan 22 • 42 min
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…
Give Me Your Tired…
Jan 15 • 21 min
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…
Radio Replay: I, Robot
Jan 12 • 49 min
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 8 • 37 min
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…
Buying Attention
Jan 1 • 38 min
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…
Radio Replay: Fresh Starts
Dec 29, 2017 • 51 min
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 25, 2017 • 24 min
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…
Radio Replay: Don’t Panic!
Dec 22, 2017 • 51 min
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 18, 2017 • 50 min
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…
Kinder-Gardening
Dec 11, 2017 • 29 min
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…
Radio Replay: Loving the Lie
Dec 8, 2017 • 49 min
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…
The Sorting Hat
Dec 4, 2017 • 51 min
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 —…
Radio Replay: Life, Interrupted
Dec 1, 2017 • 50 min
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,…
Money Talks
Nov 27, 2017 • 25 min
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…
An American Secret
Nov 20, 2017 • 22 min
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…
Radio Replay: Crime As A Disease
Nov 17, 2017 • 48 min
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…
Eyes Wide Open: Part 2
Nov 13, 2017 • 35 min
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…
Eyes Wide Open: Part 1
Nov 6, 2017 • 24 min
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…
Radio Replay: Prisons of Our Own Making
Nov 3, 2017 • 49 min
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…
Check Yourself
Oct 30, 2017 • 51 min
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…
Radio Replay: What’s In It For Me?
Oct 27, 2017 • 51 min
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…
Misbehaving with Richard Thaler
Oct 23, 2017 • 26 min
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…
The Good Old Days
Oct 16, 2017 • 27 min
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…
The Edge of Gender
Oct 9, 2017 • 51 min
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…
Be The Change
Oct 2, 2017 • 51 min
“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…
Just Sex
Sep 25, 2017 • 25 min
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…
The Ostrich Effect
Sep 18, 2017 • 26 min
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 11, 2017 • 30 min
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…
Hiding Behind Free Speech
Sep 4, 2017 • 29 min
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…
You 2.0: Getting Unstuck
Aug 28, 2017 • 29 min
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: Decide Already!
Aug 21, 2017 • 25 min
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…
You 2.0: WOOP, There It Is
Aug 14, 2017 • 20 min
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 7, 2017 • 24 min
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…
You 2.0: Dream Jobs
Jul 31, 2017 • 23 min
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…
You 2.0: Deep Work
Jul 24, 2017 • 36 min
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…
Summer Melt
Jul 17, 2017 • 25 min
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…
Could You Kill A Robot?
Jul 10, 2017 • 33 min
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…
Losing Face
Jul 3, 2017 • 24 min
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…
Guessing Games
Jun 26, 2017 • 28 min
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 19, 2017 • 27 min
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.…
Rap on Trial
Jun 12, 2017 • 55 min
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…
In The Air We Breathe
Jun 5, 2017 • 38 min
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…
Broken Windows
May 29, 2017 • 30 min
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…
Me, Myself, and IKEA
May 22, 2017 • 25 min
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…
Ep. 71: The Fox and the Hedgehog
May 15, 2017 • 37 min
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…
Encore of Ep. 45: What Are The Odds?
May 8, 2017 • 25 min
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 1, 2017 • 28 min
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…
Episode 69: Money Talks
Apr 24, 2017 • 24 min
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…
Ep. 68: Schadenfacebook
Apr 17, 2017 • 27 min
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…
Encore of Ep. 35: Creature Comforts
Apr 10, 2017 • 29 min
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…
Ep. 67: The Hole
Apr 3, 2017 • 26 min
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…
Ep. 66: Liar, Liar
Mar 27, 2017 • 29 min
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…
Episode 65: Tunnel Vision
Mar 20, 2017 • 36 min
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…
Ep. 64: I’m Right, You’re Wrong
Mar 13, 2017 • 23 min
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…
Encore of Ep. 24: Tribes and Traitors
Mar 6, 2017 • 30 min
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…
Ep. 63: “I’m Not A Terrorist…”
Feb 27, 2017 • 23 min
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,…
Episode 62: On The Knife’s Edge
Feb 21, 2017 • 28 min
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…
Episode 61: Just Sex
Feb 14, 2017 • 24 min
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…
Encore of Episode 20: Remembering Anarcha
Feb 7, 2017 • 27 min
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 60: Fortress America
Jan 31, 2017 • 22 min
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…
Episode 59: The Deep Story
Jan 24, 2017 • 22 min
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,…
Episode 58: Pedestals and Guillotines
Jan 17, 2017 • 23 min
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…
Episode 57: Slanguage
Jan 10, 2017 • 26 min
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…
Episode 56: Getting Unstuck
Jan 3, 2017 • 28 min
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…
Encore of Episode 15: Loss and Renewal
Dec 27, 2016 • 27 min
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 • 28 min
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…
Episode 55: Snooki and the Handbag
Dec 13, 2016 • 26 min
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…
Episode 54: Panic in the Streets
Dec 6, 2016 • 25 min
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…
Episode 53: Embrace the Chaos
Nov 29, 2016 • 24 min
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…
Episode 52: Losing Face
Nov 22, 2016 • 24 min
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…
Episode 51: What Happened?
Nov 15, 2016 • 28 min
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…
Encore of Episode 27: Losing Alaska
Nov 8, 2016 • 25 min
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…
Episode 50: Broken Windows
Nov 1, 2016 • 30 min
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…
Episode 49: Filthy Rich
Oct 25, 2016 • 21 min
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 • 21 min
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…
Episode 47: Give Me Your Tired…
Oct 11, 2016 • 22 min
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…
Episode 46: Blessings in Disguise?
Oct 4, 2016 • 21 min
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 • 29 min
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 • 2 min
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…
Update: #AirbnbWhileBlack
Sep 20, 2016 • 25 min
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 • 23 min
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 6, 2016 • 26 min
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 • 25 min
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 • 24 min
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 • 24 min
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…
Episode 41: Defeated
Aug 9, 2016 • 21 min
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 2, 2016 • 22 min
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 • 33 min
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…
Episode 39: Vacations
Jul 19, 2016 • 16 min
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 • 24 min
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 5, 2016 • 25 min
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…
Episode 36: Science of Deception
Jun 28, 2016 • 17 min
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 • 29 min
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…
Encore of Episode 13: Terrorism
Jun 14, 2016 • 26 min
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 7, 2016 • 26 min
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 • 19 min
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 • 28 min
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 • 30 min
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…
Episode 30: WOOP, There It Is
May 10, 2016 • 21 min
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 3, 2016 • 17 min
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…
Episode 28: #AirbnbWhileBlack
Apr 26, 2016 • 22 min
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 • 24 min
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 • 24 min
From eating marshmallows to spending lottery winnings, Shankar Vedantam talks with behavioral economist Richard Thaler about Misbehaving.
Episode 26: Grit
Apr 5, 2016 • 29 min
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 • 21 min
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…
Episode 24: Tribes and Traitors
Mar 22, 2016 • 28 min
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 • 21 min
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…
Encore of Episode 9: Aziz Ansari on Modern Love
Mar 8, 2016 • 27 min
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 1, 2016 • 21 min
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 • 24 min
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 • 26 min
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 9, 2016 • 23 min
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 2, 2016 • 25 min
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 • 20 min
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 • 23 min
Today is the perfect day to (re)start your resolution. Here’s how.
Episode 16: Misbehaving
Jan 12, 2016 • 23 min
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 5, 2016 • 22 min
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 • 26 min
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 • 22 min
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…
Episode 13: Terrorism
Dec 15, 2015 • 27 min
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 8, 2015 • 20 min
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 1, 2015 • 24 min
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…
Episode 10: Thanksgiving
Nov 24, 2015 • 19 min
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…
Episode 9: Aziz Ansari on Modern Love
Nov 17, 2015 • 27 min
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 • 25 min
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 3, 2015 • 33 min
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…
Episode 6: The Science of Fear
Oct 27, 2015 • 21 min
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 • 20 min
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 • 20 min
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 6, 2015 • 22 min
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 2, 2015 • 4 min
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 • 24 min
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 • 30 min
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 4, 2015 • 5 min
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 9, 2015 • 1 min
A conversation about life’s unseen patterns. Discover what’s inside your Hidden Brain… subscribe now.