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Hidden Brain

Author: NPR

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Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.
270 Episodes
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The People Like Us

The People Like Us

2020-05-2536:204

Far from being "the great equalizer," COVID-19 has disproportionately sickened and killed African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. Many of the reasons for these inequalities reach back to before the pandemic began. This week, we return to a 2019 episode that investigates a specific source of racial disparities in medicine and beyond—and considers an uncomfortable solution.
Our Better Angels

Our Better Angels

2020-05-1841:1711

In the months since the spread of the coronavirus, stories of selfishness and exploitation have become all too familiar: people ignoring social distancing guidelines, or even selling medical equipment at inflated prices. Most of our public and economic policies take aim at these sorts of people — the wrongdoers and the profiteers. But is there a hidden cost to the rest of us when we put bad actors at the center of our thinking? Do the measures we put in place to curtail the selfish inadvertently hurt our capacity to do right by others?
Commencement ceremonies allow us to take stock of what we've accomplished and where we're headed. This is one of the key opportunities that students and families have lost, as social distancing precautions lead schools to cancel in-person graduations. In this "commencement address," recorded at the request of the public radio program 1A, Shankar Vedantam offers thoughts on what it means to mark such a milestone at this moment, and how graduates can use the disruption caused by the pandemic to think about their lives in new ways.
The Dramatic Cure

The Dramatic Cure

2020-05-1152:0510

In recent months, many of us have become familiar with the sense of fear expressing itself in our bodies. We may feel restless or physically exhausted. At times, we may even have trouble catching our breath. The deep connection between mind and body that seems so salient now was also at the center of our episode about the placebo effect. This week, we return to this 2019 story that asks what placebos might teach us about the nature of healing.
The Choices Before Us

The Choices Before Us

2020-05-0450:3938

An abundance of choices is a good thing, right? In the United States, where choice is often equated with freedom and control, the answer tends to be a resounding 'yes.' But researchers say the relationship between choice and happiness isn't always so clear-cut. This week, we talk with psychologist Sheena Iyengar about making better decisions, and how she's thinking about the relationship between choices and control during the coronavirus pandemic.
Starving The Watchdogs

Starving The Watchdogs

2020-04-2732:06

Amidst the confusion and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have sought out a long-trusted lifeline: the local newspaper. Though the value of local journalism is more apparent now than ever, newspapers are not thriving. They're collapsing. For many communities, this means fewer local stories and job losses. 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 return to a 2018 episode that's acutely relevant today and ask, who bears the cost when nobody wants to pay?
A Social Prescription

A Social Prescription

2020-04-2050:4535

Confined to our homes, many of us are experiencing a newfound appreciation for our social relationships. What we may not realize — and what physicians and researchers have only recently started emphasizing — is the importance of these connections to our physical health. This week, we talk with former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy about why he considers loneliness a matter of public health, and how we can all deepen our social ties.
Sex Machines

Sex Machines

2020-04-1328:4315

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 revisit our 2019 story about the history of the artificial lover, and consider what love and sex look like in the age of robots.
Playing Tight And Loose

Playing Tight And Loose

2020-04-0649:4639

We all know people who prefer to follow the rules, and others who prefer to flout them. Psychologist Michele Gelfand defines these two ways of being as "tight" and "loose." She says the tight/loose framework can help us to better understand individuals, businesses, and even nations. This week, we look at the core traits of tight and loose worldviews, and how they may shape our lives — from interactions with our spouses to global efforts to fight the coronavirus.
A silver lining of social distancing: you may have more time and space to pursue the projects you've bookmarked on your web browser. Whether your goal is to build a barn door or to update your makeup routine, online tutorials have made it easier than ever to bring the world into your living room or kitchen or bedroom. But a curious thing can happen when we watch experts doing expert things. This week, we explore the dangers and the delights of vicarious living, with a favorite episode from 2019.
An Unfinished Lesson

An Unfinished Lesson

2020-03-2349:2433

A virus is more than a biological organism. It's a social organism. It detects fissures in societies and fault lines between communities. Historian Nancy Bristow shares the lessons about human behavior that we can take away from a century-old pandemic.
Panic In The Street

Panic In The Street

2020-03-1626:2014

It sounds like a movie plot: 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 the gang members, who may also be incubating the virus. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit our 2016 story about disease, panic, and how a public health team used psychology to confront an epidemic.
We know that we live in an ever-changing world, but one thing we often overlook is demographic change. Whether the world's population is growing or shrinking can affect many aspects of our lives, from the number of kids we have to the likelihood that we'll live to old age. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore how our planet's population is changing, and what that means for us in the century to come.
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, which we originally released in 2019, we trace the life of Riley Shepard, a hillbilly musician, writer, small-time con man and, perhaps, a genius.
The Influence You Have

The Influence You Have

2020-02-2450:2620

Think about the last time you asked someone for something. Maybe you were nervous or worried about what the person would think of you. Chances are that you didn't stop to think about the pressure you were exerting on that person. This week, we explore a phenomenon that psychologists refer to as "egocentric bias," and look at how this bias can lead us astray.
Liar, Liar, Liar

Liar, Liar, Liar

2020-02-1728:4311

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.
Passion Isn't Enough

Passion Isn't Enough

2020-02-1053:148

Many Americans feel an obligation to keep up with political news. But maybe we should be focusing our energies elsewhere. Political scientist Eitan Hersh says there's been a rise in "political hobbyism" in the United States. We treat politics like entertainment, following the latest updates like we follow our favorite sports teams. Instead, he says, we should think of politics as a way to acquire power and persuade our neighbors to back the issues we support.
When Things Click

When Things Click

2020-02-0451:299

There can be a lot of psychological noise involved in teaching. But what if we replaced all that mental clutter...with a click? This week, we bring you a 2018 episode exploring 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 that can turn learning into a minefield of misery.
Secret Friends

Secret Friends

2020-01-2752:343

Where is the line between what is real and what is imaginary? It seems like an easy question to answer: if you can see it, hear it, or touch it, then it's real, right? But what if this way of thinking is limiting one of the greatest gifts of the mind? This week, we meet people who experience the invisible as real, and learn how they hone their imaginations to see the world with new eyes.
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 revisit a favorite 2018 episode about the psychology of warnings. We visit a smelly Alaskan tunnel, hear about a gory (and fictional) murder plot, and even listen to some ABBA.
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Comments (728)

Oscar Obians

This is just full of demonic new age stuff

May 19th
Reply

Analise LaRue

thanks, that was pretty thoughtful.

May 18th
Reply

Upamanyu Kaushik

Beautifully transcribed intro words. Seldom the path we choose lead us to where we are. It's the intervening synapses that mostly give us the righteous decision to our desire and fulfillment.

May 17th
Reply

Jones

Maybe it’s the “American” in me but, wtf. I’m not letting my doctor decide that he’s just gonna kill my child if he deems it unfit. He didn’t carry or will have to raise the child.

May 11th
Reply

Liam Flow

it was lovely and i feel very validated, i say to my friends the reason I'm so joyful is gratitude and servitude. each day i take 5 minutes at the end of the day to write down everything i am grateful for. i also look out each day, to give, to serve and i agree with his thoughts on that, it's little moments and its presence. doing these two things daily makes me the funnest person with a chronic, limiting illness. shift your focus and your whole world shifts 🙏

May 3rd
Reply

Julie Assmus

We can speak of all the news stories in the world that are spoken of on the news Or we can inform ourselves of 80% if the crime which isn’t committed by citizens.

Apr 28th
Reply

BRIAN BESSEMER

a great podcast for mental health and spiritual advisors on the front line

Apr 24th
Reply

ana marliana

nature's always right

Apr 16th
Reply (1)

H Mensah

Very interesting episode! Thanks for this insight into how cultural norms are playing into this pandemic.

Apr 13th
Reply (1)

maedeh Sanei

amazing result🤔

Apr 9th
Reply

Dan Broderick

Subject material too basic/uninteresting.

Apr 7th
Reply

ID18147951

I heard that the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between a real or imaginary event. In that way we can be benefitted by a vicarious experience. I can go to worlds in my mind that I could not physically enter, and this can positively affect my emotional or creative self and help me escape any negative situation I may be in. One caveat in this is that if you do this believing that this is actually real can make you lose yourself in fantasy. Doing this can benefit us as long as we realize it’s not real, but that it can help us put into practice in our real life. We may have to work against negative people trying to oppose us doing what is good, and our personal assertion has to take over. There is benefit and negative as long as we try to apply what we see as betterment and not use it just as escapement. Another twist to this is that we allow another person’s life or philosophy live through us. For me it is allowing Christ to live out His Life through me because I have a living relationship with Him!

Apr 7th
Reply

Susan Wallace

in this time of coronavirus this really spoke to me about the need to get outside and be with nature to preserve a positive mental attitude

Apr 6th
Reply

Ben Marvasty

it's time to raise our voice what's this carrfiew about is it because of this hooks coronas or is it because of the world orders by the queen how ever is it I don't want it anyway and I don't like it so the first thing we as the people are asking is to lift it up and then find a solution for this popet politician and the a resolution for vaba in a Persian and coronas in English and I am tired of talking about it because there is no ears to listen to the poor people who are not a part of their viruses circles and I think they don't understand to what extends beyond their brains are hurting people all over the world but I am not a quitter and that's their problem and that's not the only problem they are going don't quite this nonsense about coronas _are going to have if they going to have if they don't quit this nonsense but even though they quit now they open the door for the near future and I am going a way go technically teach them lesson that never thought of it financial future is to get them out of our society 3 and life. our way of life and also learned they the never be good as good people who drive thm

Apr 5th
Reply

John Buckner

it really hurts to hear this episode. I remember clearly growing up in a city of some 75k, and it had both a morning and an evening daily paper, each with a national and state news section, sports section. "lifestyle " section, and classifieds section. Today the city is 325k, and we are down to a 6-day a week paper that is roughly 8 pages. Soon the paper will be only digital, very little state and local news, mostly crime stories, restaurant reviews, and sports. Democracy dies in the dark.

Apr 2nd
Reply (1)

Al Perez

Good to know what to expect. Hopefully enough people listen and learn for the echoes of the past. The test has begun.

Mar 25th
Reply

Mohammad I. Nassiri

I behave exactly like Katy and I have harmed my body twice this year since I've been so consumed and focused on approaching a goal of mine that it led me to avoid anything unrelated but the goal. I knew it would have consequences although I didn't realize its extent. So, that was a cautionary tale for me that I've experienced and it costed me a lot. I enjoy all your episodes. splendid work and thanks

Mar 24th
Reply

Nichole L Henderson

We will see lots of suffering as a result of this new pandemic. Great podcast to show us how the previous pandemic effected life, how it was forgotten, and some of the challenges we may face. We did not learn our lesson the first time, perhaps we can this time around.

Mar 24th
Reply

Joy Fitzgerald

The direction was confusing. It felt like I was listening to someone who couldn't decide whether or not they believe in things beyond the material. It might have been an easier listen if they had come to a more specific point.

Mar 23rd
Reply

Bhavana Dabir

hi can you talk about the panic related to Coronavirus?

Mar 20th
Reply
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