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Hidden Brain

242 EpisodesProduced by NPRWebsite

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

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The Ventilator

November 19th, 2019

53:54

Many of us believe we know how we'd choose to die. We have a sense of how we'd respond to a diagnosis of an incurable illness. This week, we have the story of one family's decades-long conversation about dying. What …

Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus

November 11th, 2019

27:51

Anyone who's tried (and failed) to follow a diet knows that food is more than fuel. This week, we revisit our 2018 episode about the psychology …

The Talk Market

November 4th, 2019

37:11

Can we affect the rise and fall of the economy? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller about the …

BS Jobs

October 28th, 2019

44:31

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

The Monkey Marketplace

October 21st, 2019

48:40

What makes the mind of a human different from that of other animals? Psychologist Laurie Santos says we can't know the answer to that question if we …

The Lonely American Man

October 14th, 2019

48:58

Boys get the message at a young age: don't show your feelings. Don't rely on anyone. This week, we bring you a favorite 2018 episode about misguided …

Screaming Into The Void

October 7th, 2019

42:26

Turn on the news or look at Twitter, and it's likely you'll be bombarded by outrage. Many people have come to believe that the only way to spark change is to incite anger. This week on Hidden Brain, how outrage is …

Baby Talk

September 30th, 2019

31:08

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're All Gonna Live Forever!

September 23rd, 2019

39:39

Last week, we spoke with psychologist Sheldon Solomon about the fear of death and how it shapes our actions. This week, we pivot from psychology and …

We're All Gonna Die!

September 16th, 2019

32:16

Death may be inescapable, but we do our best to avoid thinking about it. Psychologist Sheldon Solomon says we're not very successful though. This …

You Can't Hit Unsend

September 10th, 2019

53:52

Social media sites offer quick and easy ways to share ideas, crack jokes, find old friends. They can make us feel part of something big and …

You 2.0: Decide Already!

September 2nd, 2019

25:07

For the last episode in our You 2.0 series, we bring you a favorite conversation with Harvard researcher Dan Gilbert. He explains why we're bad at predicting our future happiness, how that affects our decision making, …

You 2.0: Deep Work

August 27th, 2019

33:45

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. …

You 2.0: Rebel With A Cause

August 19th, 2019

47:13

Francesca Gino studies rebels — people who practice "positive deviance" and achieve incredible feats of imagination. They know how, and when, to …

You 2.0: Our Better Nature

August 12th, 2019

26:53

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 …

You 2.0: Tunnel Vision

August 5th, 2019

36:41

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 …

You 2.0: The Empathy Gym

July 29th, 2019

53:11

Some people are good at putting themselves in another person's shoes. Others may struggle to relate. But psychologist Jamil Zaki argues that empathy …

Facts Aren't Enough

July 22nd, 2019

51:17

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 …

Finding Your Voice

July 15th, 2019

35:07

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 …

The Fox And The Hedgehog

July 8th, 2019

38:08

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 …

I Buy, Therefore I Am

July 1st, 2019

33:29

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 …

The Lazarus Drug

June 24th, 2019

47:21

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 …

Our Animal Instincts

June 17th, 2019

47:32

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 …

Me, Myself, and IKEA

June 10th, 2019

24:42

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 …

People Like Us

June 3rd, 2019

35:28

Generations of Americans have struggled against segregation. Most of us believe in the ideal of a colorblind society. But what happens when that …

More Divided Than Ever?

May 27th, 2019

52:53

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 …

Losing Face

May 20th, 2019

24:24

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 …

What's Not On The Test

May 13th, 2019

45:17

Smarts matter. But other factors may play an even bigger role in whether someone succeeds. This week, we speak with Nobel Prize-winning economist …

Creating God

May 6th, 2019

50:41

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, …

A Dramatic Cure

April 29th, 2019

50:32

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 …

Why No One Feels Rich

April 22nd, 2019

32:29

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, …

The Sorting Hat

April 15th, 2019

50:06

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 …

Radically Normal

April 8th, 2019

52:14

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 …

Don't Panic!

April 1st, 2019

51:14

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 …

What Twins Tell Us

March 25th, 2019

30:19

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 …

Never Go To Vegas

March 18th, 2019

47:15

All social classes have unspoken rules. From A-list celebrities to teachers, doctors, lawyers, and journalists — there are social norms that govern …

Unreal Sex

March 11th, 2019

28:54

From stone statues to silicone works of art, we have long sought solace and sex from inanimate objects. Time and technology have perfected the …

For Sale, By Owner

March 4th, 2019

32:31

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 …

Radio Replay: Playing The Gender Card

March 1st, 2019

49:24

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 …

Better Than Cash

February 25th, 2019

28:09

Our modern world is saturated with awards. From elementary school classrooms to Hollywood to the hallways of academia, there's no shortage of prizes …

Emma, Carrie, Vivian

February 18th, 2019

41:31

In 1924, a 17-year-old girl was admitted to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. The superintendent of the colony classified …

Close Enough

February 11th, 2019

50:00

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 …

One Head, Two Brains

February 4th, 2019

51:26

This week, we search for the answer to a deceptively simple question: why is the brain divided? Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains why popular …

Radio Replay: Creative Differences

February 1st, 2019

49:03

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. …

Rewinding & Rewriting

January 28th, 2019

31:12

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. …

The Vegetable Lamb

January 21st, 2019

38:29

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 …

The Best Medicine

January 14th, 2019

48:37

If you listen closely to giggles, guffaws, and polite chuckles, you can discern a huge amount of information about people and their relationships …

The Cowboy Philosopher

January 7th, 2019

51:11

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 …

Loss and Renewal

December 31st, 2018

26:37

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 …

Compassion

December 24th, 2018

19:09

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 …

Radio Replay: Yum and Yuck

December 21st, 2018

49:43

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 …

Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

December 17th, 2018

41:58

Arguments and bickering can sour family gatherings during the holiday season. This week, we share tips on how to avoid miscommunication from our …

Starving the Watchdog

December 10th, 2018

30:34

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 …

Spoiler Alert!

December 3rd, 2018

29:30

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 …

A Founding Contradiction

November 26th, 2018

44:21

"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 …

Radio Replay: Bringing Up Baby

November 23rd, 2018

49:46

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 …

The Edge of Gender

November 19th, 2018

52:51

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 …

Zipcode Destiny

November 12th, 2018

52:03

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 …

Sounds Like a Winner

November 5th, 2018

26:04

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 …

The Lazarus Drug

October 29th, 2018

49:31

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 …

Radio Replay: Too Little, Too Much

October 26th, 2018

49:05

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 …

Be The Change

October 22nd, 2018

52:09

"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 …

Voting With Your Middle Finger

October 15th, 2018

49:14

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 …

Red Brain, Blue Brain

October 8th, 2018

26:15

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 …

"Man Up"

October 1st, 2018

42:30

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 …

Why Now?

September 24th, 2018

52:02

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 …

Radio Replay: Eyes Wide Open

September 21st, 2018

49:58

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, …

The Cassandra Curse

September 17th, 2018

35:17

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 …

Our Better Nature

September 11th, 2018

25:54

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 …

Bullshit Jobs

September 4th, 2018

45:23

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

You 2.0: Check Yourself

August 28th, 2018

51:44

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 …

You 2.0: Originals

August 21st, 2018

22:09

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 …

You 2.0: When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

August 14th, 2018

51:26

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

August 7th, 2018

27:01

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

July 31st, 2018

23:17

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 …

You 2.0: Rebel With A Cause

July 24th, 2018

47:25

Francesca Gino studies rebels — people who practice "positive deviance" and achieve incredible feats of imagination. They know how, and when, to …

Radio Replay: Watch Your Mouth

July 20th, 2018

49:50

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, …

Creating God

July 17th, 2018

53:26

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? …

Snooki and the Handbag

July 10th, 2018

25:05

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 …

The Edge Effect

July 3rd, 2018

38:21

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, …

Fake News: An Origin Story

June 26th, 2018

27:19

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 …

Radio Replay: Looking Back

June 22nd, 2018

50:02

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, …

Summer Melt

June 19th, 2018

25:53

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 …

Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus

June 12th, 2018

28:39

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 …

When Everything Clicks

June 5th, 2018

51:32

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 …

Kinder-Gardening

May 29th, 2018

29:21

Many parents think they can shape their child into a particular kind of adult. Psychologist Alison Gopnik says the science suggests otherwise. This …

Rewinding & Rewriting

May 22nd, 2018

30:33

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. …

Radio Replay: This Is Your Brain On Ads

May 18th, 2018

51:15

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. …

Baby Talk

May 15th, 2018

30:29

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, …

Rap on Trial

May 8th, 2018

55:16

Olutosin Oduwole was an aspiring rapper and college student when he was arrested in 2007. He was charged with "attempting to make a terrorist …

The Fox and the Hedgehog

May 1st, 2018

37:38

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 …

Emma, Carrie, Vivian

April 24th, 2018

41:41

In 1924, a 17-year-old girl was admitted to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. The superintendent of the colony classified …

Radio Replay: The Weight of Our Words

April 20th, 2018

49:35

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 …

Romeo and Juliet in Kigali

April 17th, 2018

51:54

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 …

Liar, Liar

April 10th, 2018

29:07

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 …

Tunnel Vision

April 3rd, 2018

36:40

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 …

Crickets and Cannibals

March 27th, 2018

33:11

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 …

The Lonely American Man

March 20th, 2018

48:07

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 …

Radio Replay: The Mind of the Village

March 16th, 2018

49:38

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 …

Think Fast with Daniel Kahneman

March 13th, 2018

48:50

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 …

Men: 45, Women: 0

March 6th, 2018

22:10

More women are running for political office than ever before in American history. But in politics and many other fields, women still struggle to …

Counting Other People's Blessings

February 27th, 2018

51:53

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, …

Filthy Rich

February 20th, 2018

22:05

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

When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

February 13th, 2018

51:13

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

Why Now?

February 6th, 2018

52:00

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 …

Lost in Translation

January 30th, 2018

35:25

Learning new languages can help us understand other cultures and countries. Cognitive science professor Lera Boroditsky says the languages we speak …

Radio Replay: The Power Hour

January 26th, 2018

49:48

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 — …

Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

January 23rd, 2018

42:32

We've all experienced miscommunications. Their consequences can range from hilarious... to disastrous. The actor Alan Alda — yes, THAT Alan Alda — …

Give Me Your Tired...

January 16th, 2018

21:17

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? …

Radio Replay: I, Robot

January 12th, 2018

49:46

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 …

E Pluribus Unum?

January 9th, 2018

37:54

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 …

Buying Attention

January 2nd, 2018

38:25

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? …

Radio Replay: Fresh Starts

December 30th, 2017

51:53

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 …

I'm Right, You're Wrong

December 26th, 2017

24:31

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 …

Radio Replay: Don't Panic!

December 22nd, 2017

51:06

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 …

Never Go To Vegas

December 19th, 2017

50:36

All social classes have unspoken rules. From A-list celebrities to teachers, doctors, lawyers, and journalists — there are social norms that govern …

Kinder-Gardening

December 12th, 2017

29:22

Many parents think they can shape their child into a particular kind of adult. Psychologist Alison Gopnik says the science suggests otherwise. She …

Radio Replay: Loving the Lie

December 8th, 2017

49:56

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 …

The Sorting Hat

December 5th, 2017

51:36

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 …

Radio Replay: Life, Interrupted

December 1st, 2017

50:47

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 …

Money Talks

November 28th, 2017

25:46

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 …

An American Secret

November 21st, 2017

22:55

All countries have national myths. The story of the first Thanksgiving, for example, evokes the warm glow of intercultural contact: European …

Radio Replay: Crime As A Disease

November 17th, 2017

48:31

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 …

Eyes Wide Open: Part 2

November 14th, 2017

35:59

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 …

Eyes Wide Open: Part 1

November 7th, 2017

24:51

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 …

Radio Replay: Prisons of Our Own Making

November 3rd, 2017

49:57

Discussions about healthy living usually revolve around diet and exercise. Social interaction is often left out of the conversation, even though …

Check Yourself

October 31st, 2017

51:18

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 …

Radio Replay: What's In It For Me?

October 27th, 2017

51:38

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 …

Misbehaving with Richard Thaler

October 24th, 2017

26:17

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 …

The Good Old Days

October 17th, 2017

27:48

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 …

The Edge of Gender

October 10th, 2017

51:22

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 …

Be The Change

October 3rd, 2017

51:35

"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 …

Just Sex

September 26th, 2017

25:09

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 …

The Ostrich Effect

September 19th, 2017

26:46

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...

September 12th, 2017

30:25

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' …

Hiding Behind Free Speech

September 5th, 2017

29:24

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 …

You 2.0: Getting Unstuck

August 29th, 2017

29:09

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 …

You 2.0: Decide Already!

August 22nd, 2017

25:35

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 …

You 2.0: WOOP, There It Is

August 15th, 2017

20:59

Many of us have heard that we should think positively and visualize ourselves achieving our goals. But researcher Gabriele Oettingen finds this isn't …

You 2.0: Embrace the Chaos

August 8th, 2017

24:59

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. …

You 2.0: Dream Jobs

August 1st, 2017

23:07

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 …

You 2.0: Deep Work

July 25th, 2017

36:34

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. …

Summer Melt

July 18th, 2017

25:38

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 …

Could You Kill A Robot?

July 11th, 2017

33:55

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 …

Losing Face

July 4th, 2017

24:54

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 …

Guessing Games

June 27th, 2017

28:12

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?"

June 20th, 2017

27:48

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 …

Rap on Trial

June 13th, 2017

55:08

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 …

In The Air We Breathe

June 6th, 2017

38:10

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

Broken Windows

May 30th, 2017

30:47

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 …

Me, Myself, and IKEA

May 23rd, 2017

25:12

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 …

Ep. 71: The Fox and the Hedgehog

May 16th, 2017

37:42

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 …

Encore of Ep. 45: What Are The Odds?

May 9th, 2017

25:12

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 2nd, 2017

28:20

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 …

Episode 69: Money Talks

April 25th, 2017

24:52

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 …

Ep. 68: Schadenfacebook

April 18th, 2017

27:09

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 …

Encore of Ep. 35: Creature Comforts

April 11th, 2017

29:48

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 …

Ep. 67: The Hole

April 4th, 2017

26:26

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 …

Ep. 66: Liar, Liar

March 28th, 2017

29:46

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 …

Episode 65: Tunnel Vision

March 21st, 2017

36:40

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 …

Ep. 64: I'm Right, You're Wrong

March 14th, 2017

23:14

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 …

Encore of Ep. 24: Tribes and Traitors

March 7th, 2017

30:27

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 …

Ep. 63: "I'm Not A Terrorist..."

February 28th, 2017

23:58

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 …

Episode 62: On The Knife's Edge

February 21st, 2017

28:18

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 …

Episode 61: Just Sex

February 14th, 2017

24:47

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 …

Encore of Episode 20: Remembering Anarcha

February 7th, 2017

27:43

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 …

Episode 60: Fortress America

January 31st, 2017

22:47

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. …

Episode 59: The Deep Story

January 24th, 2017

22:46

In the months since the presidential election, many have noted that lots of Americans live in bubbles — echo chambers filled with the voices of …

Episode 58: Pedestals and Guillotines

January 17th, 2017

23:21

It's inauguration season, which means balls, parades, and celebrations. We may love the pomp and circumstance, but there's another, darker side to …

Episode 57: Slanguage

January 10th, 2017

26:04

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 …

Episode 56: Getting Unstuck

January 3rd, 2017

28:24

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 …

Encore of Episode 15: Loss and Renewal

December 27th, 2016

27:45

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 …

Encore of Episode 32: The Scientific Process

December 20th, 2016

28:53

There is a replication "crisis" in psychology: many findings simply do not replicate. Some critics take this as an indictment of the entire field — …

Episode 55: Snooki and the Handbag

December 13th, 2016

26:45

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 …

Episode 54: Panic in the Streets

December 6th, 2016

25:25

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 …

Episode 53: Embrace the Chaos

November 29th, 2016

24:49

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 …

Episode 52: Losing Face

November 22nd, 2016

24:03

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 …

Episode 51: What Happened?

November 15th, 2016

28:22

On the morning after election day, pundits, pollsters, politicians, and citizens woke up feeling stunned. All signs, all year, had been pointing …

Encore of Episode 27: Losing Alaska

November 8th, 2016

25:55

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 …

Episode 50: Broken Windows

November 1st, 2016

30:01

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 …

Episode 49: Filthy Rich

October 25th, 2016

21:34

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

October 18th, 2016

21:12

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 …

Episode 47: Give Me Your Tired...

October 11th, 2016

22:22

Our airwaves are filled with debates about migrants, refugees, and undocumented immigrants... Who should be in the United States, who shouldn't, and …

Episode 46: Blessings in Disguise?

October 4th, 2016

21:51

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 …

Episode 45: What Are The Odds?

September 27th, 2016

29:32

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

September 22nd, 2016

2:17

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. …

Update: #AirbnbWhileBlack

September 20th, 2016

25:06

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

September 13th, 2016

23:21

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

September 6th, 2016

26:21

We've all heard the old adage that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but psychologist Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley …

Encore of Episode 21: Stroke of Genius

August 30th, 2016

25:21

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!

August 23rd, 2016

24:11

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

August 16th, 2016

24:57

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 …

Episode 41: Defeated

August 9th, 2016

21:03

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 …

Episode 40: Silver and Gold

August 2nd, 2016

22:24

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

July 26th, 2016

33:00

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 …

Episode 39: Vacations

July 19th, 2016

16:43

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

July 12th, 2016

24:58

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 …

Episode 37: Smoke & Mirrors

July 5th, 2016

25:02

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 …

Episode 36: Science of Deception

June 28th, 2016

17:05

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

June 21st, 2016

29:02

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 …

Encore of Episode 13: Terrorism

June 14th, 2016

26:43

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

June 7th, 2016

26:32

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 31st, 2016

19:39

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 24th, 2016

28:17

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 17th, 2016

30:02

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, …

Episode 30: WOOP, There It Is

May 10th, 2016

21:34

Many of us have heard that we should think positive... Visualize ourselves achieving our goals. But researcher Gabriele Oettingen finds, this isn't …

Episode 29: Traffic

May 3rd, 2016

17:01

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 …

Episode 28: #AirbnbWhileBlack

April 26th, 2016

22:29

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 …

Episode 27: Losing Alaska

April 19th, 2016

24:56

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 …

Encore of Episode 16: Misbehaving

April 12th, 2016

24:24

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

Episode 26: Grit

April 5th, 2016

29:27

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

March 29th, 2016

21:44

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 …

Episode 24: Tribes and Traitors

March 22nd, 2016

28:29

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

March 15th, 2016

21:22

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 …

Encore of Episode 9: Aziz Ansari on Modern Love

March 8th, 2016

27:51

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

March 1st, 2016

21:21

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

February 23rd, 2016

24:43

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

February 16th, 2016

26:41

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

Episode 19: Dating and Mating

February 9th, 2016

23:30

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

February 2nd, 2016

25:34

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

January 26th, 2016

20:06

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 …

Episode 17: Resolutions

January 19th, 2016

23:38

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

Episode 16: Misbehaving

January 12th, 2016

23:34

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

January 5th, 2016

22:25

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

December 29th, 2015

26:29

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 …

Episode 14: Christmas

December 22nd, 2015

22:40

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? …

Episode 13: Terrorism

December 15th, 2015

27:05

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 …

Episode 12: Humor

December 8th, 2015

20:39

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

December 1st, 2015

24:21

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 …

Episode 10: Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2015

19:42

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 …

Episode 9: Aziz Ansari on Modern Love

November 17th, 2015

27:12

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

November 10th, 2015

25:35

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, …

Episode 7: Lonely Hearts

November 3rd, 2015

33:07

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 …

Episode 6: The Science of Fear

October 27th, 2015

21:35

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 …

Episode 5: Compassion

October 20th, 2015

20:05

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

October 13th, 2015

20:14

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 …

Episode 3: Stereotype Threat

October 6th, 2015

22:59

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

October 2nd, 2015

4:46

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

September 29th, 2015

24:17

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

September 22nd, 2015

30:45

The first episode of Hidden Brain explores switchtracking: a common pattern in conversations you'll be accusing your partner of in no time! Plus …

Hidden Brain: A Sneak Peek

September 4th, 2015

5:32

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. …

Welcome to the Hidden Brain Podcast

August 9th, 2015

1:23

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

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