Deeply Human

Deeply Human

Why you do what you do! Exploring our loves, our fears, our habits and hopes, Dessa takes a deeply personal look at what lies behind our thoughts and behavior. Can a better understanding of human nature help us be more generous with other people’s weird behavior and even our own?Deeply Human is a BBC World Service and American Public Media coproduction with iHeartMedia.


May 6, 2022 26 mins

Is insomnia really a problem of modern life... or is the struggle for sleep older than you think?

It's a common lament: this new world of smartphones and constant connectivity makes it nearly impossible to get enough sleep. But Shakespeare's characters were up all night, sleepwalking, and freaking out about their daily lives. Just how have our sleeping patterns really changed since the invention of the electric light?

Dessa dives...

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Why are we so judgemental about how others beautify themselves?

Do you wear eyeliner? Dye your hair? Ever gone under a laser, needle, or knife? When it comes to beautification, how far do you think is too far? And why are there such strong moral overtones to our conversations about where to draw the line?

From Instagram Face to pretty privilege, the male gaze to “anti-feminism”, cultural appropriation to the capitalis...

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April 22, 2022 26 mins

Why do we hate one another - and how can we stop?

How and when does conflict metastasize into hatred? Dessa picks apart the science of hostility, with help from a criminologist who identifies the tipping point between prejudice and hate, and an Israeli psychologist who's studied one of the longest conflicts in the world today.

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April 15, 2022 27 mins

Why do you have all that stuff?

What drives us to get and keep so much stuff - even objects that we rarely, if ever, use? Psychologists working on cortisol levels found that living in a messy or cluttered home may correlate to higher rates of depression and that conspicuous consumption may be affecting our well-being. When does your stuff start to own you?

Dessa talks with experts about how animal hoarding behaviors compare with ...

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April 8, 2022 26 mins

Why do we form social hierarchies?

From corporate ladders to military chains of command, formal caste systems to playground pecking orders, humans are particularly sensitive to social status. And we display our rank in all sorts of ways, even without realizing it - through our posture, vocal pitch, and patterns of eye contact.

Join Dessa to learn how social hierarchies are formed, how they might be dismantled, and the many ways i...

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April 1, 2022 26 mins

Why do you love the way you do?

We're expected to love only one romantic partner at a time. But we can love more than one parent, sibling, and friend - so why do so many cultures demand monogamy in romance? Is it time to reconsider the old model?

Dessa speaks with a philosopher, an economist, and sexpert Dan Savage to talk about love, sex, and commitment.

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March 25, 2022 26 mins

Why do we use intoxicants?

Whether it’s booze, weed, opiates, or even caffeine, the drive to catch a buzz seems almost universal for members of our species. For big parts of the world, drinking alcohol plays a huge role in our social lives, in religious rituals, and in some eras it was even a prerequisite for civic engagement.

Find out how the phrase “take him down a peg or two” was derived from a drinking game, which animals consume...

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March 25, 2022 26 mins

Why do we use intoxicants?

Whether it’s booze, weed, opiates, or even caffeine, the drive to catch a buzz seems almost universal for members of our species. For big parts of the world, drinking alcohol plays a huge role in our social lives, in religious rituals, and in some eras it was even a prerequisite for civic engagement.

Find out how the phrase “take him down a peg or two” was derived from a drinking game,...

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March 18, 2022 26 mins

Why do crowds move us?

Being part of a crowd can embolden us: we might raise our voices in protest at a march, or snort-laugh more at a sold-out comedy gig. But in the popular imagination, big crowds are often associated with danger - with hysteria and violence. From the Hajj to a heavy metal concert, how does being surrounded by others change our behavior?

Dessa talks with a psychologist, a mathematician, an activist, and a legendar...

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March 11, 2022 26 mins

Why do we care so much about what people wear?

An etiquette adviser, a civil rights lawyer, and an Iranian activist walk into a podcast studio…

Think twice before dismissing fashion as frivolity. Dress codes are about power - and they’re sometimes contentious enough to incite anger, legal battles, and even violence.

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March 4, 2022 26 mins

Why aren’t you naked?

Unless you’re reading this in the shower, sunbathing on a progressive beach, or as a fresh born babe, you’re probably wearing clothing - even if it’s hot out. Some people would rather risk death than stand totally naked in front of their peers.

Dessa tracks the topic from fig leaves to fur coats, colonialism to app user agreements, to find out why our sense of modesty is so pervasive.

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February 25, 2022 26 mins

Why do our bodies react to rhythm?

From rain dances to raves, dance has been a social tool for sexual selection and community cohesion. Dessa explores the neuroscience of music and movement, learns how dance therapy is used to treat motor disorders, and takes a lesson in butoh - the Japanese form sometimes called the Dance of Darkness.

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February 18, 2022 27 mins

Heyo, why do you talk like that?

Do French babies cry in French? Our accents may start to take shape well before we learn our first words. Dessa investigates why we speak the way we do - how our accents and dialects serve us; hamper us; and might even, in rare cases, lead to life-or-death consequences.

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January 31, 2022 2 mins

Monogamy, sleep deprivation, high fashion, and avant-garde Japanese dance—that’s right Deeply Human is coming back with a bang. In season 2, Dessa, speaks to psychologists, animal behaviorists, mathematicians, historians, and one legendary DJ to ask the evergreen question: why do you do what you do? Why does music animate our bodies? Why are we so keen to form social hierarchies? Why do humans use intoxicants? We’re talking about e...

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May 24, 2021 23 mins

It’s time to talk. It is never too late for a rigorous conversation about death activism, the guillotine and the ferocity of human love — unless, of course, you are dead already.

It is time to meet the death doulas who can help you through this, and learn why a “good death” might not be a good thing, and why it might be time to sit down with a pen and a pad and do a little thinking about your own exit.

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May 17, 2021 23 mins

What if everything you experienced felt like you had already lived it before? Meet the people for whom déjà vu is every day. 

It’s that moment when you mix up past and present, the real and the imagined, and you can no longer trust your senses. How is it that the world is the same but the experience is completely weird? It’s like tasting your own tongue. What is going on in the mechanics of your mind?

Welcome to Déjà Ville, a...

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May 10, 2021 23 mins

The experiences of being a teenager are deep and lasting — first break-ups, fierce arguments with parents, that time a friend tried to skateboard off the roof. Why is that time of life experienced so intensely and remembered so vividly?

Dessa finds that many answers lie in neuroanatomy and the way our brain wires itself as we grow. She meets teens and a brain scientist to find out why the rollercoaster highs and lows of teenage ...

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May 3, 2021 23 mins

Listening to sad songs is a weird, counterintuitive thing to do. Why listen to something that moves you to tears?

As someone who’s sensitivity to sad songs sometimes means pulling over until the tears clear, Dessa mulls major versus minor, explores what melody has in common with the sound of human crying, and quizzes a fellow songwriter about the power of screaming. Do sad songs reveal some secrets about empathy?

Deeply Human...

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April 26, 2021 23 mins

If you think you’re too young to learn about menopause, you’re wrong. Prepare to be both surprised and entertained — and maybe even become a kinder son or daughter.


Our understanding of menopause has changed dramatically, and it’s our distant relatives the whales that may help explain what it’s for. And Dessa has a heart-to-heart with her dad about her grandmother, exploring the parts of our lives we should share more, generation t...

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April 19, 2021 23 mins

Why, when we’re alone, do we sometimes feel like we’re not? Why are we eager to find signs of life in our surroundings — to see faces in clouds, or to get creeped out when the house creaks at night? 

Dessa investigates some of the most mystical, disorienting and disturbing experiences a person can have. She discovers that neuroscience, the study of our brains, might just help explain this big, important chunk of being human.


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