Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain

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

Episodes

July 26, 2021 24 min
As floods, wildfires, and heatwaves hit many parts of the world, signs of climate change seem to be all around us. Scientists have been warning us for years about the looming threat of a warming planet. And yet it’s really hard for many of us to wrap our minds around this existential challenge. Why is that? This week, we bring you a favorite episode about why our brains struggle to grasp the dangers of global climate change.  If y...
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The pressure. The expectations. The anxiety. If there's one thing that connects the athletes gathering for the Olympic games with the rest of us, it's the stress that can come from performing in front of others. In this week’s episode, we talk with cognitive scientist Sian Beilock about why so many of us crumble under pressure –– and what we can do about it. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you ...
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July 12, 2021 49 min
What is it like to be the only woman at the (poker) table? Or a rare man in a supposedly "feminine" career? In this favorite episode from 2019, we tell the stories of two people who grappled with gender stereotypes on the job, and consider how such biases can shape our career choices.  If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And to learn more about human behavio...
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July 5, 2021 50 min
Think about the resolutions you made this year: to quit smoking, eat better, or get more exercise. If you're like most people, you probably abandoned those resolutions within a few weeks. That's because change is hard. Behavioral scientist Katy Milkman explains how we can use our minds to do what's good for us. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And to ...
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June 28, 2021 50 min
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 revisit a favorite episode about a phenomenon known as "egocentric bias," and look at how this bias can lead us astray.  If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See ...
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June 24, 2021 28 min
In December 1988, two sets of identical twins became test subjects in a study for which they had never volunteered. It was an experiment that could never be performed in a lab, and had never before been documented. This week, we revisit this fascinating story, told by psychologist Nancy Segal, about the eternal tug between nature and nurture in shaping who we are. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you ca...
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June 21, 2021 49 min
Why is it so hard to say 'I'm sorry?' In part two of our series on forgiveness and apologies, we talk with psychologist Tyler Okimoto about the mental barriers that keep us from admitting when we've done something wrong, as well as the transformative power of apologies. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And to learn more about human behavior and id...
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June 14, 2021 48 min
Granting forgiveness for the wrongs done to us can be one of the hardest things we face in life. But forgiveness can also be transformative. In the first of a two-part series on apologies and mercy, we talk with psychologist Charlotte Witvliet about the benefits of forgiveness, for both the mind and the body.   If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And to learn more a...
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June 11, 2021 29 min
Coincidences can feel like magic. When we realize that a co-worker shares our birthday or run into a college roommate while on vacation, it can give us a surge of delight. Today, we revisit a favorite episode about these moments of serendipity. Mathematician Joseph Mazur explains why coincidences aren't as unlikely as we think they are, and psychologist Nicholas Epley tells us why we can't help but find meaning in them anyw...
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June 7, 2021 48 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 favorite episode from our archives, we look at how media, tech, and entertainment companies hijack our attention. Plus, we consider how the commercials we saw as children continue to shape our behavior as adults.  If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you...
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May 31, 2021 45 min
What do the things you own say about who you are? Psychologist Bruce Hood studies our relationship with our possessions – from beloved childhood objects to the everyday items we leave behind. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And to learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. 
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May 24, 2021 26 min
No matter how hard we work, we won’t always achieve the goals we set for ourselves. When cognitive scientist Maya Shankar was a girl, she wanted to be a concert violinist. Then an injury forced her to imagine her life anew. This week, we revisit a favorite episode from 2015 with Maya. She’s now the host of a new podcast, A Slight Change of Plans. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support....
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May 21, 2021 31 min
In the past weeks, headlines around the world have focused on the violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In this favorite episode from our archive, we hear from a former Israeli soldier and a Palestinian man who asked a radical question: what happens when you empathize with your enemy?  They found that showing such empathy can be powerful — but also carries risks.  If you like our work, please consider supporting it! ...
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May 17, 2021 48 min
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman says there are invisible factors that distort our judgment. He calls these factors “noise.” The consequences can be found in everything from marriage proposals to medical diagnoses and prison sentences. This week on Hidden Brain, we consider how to identify noise in the world, and in our own lives. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And...
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May 10, 2021 53 min
Have you ever felt as if someone else was writing your personal narrative? Controlling what you do, shaping how you act? This week on Hidden Brain, we bring you a surreal tale about a woman who became a reluctant character in someone else’s love story. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. And to learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, su...
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May 7, 2021 3 min
At the end of every episode, we take a moment to thank an Unsung Hero: someone who’s not on the staff of the show, but who went above and beyond in helping us out. In recent weeks, we've been asking you to share your own examples of someone who's made an impact on your life. This time, Josh Gitelson of State College, Pa., recalls a small gesture of kindness from a stranger on a plane. Do you have a story of an unsung hero...
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May 3, 2021 49 min
Your brain is divided in two: a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere. In this 2019 episode of Hidden Brain, we dive into Iain McGilchrist's research on how the left and right hemispheres shape our perceptions. Iain argues that differences in the brain — and Western society's preference for what one hemisphere has to offer — have had enormous effects on our lives. If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See h...
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April 30, 2021 4 min
In every episode of Hidden Brain, we thank an Unsung Hero — a colleague, a friend or a family member who has helped make our work possible from behind the scenes. Recently, we asked you to tell us about your own unsung heroes. This week, Deb Pierce of Newton, MA, remembers the woman who showed up at one of the hardest moments in her life.
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April 26, 2021 52 min
Do you ever struggle to communicate with your mom? Or feel like you and your spouse sometimes speak different languages? We talk with linguist Deborah Tannen about how our conversational styles can cause unintended conflicts, and what we can do to communicate more effectively with the people in our lives. If you like our work, please try to support us! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. To learn more about human beha...
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April 23, 2021 4 min
In every episode of Hidden Brain, we thank an Unsung Hero. Many listeners have written to say they love this segment, even sharing their own Unsung Heroes. Today, we're sharing one of those stories with you. 
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