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Hidden Brain podcast

Hidden Brain

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

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

 

#341

Stage Fright

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 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. ... Read more

19 Jul 2021

52 MINS

52:15

19 Jul 2021


#340

Playing the Gender Card

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 behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

12 Jul 2021

49 MINS

49:48

12 Jul 2021


#339

You, But Better

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 learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

05 Jul 2021

50 MINS

50:24

05 Jul 2021


#338

The Influence You Have

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 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. ... Read more

28 Jun 2021

50 MINS

50:34

28 Jun 2021


#337

What Twins Tell Us

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 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. ... Read more

24 Jun 2021

28 MINS

28:23

24 Jun 2021


#336

The Power of Apologies

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 ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

21 Jun 2021

49 MINS

49:39

21 Jun 2021


#335

The Power of Mercy

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 about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

14 Jun 2021

48 MINS

48:56

14 Jun 2021


#334

What are the Odds?

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 anyway. ... Read more

11 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:26

11 Jun 2021


#333

This is Your Brain on Ads

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 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. ... Read more

07 Jun 2021

48 MINS

48:47

07 Jun 2021


#332

Why We Hold on to Things

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. ... Read more

31 May 2021

45 MINS

45:45

31 May 2021


#331

Loss and Renewal

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.hiddenbrain.org. And to learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

24 May 2021

26 MINS

26:06

24 May 2021


#330

Tribes and Traitors

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! 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. ... Read more

21 May 2021

31 MINS

31:07

21 May 2021


#329

Our Noisy Minds

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 to learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

17 May 2021

48 MINS

48:40

17 May 2021


#328

The Fake Bride

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, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org. ... Read more

10 May 2021

53 MINS

53:35

10 May 2021


#327

Josh Gitelson: My Unsung Hero

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 you want to share with our listeners? Tell us about it! Please email us at ideas@hiddenbrain.org, with the subject line "Unsung Hero." For some guidelines on what we're looking for, go to hiddenbrain.org/unsunghero. ... Read more

07 May 2021

03 MINS

03:13

07 May 2021


#326

One Head, Two Brains

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 how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. To learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org ... Read more

03 May 2021

49 MINS

49:31

03 May 2021


#325

Deb Pierce: My Unsung Hero

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. ... Read more

30 Apr 2021

04 MINS

04:34

30 Apr 2021


#324

Why Conversations Go Wrong

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 behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org ... Read more

26 Apr 2021

52 MINS

52:06

26 Apr 2021


#323

Unsung Hero: A Cold Nevada Night

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. ... Read more

23 Apr 2021

04 MINS

04:21

23 Apr 2021


#322

Humor Us

Hahaha! The average four-year-old child laughs 300 times a day. By contrast, it takes more than two months for the average 40-year-old adult to laugh that many times. This week, we talk with behavioral scientist Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University about why so many of us fall off a “humor cliff” as we become adults. Plus, how we can inject more laughter into our lives, even during the most difficult of times. ... Read more

19 Apr 2021

52 MINS

52:03

19 Apr 2021


#321

An Unfinished Lesson

More than a century ago, millions of people around the world died in a massive influenza pandemic. The so-called "Spanish flu" outbreak of 1918 revealed a truth about viruses: they don't just infect us biologically. They also detect fissures in societies and fault lines between communities. Historian Nancy Bristow says this remains true today, as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.This week, we revisit our 2020 conversation with Bristow, and consider what history can tell us about human behavior during public health crises. ... Read more

12 Apr 2021

49 MINS

49:26

12 Apr 2021