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

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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.More from Hidden Brain »

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The Best Medicine: Decoding The Hidden Meanings Of Laughter

If you listen closely to giggles, guffaws, and polite chuckles, you can discern a huge amount of information about people and their relationships with each other. This week, we talk with neuroscientist Sophie Scott about the many shades of laughter, from cackles of delight among close friends to the "canned" mirth of TV laugh tracks. You can find more about the research discussed in this episode here: https://n.pr/2RORlDs

The Best Medicine: Decoding The Hidden Meanings Of Laughter

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Stacya Shepard thought she knew her dad. But that changed one day with a phone call from a stranger. Photo Illustration by Renee Klahr /Photo courtesy of Stacya Shepard Silverman hide caption

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Photo Illustration by Renee Klahr /Photo courtesy of Stacya Shepard Silverman

The Cowboy Philosopher: A Tale Of Obsession, Scams, And Family

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, we trace the life of Riley Shepard, a hillbilly musician, writer, small-time con man and, perhaps, a genius.

The Cowboy Philosopher: A Tale Of Obsession, Scams, And Family

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A young Maya Shankar. Courtesy of Maya Shankar hide caption

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Courtesy of Maya Shankar

Loss and Renewal: Moving Forward After A Door Closes

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 conversation with Maya, in which she shares how she found a new path forward after losing an identity she loved.

Loss and Renewal: Moving Forward After A Door Closes

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"Compassion is contagious," Professor Scott Plous says. "We talk about paying it forward; the idea that if you do something good for another person [...] it sets off a kind of chain reaction." Hanna Barczyk for NPR hide caption

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Hanna Barczyk for NPR

The Science of Compassion

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 importance of being kind or understand how compassion might affect them. This week, we look at the science of compassion, and why doing good things for others can make a big difference in your own life.

The Science of Compassion

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Would you eat a cricket? Parth Shah hide caption

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Parth Shah

Radio Replay: Yum and Yuck

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 needs, but hunger is just one. On this week's Radio Replay, we chew over the profound role that food plays in our lives. Then, we spit it all out — we study the ick factor that turns us off to cockroaches, skunks, and poop. Rachel Herz explains the sensation of disgust, and why it doesn't always come naturally. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2UTf1p0.

Radio Replay: Yum and Yuck

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Alan Alda Jhon Ochoa, Photo-illustration: Renee Klahr/NPR hide caption

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Jhon Ochoa, Photo-illustration: Renee Klahr/NPR

Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

Arguments and bickering can sour family gatherings during the holiday season. This week, we share tips on how to avoid miscommunication from our January 2018 conversation with actor Alan Alda. You might know him from his roles on television shows like M*A*S*H, The West Wing and 30 Rock, but in recent years Alda has also focused on helping scientists, and the rest of us, communicate better. His book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating.

Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

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A copy of the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News sits in a newspaper box on a street corner in Denver, Colorado. John Moore/John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

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John Moore/John Moore/Getty Images

Starving The Watchdog: Who Foots The Bill When Newspapers Disappear?

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 price tag for residents. This week on Hidden Brain we ask, who bears the cost when nobody wants to pay? For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2zSPraS.

Starving The Watchdog: Who Foots The Bill When Newspapers Disappear?

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Angela Hsieh /NPR

Spoiler Alert! The Psychology Of Surprise Endings

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 predictable mental shortcuts. We talk this week with Vera Tobin, one of the world's first cognitive scientists to study plot twists. She says storytellers have been exploiting narrative twists and turns for millennia — and that studying these sleights of hand can give us a better understanding of the contours of the mind.

Spoiler Alert! The Psychology Of Surprise Endings

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Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves, yet he also wrote that "all men are created equal." How did he square the contradictions between his values and his everyday life? ericfoltz/Getty Images hide caption

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ericfoltz/Getty Images

A Founding Contradiction: Thomas Jefferson's Stance On Slavery

"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 to inspire many Americans. And yet they were written by a man who owned hundreds of slaves, and fathered six children by an enslaved woman. This week, we talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed about the contradictions in Jefferson's life — and how those contradictions might resonate in our own lives.

A Founding Contradiction: Thomas Jefferson's Stance On Slavery

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Fabio Consoli for NPR

Radio Replay: Bringing Up Baby

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 should we step back and just let our children be? For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2TuxEz3.

Radio Replay: Bringing Up Baby

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