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

From NPR

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

Most Recent Episodes

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You 2.0: Our Pursuit of Happiness

Sometimes, life can feel like being stuck on a treadmill. No matter how hard you try to get happier, you end up back where you started. What's going on here? We kick off our annual You 2.0 summer series with happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn, who explains how to fight the treadmill feeling.

You 2.0: Our Pursuit of Happiness

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Creativity And Diversity: How Exposure To Different People Affects Our Thinking

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, hold the same political views. But familiar ground may not be the best place to cultivate creativity. Researchers have found that people with deep connections to those from other countries and cultures often see benefits in terms of their creative output. This week, we revisit a favorite 2018 episode about the powerful connection between the ideas we dream up and the people who surround us, and what it really takes to think outside the box.

Creativity And Diversity: How Exposure To Different People Affects Our Thinking

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Culture Wars And The Untold Story Of Lyndie B. Hawkins

In 2019, a novel by a new author, Gail Shepherd, arrived in bookstores. The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins tells the story of a young white girl growing up in the South. The book has been well received, but it is not the book Shepherd intended to write. In her original drafts, Shepherd, a white author, created a Lyndie who was Vietnamese-American, and dealing with issues of race in the deep South. This week we look at what it means to be a storyteller in a time of caustic cultural debate and ask when, if ever, is it okay to tell a story that is not your own?

Culture Wars And The Untold Story Of Lyndie B. Hawkins

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Actors reading during the recording of an episode of the radio soap opera "Musekeweya" in Kigali, produced by the NGO Radio La Benevolencija. Twice a week, people all around Rwanda gather in groups to listen together. Stephanie Aglietti/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Stephanie Aglietti/AFP/Getty Images

Romeo & Juliet In Rwanda: How A Soap Opera Sought To Change A Nation

How do you change someone's behavior? Most of us would point to education or persuasion. But what if the answer lies elsewhere? This week, we revisit a 2018 story about human nature and behavior change — a story that will take us on a journey from Budapest to the hills of Rwanda.

Romeo & Juliet In Rwanda: How A Soap Opera Sought To Change A Nation

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At seventeen years old, Fred Clay was sentenced to prison for a crime he did not commit. Various flawed ideas in psychology were used to determine his guilt. Ken Richardson/Ken Richardson hide caption

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Ken Richardson/Ken Richardson

The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen's Murder Case

Not long after his sixteenth birthday, Fred Clay was arrested for the murder of a cab driver in Boston. Eventually, Fred was found guilty — but only after police and prosecutors used questionable psychological techniques to single him out as the killer. This week on Hidden Brain, we go back four decades to uncover the harm that arises when flawed ideas from psychology are used to determine that a teenager should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen's Murder Case

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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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The 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. As we mark Independence Day this week, we return to a 2018 episode with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed. We explore the contradictions in Jefferson's life — and how those contradictions might resonate in our own lives.

The Founding Contradiction: Thomas Jefferson's Stance On Slavery

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Economist Amir Sufi says debt plays a bigger role in recessions than we typically recognize. erhui1979/Getty Images hide caption

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Buy, Borrow, Steal: How Debt Became The 'Sugar-Rush' Solution To Our Economic Woes

Policymakers have a tried-and-true game plan for jump-starting the economy in times of severe recession: Push stimulus packages and lower interest rates so Americans will borrow and spend. But economist Amir Sufi says the way we traditionally address a recession is deeply flawed. He argues that by encouraging "sugar-rush" solutions, the nation is putting poor and middle-class Americans and the entire economy at even greater risk. This week we look at the role of debt as a hidden driver of recessions, and how we might create a more stable system.

Buy, Borrow, Steal: How Debt Became The 'Sugar-Rush' Solution To Our Economic Woes

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Olutosin Oduwole at his home in New Jersey in 2016. Shankar Vedantam /NPR hide caption

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Shankar Vedantam /NPR

Rap on Trial: How An Aspiring Musician's Words Led To Prison Time

In the past few weeks, the nation has been gripped by protests against police brutality toward black and brown Americans. The enormous number of demonstrators may be new, but the biases they're protesting are not. In 2017, we looked at research on an alleged form of bias in the justice system. This week, we revisit that story, and explore how public perceptions of rap music may have played a role in the prosecution of a man named Olutosin Oduwole.

Rap on Trial: How An Aspiring Musician's Words Led To Prison Time

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The Air We Breathe: Implicit Bias And Police Shootings

President Trump said this week that a few "bad apples" were to blame for police killings of black people. But research suggests that something more complicated is at play — a force that affects everyone in the culture, not just police officers. In this bonus episode, we revisit our 2017 look at implicit bias and how a culture of racism can infect us all.

The Air We Breathe: Implicit Bias And Police Shootings

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Hannah Groch-Begley listens to Dylan Matthews play the ukulele at their home in Washington, D.C. Dylan had hesitated to buy the ukulele because it felt like too big of an indulgence. Shankar Vedantam/NPR hide caption

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Playing Favorites: When Kindness Toward Some Means Callousness Toward Others

If we do a favor for someone we know, we think we've done a good deed. What we don't tend to ask is: Who have we harmed by treating this person with more kindness than we show toward others? This week, in the second of our two-part series on moral decision-making, we consider how actions that come from a place of love can lead to a more unjust world.

Playing Favorites: When Kindness Toward Some Means Callousness Toward Others

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