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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Some People Are Great At Recognizing Faces. Others...Not So Much

It happens to all of us: someone recognizes you on the street, calls you by name, and says hello. You, meanwhile, have no idea who that person is. Researchers say this struggle to read other faces is common. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit a favorite 2016 episode about "super-recognizers" and the rest of us.

Some People Are Great At Recognizing Faces. Others...Not So Much

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New research suggests that early investments in children's education can have benefits that last for more than one generation. Angela Hsieh hide caption

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Angela Hsieh

What's Not On The Test: The Overlooked Factors That Determine Success

Smarts matter. But other factors may play an even bigger role in whether someone succeeds. This week, we speak with Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman about the skills that predict how you'll fare in life. We'll also look at programs that build these skills in the neediest of children – and new research that suggests the benefits of investing in kids and families can last for generations.

What's Not On The Test: The Overlooked Factors That Determine Success

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Muslim women praying together in Istiqlal mosque, Jakarta, Indonesia. Afriadi Hikmal/Getty Images hide caption

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Afriadi Hikmal/Getty Images

Where Does Religion Come From? One Researcher Points To 'Cultural' Evolution

If you've taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And what purpose does it all serve? This week, we bring you a July 2018 episode with social psychologist Azim Shariff. He argues that we should consider religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to thrive and flourish.

Where Does Religion Come From? One Researcher Points To 'Cultural' Evolution

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Angela Hsieh/NPR

All The World's A Stage—Including The Doctor's Office

Placebos belong in clinical trials, not in the doctor's office. At least, that's been the conventional wisdom for decades. This week, we ask whether placebos have more to offer than we've realized, and what they might teach us about healing. For research related to this episode, please visit: https://n.pr/2B9v2B0

All The World's A Stage—Including The Doctor's Office

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Social psychologist Keith Payne says we have a bias toward comparing ourselves to people who have more than us, rather than those who have less. Marcus Butt/Getty Images/Ikon Images hide caption

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Marcus Butt/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Why No One Feels Rich: The Psychology Of Inequality

If you've ever flown in economy class on a plane, you probably had to walk through the first class cabin to get to your seat. Maybe you noticed the extra leg room. The freshly-poured champagne. Maybe you were annoyed, or envious. Social psychologist Keith Payne says we tend to compare ourselves with those who have more than us, but rarely with those who have less. This week, we explore the psychology of income inequality, and how perceptions of our own wealth shape our lives.

Why No One Feels Rich: The Psychology Of Inequality

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Courtesy of Pottermore.com

What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?

The desire to find our tribe is universal. We like to know who we are and where we belong. This fascination has led to a thriving industry built on the marketing and sale of personality tests. These tests offer individuals – and, increasingly, employers – quick and easy insights that can be used to make some of life's biggest decisions. But most fail to stand up to scientific scrutiny. This week, we revisit our 2017 episode about the world of personality testing, and explore the many different ways we assess personality and potential – from the Chinese zodiac to Harry Potter houses to the Myers-Briggs test.

What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?

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What are the reasons for the dramatic decline in anti-gay bias in the United States? Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Radically Normal: How Gay Rights Activists Changed The Minds Of Their Opponents

For generations, living openly as a gay person in the United States was difficult, and often dangerous. But there's been a dramatic change in public attitudes toward gay people. This week, we explore one of the most striking transformations of public attitude ever recorded. And we consider whether the strategies used by gay rights activists hold lessons for other groups seeking change.

Radically Normal: How Gay Rights Activists Changed The Minds Of Their Opponents

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After a long history of civil war and corruption, many Liberians didn't trust their government's attempts to control Ebola. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

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John Moore/Getty Images

Don't Panic: Stories Of Coping Amidst Chaos

Chaos is a part of all of our lives. Sometimes we try to control it. And other times, we just have to live with it. On this week's Hidden Brain, we bring you two of our favorite stories about coping with chaos. They come from our 2016 episodes "Panic in the Streets" and "Embrace the Chaos."

Don't Panic: Stories Of Coping Amidst Chaos

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In March of 2017, the two sets of Bogotá twins, Jorge, William, Carlos and Wilber (left to right), gathered to celebrate Carlos's graduation. Diana Carolina/St. Martin's Press hide caption

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Diana Carolina/St. Martin's Press

What Twins Can Tell Us About Who We Are

In December 1988, two pairs of twin boys were born in Colombia. One twin from each pair was accidentally given to the wrong mother — a mistake that wasn't discovered for decades. The twins' story is a tragedy, a soap opera, and a science experiment, all rolled into one. It also gives us clues about the role that genes and the environment play in shaping our identities. We talk with psychologist Nancy Segal about her work with twins, and her encounters with these now-famous brothers. For research related to this episode, please visit https://n.pr/2uvpvPe

What Twins Can Tell Us About Who We Are

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Researcher Elizabeth Currid-Halkett says celebrity can be boiled down to a simple formula. Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images/Caiaimage hide caption

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Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images/Caiaimage

Never Go To Vegas

All social classes have unspoken rules. From A-list celebrities to teachers, doctors, lawyers, and journalists — there are social norms that govern us, whether we realize it or not. This week on Hidden Brain, we look celebrity culture, as well as another elite group: the yoga-loving, Whole Foods-shopping, highly-educated people whom one researcher calls the new "aspirational class." This episode is from December 2017.

Never Go To Vegas

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