Our Brands, Our Selves

All of us are surrounded by brands. Designer brands. Bargain-shopper brands. Brands for seemingly every demographic slice among us. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself how brands influence you? This week, we bring you our 2019 conversation with Americus Reed, who studies how companies create a worldview around the products they sell, and then get us to make those products a part of who we are.

The Secret Life of Secrets

It's human nature to hide parts of ourselves that produce shame or anxiety. We tend to skip over details that could change how others perceive us. But no matter how big or small our secret, it will often weigh on our minds, and not for the reasons you might expect. This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with psychologist Michael Slepian about the costs of secret keeping.

The Double Standard

It's easy to spot bias in other people, especially those with whom we disagree. But it's not so easy to recognize our own biases. Psychologist Emily Pronin says it's partly because of our brain architecture. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore what Pronin calls the introspection illusion.

A Creature of Habit

At the beginning of the year, many of us make resolutions for the months to come. We resolve to work out more, to procrastinate less, or to save more money. Though some people stick with these aspirations, many of us fall short. This week, we revisit our 2019 conversation with psychologist Wendy Wood, who shares what researchers have found about how to build good habits — and break bad ones.

Waiting Games

For so many people across the globe, 2020 has been a year of waiting and uncertainty. Waiting to see friends and family in far-flung locales. Waiting to hear about unemployment aid, or job opportunities. Waiting to hear about loved ones in the hospital. And even though the end of 2020 does not mean the end of these hardships, many of us are letting out a sigh of relief as we say goodbye to this difficult year. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the psychology of relief and waiting, and how we can make periods of limbo less painful.

Minimizing Pain, Maximizing Joy

Life is filled with hardships and tragedies — a fact that 2020 has made all too clear for people across the globe. For thousands of years, philosophers have come up with strategies to help us cope with such hardship. This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with philosopher William Irvine about ancient ideas — backed by modern psychology — that can help us manage disappointment and misfortune.

Screaming into a Void

Turn on the news or look at Twitter, and it's likely you'll be bombarded by outrage. Many people have come to believe that the only way to spark change is to incite anger. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit a favorite 2019 episode about how outrage is hijacking our conversations, our communities, and our minds.

A Conspiracy of Silence

We all self-censor at times. We keep quiet at dinner with our in-laws, or nod passively in a work meeting. But what happens when we take this deception a step further, and pretend we believe the opposite of what we really feel? This week on Hidden Brain, economist and political scientist Timur Kuran explains how our personal, professional and political lives are shaped by the fear of what other people think.

Where Gratitude Gets You

Many of us struggle with self-control. And we assume willpower is the key to achieving our goals. But there's a simple and often overlooked mental habit that can improve our health and well-being. This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with psychologist David DeSteno about that habit — the practice of gratitude.

When You Start to Miss Tony from Accounting

If you're one of the 40 percent of Americans now working from home, you might be reveling in your daily commute to the dining room table. Or you might be saying, "Get me out of here." Economist Nicholas Bloom joins us from his spare bedroom to ponder whether working from home is actually working.

Between Two Worlds

Determination, hard work and sacrifice are core ingredients in the story of the American dream. But philosopher Jennifer Morton argues there is another, more painful requirement to getting ahead: a willingness to leave family and friends behind. This week, we explore the ethical costs of upward mobility.

From Pedestals to Guillotines

As election season comes to a close, we explore our contradictory relationship with winners and losers. We tend to idolize the powerful, but we also enjoy seeing the high and mighty fall. Today we explore this paradox with a 2017 episode that takes us from Hollywood and the White House to the forests of Tanzania.

Not at the Dinner Table

We typically divide the country into two distinct groups: Democrats and Republicans. But what if the real political divide in our country isn't between "left" and "right"? What if it's between those who care intensely about politics, and those who don't? This week we talk to Yanna Krupnikov, a political scientist at Stony Brook University, about an alternative way to understand Americans' political views.

Moral Combat

Most of us have a clear sense of right and wrong. But what happens when we view politics through a moral lens? This week, we talk with psychologist Linda Skitka about how moral certainty can produce moral blinders — and endanger democracy.

Beyond Doomscrolling

There's no question that 2020 has been a tough year. We're grappling with a global pandemic. A deep recession. Fresh reminders of racial injustice. But today — without minimizing the justifiable pain that 2020 has brought to so many people — we wanted to explore another way of seeing things. We talk with psychologist Steven Pinker about why it's so hard to see things that are going well in the world.

The Logic of Rage

Neuroscientist Doug Fields was on a trip to Europe when a pickpocket stole his wallet. Doug, normally mild-mannered, became enraged — and his fury turned him into a stranger to himself. Today on Hidden Brain, we explore the secret logic of irrational anger.

An Update from Shankar

It's been five years since we launched this podcast. Today, we want to take a moment to thank the many people who've helped us over the years. And we want to share some changes with you.

Laughter: The Best Medicine

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.

The Halo Effect

Judy, Lyn and Donna Ulrich were driving to a volleyball game when their Ford Pinto was hit from behind by a Chevy van. The Pinto caught fire, and the three teenagers were burned to death. This week on Hidden Brain, we talk to a former Ford insider who could have voted to recall the Pinto years before the Ulrich girls were killed — but didn't. And we ask, is it possible to fairly evaluate our past actions when we know how things turned out?

Why Nobody Feels Rich

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 revisit our 2019 episode on the psychology of income inequality, and how perceptions of our own wealth shape our lives.

The Fee-for-Service Monster

The United States spends trillions of dollars on healthcare every year, but our outcomes are worse than those of other countries that spend less money. Why? Physician and healthcare executive Vivian Lee explains the psychological and economic incentives embedded in the American model of medicine, and makes the case for a different way forward.

You 2.0: Empathy Gym

Some people are good at putting themselves in another person's shoes. Others may struggle to relate. But psychologist Jamil Zaki argues that empathy isn't a fixed trait. This week, in our final installment of You 2.0, we revisit a favorite episode about how to exercise our empathy muscles.

You 2.0: WOOP, WOOP!

American culture is all about positive affirmations. Dream big! Shoot for the stars! But do positive fantasies actually help us achieve our goals? This week, as part of our You 2.0 summer series, we revisit a conversation with researcher Gabriele Oettingen about how we can make our goals more attainable.

You 2.0: Loss And Renewal

Maya Shankar was well on her way to a career as a violinist when an injury closed that door. This week, as part of our annual You 2.0 series on personal growth and reinvention, we revisit our 2015 conversation with Maya, in which she shares how she found a new path forward after losing an identity she loved.