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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Justifying The Means: What It Means To Treat All Suffering Equally

When we are asked to make a moral choice, many of us imagine it involves listening to our hearts. To that, philosopher Peter Singer says, "nonsense." Singer believes there are no moral absolutes, and that logic and calculation are better guides to moral behavior than feelings and intuitions. This week, we talk with Singer about why this approach is so hard to put into practice, and look at the hard moral choices presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justifying The Means: What It Means To Treat All Suffering Equally

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The Time Machine: How Nostalgia Prepares Us For The Future

In recent months, many of us have looked back with longing at our lives before COVID-19. For many of us, that world was one of bustle and activity — marked by scenes of packed restaurants, crowded subway cars, and chaotic playgrounds. In this audio essay, Shankar discusses our wistfulness for the world before the pandemic, and why such nostalgia can actually help to orient us toward the future.

The Time Machine: How Nostalgia Prepares Us For The Future

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A recent study found that black doctors were more effective than non-black doctors at convincing black men to use preventative health services. Angela Hsieh hide caption

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Angela Hsieh

People Like Us: How Our Identities Shape Health And Educational Success

Far from being "the great equalizer," COVID-19 has disproportionately sickened and killed African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. Many of the reasons for these inequalities reach back to before the pandemic began. This week, we return to a 2019 episode that investigates a specific source of racial disparities in medicine and beyond—and considers an uncomfortable solution.

People Like Us: How Our Identities Shape Health And Educational Success

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Volunteers for the grassroots network Columbia Community Care organize donated groceries and household items at one of five distribution sites in Howard County, Maryland. Courtesy of Erika Strauss Chavarria hide caption

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Courtesy of Erika Strauss Chavarria

Our Better Angels: What We Lose When We Assume People Are Bad

In the months since the spread of the coronavirus, stories of selfishness and exploitation have become all too familiar: people ignoring social distancing guidelines, or even selling medical equipment at inflated prices. Most of our public and economic policies take aim at these sorts of people — the wrongdoers and the profiteers. But is there a hidden cost to the rest of us when we put bad actors at the center of our thinking? Do the measures we put in place to curtail the selfish inadvertently hurt our capacity to do right by others?

Our Better Angels: What We Lose When We Assume People Are Bad

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Anderson High School senior Teyaja Jones, right, poses in her cap and gown and a bandana face cover, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Austin, Texas. Eric Gay/AP hide caption

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Eric Gay/AP

A Hidden Brain Commencement Address

Commencement ceremonies allow us to take stock of what we've accomplished and where we're headed. This is one of the key opportunities that students and families have lost, as social distancing precautions lead schools to cancel in-person graduations. In this "commencement address," recorded at the request of the public radio program 1A, Shankar Vedantam offers thoughts on what it means to mark such a milestone at this moment, and how graduates can use the disruption caused by the pandemic to think about their lives in new ways.

A Hidden Brain Commencement Address

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It's not the pill. It's the doctor-patient relationship. Angela Hsieh/NPR hide caption

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Angela Hsieh/NPR

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

In recent months, many of us have become familiar with the sense of fear expressing itself in our bodies. We may feel restless or physically exhausted. At times, we may even have trouble catching our breath. The deep connection between mind and body that seems so salient now was also at the center of our episode about the placebo effect. This week, we return to this 2019 story that asks what placebos might teach us about the nature of healing.

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

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The Choices Before Us: Can Fewer Options Lead To Better Decisions?

An abundance of choices is a good thing, right? In the United States, where choice is often equated with freedom and control, the answer tends to be a resounding 'yes.' But researchers say the relationship between choice and happiness isn't always so clear-cut. This week, we talk with psychologist Sheena Iyengar about making better decisions, and how she's thinking about the relationship between choices and control during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Choices Before Us: Can Fewer Options Lead To Better Decisions?

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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/Getty Images hide caption

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

Amidst the confusion and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have sought out a long-trusted lifeline: the local newspaper. Though the value of local journalism is more apparent now than ever, newspapers are not thriving. They're collapsing. For many communities, this means fewer local stories and job losses. 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 return to a 2018 episode that's acutely relevant today and ask, who bears the cost when nobody wants to pay?

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

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A Social Prescription: Why Human Connection Is Crucial To Our Health

Confined to our homes, many of us are experiencing a newfound appreciation for our social relationships. What we may not realize — and what physicians and researchers have only recently started emphasizing — is the importance of these connections to our physical health. This week, we talk with former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy about why he considers loneliness a matter of public health, and how we can all deepen our social ties.

A Social Prescription: Why Human Connection Is Crucial To Our Health

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Kate Devlin, who studies human-computer interactions, says we're on the cusp of a sexual revolution driven by robotics and artificial intelligence. Angela Hsieh/NPR hide caption

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Angela Hsieh/NPR

Sex Machines: Love In The Age Of Robots

From stone statues to silicone works of art, we have long sought solace and sex from inanimate objects. Time and technology have perfected the artificial lover: today we have life-size silicone love dolls so finely crafted they feel like works of art. Now, with the help of robotics and artificial intelligence, these dolls are becoming even more like humans. This week, we revisit our 2019 story about the history of the artificial lover, and consider what love and sex look like in the age of robots.

Sex Machines: Love In The Age Of Robots

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