Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.
US 2.0: 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 bring you a favorite 2020 conversation with political scientist Yanna Krupnikov, who offers an alternative way to understand Americans’ political views.For more of our reporting on the intersection between politics and psychology, check out our episode about political hobbyism. You might also like this classic episode about how we come to our political values and beliefs. Thanks for listening!
US 2.0: Living With Our Differences
Conflicts are inevitable — both at a global scale and in our personal lives. This week, in the latest in our US 2.0 series, psychologist Peter Coleman explains how minor disagreements turn into major rifts, and how we can defuse even the most salient of disputes in our lives.Interested in learning more?For additional ideas about how to keep conflict from spiraling, check out our conversation with researcher Julia Minson. And for a look at how violence shapes political outcomes on a global scale, be sure to listen to our interview with political scientist Erica Chenoweth.
US 2.0: Win Hearts, Then Minds
There's a saying that's attributed to the Dalai Lama: in the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher. It's a nice idea, but in reality, when people don't share our values, it's hard for us to tolerate theirs. This week, we talk with sociologist Robb Willer about the common mistakes we make in trying to persuade others of our point of view — and how we can break out of our echo chambers.Did you catch last week's kick-off to our US 2.0 series? You can find it in this podcast feed, and here.
US 2.0: What We Have In Common
The United States, we’re told, is increasingly a house divided. Conservatives and progressives are so alienated from each other that conversation is virtually impossible. But are we really as divided as we’re led to believe? As we begin what promises to be a pivotal election season, we're kicking off a new series about how we form our political beliefs. We're calling it "US 2.0." We begin with psychologist Kurt Gray, who studies how we think about our political allies and opponents — and how these insights can help us to chart a new path forward. Have you tried to talk with someone who disagrees with you about politics? Have you found effective ways to get through? If you’d be willing to share your stories with the Hidden Brain audience, along with any questions you have for Kurt Gray, please record a voice memo and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject line “politics.” And thanks!
Are Your Memories Real?
We rely on our memory to understand the world. But what if our memories aren't true? This week, we talk to psychologist Elizabeth Loftus about the malleability of memory — what we remember, and what we think we remember.For more on the science of memory, including how you can strengthen your own ability to recall information, check out our episodes Remember More, Forget Less and Did That Really Happen?
We spend more and more of our lives staring at screens. Our cellphones, smartwatches and laptops allow us to communicate instantly with people across the globe, and quickly look up obscure facts. But our digital devices are also altering our brains in profound ways. This week, psychologist Gloria Mark explores how our ability to focus is shrinking, and offers ways to protect our minds in a world filled with endless distractions.Want more suggestions on how to stay focused in a distracting world? Here are a few additional episodes to check out:You 2.0: Deep WorkTaking Control of Your TimeAnd if you love Hidden Brain, please consider joining Hidden Brain+, our podcast subscription! You can find it on Apple Podcasts, or by clicking here.
Where Do Feelings Come From?
Most of us feel that our emotions are reactions to those outside of us. Someone cuts us off in traffic, and we say that the other driver made us upset. A friend brings over food when we're sick, and we say the friend offered us comfort. But psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett argues that our feelings are not, in fact, responses to the world — they're really predictions about the world. And she says we can exercise more control over those predictions than we realize.Did you know that Hidden Brain now has an app? You can download it and try out our first game — designed to help you sharpen your facial recognition skills — here.
Making the Most of Your Mistakes
When we're learning, or trying new things, mistakes are inevitable. Some of these mistakes provide us with valuable information, while others are just harmful. This week, we kick off the new year with researcher Amy Edmondson, who explains the difference between constructive failures and those we should try to avoid. If you know someone who would enjoy this episode, please share it with them. And thanks for listening! We look forward to bringing you many new Hidden Brain episodes in 2024.
What Would Socrates Do?
Humans have wrestled with questions about identity and purpose for millennia. So it’s no surprise that the insights of people who lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago have stood the test of time. This week, philosopher Tamar Gendler explores how three great thinkers from ancient Greece understood the human psyche, and what we can still learn from their wisdom today.If you know someone who would enjoy this episode, please share it with them. And thanks for listening! We look forward to bringing you many new Hidden Brain episodes in 2024.
How to Believe in Yourself
When was the last time you set a goal and struggled to reach it? Perhaps you're trying to write a novel but can't seem to get started. Or maybe you want to master a sport, but you keep making the same mistakes over and over again. This week, organizational psychologist Adam Grant guides us through the science of human potential, and teaches us how to uncover our own abilities.If you love Hidden Brain, please consider joining Hidden Brain+, our podcast subscription! You can find it on Apple Podcasts, or by clicking here.
The Ugly Side of Beauty
We like to tell kids, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But from a very early age, we humans are doing just that — judging others based on how they look. This week, we bring you the second part of our look at the science of beauty and talk with psychologists Vivian Zayas and Stefanie Johnson about how appearances can often lead us astray.If you haven't yet heard the first episode in this series, be sure to check it out! It's called "The Mystery of Beauty," and you can find it in this podcast feed, or on our website.
The Mystery of Beauty
Think about the last time you were struck by a gorgeous painting in a museum, or heard a song that brought you to tears. All of us know what it’s like to be stopped in our tracks by a beautiful sight. But scientists are still puzzling over why this is the case. What’s the point of beauty? Why is it seemingly so important to us? This week on the show, neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee explains the function of beauty in our daily lives. Then, Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek describes how beauty served a purpose in some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of our time.In case you missed it, make sure to listen to the last installment of our Healing 2.0 series, The Power of Apologies. Plus, if you're looking for a holiday gift for the Hidden Brain fan in your life, be sure to check out our online shop for mugs, t-shirts, and more!
Healing 2.0: The Power of Apologies
Why is it so hard to say 'I'm sorry?' In the final episode of our Healing 2.0 series, we talk with psychologist Tyler Okimoto about the mental barriers that keep us from admitting when we've done something wrong, as well as the transformative power of apologies.If you liked this episode, check out the rest of our Healing 2.0 series. And if you know someone who would benefit from the ideas we explored in this series, please share these episodes with them. Thanks!
Healing 2.0: Disrupting Death
In 2019, Justin Harrison's mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But by the time she died, he had figured out how to keep a part of her alive...forever. This week, the strange and provocative story of a man who believes that grief is not inevitable — that we can, in a way, cheat death.If you missed the earlier installments of our Healing 2.0 series, you can find them in this podcast feed, or on our website: Life After Loss, What We Gain from Pain, and Change Your Story, Change Your Life.
Healing 2.0: Life After Loss
You've probably heard that people who lose a loved one may go through what are known as the "five stages" of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But many people find that their grief doesn't follow this model at all. In the latest installment of our Healing 2.0 series, we revisit our 2022 conversation with resilience researcher Lucy Hone. Lucy shares the techniques she learned to cope after a devastating loss in her own life. If you missed the earlier installments of our Healing 2.0 series, you can find them in this podcast feed, or on our website: Healing 2.0: Change Your Story, Change Your Life and Healing 2.0: What We Gain from Pain.
Healing 2.0: What We Gain from Pain
We’ve all heard the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But is there any truth to this idea? This week, we explore the concept of post-traumatic growth with psychologist Eranda Jayawickreme. He finds that pain can have benefits — but not necessarily the ones we expect.Enjoy this episode? Make sure to check out last week's kick-off to our Healing 2.0 series, where we explore how the stories we tell about ourselves shape our lives in profound ways.
Healing 2.0: Change Your Story, Change Your Life
We all tell stories about ourselves, often without realizing we’re doing so. How we frame those stories can profoundly shape our lives. In the kickoff episode to our month-long series on healing, psychologist Jonathan Adler shares how to tell our stories in ways that enhance our wellbeing.Do you know someone who would enjoy Hidden Brain? Please tell them about this episode. And thanks for listening!
The Enemies of Gratitude
One of the mysteries of human behavior is that it’s often easier for us to focus on what’s going wrong than on what’s going right in our lives. Why is that? Psychologist Thomas Gilovich studies the barriers that prevent us from feeling gratitude, and how we can overcome them.Do you know someone who would enjoy Hidden Brain? Please tell them about this episode. And thanks for listening!
Follow the Anomalies
As we move through our lives, we have to make decisions both big and small. Some are banal: What will I eat for breakfast today? Should I drive or bike to work? Others are more complicated: How much should I contribute to my 401k? What career should I pursue? Today on the show, behavioral economist Richard Thaler explains why our decision making is often far more nuanced than economic models would suggest.If you missed last week's show on how to keep yourself from getting conned, you can find it here: How to Spot a Scam.
How to Spot a Scam
We like to think that con artists only prey upon the weak, or gullible. But psychologist Dan Simons says all of us can fall victim to scams, because the best scammers know how to take advantage of our biases and blindspots. Did you miss last week's episode about perfectionism? You can find it here. And thanks for listening!
Perfectionism is everyone’s favorite flaw. It’s easy to assume that our push to be perfect is what leads to academic, athletic, and professional success. But psychologist Thomas Curran says perfectionism has a dark side, and that there are much healthier ways to strive for excellence. Do you know someone who would enjoy Hidden Brain? Please tell them about this episode. And thanks for listening!
The Secret to Great Teams
It's easy to think that the best teams are collections of highly accomplished or talented individuals, working under a skilled leader. But that's no guarantee of success. Psychologist Anita Woolley says the best teams are far more than the sum of their parts, and they share certain basic characteristics. Do you know someone who would enjoy Hidden Brain? Please tell them about this episode. And thanks for listening!
After we make a decision, we often tell ourselves a story about why our choice was the right one to make. It's a mental process that psychologist Elliot Aronson calls self-justification. These rationalizations can sometimes lead us to excuse bad behavior or talk ourselves out of a poor choice. But are there also times when self-justification can be used for good? This is the second part of our series on cognitive dissonance. Listen to the first episode: How We Live with Contradictions.
How We Live With Contradictions
Think about the last time you did something you knew was wrong. How did you explain your actions to yourself? All of us tell stories about why we do the things we do. We justify our failures, and come up with plausible explanations for our actions. This week, Elliot Aronson explains the mental processes behind this type of self-justification, and shares how he helped develop one of the most widely-known concepts in psychology: cognitive dissonance.If you're interested in learning more about the origins of cognitive dissonance, listen to our episode When You Need It To Be True. Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then please consider supporting our work by joining our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+. You can find it in the Apple Podcasts app, or by going to apple.co/hiddenbrain. Thanks!
Being Kind to Yourself
How often do you say something negative to yourself that you'd never utter to someone else? Self-criticism can often feel like a way to hold ourselves accountable. But psychologist Kristin Neff says there’s a better path to personal growth: self-compassion. In a favorite conversation from 2021, Kristin remembers the painful moment when she learned to show herself self-compassion, and shares how being kind to ourselves can improve our wellbeing and relationships with others. Do you know someone who needs a reminder to be kind to themselves? Please share this episode with them! And if you have follow-up questions for Kristin Neff, please record a voice memo and send it to email@example.com. Use the subject line "self-compassion" in your email. Thanks!
You 2.0: Make the Good Times Last
Sorrows have a way of finding us, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Joys, on the other hand, are often hard to notice and appreciate. This week, we continue our conversation with psychologist Fred Bryant about the science of savoring, and how to make the most of the good things in our lives.Do you know someone who would enjoy our You 2.0 series? Please tell them about this episode and last week's show about how to turn even the smallest moments into opportunities for pleasure. And thanks for listening!
You 2.0: Slow Down!
It’s understandable that we sometimes dwell on things that upset us. But our negative emotions can keep us from savoring the good things in our lives. This week, we continue our You 2.0 series with psychologist Fred Bryant. We’ll discuss the many benefits of savoring, and how we can turn even the smallest of moments into an opportunity for pleasure.Do you know someone who would enjoy our You 2.0 series? Please tell them about this episode and last week's show about how to set our "future selves" up for success. And thanks for listening!
You 2.0: Your Future Is Now
Have you ever set a goal and had a really difficult time sticking to it? Maybe you decide you want to save more money, or go to the gym more often. This week on the show, psychologist Hal Hershfield explains why it can be difficult to set our "future selves" up for success. Plus, he shares tools to help us make commitments that will benefit us in the years to come. Do you know someone who would enjoy our You 2.0 series? Please tell them about this episode and last week's show about how to break out of a rut. And thanks for listening!
You 2.0: How to Break Out of a Rut
There are times in life when the challenges we face feel insurmountable. Authors succumb to writer's block. Athletes and artists hit a plateau. People of a certain age fall into a midlife crisis. These are all different ways of saying: I'm stuck. This week, in the kickoff to our annual You 2.0 series, psychologist Adam Alter shares his research on why we all get stuck at various points in our lives, and how to break free. Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then please consider supporting our work by joining our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+. You can find it in the Apple Podcasts app, or by going to apple.co/hiddenbrain. Thanks!
The Truth About Honesty
Think about how often you hold back honest opinions of someone else because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. But there are times when this well-intended restraint can be a mistake. This week, in the second part of our series on failure and feedback, psychologist Taya Cohen helps us understand when — and how — to be honest. If you missed the first part of our series — which focuses on how we can become better at learning from difficult or negative feedback — you can find it here.