Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain

Science>Social Sciences

342 episodes

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


  • 26 JUL 2021
    Losing Alaska
    24m 23s

    As floods, wildfires, and heatwaves hit many parts of the world, signs of climate change seem to be all around us. Scientists have been warning us for years about the looming threat of a warming planet. And yet it’s really hard for many of...

  • 19 JUL 2021
    Stage Fright
    52m 15s

    The pressure. The expectations. The anxiety. If there's one thing that connects the athletes gathering for the Olympic games with the rest of us, it's the stress that can come from performing in front of others. In this week’s episode, we t...

  • 12 JUL 2021
    Playing the Gender Card
    49m 48s

    What is it like to be the only woman at the (poker) table? Or a rare man in a supposedly "feminine" career? In this favorite episode from 2019, we tell the stories of two people who grappled with gender stereotypes on the job, and consider...

  • 05 JUL 2021
    You, But Better
    50m 24s

    Think about the resolutions you made this year: to quit smoking, eat better, or get more exercise. If you're like most people, you probably abandoned those resolutions within a few weeks. That's because change is hard. Behavioral scientist...

  • 28 JUN 2021
    The Influence You Have
    50m 34s

    Think about the last time you asked someone for something. Maybe you were nervous or worried about what the person would think of you. Chances are that you didn't stop to think about the pressure you were exerting on that person. This week,...

  • 24 JUN 2021
    What Twins Tell Us
    28m 23s

    In December 1988, two sets of identical twins became test subjects in a study for which they had never volunteered. It was an experiment that could never be performed in a lab, and had never before been documented. This week, we revisit thi...

  • 21 JUN 2021
    The Power of Apologies
    49m 39s

    Why is it so hard to say 'I'm sorry?' In part two of our series on forgiveness and apologies, 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 tran...

  • 14 JUN 2021
    The Power of Mercy
    48m 56s

    Granting forgiveness for the wrongs done to us can be one of the hardest things we face in life. But forgiveness can also be transformative. In the first of a two-part series on apologies and mercy, we talk with psychologist Charlotte Witvl...

  • 11 JUN 2021
    What are the Odds?
    29m 26s

    Coincidences can feel like magic. When we realize that a co-worker shares our birthday or run into a college roommate while on vacation, it can give us a surge of delight. Today, we revisit a favorite episode about these moments of serendip...

  • 07 JUN 2021
    This is Your Brain on Ads
    48m 47s

    Have you ever opened your computer with the intention of sending one email — only to spend an hour scrolling through social media? Maybe two hours? In this favorite episode from our archives, we look at how media, tech, and entertainment co...

  • 31 MAY 2021
    Why We Hold on to Things
    45m 45s

    What do the things you own say about who you are? Psychologist Bruce Hood studies our relationship with our possessions – from beloved childhood objects to the everyday items we leave behind. If you like our work, please consider support...

  • 24 MAY 2021
    Loss and Renewal
    26m 6s

    No matter how hard we work, we won’t always achieve the goals we set for ourselves. When cognitive scientist Maya Shankar was a girl, she wanted to be a concert violinist. Then an injury forced her to imagine her life anew. This week, we re...

  • 21 MAY 2021
    Tribes and Traitors
    31m 7s

    In the past weeks, headlines around the world have focused on the violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In this favorite episode from our archive, we hear from a former Israeli soldier and a Palestinian man who asked a radical...

  • 17 MAY 2021
    Our Noisy Minds
    48m 40s

    Psychologist Daniel Kahneman says there are invisible factors that distort our judgment. He calls these factors “noise.” The consequences can be found in everything from marriage proposals to medical diagnoses and prison sentences. This wee...

  • 10 MAY 2021
    The Fake Bride
    53m 35s

    Have you ever felt as if someone else was writing your personal narrative? Controlling what you do, shaping how you act? This week on Hidden Brain, we bring you a surreal tale about a woman who became a reluctant character in someone else’s...

  • 07 MAY 2021
    Josh Gitelson: My Unsung Hero
    3m 13s

    At the end of every episode, we take a moment to thank an Unsung Hero: someone who’s not on the staff of the show, but who went above and beyond in helping us out. In recent weeks, we've been asking you to share your own examples of someone...

  • 03 MAY 2021
    One Head, Two Brains
    49m 31s

    Your brain is divided in two: a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere. In this 2019 episode of Hidden Brain, we dive into Iain McGilchrist's research on how the left and right hemispheres shape our perceptions. Iain argues that differences...

  • 30 APR 2021
    Deb Pierce: My Unsung Hero
    4m 34s

    In every episode of Hidden Brain, we thank an Unsung Hero — a colleague, a friend or a family member who has helped make our work possible from behind the scenes. Recently, we asked you to tell us about your own unsung heroes. This week, De...

  • 26 APR 2021
    Why Conversations Go Wrong
    52m 6s

    Do you ever struggle to communicate with your mom? Or feel like you and your spouse sometimes speak different languages? We talk with linguist Deborah Tannen about how our conversational styles can cause unintended conflicts, and what we ca...

  • 23 APR 2021
    Unsung Hero: A Cold Nevada Night
    4m 21s

    In every episode of Hidden Brain, we thank an Unsung Hero. Many listeners have written to say they love this segment, even sharing their own Unsung Heroes. Today, we're sharing one of those stories with you.

  • 19 APR 2021
    Humor Us
    52m 3s

    Hahaha! The average four-year-old child laughs 300 times a day. By contrast, it takes more than two months for the average 40-year-old adult to laugh that many times. This week, we talk with behavioral scientist Jennifer Aaker of Stanford U...

  • 12 APR 2021
    An Unfinished Lesson
    49m 26s

    More than a century ago, millions of people around the world died in a massive influenza pandemic. The so-called "Spanish flu" outbreak of 1918 revealed a truth about viruses: they don't just infect us biologically. They also detect fissure...

  • 05 APR 2021
    Useful Delusions
    49m 36s

    Podcast hosts are used to being the ones asking the questions. This week, though, we’re going to flip that script, and put Shankar in the guest seat. We’ll hear a recent interview he did with Krys Boyd of the public radio show Think from KE...

  • 29 MAR 2021
    Made of Honor
    48m 45s

    Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us to heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse. This week on Hidden Brain, we conclude our three-part series on storytelling with a look a...

  • 22 MAR 2021
    The Story of Your Life
    51m 14s

    We can’t go back and change the past. We can’t erase trauma and hardship. But what if there was a way to regain control of our personal narratives? In the second part of our series on storytelling, we look at how interpreting the stories of...

  • 15 MAR 2021
    The Story of Stories
    51m 15s

    Why is my friend late? How does nuclear fission work? What occurs when I sneeze? We all need to understand why certain things happen. Some researchers think the drive to explain the world is a basic human impulse, similar to thirst or hunge...

  • 09 MAR 2021
    Radically Normal
    50m 6s

    For generations, it was difficult, even dangerous, to express a sexual orientation other than heterosexuality in the United States. But in recent years, much has changed. This week, we revisit our 2019 episode about one of the most striking...

  • 01 MAR 2021
    The Snowball Effect
    54m 36s

    Why do some companies become household names, while others flame out? How do certain memes go viral? And why do some social movements take off and spread, while others fizzle? Today on the show, we talk with sociologist Damon Centola about...

  • 26 FAB 2021
    The Match
    19m 34s

    We get messages all the time from listeners who say Hidden Brain has helped them to think differently about the world, and about themselves. As producers, nothing is more rewarding or gratifying. Today, we bring you a listener story that es...

  • 22 FAB 2021
    Creating God
    51m 56s

    If you've taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how people become believers? Where do the rituals come from? And what purpose does it all serve? This week, we bring you a 2018 episode with social psychologi...

  • 16 FAB 2021
    Is It Better to Know?
    52m 28s

    Being able to see what’s happening around us can help us make smart decisions. But knowledge — especially knowledge of how others perceive us — can also hold us back, mire us in needless worry, and keep us from achieving our potential. This...

  • 13 FAB 2021
    Love is Blind
    6m 15s

    Why do some relationships last, while others falter? In this bonus episode, Shankar looks at one thing successful couples do well.

  • 08 FAB 2021
    How They See Us
    50m 27s

    Stereotypes are all around us, shaping how we see the world – and how the world sees us. On the surface, the stereotypes that other people hold shouldn’t affect the way we think or act. But our concerns about other people’s perceptions have...

  • 01 FAB 2021
    The Easiest Person to Fool
    53m 51s

    Physicist Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” One way we fool ourselves is by imagining we know more than we do; we think we are experts. This week on...

  • 25 JAN 2021
    Afraid of the Wrong Things
    50m 15s

    Around the world, people are grappling with the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do our minds process that risk, and why do some of us process it so differently? This week, we talk with psychologist Paul Slovic about the disconnect...

  • 18 JAN 2021
    Our Brands, Our Selves
    34m 19s

    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 convers...

  • 11 JAN 2021
    The Secret Life of Secrets
    47m 59s

    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...

  • 04 JAN 2021
    The Double Standard
    48m 9s

    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...

  • 28 DEC 2020
    A Creature of Habit
    49m 47s

    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,...

  • 22 DEC 2020
    Waiting Games
    51m 13s

    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...

  • 14 DEC 2020
    Minimizing Pain, Maximizing Joy
    52m 25s

    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 Bra...

  • 07 DEC 2020
    Screaming into a Void
    40m 30s

    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...

  • 30 NOV 2020
    A Conspiracy of Silence
    59m 2s

    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...

  • 23 NOV 2020
    Where Gratitude Gets You
    51m 46s

    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 ps...

  • 16 NOV 2020
    When You Start to Miss Tony from Accounting
    48m 50s

    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...

  • 09 NOV 2020
    Between Two Worlds
    46m 43s

    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 be...

  • 02 NOV 2020
    From Pedestals to Guillotines
    22m 13s

    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 th...

  • 26 OCT 2020
    Not at the Dinner Table
    50m 7s

    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 th...

  • 19 OCT 2020
    Moral Combat
    51m 44s

    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.

  • 12 OCT 2020
    Beyond Doomscrolling
    52m 14s

    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...

  • 05 OCT 2020
    The Logic of Rage
    50m 13s

    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...