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Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain

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

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npr.org/series/423302056/hidden-brain

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Facts Aren't Enough

Sometimes when we believe something, no amount of data can change our minds. This week, we look at how we rely on the people we trust to shape what we believe, and why emotions can be more powerful than facts. This episode features new reporting and favorite conversations with neuroscientist Tali Sharot and philosopher of science Cailin O'Connor.
2019-07-22
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Finding Your Voice

At some point in our lives, many of us realize that the way we hear our own voice isn't the way others hear us. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the relationship between our voices and our identities. Plus, we hear how advances in technology might help people with vocal impairments, and consider the ethical quandaries that arise when we can create personalized, customized voices.
2019-07-15
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The Fox And The Hedgehog

The Greek poet Archilochus wrote that "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." This week, we'll use the metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog as a way to understand the differences between tacticians and big-picture thinkers. We'll explore the story of a pioneering surgeon whose hedgehog tendencies led him to great triumphs, and a heartbreaking tragedy. This episode first aired in May 2017.
2019-07-08
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I Buy, Therefore I Am

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 look at how companies create a worldview around the products they sell, and then get us to make those products a part of who we are.
2019-07-01
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The Lazarus Drug

More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017 ? many of them from heroin and other opioids. One of the most widely-used tools to confront this crisis is a drug called naloxone. It can reverse an opioid overdose within seconds, and has been hailed by first responders and public health researchers. But in 2018, two economists released a study that suggested naloxone might be leading some users to engage in riskier behavior ? and causing more deaths than it saves. This week, we talk with researchers, drug users, and families about the mental calculus of opioid use, and why there's still so much we're struggling to understand about addiction. This episode originally aired in October 2018.
2019-06-24
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Our Animal Instincts

Does living with animals really make us healthier? Why do we eat some animals and keep others as pets? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with psychology professor Hal Herzog about the contradictions embedded in our relationships with animals.
2019-06-17
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Me, Myself, and IKEA

Are women named Virginia more likely to move to Virginia? Are people with the last name of Carpenter more likely to be carpenters? This week on Hidden Brain, we bring you a favorite 2017 episode about our preference for things that remind us of ourselves, and why this tendency can have larger implications than we might at first imagine.
2019-06-10
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People Like Us

Generations of Americans have struggled against segregation. Most of us believe in the ideal of a colorblind society. But what happens when that ideal come up against research that finds colorblindness sometimes leads to worse outcomes?
2019-06-03
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More Divided Than Ever?

Many of us intuitively feel that the bitter partisanship of American politics is bad for our nation. So should we be concerned about the health of our democracy? This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit two of our favorite conversations about U.S. politics. We start by talking with political scientist John Hibbing about the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Then, we explore the role of conflict in democracy with historian David Moss.
2019-05-27
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Losing Face

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.
2019-05-20
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What's Not On The Test

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.
2019-05-13
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Creating God

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.
2019-05-06
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A Dramatic Cure

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
2019-04-29
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Why No One 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 explore the psychology of income inequality, and how perceptions of our own wealth shape our lives.
2019-04-22
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The Sorting Hat

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.
2019-04-15
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Radically Normal

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.
2019-04-08
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Don't Panic!

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."
2019-04-01
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What Twins Tell Us

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
2019-03-25
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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.
2019-03-18
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Unreal Sex

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 talk with researcher Kate Devlin about the history of the artificial lover, and consider what love and sex look like in the age of robots.
2019-03-11
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For Sale, By Owner

You own your body. So should you be able to sell parts of it? This week, we explore the concept of "repugnant transactions" with the man who coined the term, Nobel Prize- winning economist Al Roth. He says repugnant transactions can range from selling organs to poorly-planned gift exchanges ? and what's repugnant in one place and time is often not repugnant in another.
2019-03-04
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Radio Replay: Playing The Gender Card

Annie Duke was about to win $2 million. It was 2004, and she was at the final hand of the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions. But as a woman at a table full of men, she wasn't sure she deserved to be there. In this week's Radio Replay, we tell the stories of two people who grappled with gender stereotypes on the job. Annie Duke shares her experiencing at the World Series of Poker, and then we hear the story of Robert Vaughan, a former Navy sailor who decided to pursue a new career as a nurse.
2019-03-01
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Better Than Cash

Our modern world is saturated with awards. From elementary school classrooms to Hollywood to the hallways of academia, there's no shortage of prizes ? and people who covet them. Yet we rarely stop to ask, do they work? We pose that question to economist Bruno Frey, who argues that awards can have a powerful, positive effect on our behavior ? but only if they're designed well.
2019-02-25
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Emma, Carrie, Vivian

In 1924, a 17-year-old girl was admitted to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. The superintendent of the colony classified her as "feeble-minded of the lowest grade, moron class." With that designation, this girl, Carrie Buck, was set on a path she didn't choose. What happened next laid the foundation for the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people. This week, we revisit a 2018 episode about the eugenics movement and one of the most tragic social experiments in American history.
2019-02-18
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Close Enough

Today, more and more of us are living through the people on our screens and in our headphones. It's a world just beyond our reach, where we can get the ocean without the seaweed and sunsets without clouds. Where we can experience love without the risk of rejection. It's not real, but for many of us, it's close enough. This week, we explore the dangers, and the delights, of living vicariously.
2019-02-11
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One Head, Two Brains

This week, we search for the answer to a deceptively simple question: why is the brain divided? Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains why popular distinctions between the "left brain" and "right brain" aren't supported by research. He argues that one hemisphere has come to shape Western society ? to our detriment.

For more information about this episode, please visit https://n.pr/2SxITco
2019-02-04
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Radio Replay: Creative Differences

What happens when we connect with people whose view of the world is very different from our own? In this month's Radio Replay, we bring you stories about the relationship between diversity, conflict, and creativity. This episode features reporting from our July 2018 podcast, "The Edge Effect," and from one of our 2016 shows, "Tribes and Traitors."
2019-02-01
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Rewinding & Rewriting

All of us are time travelers. We go back in history to turning points in our lives, and imagine how things could have turned out differently. Psychologists refer to this as "counterfactual thinking." This week on Hidden Brain, we look at why some events prompt these "What if?" questions, while others do not. This episode originally aired in May 2018.
2019-01-28
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The Vegetable Lamb

We like to think that science evolves in a way that is...rational. But this isn't always the case. This week, we look at how information and misinformation spread in the world of science, and why evidence is often not enough to convince others of the truth. We talk with philosopher and mathematician Cailin O'Connor. For more information about this episode, please visit https://n.pr/2S3onzK
2019-01-21
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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. You can find more about the research discussed in this episode here: https://n.pr/2RORlDs
2019-01-14
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The Cowboy Philosopher

In 2009, an old man died in a California nursing home. His obituary included not just his given name, but a long list of the pseudonyms he'd been known to use. In this episode, we trace the life of Riley Shepard, a hillbilly musician, writer, small-time con man and, perhaps, a genius.
2019-01-07
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Loss and Renewal

Maya Shankar was well on her way to an extraordinary career as a violinist when an injury closed that door. This week, we revisit our December 2015 conversation with Maya, in which she shares how she found a new path forward after losing an identity she loved.
2018-12-31
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Compassion

The adage "be kind to others" is simple enough that even young children can understand it. But that doesn't mean adults always remember the importance of being kind or understand how compassion might affect them. This week, we look at the science of compassion, and why doing good things for others can make a big difference in your own life.
2018-12-24
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Radio Replay: Yum and Yuck

Paul Rozin has been studying the psychology and culture of food for more than 40 years. And he's come to appreciate that food fills many of our needs, but hunger is just one. On this week's Radio Replay, we chew over the profound role that food plays in our lives. Then, we spit it all out ? we study the ick factor that turns us off to cockroaches, skunks, and poop. Rachel Herz explains the sensation of disgust, and why it doesn't always come naturally. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2UTf1p0.
2018-12-21
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Alan Alda Wants Us To Have Better Conversations

Arguments and bickering can sour family gatherings during the holiday season. This week, we share tips on how to avoid miscommunication from our January 2018 conversation with actor Alan Alda. You might know him from his roles on television shows like M*A*S*H, The West Wing and 30 Rock, but in recent years Alda has also focused on helping scientists, and the rest of us, communicate better. His book is If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating.
2018-12-17
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Starving the Watchdog

When a newspaper shuts down, there are obvious costs to the community it serves: job losses, fewer local stories. 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 ask, who bears the cost when nobody wants to pay? For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2zSPraS.
2018-12-10
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Spoiler Alert!

Why do we always fall for surprise endings? It turns out that our capacity to be easily fooled in books and movies is made possible by a handful of predictable mental shortcuts. We talk this week with Vera Tobin, one of the world's first cognitive scientists to study plot twists. She says storytellers have been exploiting narrative twists and turns for millennia ? and that studying these sleights of hand can give us a better understanding of the contours of the mind.
2018-12-03
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A Founding Contradiction

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." These words, penned by Thomas Jefferson more than 240 years ago, continue to inspire many Americans. And yet they were written by a man who owned hundreds of slaves, and fathered six children by an enslaved woman. This week, we talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed about the contradictions in Jefferson's life ? and how those contradictions might resonate in our own lives.
2018-11-26
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Radio Replay: Bringing Up Baby

This week we focus on the behavior of the youngest members of the human race. We try to translate the mysterious language of babies. And we ask, when should we step back and just let our children be? For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2TuxEz3.
2018-11-23
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The Edge of Gender

Gender is one of the first things we notice about the people around us. But where do our ideas about gender come from? Can gender differences be explained by genes and chromosomes, or are they the result of upbringing, culture and the environment? In this encore episode from October 2017, we delve into debates over nature vs. nurture, and meet the first person in the United States to officially reject the labels of both male and female, and be recognized as "non-binary."
2018-11-19
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Zipcode Destiny

There's a core belief embedded in the story of the United States: the American Dream. The possibility of climbing the economic ladder is central to that dream. This week we speak with Raj Chetty, one of the most influential economists alive today, about the state of economic mobility in the U.S. and whether the notion of the American Dream is still useful. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2z8cvSs.
2018-11-12
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Sounds Like a Winner

We're used to the idea that rhetoric sways voters. But what about another element of language: a candidate's voice? This week on Hidden Brain, what happens when our political system and ancient biological rules meet. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2Pe1Fog.
2018-11-05
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The Lazarus Drug

More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year ? many of them from heroin and other opioids. One of the most widely-used tools to confront this crisis is a drug called naloxone. It can reverse an opioid overdose within seconds, and has been hailed by first responders and public health researchers. But earlier this year, two economists released a study that suggested naloxone might be leading some users to engage in riskier behavior ? and causing more deaths than it saves. This week, we talk with researchers, drug users, and families about the mental calculus of opioid use, and why there's still so much we're struggling to understand about addiction. For more information about the research in this episode, visit https://n.pr/2OZfuGQ.
2018-10-29
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Radio Replay: Too Little, Too Much

Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing? On this week's Radio Replay, we bring you a March 2017 story about the phenomenon of scarcity, and how it can blind us to the big picture. Then, we go to the opposite end of the spectrum to look at the perils of excess. We'll bring you an October 2016 conversation with Brooke Harrington, a sociologist who wanted to know what it's like to be one of the richest people on the planet. For more on these topics, visit us at https://n.pr/2O8DkdV.
2018-10-26
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Be The Change

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." It's a popular quote that's made its way onto coffee mugs and bumper stickers ? but it's not the easiest principle to live. On this week's Hidden Brain, we meet Royce and Jessica James, a couple who decided to raise their daughter in a gender-neutral way. It was far harder than they ever could have imagined. For further reading on children and gender norms, visit us at https://n.pr/2AmmiW1.
2018-10-22
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Voting With Your Middle Finger

There is one truth that has endured through the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency: he has kept the support of the core voters who propelled him to the White House. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore two competing perspectives on the motivations of Trump supporters, and what they can tell us about the state of our union.
2018-10-15
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Red Brain, Blue Brain

When most of us think about how we came to our political views, we often give a straightforward answer. We believe our stances on taxes, immigration or national security are shaped by those around us ? our friends, parents, teachers. We assume our life experiences are the root of our political ideologies. But what if there is something deeper in us that drives the music we listen to, the food we eat ? even the politicians that we elect? This week, we explore the role of biology in shaping our political identities.
2018-10-08
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"Man Up"

You've certainly heard some variation of the phrase "be a man." But what does that even mean? This week, we question our existing definitions of masculinity. We'll meet a man who works in a field traditionally considered "women's work." And we'll hear from a researcher who says manhood is "hard to earn and easy to lose."
2018-10-01
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Why Now?

Nearly a quarter century ago, a group of women accused a prominent playwright of sexual misconduct. For the most part, the allegations went nowhere. In 2017, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, more women came forward to accuse the same playwright of misconduct. This time, everyone listened. On this episode ? originally broadcast in February 2018 ? we explore the story through the lens of social science research and ask, "Why Now?" What has changed in our minds and in our culture so that allegations of sexual harassment and assault are being taken more seriously than they were in the past? A note: This story includes descriptions of sexual harassment and assault. It may not be suitable for all listeners.
2018-09-24
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Radio Replay: Eyes Wide Open

When Randy Gardner was 17, he won a world record for going eleven days without sleeping. On this Radio Replay, Randy shares insights from that experience and warns others against copying his stunt. Later in the program, we speak with neuroscientist Matthew Walker about the mind and body benefits of eight full hours of sleep.
2018-09-21
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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