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


United States


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




1111 North Capitol St NE Washington, DC 20002

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Innovation 2.0: Do Less

The human drive to invent new things has led to pathbreaking achievements in medicine, science and society. But our desire to create can keep us from seeing one of the most powerful paths to progress: subtraction. In a favorite conversation from 2022, engineer Leidy Klotz shares how streamlining and simplifying is sometimes the best path to innovation. Today's episode concludes our Innovation 2.0 series. If you've enjoyed these episodes, please tell a friend about them! They can find all of the stories in this series in this podcast feed, or at https://hiddenbrain.org/. Thanks for listening!


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Innovation 2.0: Shortcuts and Speed Bumps

Most of us love to brainstorm with colleagues. But so often, our idea-generating sessions don't lead to anything tangible. Teams fill up walls with sticky notes about creative possibilities and suggestions for improvement, but nothing actually gets implemented. Some researchers even have a name for it: "innovation theater." This week, we explore the science of execution. Psychologist Bob Sutton tells us how to move from innovation theater . . . to actual innovation. You can find all the episodes in our Innovation 2.0 series in this podcast feed, or on our website, hiddenbrain.org.


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Innovation 2.0: The Influence You Have

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, we continue our Innovation 2.0 series with a 2020 episode about a phenomenon known as as “egocentric bias.” We talk with psychologist Vanessa Bohns about how this bias leads us astray, and how we can use this knowledge to ask for the things we need. Did you catch the first two episodes in our Innovation 2.0 series? You can find them in this podcast feed or on our website. And if you're enjoying this series, please share it with a friend or family member. Thanks!


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Innovation 2.0: Multiplying the Growth Mindset

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that people wrote you off? Maybe a teacher suggested you weren't talented enough to take a certain class, or a boss implied that you didn't have the smarts needed to handle a big project. In the latest in our "Innovation 2.0 series," we talk with Mary Murphy, who studies what she calls "cultures of genius." We'll look at how these cultures can keep people and organizations from thriving, and how we can create environments that better foster our growth. Do you know someone who'd find the ideas in today's episode to be useful? Please share it with them! And if you liked today's conversation, you might also like these classic Hidden Brain episodes: The Edge Effect The Secret to Great Teams Dream Jobs


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Innovation 2.0: How Big Ideas Are Born

Why is it so hard to guess where we're meant to be? To predict where we'll end up? Nearly all of us have had the experience of traveling down one road, only to realize it's not the road for us. At the University of Virginia, Saras Sarasvathy uses the lens of entrepreneurship to study how we plan and prepare for the future. We kick off our new "Innovation 2.0" series by talking with Saras about how we pursue goals and make decisions. Do you know someone who might benefit from our conversation with Saras about expert entrepreneurs? Please share it with them if so! And be sure to check out our other conversations about how to get out of ruts and figure out a path forward: Who Do You Want to Be? You 2.0 : How to Break Out of a Rut


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Parents: Keep Out!

If you're a parent or a teacher, you've probably wondered how to balance play and safety for the kids in your care. You don't want to put children in danger, but you also don't want to rob them of the joy of exploration. This week, we talk with psychologist Peter Gray about how this balance has changed — for parents and children alike — and what we can do about it. For more of our reporting on children and parents, check out these classic Hidden Brain episodes: Kinder-Gardening Bringing Up Baby


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The Curious Science of Cravings

We've all had those days when all we want is a little treat. Maybe it's a bag of chips, an ice cream sundae or a glass of wine. But sometimes, these desires become all-consuming. This week on the show, psychiatrist Judson Brewer helps us understand the science of cravings, and how we should respond to them. If you liked today's conversation, be sure to check out other Hidden Brain episodes about ways to regain a feeling of control over your life: Creatures of Habit and Taking Control of Your Time.


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What Is Normal?

Anthropologist Tom Pearson was devastated after his daughter Michaela was diagnosed with Down syndrome. When he began to examine that emotional response, he found himself wrestling with questions that have roiled his field for decades. Early anthropologists would often compare people of different backgrounds and abilities, asking questions like: How is one group different from another? Which one is stronger or smarter? And how do we understand people who don’t fit our expectations? This week, we talk with Pearson about his family’s story, and the evolution of our thinking on disability and difference. If you liked today's show, be sure to check out these classic Hidden Brain episodes: "Emma, Carrie, Vivian" "Why You're Smarter than You Think"


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The Transformative Ideas of Daniel Kahneman

If you've ever taken an economics class, you were probably taught that people are rational. But about 50 years ago, the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky began to chip away at this basic assumption. In doing so, they transformed our understanding of human behavior. This week, we remember Kahneman, who recently died at the age of 90, by revisiting our 2018 and 2021 conversations with him. If you enjoyed this look at the work of Daniel Kahneman, you might also enjoy our conversations about behavioral economics with Kahneman's friend and collaborator Richard Thaler: Misbehaving with Richard Thaler Follow the Anomalies


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Are You Listening?

Have you ever sat across from your spouse, colleague or friend and realized that while they may be hearing what you're saying, they aren't actually listening? Poor listening can lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and fractured relationships. But the good news is that active, thoughtful listening can profoundly benefit both people in the conversation. This week on the show, psychologist Guy Itzchakov helps us understand where interactions go awry, and how to become a more attentive listener. For more of our work on how to better connect with the people in your life, check out these episodes: Why Conversations Go Wrong with Deborah Tannen A Secret Source of Connection with Amit Kumar Relationships 2.0: What Makes Relationships Thrive with Harry Reis Relationships 2.0: How to Keep Conflict from Spiraling with Julia Minson


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The Ventilator

Many of us believe we know how we’d choose to die. We have a sense of how we’d respond to a diagnosis of an incurable illness. This week, we revisit a 2019 episode featuring one family’s decades-long conversation about dying. What they found is that the people we are when death is far in the distance may not be the people we become when death is near. If you enjoyed today's episode, here are some more classic Hidden Brain episodes you might like: The Cowboy Philosopher When You Need It To Be True Me, Myself, and Ikea Thanks for listening!


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Escaping the Matrix

A little more than a decade ago, researchers began tracking an alarming trend: a dramatic uptick in anxiety and depression among young Americans. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, like many other researchers, says the increase is related to our use of social media and devices. But he believes it’s also deeper than that — connected to our deepest moral beliefs and how they shape the way we view the world. He says there are simple steps we can take to improve the mental health of kids growing up in the smartphone era. For more of our work on how technology is shaping our lives, check out our two-part series "The Paradox of Pleasure" and "The Path to Enough." And don't miss our classic episode on social media, "Screaming into the Void."


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Fear Less

Fear is a normal and healthy response to things that may harm us. But fear can also hold us back from doing the things we want to do. This week, we talk to psychiatrist and neuroscientist Arash Javanbakht about the psychology of fear — how it helps us, how it hurts us, and what we can do to harness it. For more on the science of fear and anxiety, including how you can overcome it, check out our episode A Better Way to Worry.


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US 2.0: Lincoln's Dilemma

Over the past few weeks, we've been exploring the psychology of partisanship, and how to effectively handle disagreements with those around us. This week, we conclude our US 2.0 series by turning to the past. We talk with journalist Steve Inskeep about how one of the most important leaders in American history — Abraham Lincoln — grappled with the pressing moral question of his time. When, if ever, is it worth compromising your own principles for the sake of greater progress? If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our 2018 conversation about Thomas Jefferson with historian Annette Gordon-Reed. It's the episode called "A Founding Contradiction" in this podcast feed, or you can listen on our website.


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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!


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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.


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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.


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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 ideas@hiddenbrain.org. Use the subject line “politics.” And thanks!


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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?


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Finding Focus

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 Work Taking Control of Your Time And if you love Hidden Brain, please consider joining Hidden Brain+, our podcast subscription! You can find it on Apple Podcasts, or by clicking here.