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Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain Media

Arts, Science, Social Sciences, Performing Arts

4.639.3K Ratings


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

456 Episodes

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.

Transcribed - Published: 13 May 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 6 May 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 29 April 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 22 April 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 15 April 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 8 April 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 1 April 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 25 March 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 11 March 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 4 March 2024

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’ll explore 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?

Transcribed - Published: 26 February 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 19 February 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 12 February 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 5 February 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 29 January 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 22 January 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 15 January 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 8 January 2024

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.

Transcribed - Published: 1 January 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.

Transcribed - Published: 25 December 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 18 December 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 11 December 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 4 December 2023

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

Transcribed - Published: 27 November 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 20 November 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 13 November 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 6 November 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 30 October 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 23 October 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 16 October 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 9 October 2023

Escaping Perfectionism

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.

Transcribed - Published: 2 October 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 25 September 2023

Outsmarting Yourself

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?

Transcribed - Published: 18 September 2023

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. Humans are full of contradictions. We want to stay healthy, yet we smoke and loathe to exercise. We want to be honest, but we cheat and tell lies. In other words, we want to think of ourselves as good people, yet sometimes we don't act like it. Why is that? This week, psychologist Elliot Aronson shares his research on how we figure out those contradictions.

Transcribed - Published: 11 September 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 28 August 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 21 August 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 14 August 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 7 August 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 31 July 2023

Learning From Your Mistakes

No matter who you are, it's guaranteed that at some point in life you'll make a mistake. Many of us find failures to be uncomfortable — so we try our best to ignore them and move on. But what if there was a way to turn that discomfort into an opportunity? This week, we begin a two part mini-series on the psychology of failure and feedback. Psychologist Lauren Eskreis-Winkler teaches us how to stop ignoring our mistakes, and instead, start to learn from them.

Transcribed - Published: 24 July 2023

The Path to Enough

This week, we bring you the second part of our conversation on the perils of too much pleasure. Psychiatrist Anna Lembke explains the neuroscience behind compulsive consumption, and how it alters our brains. She also shares techniques she’s learned from her patients to overcome the lure of addictive substances and behaviors.

Transcribed - Published: 17 July 2023

The Paradox of Pleasure

All of us think we know what addiction looks like: it’s the compulsive consumption of drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. But psychiatrist Anna Lembke argues that this definition is far too narrow — and that a broader understanding of addiction might help us to understand why so many people are anxious and depressed. This week, we begin a two-part series that explains how and why humans are wired to pursue pleasure, and all the ways the modern world tempts us with addictive substances and behaviors.

Transcribed - Published: 10 July 2023

How Others See You

It's not easy to know how we come across to others, especially when we're meeting people for the first time. Psychologist Erica Boothby says many of us underestimate how much other people actually like us. This week, we revisit one of our most popular episodes to look at how certain social illusions give us a distorted picture of ourselves.

Transcribed - Published: 3 July 2023

The Best Years of Your Life

Aging isn’t just a biological process. Our outlooks and emotions also change as we age, often in ways that boost our well-being. Psychologist Laura Carstensen unpacks the science behind this surprising finding, and shares what all of us can learn from older people.

Transcribed - Published: 26 June 2023

When to Eat the Marshmallow

Think about the last time you resisted watching yet another episode of your favorite TV show, or decided not to have a second piece of cake at a friend's birthday party. In many societies, self-discipline is seen as an invaluable trait. But we often overlook what makes it possible to hold back in those moments of temptation. This week, psychologist Celeste Kidd offers a new way to think about self-control. Then, we talk with researcher Jacqueline Rifkin about how to find the right balance between indulgence and restraint.

Transcribed - Published: 19 June 2023

Seeking Serenity: Part 2

In the second part of our series on the science of meditation, Richard Davidson continues his endeavor to unite seemingly opposite ways of understanding the mind. Plus, he shares the latest research on mindfulness, and the unexpected ways it can benefit us.

Transcribed - Published: 8 June 2023

Seeking Serenity: Part 1

In graduate school, neuroscientist Richard Davidson learned to use scientific tools as a way to examine the brain. At the same time, he also started studying under master meditators — who deeply contemplated their internal and external lives. This week, two ways of understanding the mind.

Transcribed - Published: 5 June 2023

Success 2.0: Getting to the Top and Staying There

There are plenty of talented people in the world. So why do only a tiny percentage of us reach the highest peaks of achievement? This week, we conclude our "Success 2.0" series by talking with researcher Justin Berg about whether there's a secret recipe for finding — and sustaining — success.

Transcribed - Published: 29 May 2023

Success 2.0: The Psychology of Self-Doubt

We all have times when we feel like a fraud. In the latest installment of our Success 2.0 series, we revisit a favorite 2021 conversation with psychologist Kevin Cokley. We'll explore the corrosive effects of self-doubt, and how we can turn that negative voice in our heads into an ally.

Transcribed - Published: 22 May 2023

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