Hidden Brain

A conversation about life's unseen patterns

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Episodes

  • Close Enough: The Lure Of Living Through Others

    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.

  • One Head, Two Brains: How The Brain's Hemispheres Shape The World We See

    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

  • Laura Ogden, Jack Hannan, and Dr. Jones the dog.

    Rewinding & Rewriting: The Alternate Universes In Our Heads

    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.

  • How Science Spreads: Smallpox, Stomach Ulcers, And 'The Vegetable Lamb Of Tartary'

    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/2FO4SEW

  • Sophie Scott studies the neuroscience of voices, speech, and laughter at University College London.

    The Best Medicine: Decoding The Hidden Meanings Of Laughter

    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

  • Stacya Shepard thought she knew her dad. But that changed one day with a phone call from a stranger.

    The Cowboy Philosopher: A Tale Of Obsession, Scams, And Family

    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.

  • "Compassion is contagious," Professor Scott Plous says. "We talk about paying it forward; the idea that if you do something good for another person [...] it sets off a kind of chain reaction."

    The Science of 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.

  • Would you eat a cricket?

    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.

  • Alan Alda

    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.

  • A copy of the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News sits in a newspaper box on a street corner in Denver, Colorado.

    Starving The Watchdog: Who Foots The Bill When Newspapers Disappear?

    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.

  • Spoiler Alert! The Psychology Of Surprise Endings

    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.

  • Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves, yet he also wrote that "all men are created equal." How did he square the contradictions between his values and his everyday life?

    A Founding Contradiction: Thomas Jefferson's Stance On Slavery

    "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.