skip to main content

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, and the biases that shape our choices.

Visit Hidden Brain

Episodes

  • Hidden Brain

    An Unfinished Lesson: What The 1918 Flu Tells Us About Human Nature

    A virus is more than a biological organism. It's a social organism. It detects fissures in societies and fault lines between communities. Historian Nancy Bristow shares the lessons about human behavior that we can take away from a century-old pandemic.

  • John Moore/Getty Images

    Panic In The Street: How Psychology Shaped The Response To An Epidemic

    It sounds like a movie plot: police discover the body of a young man who's been murdered. The body tests positive for a deadly infectious disease. Authorities trace the killing to a gang. They race to find the gang members, who may also be incubating the virus. This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit our 2016 story about disease, panic, and how a public health team used psychology to confront an epidemic.

  • caption: In the 1960s, demographers warned that we were on track for a global population explosion. That's not exactly what happened.

    The Bomb That Didn't Explode: Why Our Fears About Population Growth Didn't Come True

    We know that we live in an ever-changing world, but one thing we often overlook is demographic change. Whether the world's population is growing or shrinking can affect many aspects of our lives, from the number of kids we have to the likelihood that we'll live to old age. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore how our planet's population is changing, and what that means for us in the century to come.

  • caption: In the mid-1940s, Riley Shepard was a rising talent as a singer. But he bounced from one music label to another, and never achieved stardom.

    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, which we originally released in 2019, we trace the life of Riley Shepard, a hillbilly musician, writer, small-time con man and, perhaps, a genius.

  • caption: Psychologists say we often have a hard time recognizing how much pressure we put on other people when we ask them for something.

    The Influence You Have: Why We're Blind To Our Power Over Others

    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 explore a phenomenon that psychologists refer to as "egocentric bias," and look at how this bias can lead us astray.

  • caption: Dan Ariely has found that "what separates honest people from not-honest people is not necessarily character, it's opportunity."

    Liar, Liar, Liar

    We all lie. But what separates the average person from the infamous cheaters we see on the news? Dan Ariely says we like to think it's character — but in his research he's found it's more often opportunity. Dan Ariely is a professor at Duke University and the author of the book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves. We spoke to him in March 2017.

  • A donkey and an elephant stare at each other across a chasm.

    Passion Isn't Enough: The Rise Of 'Political Hobbyism' in the United States

    Many Americans feel an obligation to keep up with political news. But maybe we should be focusing our energies elsewhere. Political scientist Eitan Hersh says there's been a rise in "political hobbyism" in the United States. We treat politics like entertainment, following the latest updates like we follow our favorite sports teams. Instead, he says, we should think of politics as a way to acquire power and persuade our neighbors to back the issues we support.

  • caption: "Hang in there," Dr. Levy tells his new medical students. "This is going to work."

    When Things Click: The Power Of Judgment-Free Learning

    There can be a lot of psychological noise involved in teaching. But what it we replaced all that mental clutter...with a click? This week, we bring you a 2018 episode exploring an innovative idea about how we learn. It will take us from a dolphin exhibit in Hawaii to a top teaching hospital in New York. It's about a method to quiet the noise that can turn learning into a minefield of misery.

  • A child's hand extends out to a chalk lining of a hand drawn on a wall.

    Secret Friends: Tapping Into The Power Of Imagination

    Where is the line between what is real and what is imaginary? It seems like an easy question to answer: if you can see it, hear it, or touch it, then it's real, right? But what if this way of thinking is limiting one of the greatest gifts of the mind? This week, we meet people who experience the invisible as real, and learn how they hone their imaginations to see the world with new eyes.

  • caption: Why are some warnings heard, while others are ignored?

    The Cassandra Curse: Why We Heed Some Warnings, And Ignore Others

    After a disaster happens, we want to know whether something could have been done to avoid it. Did anyone see this coming? Many times, the answer is yes. So why didn't the warnings lead to action? This week, we revisit a favorite 2018 episode about the psychology of warnings. We visit a smelly Alaskan tunnel, hear about a gory (and fictional) murder plot, and even listen to some ABBA.

  • Anthropologist Bill Maurer says the dollar bill remains one of the most ubiquitous forms of mass media in the United States.

    Emotional Currency: How Money Shapes Human Relationships

    What's the point of money? The answer might seem obvious: we need it to get paid for our work, and to buy the things we need. But there's also a deeper way to look at the role of money in our lives. This week we explore an anthropologist's take on the origin story of money. What if the cash and coins we carry are not just tools for transactions, but manifestations of human relationships?

  • CHICAGO, IL - JULY 06: A teenage boy grieves next to a makeshift memorial at the site where Ashley Hardmon was shot and killed on July 4, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    On The Knife's Edge: Using Therapy To Address Violence Among Teens

    What would drive someone to take another person's life? When researchers at the University of Chicago asked that question, the answer was a laundry list of slights: a stolen jacket, or a carelessly lobbed insult. It made them wonder whether crime rates could be driven down by teaching young men to pause, take a deep breath, and think before they act. In this 2017 episode, we go inside a program that teaches Chicago teens to do just that. We also explore what research has found about whether this approach actually works.