Hidden Brain

A conversation about life's unseen patterns

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Episodes

  • What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?

    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.

  • What are the reasons for the dramatic decline in anti-gay bias in the United States? Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Radically Normal: How Gay Rights Activists Changed The Minds Of Their Opponents

    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.

  • After a long history of civil war and corruption, many Liberians didn't trust their government's attempts to control Ebola.

    Don't Panic: Stories Of Coping Amidst Chaos

    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."

  • In March of 2017, the two sets of Bogotá twins, Jorge, William, Carlos and Wilber (left to right), gathered to celebrate Carlos's graduation.

    What Twins Can Tell Us About Who We Are

    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

  • Researcher Elizabeth Currid-Halkett says celebrity can be boiled down to a simple formula.

    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.

  • Kate Devlin, who studies human-computer interactions, says we're on the cusp of a sexual revolution driven by robotics and artificial intelligence.

    Love, Sex, And Robots

    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.

  • For Sale, By Owner: The Psychology Of Repugnant Transactions

    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.

  • Are awards a more effective motivator than a cash prize? Economist Bruno Frey says yes.

    Better Than Cash: How Awards Can Shape Our Behavior

    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.

  • Carrie and Emma Buck in 1924, right before the Buck v. Bell trial, which provided the first court approval of a law allowing forced sterilization in Virginia.

    Emma, Carrie, Vivian: How A Family Became A Test Case For Forced Sterilizations

    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.

  • 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.