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.

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Episodes

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Creatures Of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become

    At the beginning of the year, many of us make resolutions for the months to come. We resolve to work out more, procrastinate less, or save more money. Though some people stick with these aspirations, many of us fall short. This week, psychologist Wendy Wood shares what researchers have found about how to build good habits — and break bad ones.

  • Spoiler Alert! The Psychology Of Surprise Endings

    Why do we 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. In this 2018 conversation, we talked 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.

  • Did That Really Happen? How Our Memories Betray Us

    Our memories are easily contaminated. We can be made to believe we rode in a hot air balloon or spilled punch on people at a wedding—even if those things never happened. So how do we know which of our memories are most accurate? This week, psychologist Ayanna Thomas explains how memory works, how it fails, and ways to make it better.

  • Zipcode Destiny: The Persistent Power Of Place And Education

    There's a core belief embedded in the story of the United States — the American Dream. Today we look at the state of that dream as we revisit our 2018 conversation with economist Raj Chetty. We'll ask some questions that carry big implications: can you put an economic value on a great kindergarten teacher? How is it that two children living just a few blocks from each other can have radically different chances in life? And what gives Salt Lake City an edge over Cleveland when it comes to offering people better prospects than their parents?

  • In The Heat Of The Moment: How Intense Emotions Transform Us

    In a fit of anger or in the grip of fear, many of us make decisions that we never would have anticipated. This week, we look at situations that make us strangers to ourselves — and why it's so difficult to remember what these "hot states" feel like once the moment is over.

  • Envy is a useful tool for social comparison. But sometimes, it can lead us to wicked places.

    Feeding the Green-Eyed Monster: What Happens When Envy Turns Ugly

    Envy is one of the most unpleasant of all human emotions. It also turns out to be one of the most difficult for researchers to study. And yet, there's mounting evidence that envy is a powerful motivator. This week, we explore an emotion that can inspire us to become better people — or to commit unspeakable acts.

  • Stephanie Rinka in her beach wheelchair at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, North Carolina.

    The Ventilator: Life, Death And The Choices We Make At The End

    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 have the story of 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.

  • Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus: The Psychology Of How We Eat

    Anyone who's tried (and failed) to follow a diet knows that food is more than fuel. This week, we revisit our 2018 episode about the psychology behind what we eat, what we spit out, and when we come back for more.

  • Businessman climbs high with a ladder to communicate with the dollar

    The Talk Market: How Stories and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives

    Can we affect the rise and fall of the economy? This week on Hidden Brain, we talk with Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller about the powerful ways in which stories and psychology shape our economic lives. He argues that narratives affect not just the purchases we make as individuals, but the fate of our entire economic system.

  • Anthropologist David Graeber says there's a perverse logic that has allowed pointless jobs to proliferate in many workplaces.

    BS Jobs: How Meaningless Work Wears Us Down

    Have you ever had a job where you had to stop and ask yourself: what am I doing here? If I quit tomorrow, would anyone even notice? This week on Hidden Brain, we revisit our 2018 conversation with anthropologist David Graeber about the rise of what he calls "bullsh*t jobs," and how these positions affect the people who hold them.