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Shankar Vedantam 2017

Shankar Vedantam

Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.

Vedantam was NPR's social science correspondent between 2011 and 2020, and spent 10 years as a reporter at The Washington Post. From 2007 to 2009, he was also a columnist, and wrote the Department of Human Behavior column for the Post.

Vedantam and Hidden Brain have been recognized with the Edward R Murrow Award, and honors from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the International Society of Political Psychology, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Austen Riggs Center, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the Webby Awards, the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, the American Public Health Association, the Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship on Science and Religion, and the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship.

In 2009-2010, Vedantam served as a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Vedantam is the author of the non-fiction book, The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives. The book, published in 2010, described how unconscious biases influence people. He is also co-author, with Bill Mesler, of the 2021 book Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain.

  • 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.
  • Judy, Lyn and Donna Ulrich were driving to a volleyball game when their Ford Pinto was hit from behind by a Chevy van. The Pinto caught fire, and the three teenagers were burned to death. This week on Hidden Brain, we talk to a former Ford insider who could have voted to recall the Pinto years before the Ulrich girls were killed — but didn't. And we ask, is it possible to fairly evaluate our past actions when we know how things turned out?
  • If you've ever flown in economy class on a plane, you probably had to walk through the first class cabin to get to your seat. Maybe you noticed the extra leg room. The freshly-poured champagne. Maybe you were annoyed, or envious. Social psychologist Keith Payne says we tend to compare ourselves with those who have more than us, but rarely with those who have less. This week, we revisit our 2019 episode on the psychology of income inequality, and how perceptions of our own wealth shape our lives.
  • The United States spends trillions of dollars on healthcare every year, but our outcomes are worse than those of other countries that spend less money. Why? Physician and healthcare executive Vivian Lee explains the psychological and economic incentives embedded in the American model of medicine, and makes the case for a different way forward.
  • Unpredictable things happen to us all the time. As part of our annual You 2.0 series on personal growth and reinvention, we revisit two of our favorite stories of loss and the change it brings.
  • Maya Shankar was well on her way to a career as a violinist when an injury closed that door. This week, as part of our annual You 2.0 series on personal growth and reinvention, we revisit our 2015 conversation with Maya, in which she shares how she found a new path forward after losing an identity she loved.
  • Sometimes, life can feel like being stuck on a treadmill. No matter how hard you try to get happier, you end up back where you started. What's going on here? We kick off our annual You 2.0 summer series with happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn, who explains how to fight the treadmill feeling.
  • In 1979, dubious psychological techniques were used to put a teenager behind bars for life. These flawed ideas may still be at play in other criminal cases.
  • There is great comfort in the familiar. It's one reason humans often flock to other people who share the same interests, laugh at the same jokes, hold the same political views. But familiar ground may not be the best place to cultivate creativity. Researchers have found that people with deep connections to those from other countries and cultures often see benefits in terms of their creative output. This week, we revisit a favorite 2018 episode about the powerful connection between the ideas we dream up and the people who surround us, and what it really takes to think outside the box.
  • In 2019, a novel by a new author, Gail Shepherd, arrived in bookstores. The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins tells the story of a young white girl growing up in the South. The book has been well received, but it is not the book Shepherd intended to write. In her original drafts, Shepherd, a white author, created a Lyndie who was Vietnamese-American, and dealing with issues of race in the deep South. This week we look at what it means to be a storyteller in a time of caustic cultural debate and ask when, if ever, is it okay to tell a story that is not your own?