Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.
After we make a decision, we often tell ourselves a story about why our choice was the right one to make. It's a mental process that psychologist Elliot Aronson calls self-justification. These rationalizations can sometimes lead us to excuse bad behavior or talk ourselves out of a poor choice. But are there also times when self-justification can be used for good?
This is the second part of our series on cognitive dissonance. Listen to the first episode: How We Live with Contradictions.
How We Live With Contradictions
Think about the last time you did something you knew was wrong. How did you explain your actions to yourself? All of us tell stories about why we do the things we do. We justify our failures, and come up with plausible explanations for our actions. This week, Elliot Aronson explains the mental processes behind this type of self-justification, and shares how he helped develop one of the most widely-known concepts in psychology: cognitive dissonance.
If you're interested in learning more about the origins of cognitive dissonance, listen to our episode When You Need It To Be...
Being Kind to Yourself
How often do you say something negative to yourself that you'd never utter to someone else? Self-criticism can often feel like a way to hold ourselves accountable. But psychologist Kristin Neff says there’s a better path to personal growth: self-compassion. In a favorite conversation from 2021, Kristin remembers the painful moment when she learned to show herself self-compassion, and shares how being kind to ourselves can improve our wellbeing and relationships with others.
Do you know someone who needs a reminder to be kind to themselves? Please share this episode with them! And if you have follow-up que...
You 2.0: Make the Good Times Last
Sorrows have a way of finding us, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Joys, on the other hand, are often hard to notice and appreciate. This week, we continue our conversation with psychologist Fred Bryant about the science of savoring, and how to make the most of the good things in our lives.
Do you know someone who would enjoy our You 2.0 series? Please tell them about this episode and last week's show about how to turn even the smallest moments into opportunities for pleasure. And thanks for listening!
You 2.0: Slow Down!
It’s understandable that we sometimes dwell on things that upset us. But our negative emotions can keep us from savoring the good things in our lives. This week, we continue our You 2.0 series with psychologist Fred Bryant. We’ll discuss the many benefits of savoring, and how we can turn even the smallest of moments into an opportunity for pleasure.
Do you know someone who would enjoy our You 2.0 series? Please tell them about this episode and last week's show about how to set our "future selves" up for success. And thanks for listening!
You 2.0: Your Future Is Now
Have you ever set a goal and had a really difficult time sticking to it? Maybe you decide you want to save more money, or go to the gym more often. This week on the show, psychologist Hal Hershfield explains why it can be difficult to set our "future selves" up for success. Plus, he shares tools to help us make commitments that will benefit us in the years to come.
Do you know someone who would enjoy our You 2.0 series? Please tell them about this episode and last week's show about how to break out of a...
You 2.0: How to Break Out of a Rut
There are times in life when the challenges we face feel insurmountable. Authors succumb to writer's block. Athletes and artists hit a plateau. People of a certain age fall into a midlife crisis. These are all different ways of saying: I'm stuck. This week, in the kickoff to our annual You 2.0 series, psychologist Adam Alter shares his research on why we all get stuck at various points in our lives, and how to break free.
Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then please consider supporting our work by joining our new po...
The Truth About Honesty
Think about how often you hold back honest opinions of someone else because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. But there are times when this well-intended restraint can be a mistake. This week, in the second part of our series on failure and feedback, psychologist Taya Cohen helps us understand when — and how — to be honest.
If you missed the first part of our series — which focuses on how we can become better at learning from difficult or negative feedback — you can find it here.
Learning From Your Mistakes
No matter who you are, it's guaranteed that at some point in life you'll make a mistake. Many of us find failures to be uncomfortable — so we try our best to ignore them and move on. But what if there was a way to turn that discomfort into an opportunity? This week, we begin a two part mini-series on the psychology of failure and feedback. Psychologist Lauren Eskreis-Winkler teaches us how to stop ignoring our mistakes, and instead, start to learn from them.
Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then please con...
The Path to Enough
This week, we bring you the second part of our conversation on the perils of too much pleasure. Psychiatrist Anna Lembke explains the neuroscience behind compulsive consumption, and how it alters our brains. She also shares techniques she’s learned from her patients to overcome the lure of addictive substances and behaviors.
Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then please consider supporting our work by joining our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+. You can find it in the Apple Podcasts app, or by going to apple.co/hiddenbrain. Thanks!
The Paradox of Pleasure
All of us think we know what addiction looks like: it’s the compulsive consumption of drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. But psychiatrist Anna Lembke argues that this definition is far too narrow — and that a broader understanding of addiction might help us to understand why so many people are anxious and depressed. This week, we begin a two-part series that explains how and why humans are wired to pursue pleasure, and all the ways the modern world tempts us with addictive substances and behaviors.
Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then plea...
How Others See You
It's not easy to know how we come across to others, especially when we're meeting people for the first time. Psychologist Erica Boothby says many of us underestimate how much other people actually like us. This week, we revisit one of our most popular episodes to look at how certain social illusions give us a distorted picture of ourselves.
Do you like the ideas and insights we feature on Hidden Brain? Then please consider supporting our work by joining our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+. You can find it in the Apple Podcasts app, or by going...
The Best Years of Your Life
Aging isn’t just a biological process. Our outlook and emotions also change as we age, often in ways that boost our well-being. Psychologist Laura Carstensen unpacks the science behind this surprising finding, and shares what all of us can learn from older people.
Have you ever been torn about whether to pursue a passion project? In the latest episode of Hidden Brain+, novelist and physician Abraham Verghese tells us about the person who helped him navigate this dilemma in his own life. Try Hidden Brain+ for free on the Apple Podcasts app or at apple.co/hi...
When to Eat the Marshmallow
Think about the last time you resisted watching yet another episode of your favorite TV show, or decided not to have a second piece of cake at a friend's birthday party. In many societies, self-discipline is seen as an invaluable trait. But we often overlook what makes it possible to hold back in those moments of temptation. This week, psychologist Celeste Kidd offers a new way to think about self-control. Then, we talk with researcher Jaqueline Rifkin about how to find the right balance between indulgence and restraint.
Have you ever been torn about whether to pursue...
Between Two Worlds
Determination, hard work and sacrifice are core ingredients in the story of the American dream. But philosopher Jennifer Morton argues there is another, more painful requirement to getting ahead: a willingness to leave family and friends behind. This week, we revisit a favorite 2020 conversation about the ethical costs of upward mobility.
Make sure to listen to our episodes about the science of meditation, Seeking Serenity: Part 1 and Seeking Serenity: Part 2. And if you like Hidden Brain and want more of it, please join our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+!
Seeking Serenity: Part 2
In the second part of our series on the science of meditation, Richard Davidson continues his endeavor to unite seemingly opposite ways of understanding the mind. Plus, he shares the latest research on mindfulness, and the unexpected ways it can benefit us.
Missed the first episode in our series on meditation? You can find it here: Seeking Serenity: Part 1. And if you like Hidden Brain and want more of it, please join our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+!
Seeking Serenity: Part 1
In graduate school, neuroscientist Richard Davidson learned to use scientific tools as a way to examine the brain. At the same time, he also started studying under master meditators — who deeply contemplated their internal and external lives. This week, two ways of understanding the mind.
Success 2.0: Getting to the Top and Staying There
There are plenty of talented people in the world. So why do only a tiny percentage of us reach the highest peaks of achievement? This week, we conclude our "Success 2.0" series by talking with researcher Justin Berg about whether there's a secret recipe for finding — and sustaining — success.
Make sure to listen to the rest of our Success 2.0 episodes: Taking the Leap, Getting What You Want, The Obstacles You Don't See, and The Psychology of Self Doubt. And if you like Hidden Brain and want more of it, please join our new podcast subscription, Hidden Brain+!
Success 2.0: The Psychology of Self-Doubt
We all have times when we feel like a fraud. In the latest installment of our Success 2.0 series, we revisit a favorite 2021 conversation with psychologist Kevin Cokley. We'll explore the corrosive effects of self-doubt, and how we can turn that negative voice in our heads into an ally.
Be sure to check out the rest of our "Success 2.0" series, including last week's episode about how to remove the obstacles that can impede our success. And don't miss the trailer for Hidden Brain+, our new podcast subscription debuting May 25!
Success 2.0: The Obstacles You Don't See
Think about the last time you tried to bring up an idea at work, and it was shot down. What did you do? Most of us think the best way to win people over is to push harder. But organizational psychologist Loran Nordgren says a more effective approach is to focus on the invisible obstacles to new ideas. In this episode of our Success 2.0 series, we revisit a favorite 2021 interview about overcoming the obstacles that hold back innovation.
We all rely on incentives to get people to do things they might otherwise avoid. If you missed last we...
Introducing Hidden Brain+
Do you love the ideas we explore on Hidden Brain and want more of them? Then please join Hidden Brain+, our new podcast subscription. You’ll find new episodes not available anywhere else, plus the chance to have your questions answered by the researchers we feature on the show. Find Hidden Brain+ exclusively on the Apple Podcasts app beginning May 25. Thanks, and see you there! -Shankar
Success 2.0: Getting What You Want
We all rely on incentives to get people to do things they might otherwise avoid. Parents reward kids for doing their homework. Companies offer bonuses to their high-performing employees. Charities send gifts to their donors. In the second episode in our "Success 2.0" series, economist Uri Gneezy shares how incentives can help us to achieve our goals, if we know how to avoid their pitfalls.
American culture celebrates those who persevere in the face of adversity. But how do we know when to walk away from something that's no longer working? Economist John List says in every domain of...
Success 2.0: Taking the Leap
American culture celebrates those who persevere in the face of adversity. So how do we know when to walk away from something that's not working? Today, we kick off our new "Success 2.0" series with economist John List. He says in every domain of our lives, it's important to know when to pivot to something new.
Have you ever thought about helping a family member or friend in need, but then held back for some reason? You're hardly alone. If you want to understand why we sometimes hesitate to show we care, be sure to check out last wee...
A Secret Source of Connection
We all have moments in our lives when we see someone who could use a helping hand. It could be a friend who recently went through a breakup, an elderly person trying to load groceries into their car, or a stranger on the street who looks a little lost. We tell ourselves we should help, but then something stops us. This week, psychologist Amit Kumar helps us understand what keeps us from taking a moment to be kind, and how to overcome these barriers to create stronger, happier connections.
Have you ever had a moment when you b...
Remember More, Forget Less
It happens to the best of us — we blank on someone's name, or forget an important meeting, or bomb a test we thought we'd ace. Today on the show, we talk to cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham about the mysteries of memory: How it works, why it fails us, and how to build memories that stick.
It used to be that we tried our best to conceal disadvantages. But new research sheds a light on the strange phenomenon of people who pretend to be worse off than they really are. Check out our recent episode "Crying Wolf". And if yo...
It used to be that we tried our best to conceal disadvantages, hardships, and humiliations. But new research explores a curious shift: some people are flaunting limitations that don't exist. This week, we talk to psychologists Karl Aquino and Jillian Jordan about the strange phenomenon of wanting to seem worse off than we really are.
Think back to the last time you tried to win an argument. What could you have done to bolster your case? Check out our recent episode "Less is More" for helpful strategies. And if you like our work, please consider supporting it...
The Snowball Effect
Why do some companies become household names, while others flame out? How do certain memes go viral? And why do some social movements take off and spread, while others fizzle? Today on the show, we revisit a favorite 2021 conversation with sociologist Damon Centola, who studies social contagion and how it can be harnessed to build a better world.
Think back to the last time you tried to win an argument. What could you have done to bolster your case? Our recent episode "Less is More" has helpful strategies — you can find it here or in your podcast fe...
Less is More
At every stage of life, there are moments when we need buy-in from other people. Yet most of us make a fundamental error when we try to persuade others to see things our way. This week, we talk with Niro Sivanathan of the London Business School about how to make a convincing argument. Then, we learn about what happens to our brains and bodies when we're the recipients of information. Bryan McLaughlin of Texas Tech University shares why it's so hard, but so important, to unplug from the news.
Have you ever wondered where the concept of i...
How To Make Amends
When James and Donovan first met, they knew little about each other, except that Donovan had stolen James' bike. Donovan got caught, and spent a month in jail. It was a story with a happy ending, as far as James was concerned. But then he found out, nearly a decade later, what happened to Donovan after his conviction. This week on the show, we look at the unexpected aftermath of a crime, and what happens when adversaries meet in conversation instead of a courtroom.
Have you ever wondered whether you have beliefs that might be hidden from...
Made of Honor
Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse. This week, we revisit a favorite 2021 conversation with psychologist Ryan Brown, who explores the phenomenon of “honor culture” and how it dictates our beliefs and behaviors.
Did you catch our two-part series on implicit bias? You can find part one part one here and part two here. And if you'd like to make a financial contribution to support our work, you can do so here. Thanks!
Revealing Your Unconscious: Part 2
In the second part of our series on implicit bias, we explore the relationship between beliefs and behaviors. We also talk with psychologist Mahzarin Banaji about whether research on implicit bias tells us more about groups than it does about individuals.
To learn more:
Outsmarting Implicit Bias
How do your beliefs about the world shape your reality, and your well-being? Be sure to listen to our recent episode about primal world beliefs for insights on that question. And if you enjoy our work, please consider supporting it. Thanks!
Revealing Your Unconscious: Part 1
Would you consider yourself to be prejudiced against people who are different from you? Most of us would say no. But in the late 1990s, researchers created a test to measure biases that may be hidden from our conscious minds. Millions of people have taken it since, and not everyone likes what they've discovered. This week, we launch a two-part look at implicit bias with psychologist Mahzarin Banaji. We ask how is it that we can hold negative stereotypes — without being aware of them.
To learn more:
Outsmarting Implicit Bias
How Your Beliefs Shape Reality
As you move through the world, it's inevitable that your way of seeing things won't always align with the people around you. Maybe you disagree with the way your neighbor raises her kids, or find your brother's politics to be troubling. But you may not realize how much your core beliefs shape your perception of the world. This week, we talk with psychologist Jer Clifton about how our beliefs shape our reality — and how we can use this knowledge to live happier and more harmonious lives.
If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how yo...
Happiness 2.0: The Reset Button
Many of us rush through our lives, chasing goals and just trying to get everything done. But that can blind us to a very simple source of joy that's all around us. This week, in the final installment of our Happiness 2.0 series, psychologist Dacher Keltner describes what happens when we stop to savor the beauty in nature, art, or simply the moral courage of those around us.
Check out our previous episodes on happiness, including our conversations about chasing contentment and finding your purpose.
If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how y...
Happiness 2.0: Surprising Sources of Joy
Sometimes, life can feel like being stuck on a treadmill. No matter how hard you try to feel happier, you end up back where you started. What’s going on here? Today in our Happiness 2.0 series, we revisit a favorite episode from 2020. Researcher Elizabeth Dunn helps us map out the unexpected ways we can find joy and happiness in our everyday lives.
Check out our previous episodes on happiness, including our conversations about chasing contentment and finding your purpose.
If you like our work, please consider supporting it! See how you can help at support.hid...
Happiness 2.0: Cultivating Your Purpose
Having a sense of purpose can be a buffer against the challenges we all face at various stages of life. Purpose can also boost our health and longevity. In this favorite episode from 2021, Cornell University psychologist Anthony Burrow explains why purpose isn’t something to be found — it’s something we can develop from within.
Did you catch the kick-off episode to our Happiness 2.0 series? We talk with psychologist Iris Mauss about how to stop chasing happiness and build a lasting sense of contentment. And if you're enjoying this series, please consider supporting our work. Thanks!
Happiness 2.0: The Only Way Out Is Through
It's natural to want to run away from difficult emotions such as grief, anger and fear. But what happens when these feelings catch up with us? This week, in the second installment of our Happiness 2.0 series, psychologist Todd Kashdan looks at the relationship between distress and happiness, and how to keep difficult emotions from sabotaging our wellbeing.
Did you catch the first episode in our series on happiness? You can find last week's conversation on how to build a lasting sense of contentment here. And if you enjoy the show and would like to help us make mor...
Happiness 2.0: The Path to Contentment
Many of us believe that hard work and persistence are the key to achieving our goals. But is that true when it comes to the pursuit of happiness? This week, we kick off a month-long series we're calling Happiness 2.0. We talk with psychologist Iris Mauss, who explains why happiness can seem more elusive the harder we chase it, and what we can do instead to build a lasting sense of contentment.
Did you catch our two-part series on the science of influence? You can find part 1 here. And if you enjoy the show and would like to he...
When You Need It To Be True
When we want something very badly, it can be hard to see warning signs that might be obvious to other people. This week, we revisit a favorite episode from 2021, bringing you two stories about how easy it can be to believe in a false reality — even when the facts don’t back us up.
If you missed it, make sure to listen to last week's episode on how to turn a "no" into a "yes." And if you enjoy the show and would like to help us make more episodes of Hidden Brain, please consider supporting our work...
Persuasion: Part 2
Think back to the last time someone convinced you to do something you didn't want to do, or to spend money you didn't want to spend. What techniques did that person use to persuade you? This week, we continue our look at the science of influence with psychologist Robert Cialdini, and explore how these techniques can be used for both good and evil.
Did you listen to the first part of our episodes on influence? Don't miss last week's episode on how to turn a "no" into a "yes." And if you enjoy the show and would l...