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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.
  • Some challenges feel insurmountable. But psychologist Emily Balcetis says the solutions are often right in front of our eyes. This week, as part of our annual series on personal growth and reinvention, Emily explains how we can harness our sight to affect our behavior.
  • In the past few weeks, the nation has been gripped by protests against police brutality toward black and brown Americans. The enormous number of demonstrators may be new, but the biases they're protesting are not. In 2017, we looked at research on an alleged form of bias in the justice system. This week, we revisit that story, and explore how public perceptions of rap music may have played a role in the prosecution of a man named Olutosin Oduwole.
  • President Trump said this week that a few "bad apples" were to blame for police killings of black people. But research suggests that something more complicated is at play — a force that affects everyone in the culture, not just police officers. In this bonus episode, we revisit our 2017 look at implicit bias and how a culture of racism can infect us all.
  • In recent months, many of us have looked back with longing at our lives before COVID-19. For many of us, that world was one of bustle and activity — marked by scenes of packed restaurants, crowded subway cars, and chaotic playgrounds. In this audio essay, Shankar discusses our wistfulness for the world before the pandemic, and why such nostalgia can actually help to orient us toward the future.
  • We don't always behave the way economic models say we will. We don't save enough for retirement. We give money to charity. This week, why we act in ways that go against our "rational" self-interest.
  • In recent months, many of us have become familiar with the sense of fear expressing itself in our bodies. We may feel restless or physically exhausted. At times, we may even have trouble catching our breath. The deep connection between mind and body that seems so salient now was also at the center of our episode about the placebo effect. This week, we return to this 2019 story that asks what placebos might teach us about the nature of healing.
  • How might a pandemic affect racial prejudice? A new study finds that living in a region with higher infectious disease rates is linked to greater racial prejudice.