Shankar Vedantam

Stories

  • 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.
    Hidden Brain

    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.

  • Hidden Brain

    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.

  • Hidden Brain

    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.
    Hidden Brain

    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.

  • Hidden Brain

    How Science Spreads: Smallpox, Stomach Ulcers, And 'The Vegetable Lamb Of Tartary'

    We like to think that science evolves in a way that is...rational. But this isn't always the case. This week, we look at how information and misinformation spread in the world of science, and why evidence is often not enough to convince others of the truth. We talk with philosopher and mathematician Cailin O'Connor. For more information about this episode, please visit https://n.pr/2FO4SEW

  • Sophie Scott studies the neuroscience of voices, speech, and laughter at University College London.
    Hidden Brain

    The Best Medicine: Decoding The Hidden Meanings Of Laughter

    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. You can find more about the research discussed in this episode here: https://n.pr/2RORlDs

  • Stacya Shepard thought she knew her dad. But that changed one day with a phone call from a stranger.
    Hidden Brain

    The Cowboy Philosopher: A Tale Of Obsession, Scams, And Family

    In 2009, an old man died in a California nursing home. His obituary included not just his given name, but a long list of the pseudonyms he'd been known to use. In this episode, we trace the life of Riley Shepard, a hillbilly musician, writer, small-time con man and, perhaps, a genius.

  • "Compassion is contagious," Professor Scott Plous says. "We talk about paying it forward; the idea that if you do something good for another person [...] it sets off a kind of chain reaction."
    Hidden Brain

    The Science of Compassion

    The adage "be kind to others" is simple enough that even young children can understand it. But that doesn't mean adults always remember the importance of being kind or understand how compassion might affect them. This week, we look at the science of compassion, and why doing good things for others can make a big difference in your own life.