Shankar Vedantam

Shankar Vedantam is a science correspondent for NPR. The focus of his reporting is on human behavior and the social sciences, and how research in those fields can get listeners to think about the news in unusual and interesting ways.

Before joining NPR in 2011, Vedantam 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 writes an occasional column for Slate called "Hidden Brain."

Throughout his career, Vedantam has been recognized with many journalism honors including awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, and the American Public Health Association.

In 2009-2010, Vedantam served as a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He participated in the 2005 Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship on Science and Religion, the 2003-2004 World Health Organization Journalism Fellowship, and the 2002-2003 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship.

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.

Outside of journalism, Vedantam has written fiction and plays. His short story-collection, The Ghosts of Kashmir, was published in 2005. The previous year, the Brick Playhouse in Philadelphia produced his full-length, comedy play, Tom, Dick and Harriet.

Vedantam has served as a lecturer at many academic institutions including Harvard University and Columbia University. In 2010, he completed a two year-term as a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. Since 2006, he has served on the advisory board of the Templeton-Cambridge Fellowships in Science & Religion.

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Research News
3:57 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Military Conflict Decisions: Why Weakness Leads To Aggression

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 8:59 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

From Syria to Afghanistan, to Russia and Ukraine, the United States finds itself confronting some major foreign policy challenges. There are old rivalries and new one testing the limits of the United States.

NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam regularly joins us to talk about matters related to individual and organizational behavior, but today, he's found some new research that's relevant to the way we think about foreign conflicts and he's in our studios. Shankar, welcome back.

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Law
3:20 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Minority Aspirants To Federal Bench Are Hindered By Underrating

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 11:08 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. When a president taps someone to become a federal judge, the American Bar Association reviews and rates the nominee. That rating shapes whether the president's pick is confirmed by the Senate. Now, new analysis claims that the ABA ratings are biased. NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam reports.

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Research News
5:43 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Why We Miss Creative Ideas That Are Right Under Our Noses

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 6:43 am

In crowdsourcing, a big challenge is not with coming up with creative ideas, but identifying creative ideas. A bias makes us bad at spotting creative ideas when they come from those working around us.

Research News
4:21 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Political Map: Does Geography Shape Your Ideology?

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:12 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The political map of America changes, but it doesn't change very quickly. Massachusetts was a reliably liberal state decades ago and still is. The South is still the South. This raises the question of why it is that certain areas come to be reliably liberal or conservative.

NPR Shankar Vedantam joins us to discuss some research that explores the question. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's the research?

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Research News
4:04 am
Fri January 31, 2014

What's The Problem With Feeling On Top Of The World?

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 6:58 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's turn to a thought experiment. Imagine you're riding one of those glass elevators that takes you to the top of a skyscraper. You go higher and higher. The view gets better. The cars on the ground, the people down there look puny like ants. Researchers say if you imagine this, it can make you feel unaccountably better about yourself. It briefly raises your self esteem. But researchers also say this feeling can be bad for you.

NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam is here to explain why. Hi, Shankar.

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The Salt
2:37 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Cash Or Credit? How Kids Pay For School Lunch Matters For Health

Lunch at the West Salem School District in Wisconsin.
Michelle Kloser for NPR

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 12:39 pm

American kids have a problem with obesity, according to the most recent studies. In fact, the closest thing we have to good news about childhood obesity is that kids are not gaining weight as rapidly as they were some years ago.

Researchers may have identified one surprising new factor in why kids are overeating.

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Research News
5:36 am
Mon January 6, 2014

'Save To Win' Makes Saving As Much Fun As Gambling

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:03 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As far as New Year's resolutions go, saving more money is often a popular one. Actually being able to do that - well, we know how that story usually ends. But researchers may have come up with a winning method. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, we are all ears.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Carolann Broekhuizen is a retired life insurance claims examiner. She lives in Waterford, Michigan. Whenever she has a little extra money, there are some things she likes to do.

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Science
2:20 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Lessons In Leadership: It's Not About You. (It's About Them)

Ronald Heifetz draws on his training as a psychiatrist to coach aspiring leaders at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 6:15 pm

Ronald Heifetz has been a professor of public leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School for three decades, teaching classes that have included aspiring business leaders and budding heads of state. Each year, he says, the students start his course thinking they'll learn the answer to one question:

As leaders, how can they get others to follow them?

Heifetz says that whole approach is wrong.

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The Salt
2:58 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Why Are Kids Who Get Less Candy Happier On Halloween?

Kids might be more satisfied if they get one good treat instead of one good treat and one lesser treat.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 10:03 am

What makes trick-or-treaters happy is candy. And more candy is better, right?

Well, it turns out that might not actually be the case. A few years ago researchers did a study on Halloween night where some trick-or-treaters were given a candy bar, and others were given the candy bar and a piece of bubble gum.

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NPR Story
4:37 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Why We Care More About Losses Than Gains

Originally published on Fri October 25, 2013 5:43 am

People care more about losing a dollar than gaining a dollar. This ideal, known as loss aversion, has national consequences, too, according to new research. David Greene discusses the phenomenon with NPR's Shankar Vedantam.

Shots - Health News
2:37 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Smart Teenage Brains May Get Some Extra Learning Time

When it comes to nature versus nurture, brain scientists think both matter.
Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 10:04 am

John Hewitt is a neuroscientist who studies the biology of intelligence. He's also a parent. Over the years, Hewitt has periodically drawn upon his scientific knowledge in making parenting decisions.

"I'm a father of four children myself and I never worried too much about the environments that I was providing for my children because I thought, well, it would all work out in the end anyway — aren't the genes especially powerful?" Hewitt says.

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The Salt
2:22 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Diet Of Defeat: Why Football Fans Mourn With High-Fat Food

Football fans ate fattier meals the day after their teams lost a game, a study found.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 4:35 pm

Backing a losing NFL team isn't just bad for your pride.

It's bad for your waistline.

A study that links sports outcomes with the eating behavior of fans finds that backers of NFL teams eat more food and fattier food the day after a loss. Backers of winning teams, by contrast, eat lighter food, and in moderation.

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All Tech Considered
2:30 am
Mon September 9, 2013

It's OK To Protest In China, Just Don't March

Security guards stand outside newspaper offices in Guangdong province in January, where banners and flowers were laid in protest of censorship.
AP

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 12:12 pm

Thousands of messages posted on the Internet every day in China get censored. Until now, little has been known about how the Chinese censorship machine works — except that it is comprehensive.

"It probably is the largest effort ever to selectively censor human expression," says Harvard University social scientist Gary King. "They don't censor everything. There are millions of Chinese [who] talk about millions of things. But the effort to prune the Internet of certain kinds of information is unprecedented."

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Shots - Health News
2:06 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Money May Be Motivating Doctors To Do More C-Sections

Pregnant doctors are less likely than other women to deliver their babies via C-section, recent research suggests. Economists say that may be because the physician patients feel more empowered to question the obstetrician.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 7:57 am

Obstetricians perform more cesarean sections when there are financial incentives to do so, according to a new study that explores links between economic incentives and medical decision-making during childbirth.

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Music News
1:03 am
Tue August 20, 2013

How To Win That Music Competition? Send A Video

If someone like Lang Lang were starting out now, the energetic concert pianist could nail every piano competition without the judges ever hearing a note, according to a new study.
China Photos Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 4:13 am

Chia-Jung Tsay was something of a piano prodigy. By age 12, she was performing Mendelssohn in concert. At 16, she made her debut at Carnegie Hall. Soon, she was on her way to some of the best music schools in the country — Juilliard and the Peabody Conservatory. And she was throwing her hat in the ring for different competitions.

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