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
7:00 am
Fri June 20, 2014

6 Decades Of Research Examines Prisoners Of War

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:29 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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Research News
5:21 am
Wed June 4, 2014

More Americans Than You Might Think Believe In Conspiracy Theories

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 1:02 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, drops by with juicy new research. He's here with us again. Shankar, what's on your mind?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: I want to talk about conspiracy theories today, David. And this is everything from whether the U.S. government was secretly behind the 9/11 attacks to whether President Obama was actually born in the United States. What proportion of the U.S population would you say subscribes to one of these theories?

GREENE: Ten, 15 percent, maybe? I don't know.

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Research News
5:31 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Research: Americans Less Fearful Of Storms With Female Names

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 10:02 am

A new analysis suggests unconscious sexism causes people to take hurricanes with female names less seriously than hurricanes with male names.

Humans
4:50 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

What's In A Grunt — Or A Sigh, Or A Sob? Depends On Where You Hear It

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 7:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Hear a laugh, you know someone's happy. Hear a sob, you know someone is sad. Or are they? It's been thought that no matter where you live in the world, people express emotions using the same repertoire of sounds. But NPR's social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, reports on new research on how emotions are expressed and understood around the globe.

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Research News
6:40 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Research: Children Of Judges May Influence Court Decisions

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 12:57 pm

It's been suspected that judges are swayed by their personal beliefs and affiliations. An analysis found that judges become more likely to rule in "pro-feminist" ways if the judges have daughters.

Research News
5:22 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Mating Rituals: Why Certain Risky Behaviors Can Make You Look Hot

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 9:29 am

Social science research suggests risky behavior such as braving heights or swimming in deep waters increases your sex appeal. Driving without a seat belt? Not so much.

Research News
6:36 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Why Reporting On Scientific Research May Warp Findings

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 7:46 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Research News
5:20 am
Tue May 13, 2014

More Parental Attention May Give First-Born Kids Advantages

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 10:00 am

Firstborn kids often do better in school and, on average, go on to earn more money than their younger siblings. A new theory tries to explain why.

Research News
4:56 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Evidence Of Racial, Gender Biases Found In Faculty Mentoring

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 12:34 pm

Research found faculty in academic departments linked to more lucrative professions are more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty in fields linked to less lucrative jobs.

Research News
5:04 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Air Force Academy Squadrons Test Peer-Effect Assumptions

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 7:39 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Parents and educators have long assumed that peers matter. If you are at a high school or college where you are surrounded by serious students, you're more likely to take your studies seriously. If your friends are party animals, you're more likely to want to party, too.

NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who joins us regularly on this program, recently heard about an unusual social engineering experiment that tried to apply what's known about peer effects to the real world.

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Research News
5:43 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Does Diversity On Research Team Improve Quality Of Science?

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 7:45 am

As science becomes more diverse, scientific collaborators are growing more diverse, too. New research exploring the effect of this change suggests the diversity of the teams that produce scientific research play a big role in how successful the science turns out to be.

Research News
4:57 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Military Conflict Decisions: Why Weakness Leads To Aggression

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 9:59 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
4:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Minority Aspirants To Federal Bench Are Hindered By Underrating

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

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
5:21 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Political Map: Does Geography Shape Your Ideology?

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 8:12 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
5:04 am
Fri January 31, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 7:58 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
3:31 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 1:39 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
6:25 am
Thu January 2, 2014

How Scarcity Trap Affects Our Thinking, Behavior

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 7:52 am

A Harvard economist finds there are psychological connections between the bad financial planning of many poor people and the poor time management of busy professionals. In both cases, he finds the experience of scarcity causes biases in the mind that exacerbate problems.

Science
3:20 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 7:15 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
3:58 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 11:03 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
5:29 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Why We Care More About Losses Than Gains

Originally published on Fri October 25, 2013 6:43 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.

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