Shankar Vedantam

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump has often accused the news media of not covering terrorist attacks adequately. In a speech in February he said, "Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino [...] It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

On a September evening in 2016, Terence Crutcher's SUV stopped in the middle of a road in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A woman saw him step out of his car. The doors of the car were open and the engine was still running. The woman called 911. Officer Betty Shelby was on her way to an unrelated incident when the call came in.

Unfortunately, the way this night ended has become all too familiar. An unarmed black man was shot by a cop.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In 1969, Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist from Stanford University, ran an interesting field study. He abandoned two cars in two very different places: one in a mostly poor, crime-ridden section of New York City, and the other in a fairly affluent neighborhood of Palo Alto, Calif. Both cars were left without license plates and parked with their hoods up.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's normal to feel drawn to people you share something with — whether that's a name, or a birthday, or a shared profession or background.

But Brett Pelham finds this preference for things and people associated with us goes far beyond what we might expect. He calls this phenomenon Implicit Egotism.

The Greek poet Archilochus wrote, "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

There are many different interpretations of this parable, but psychologist Phil Tetlock argues it's a way of understanding two cognitive styles: Foxes have different strategies for different problems. They are comfortable with nuance, they can live with contradictions. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, focus on the big picture. They reduce every problem to one organizing principle.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Magic.

That's what it feels like when you bump into your childhood friend on the first day of college ... or meet someone at a party in Paris, only to discover she lives in your dad's childhood home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. But mathematician Joseph Mazur says these coincidences are not as extraordinary as we might think.

"People think that their address book is essentially the people they know, and it turns out any address book is about one percent of the people they know in some way," Mazur explains.

When we have a question about something embarrassing or deeply personal, many of us don't turn to a parent or a friend, but to our computers: We ask Google our questions.

As millions of us look for answers to questions, or things to buy, or places to meet friends, our searches produce a map of our collective hopes, fears, and desires.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Americans have long expressed their political views with their wallets, but in recent months, this phenomenon has made national news. A campaign called #grabyourwallet has targeted brands affiliated with Donald Trump.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Have you ever looked at a friend's posts on Facebook or Instagram and wondered what's really going on in that person's life? Is it really all delicious meals and adorable kids and fabulous trips overseas, or is there more happening beneath the surface?

For a long time, Rachel Leonard felt pressure to post only positive news about her life. Even photos of the view from her front porch were carefully edited before she shared them.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When she goes to sleep at night, Alison MacAdam curls up with Baba, her soft, threadbare baby blanket. It's a bedtime ritual Alison has embraced for 40 years.

Alison is an editor at NPR, and when she told us about Baba we thought it was a little strange. Why would a successful, self-confident woman sleep with a blankie? But then, as we listened to her talk about it, we wondered if maybe it wasn't that strange at all. What's wrong with finding comfort in something soft and familiar?

Imagine a concrete room, not much bigger than a parking space. No window. You're in there 23 hours a day, 7 days a week; you don't know when you'll get out of this room. A month? A year? A decade?

Our minds don't do well with that kind of solitude and uncertainty.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When we think about dishonesty, we mostly think about the big stuff.

We see big scandals, big lies, and we think to ourselves, I could never do that. We think we're fundamentally different from Bernie Madoff or Tiger Woods.

But behind big lies are a series of small deceptions. Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, writes about this in his book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.

Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?

Two researchers have dubbed this phenomenon scarcity, and they say it touches on many aspects of our lives.

"It leads you to take certain behaviors that in the short term help you to manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse," says Sendhil Mullaianathan, an economics professor at Harvard University.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. We've been hearing a lot about the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Let's turn now to NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam to talk about some research that gives us a new data point in this conversation.

Hey, Shankar.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The fight was over a pair of gym shoes. One teenager faces years in prison. The other — the 15-year-old grandson of Congressman Danny Davis — is dead.

We often hear stories about murders sparked by trivial disputes. And we also hear the same solutions proposed year after year: harsher punishments, more gun control.

But what if science can help us find new solutions? Can understanding how we make decisions help us prevent these tragedies?

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Few topics send the media into a panic like the idea of hookup culture on college campuses. But are college students actually having more sex than their parents did a generation ago? Research suggests the answer is no.

Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College, says something has changed, though: In today's hookup culture, developing an emotional attachment to a casual sex partner is one of the biggest breaches of social norms.

This week, we're returning to our archives to grapple with the troubling history of medical experimentation on African Americans and how that history connects to the unequal medical care African Americans still receive today.

Pages