Alix Spiegel

Alix Spiegel has worked on NPR's Science Desk for ten years covering psychology and human behavior, and has reported on everything from what it's like to kill another person, to the psychology behind our use of function words like "and", "I", and "so." She began her career in 1995 as one of the founding producers of the public radio program This American Life. While there, Spiegel produced her first psychology story, which ultimately led to her focus on human behavior. It was a piece called 81 Words, and it examined the history behind the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In January 2015, Spiegel joins NPR Science Reporter Lulu Miller to co-host Invisibilia, a new series from NPR about the unseen forces that control human behavior – our ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and thoughts. Invisibilia interweaves personal stories with fascinating psychological and brain science, in a way that ultimately makes you see your own life differently. Excerpts of the show will be featured on the NPR News programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The program will also be available as a podcast.

Over the course of her career in public radio, Spiegel has won many awards including a George Foster Peabody Award, a Livingston Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Spiegel graduated from Oberlin College. Her work on human behavior has also appeared in The New Yorker magazine and The New York Times.

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3:23am

Fri January 16, 2015
Shots - Health News

By Making A Game Out Of Rejection, A Man Conquers Fear

Originally published on Tue January 20, 2015 7:56 am

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Fear is one of the strongest and most basic of human emotions, and it's the focus of Fearless, the second episode of Invisibilia, NPR's new show on the invisible forces that shape human behavior.

This segment of the show explores how a man decided to conquer his fear of rejection by getting rejected every day — on purpose.

The evolution of Jason Comely, a freelance IT guy from Cambridge, Ontario, began one sad night several years ago.

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3:33am

Mon January 5, 2015
Shots - Health News

What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 4:15 pm

U.S. soldiers at Long Binh base in South Vietnam line up to give urine samples at a heroin detection center before departing for the United States. About 20 percent of soldiers said they were addicts, but most didn't continue drug use back home.
AP

It's a tradition as old as New Year's: making resolutions. We will not smoke, or sojourn with the bucket of mint chocolate chip. In fact, we will resist sweets generally, including the bowl of M&M's that our co-worker has helpfully positioned on the aisle corner of his desk. There will be exercise, and the learning of a new language.

It is resolved.

So what does science know about translating our resolve into actual changes in behavior? The answer to this question brings us — strangely enough — to a story about heroin use in Vietnam.

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3:17am

Mon September 1, 2014
Shots - Health News

Our Use Of Little Words Can, Uh, Reveal Hidden Interests

Originally published on Sun October 5, 2014 9:50 pm

Katherine Streeter for NPR

One Friday night, 30 men and 30 women gathered at a hotel restaurant in Washington, D.C. Their goal was love, or maybe sex, or maybe some combination of the two. They were there for speed dating.

The women sat at separate numbered tables while the men moved down the line, and for two solid hours they did a rotation, making small talk with people they did not know, one after another, in three-minute increments.

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4:07pm

Mon July 7, 2014
Shots - Health News

The Secret History Behind The Science Of Stress

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 3:47 pm

Camel marketed smoke breaks at work as time spent relaxing instead of stressing. Camel, 1964.
Stanford University

The modern idea of stress began on a rooftop in Canada, with a handful of rats freezing in the winter wind.

This was 1936 and by that point the owner of the rats, an endocrinologist named Hans Selye, had become expert at making rats suffer for science.

"He would subject them to extreme temperatures, make them go hungry for long periods, or make them exercise a lot," the medical historian Mark Jackson says. "Then what he would do is kill the rats and look at their organs."

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3:27am

Mon June 23, 2014
Shots - Health News

How A Woman's Plan To Kill Herself Helped Her Family Grieve

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 5:06 pm

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

This story is in no way an endorsement of suicide. It's a description of one woman's choice and what came of it.

Five years ago, after doctors told her that she had Alzheimer's disease that would eventually steal her ability to read, write and recognize people, Sandy Bem decided to kill herself.

Sandy was 65 years old, an unsentimental woman and strong willed. For her, a life without books and the ability to recognize the people she loved wasn't a life she wanted.

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3:22am

Mon April 14, 2014
Shots - Health News

Mind Over Milkshake: How Your Thoughts Fool Your Stomach

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 2:58 pm

Bianca Giaever for NPR

It was late, almost 9 at night, when Justin Holden pulled the icy pizza box from the refrigerator at the Brookville Supermarket in Washington, D.C.

He stood in front of the open door, scanning the nutrition facts label.

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6:22pm

Mon April 7, 2014
Shots - Health News

Play It Again And Again, Sam

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 8:57 am

Rick Blaine, the sentimental tough guy in Casablanca, pined for "As Time Goes By."
The Kobal Collection

3:55am

Wed April 2, 2014
Parallels

So You Think You're Smarter Than A CIA Agent

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 1:04 pm

A group of 3,000 ordinary citizens, armed with nothing more than an Internet connection, is often making better forecasts of global events than CIA analysts. Here, a man crosses the CIA logo at its headquarters in Langley, Va.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

The morning I met Elaine Rich, she was sitting at the kitchen table of her small town home in suburban Maryland trying to estimate refugee flows in Syria.

It wasn't the only question she was considering; there were others:

Will North Korea launch a new multistage missile before May 10, 2014?

Will Russian armed forces enter Kharkiv, Ukraine, by May 10? Rich's answers to these questions would eventually be evaluated by the intelligence community, but she didn't feel much pressure because this wasn't her full-time gig.

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3:28am

Thu February 27, 2014
Your Health

Good Art Is Popular Because It's Good. Right?

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:47 pm

What makes the Mona Lisa — or any piece of art — successful?
Sergio Velayosf Flickr

In July of last year, a man named Sidney Sealine went to see the Mona Lisa in Paris.

The idea was to spend some time with the picture, see for himself the special spark that made the painting so famous.

But Sealine couldn't even get close.

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4:21pm

Fri December 27, 2013
Shots - Health News

When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison The Present

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:08 am

Having a perfect memory can put a strain on relationships, because every slight is remembered.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

On Feb. 21, Alexandra Wolff ate steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner. Later that night, sitting in her room, she spent 20 minutes scanning pictures in InStyle magazine.

She remembers those things, just as she remembers that on Aug. 2 she stopped at Target and bought Raisin Bran; and on April 17 she wore a white button-down shirt; and on Oct. 2 she went to TGI Fridays and spoke to the hostess, who was wearing black leather flats with small bows on them.

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