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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5:21am

Tue February 4, 2014
Research News

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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5:04am

Fri January 31, 2014
Research News

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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3:37am

Fri January 17, 2014
The Salt

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

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 1:39 pm

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

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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6:36am

Mon January 6, 2014
Research News

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

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 8:03 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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6:25am

Thu January 2, 2014
Research News

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.

3:20am

Mon November 11, 2013
Science

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

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 7:15 pm

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

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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3:58am

Thu October 31, 2013
The Salt

Why Are Kids Who Get Less Candy Happier On Halloween?

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 11:03 am

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

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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3:37am

Mon September 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Smart Teenage Brains May Get Some Extra Learning Time

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 11:04 am

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

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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3:22am

Fri September 20, 2013
The Salt

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

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 5:35 pm

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

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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3:30am

Mon September 9, 2013
All Tech Considered

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

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 1:12 pm

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

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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