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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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
5:37 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.

Shots - Health News
3:37 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 11:04 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
3:22 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 5:35 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
3:30 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 1:12 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
3:06 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 8:57 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
2:03 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 5:13 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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All Tech Considered
3:03 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Why Aren't More Girls Attracted To Physics?

Girls are more likely to take high school physics if they see women in their communities working in science, technology, engineering and math, a new study finds.
Dominik Pabis iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 9:05 pm

You don't need to be a social scientist to know there is a gender diversity problem in technology. The tech industry in Silicon Valley and across the nation is overwhelmingly male-dominated.

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Code Switch
3:04 am
Wed July 24, 2013

Being In The Minority Can Cost You And Your Company

Originally published on Wed July 24, 2013 11:59 am

The racial wage gap in the United States — the gap in salary between whites and blacks with similar levels of education and experience — is shaped by geography, according to new social science research.

The larger the city, the larger the racial wage gap, according to researchers Elizabeth Ananat, Shihe Fu and Stephen L. Ross, whose findings were recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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Code Switch
3:26 am
Fri July 19, 2013

How To Fight Racial Bias When It's Silent And Subtle

Researchers say it may be possible to temporarily reduce racial biases.
Images.com Corbis

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 8:00 pm

In the popular imagination and in conventional discourse — especially in the context of highly charged news events such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin — prejudice is all about hatred and animosity.

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Shots - Health News
3:00 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Gloomy Thinking Can Be Contagious

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 10:59 am

When students show up at college in the fall, they'll have to deal with new classes, new friends and a new environment. In many cases, they will also have new roommates — and an intriguing new research study suggests this can have important mental health consequences.

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Research News
3:00 am
Thu June 20, 2013

What Makes Rituals Special? Join Us For A Google+ Conversation

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 12:30 pm

Click play on the video player above to watch my Google+ conversation with Harvard behavioral scientist Francesca Gino and Slate's Human Nature correspondent William Saletan about the role of ritual in human life.

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Health
3:03 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Bans Of Same-Sex Marriage Can Take A Psychological Toll

Opponents of same-sex marriage participate in the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on March 26, as the Supreme Court hears arguments on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 9:25 am

As the country awaits two important Supreme Court decisions involving state laws on same-sex marriage, a small but consistent body of research suggests that laws that ban gay marriage — or approve it — can affect the mental health of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.

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Research News
5:04 am
Fri May 10, 2013

What Does 'Sexual Coercion' Say About A Society?

One contemporary analysis links the increase in gender equality in a society with increased sexual empowerment of women and less sexual coercion. But there's more to it than that.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 11:46 am

Anthropologists, sociologists and biologists have explored over several decades many factors that shape the likelihood of sexual coercion of women by men.

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Shots - Health News
3:40 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Young Girls May Get More 'Teaching Time' From Parents Than Boys Do

Of Blocks And Books: Parents may be more likely to take a young daughter to the library than a son, and to read to the girl for longer periods of time, a new analysis suggests.
Hulton Archive iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 12:27 pm

For some years now, teachers and parents have noted something about boys and girls. Starting in elementary school, young girls often score better on reading and math tests than young boys do.

The differences are uneven on different tests and do not describe the experience of every child, but empirical studies do document a difference.

Now, two economists are proposing a partial explanation for the disparity that might give some parents heartburn.

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