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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3:01am

Tue July 8, 2014
Research News

Some Parole Requirements Could Be Increasing The Crime Rate

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 7:51 am

Prisoners who are released invariably make it back to the areas where they came from. Does this have a positive or negative effect on crime? Research triggered by Hurricane Katrina offers insight.

3:21am

Tue July 1, 2014
Research News

Safety Feature For Pedestrians Has Undesired Consequence

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 12:24 pm

New analysis finds that the countdown clocks telling pedestrians how much time they have to cross the intersection actually increase traffic crashes.

5:36am

Thu June 26, 2014
Research News

How To Sell Green Products To The Self-Regarding Consumer

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 7:40 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When consumers think about green products, they often face a dilemma - that car that uses less gasoline or a more efficient refrigerator tends to cost more. Buyers have to choose whether money is more important to them than public good. Now new research shows there might be a way to boost interest in these products, at least among a core group of consumers. NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam is here to talk with us about that. Hi Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi Steve.

INSKEEP: What consumers?

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5:00am

Fri June 20, 2014
Research News

6 Decades Of Research Examines Prisoners Of War

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 5:29 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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3:05pm

Fri May 30, 2014
Humans

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

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 5:07 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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3:22am

Wed May 21, 2014
Research News

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

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 7:29 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.

4:36am

Mon May 19, 2014
Research News

Why Reporting On Scientific Research May Warp Findings

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 5:46 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Next we're going to report on scientific research, in particular on the way that reporting on scientific research might actually warp the findings. Scientists face pressure to publish new discoveries, which in turn might influence what they study, and that, of course, is not necessarily a good thing. There's work being published today that's part of an effort to fix this problem. NPR's Shankar Vendantam joined our colleague, Steve Inskeep, to talk about it.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Shankar, welcome back.

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3:09am

Fri March 21, 2014
Research News

Does Diversity On Research Team Improve Quality Of Science?

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:45 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.

2:57am

Mon March 10, 2014
Research News

Military Conflict Decisions: Why Weakness Leads To Aggression

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:59 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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2:35pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Law

Minority Aspirants To Federal Bench Are Hindered By Underrating

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:08 am

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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1:37am

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 11:39 am

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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1:20am

Mon November 11, 2013
Science

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

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 5:15 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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1:58am

Thu October 31, 2013
The Salt

Why Are Kids Who Get Less Candy Happier On Halloween?

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 9:03 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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3:12am

Fri October 25, 2013
NPR Story

Why We Care More About Losses Than Gains

Originally published on Fri October 25, 2013 4:43 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.

1:37am

Mon September 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Smart Teenage Brains May Get Some Extra Learning Time

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 9:04 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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1:22am

Fri September 20, 2013
The Salt

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

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 3:35 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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1:30am

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 11:12 am

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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1:06am

Fri August 30, 2013
Shots - Health News

Money May Be Motivating Doctors To Do More C-Sections

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 6:57 am

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

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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12:03am

Tue August 20, 2013
Music News

How To Win That Music Competition? Send A Video

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 3:13 am

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

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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1:03am

Fri August 9, 2013
All Tech Considered

Why Aren't More Girls Attracted To Physics?

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 7:05 pm

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

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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