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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Research News
6:04 am
Wed February 4, 2015

The Psychology Behind Why Some Kids Go Unvaccinated

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 7:40 am

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Research News
5:03 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Why NFL Teams Should Reconsider Giving Coaches The Heave-Ho

Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 8:14 am

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Race
5:05 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Why Our Feelings Toward Some African-Americans Change On MLK Day

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 7:48 am

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Research News
5:06 am
Tue January 6, 2015

The Downside Of Cheaper Gas: More Accident Fatalities

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 3:57 pm

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Believe it or not, there is a downside to cheap gas, even for consumers. There's a way low prices can end up being very costly. To explain, NPR's Shankar Vedantam talked to our own David Greene.

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Research News
5:06 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Invasive Surgery May Motivate Patients To Adopt Healthier Behaviors

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 8:24 am

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Research News
5:07 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Study Shows Long-Term Benefits Of Welfare Program

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 1:12 pm

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Goats and Soda
3:30 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need — But Not Millions

Saah Exco was found alone on a beach in Liberia's West Point slum, naked and abandoned and likely an Ebola victim.Research suggests the story of one needy individual motivates charitable donors more than statistics about millions of sufferers.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 4:14 pm

Why do people sometimes give generously to a cause — and other times give nothing at all?

That's a timely question, because humanitarian groups fighting the Ebola outbreak need donations from people in rich countries. But some groups say they're getting less money than they'd expect from donors despite all the news.

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Research News
4:36 am
Mon October 27, 2014

Fear Of Blowing Big Calls May Affect How Umpires Do Their Jobs

Originally published on Mon October 27, 2014 7:32 am

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Code Switch
3:19 am
Mon October 13, 2014

What's In A Name? It Could Matter If You're Writing To Your Lawmaker

And so continues Code Switch's battle with illustrating studies about the subtle biases that inflict our email outboxes.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon October 13, 2014 9:42 am

In recent years, social scientists have tried to find out whether important decisions are shaped by subtle biases. They've studied recruiters as they decide whom to hire. They've studied teachers, deciding which students to help at school. And they've studied doctors, figuring out what treatments to give patients. Now, researchers have trained their attention on a new group of influential people — state legislators.

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Research News
5:05 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Why Some Federal Agencies Panic This Time Of Year

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 1:31 pm

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Research News
5:57 am
Fri September 19, 2014

The Poor Don't Always Benefit From Democracy, Mortality Rates Show

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 7:57 am

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Research News
5:02 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Parking Behavior May Reflect Economic Drive

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 7:15 am

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Shots - Health News
5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Why We Think Ignorance Is Bliss, Even When It Hurts Our Health

Lucinda Schreiber for NPR

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 1:52 pm

Medical tests are rarely a pleasant experience, especially if you're worried that something could be seriously wrong. That's true even though we know that regular screenings and tests often help doctors catch issues early.

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NPR Story
6:13 am
Thu July 24, 2014

As Millions Of People Fast For Ramadan, Does The Economy Suffer?

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 7:39 am

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Shots - Health News
3:30 am
Tue July 15, 2014

When Work Becomes A Haven From Stress At Home

Lucinda Schreiber for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 11:13 am

In the land that came up with the phrase "Thank God it's Friday," and a restaurant chain to capitalize on the sense of relief many feel as the work week ends, researchers made an unusual finding in 2012.

Moms who worked full time reported significantly better physical and mental health than moms who worked part time, research involving more than 2,500 mothers found. And mothers who worked part time reported better health than moms who didn't work at all.

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Research News
5:01 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Some Parole Requirements Could Be Increasing The Crime Rate

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 9:51 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.

Research News
5:21 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Safety Feature For Pedestrians Has Undesired Consequence

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 2:24 pm

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

Research News
7:36 am
Thu June 26, 2014

How To Sell Green Products To The Self-Regarding Consumer

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 9:40 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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Research News
7:00 am
Fri June 20, 2014

6 Decades Of Research Examines Prisoners Of War

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:29 am

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Research News
5:21 am
Wed June 4, 2014

More Americans Than You Might Think Believe In Conspiracy Theories

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 1:02 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, drops by with juicy new research. He's here with us again. Shankar, what's on your mind?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: I want to talk about conspiracy theories today, David. And this is everything from whether the U.S. government was secretly behind the 9/11 attacks to whether President Obama was actually born in the United States. What proportion of the U.S population would you say subscribes to one of these theories?

GREENE: Ten, 15 percent, maybe? I don't know.

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Research News
5:31 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Research: Americans Less Fearful Of Storms With Female Names

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 10:02 am

A new analysis suggests unconscious sexism causes people to take hurricanes with female names less seriously than hurricanes with male names.

Humans
4:50 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 7:07 pm

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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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Research News
6:40 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Research: Children Of Judges May Influence Court Decisions

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 12:57 pm

It's been suspected that judges are swayed by their personal beliefs and affiliations. An analysis found that judges become more likely to rule in "pro-feminist" ways if the judges have daughters.

Research News
5:22 am
Wed May 21, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 9:29 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.

Research News
6:36 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Why Reporting On Scientific Research May Warp Findings

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 7:46 am

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Research News
7:41 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Study: Time Away Can Hurt Surgeons' Job Performance

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 7:58 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story begins with an old saying among musicians: If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days of practice, the audience will notice. A study found evidence that saying applies to surgeons, and lives may be at stake.

NPR's Shankar Vedantam has been looking at the results of that study. He's in our studios. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was the research?

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Research News
4:56 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Evidence Of Racial, Gender Biases Found In Faculty Mentoring

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 12:34 pm

Research found faculty in academic departments linked to more lucrative professions are more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty in fields linked to less lucrative jobs.

Research News
5:04 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Air Force Academy Squadrons Test Peer-Effect Assumptions

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 7:39 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Parents and educators have long assumed that peers matter. If you are at a high school or college where you are surrounded by serious students, you're more likely to take your studies seriously. If your friends are party animals, you're more likely to want to party, too.

NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who joins us regularly on this program, recently heard about an unusual social engineering experiment that tried to apply what's known about peer effects to the real world.

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Research News
4:57 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Military Conflict Decisions: Why Weakness Leads To Aggression

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 9:59 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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Research News
6:08 am
Tue March 4, 2014

When It Comes To Vaccines, Science Can Run Into A Brick Wall

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 8:04 am

The public health community has been trying for years to debunk the spurious connection people have been making between vaccines and autism. Have the messages been backfiring?

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