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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Science
4:10 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

'Stand Your Ground' Linked To Increase In Homicides

George Zimmerman (left) and his attorney appear in court for a bond hearing in June. Zimmerman's case sparked a nationwide debate about so-called "stand your ground" laws.
Joe Burbank AP

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 9:54 am

If a stranger attacks you inside your own home, the law has always permitted you to defend yourself. On the other hand, if an altercation breaks out in public, the law requires you to try to retreat. At least, that's what it used to do.

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Shots - Health News
2:46 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Can Skinny Models Undermine Your Dieting Goals?

Posting a picture like this on the fridge might seem like good motivation for weight loss. But scientists say it might instead inspire weight gain.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 10:16 am

The millions of Americans who make New Year's resolutions to lose weight often have pictures in mind.

They're pictures that have been repeatedly supplied by the health and beauty magazines at supermarket checkout lines. They feature skinny models in bikinis, or toned guys with six-pack abs, and captions about how you could look like this by summer.

Some people go so far as to tape these pictures onto their refrigerators and cupboards. When they're tempted to reach for a cookie, they reason, the sight of that toned model might dissuade them from breaking their resolutions.

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Research News
2:52 am
Fri December 21, 2012

Why Some Kids Have An Inflated Sense Of Their Science Skills

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 7:49 pm

If you're a student at the halfway point of the academic year, and you've just taken stock of your performance, perhaps you have reason to feel proud of yourself.

But a recent study suggests some of the pride you feel at having done well — especially in science — may be unfounded. Or at least your sense of your performance may not be a very accurate picture of how good you actually are.

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Deceptive Cadence
1:30 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Does This Guy Matter? Conductor Leonard Bernstein during rehearsal with the Cincinnati Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1977.
James Garrett New York Daily News via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 9:12 am

Have you ever wondered whether music conductors actually influence their orchestras?

They seem important. After all, they're standing in the middle of the stage and waving their hands. But the musicians all have scores before them that tell them what to play. If you took the conductor away, could the orchestra manage on its own?

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Humans
2:19 am
Wed November 14, 2012

Study: Reading 'Maxim' Can Make You A Theft Target

TK
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 7:06 am

Some time ago, a man wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a hoodie drove a dirty Ford Explorer into a carwash in Fort Worth, Texas. As soon as the car came back clean, he got it filthy again, and drove to the next carwash. He did this with every single full-service carwash in town.

The man wasn't suffering from a strange mental disorder; Patrick Kinkade was a criminologist conducting an experiment.

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It's All Politics
2:22 am
Fri November 9, 2012

What Earthquakes Can Teach Us About Elections

Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, discusses his 13 keys to a successful election campaign on April 13 in his office in Washington, D.C.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 11:46 am

In January 2010, more than a year before Mitt Romney had formally announced he was running for president, political historian Allan Lichtman predicted President Obama would be re-elected in 2012.

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The Salt
11:05 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Behind A Halloween Mask, Even 'Good' Kids Can Turn Into Candy Thieves

Is there an angel or a devil behind the mask? Scientists say it may not matter in terms of anonymous behavior.
Joel Saget AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 2:07 pm

Vampires and monsters will be out in force tonight, but some of the darkest creatures out there might be your little angels inside those Halloween costumes.

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Humans
12:21 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Decision Time: Why Do Some Leaders Leave A Mark?

Abraham Lincoln, circa 1850. Lincoln was a political non-entity before he was elected. Why is he more widely known to history than the presidents who came immediately before and after him?
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 11:56 am

As part of NPR's coverage of this year's presidential election, All Things Considered asked three science reporters to weigh in on the race. The result is a three-part series on the science of leadership. In Part 1, Alix Spiegel looked at the personalities of American presidents. In Part 2, Jon Hamilton examined leadership in the animal kingdom.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:31 am
Tue October 9, 2012

A Lively Mind: Your Brain On Jane Austen

Matt Langione, a subject in the study, reads Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. Results from the study suggest that blood flow in the brain differs during leisurely and critical reading activities.
L.A. Cicero Stanford University

Originally published on Tue October 16, 2012 9:35 am

At a recent academic conference, Michigan State University professor Natalie Phillips stole a glance around the room. A speaker was talking but the audience was fidgety. Some people were conferring among themselves, or reading notes. One person had dozed off.

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Science
2:28 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Why Pictures Can Sway Your Moral Judgment

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 8:41 am

When we think about morality, many of us think about religion or what our parents taught us when we were young. Those influences are powerful, but many scientists now think of the brain as a more basic source for our moral instincts.

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