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

New York Debates Whether Housing Counts As Health Care

Lissette Encarnacion in her apartment at The Brook, a supportive housing complex in the New York City borough of the Bronx.
Natalie Fertig WNYC

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

Standing outside her sixth-floor apartment in the Bronx, Lissette Encarnacion says she sometimes forgets the place belongs to her.

"I'm thinking I'm at somebody else's [house]," she says. "I'm ringing my own doorbell."

Encarnacion used to have a career in banking, and lived in a real home with her son and husband. Then one night everything changed, she says, when her husband came home drunk and angry, and threw her off a balcony.

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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
5:09 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Does Diversity On Research Team Improve Quality Of Science?

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 7:45 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.

Law
4:20 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Minority Aspirants To Federal Bench Are Hindered By Underrating

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

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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The Salt
3:37 am
Fri January 17, 2014

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

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

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

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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Science
3:20 am
Mon November 11, 2013

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

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

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

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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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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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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