Shankar Vedantam

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If you ever tell a lie, it would be normal for your conscience to bother you. But here's a question. If you tell many lies, does that voice inside go quiet? Neuroscientists recently explored this idea. And our colleague Rachel Martin sat down to talk about it with NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam.

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Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: So we're talking about neuroscientists. They were studying the brain, as they are known to do.

VEDANTAM: (Laughter).

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All right. We've been hearing a lot about the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Let's turn now to NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam to talk about some research that gives us a new data point in this conversation.

Hey, Shankar.

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You know, in economics, students are often taught that the market works its wonders through selfishness. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner but from their regard to their own interest. Those words come from the famed 18th-century economist Adam Smith. He wrote that many years ago. Now there is new research exploring how this lesson shapes the way students themselves behave. And to talk about this, we're joined by the most unselfish person I could imagine...

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And, you know, all over the world people say they make friends by breaking bread together. There's this assumption that when you sit down to eat with one another, you become closer. Well, let's talk about that with NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who is going to break bread with me. Hey, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: (Laughter) Hi, David. How are you?

GREENE: We've broken bread. We're already friends.

VEDANTAM: Indeed.

GREENE: Well, so what's this research you're looking at?

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If you've ever visited the palm-lined neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, you've probably noticed that the rich and famous aren't the only ones drawn there.

Stargazers also flock to this exclusive enclave, seeking a chance to peer into — and fantasize about — the lives of movie stars and film directors.

Call it adulation, adoration, idolization: we humans are fascinated by glamour and power.

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(SOUNDBITE OF HIDETAKE TAKAYAMA'S "SUNSET SONG")

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Life often requires improvisation, especially when things don't go according to plan. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam brings us the story of one woman who's had to reinvent herself again and again.

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So we know that a picture speaks a thousand words, but NPR's Shankar Vedantam is here to tell us how it also gives us really strong impressions of people that we can't seem to shake. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

It sounds like the plot of a movie.

Police discover a body in a warehouse. It's a young man who's been stabbed multiple times. They swab the body — and it tests positive for a deadly infectious disease.

Investigators realize the people who killed him — members of a street gang — may now be spreading the virus without knowing it.

This actually happened in the West African nation of Liberia in 2015. The deadly disease was Ebola.

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We heard a lot during the presidential campaign about the wage gap, the fact that women often earn less than men for the same kinds of work. Hillary Clinton pushed that issue, and she lost. But it remains a reality in many people's lives.

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We have a story this morning about unintended consequences, the unintended consequences of government policies. Quite a few studies have found that when you enact one kind of government policy, something else may happen that you never expected. And we do have research of one particular effect from NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who's here. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what's the unintended consequence of what policy?

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Let's say you're at a party or walking down the street and suddenly out of a sea of passing faces one of them lights up. Someone is looking right at you, waving, saying hello, they're happy to see you and you have no idea who this person is. Some of us are really good at recognizing faces. Others of us are not. To explain why, here's our social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam from NPR's Hidden Brain podcast.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Marty Doerschlag has a super power that I would love to have. He can remember a face forever.

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Many years ago, Simon and Garfunkel interviewed senior citizens and put their voices on an album. One woman in that compilation says...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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As the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani was a proponent of a controversial policing philosophy known as "broken windows." It calls for police to go after small crimes, in hopes of preventing bigger problems.

At first, it appeared as if violent crime dropped in the neighborhoods where "broken windows" policing was in force. The statistics, however, told a different story.

But the idea remains popular, despite evidence it likely had only modest effects.

The election of Donald Trump came as a shock to many Americans, but perhaps most of all to those in the business of calling elections. The pollsters on both the left and the right had confidently predicted Hillary Clinton would walk away with the race. They got it wrong. But one man did not: Allan Lichtman.

On Sept. 23, Lichtman, a historian at American University, declared that Trump would win, and he stuck by that call through the tumultuous final weeks of the campaign.

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It's no secret that this presidential campaign season has been tense, with disagreement and rancor even louder than usual.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Fewer than 1 in 5 members of Congress are women. At Fortune 500 companies, fewer than 1 in 20 CEOs are women. And if you look at all the presidents of the United States through Barack Obama, what are the odds of having 44 presidents who are all men?

If men and women had an equal shot at the White House, the odds of this happening just by chance are about 1 in 18 trillion.

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You might know slow motion from watching sports, showing collisions between cars, maybe football players taking hits. Well, there's social science research about the effect slow motion has on us, and we are joined by NPR's Shankar Vedantam. Hey, Shankar.

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