- Brad Barket/Getty Images
Pretty much everyone is interested in learning what makes people tick.
Fortunately, there are no shortage of podcasts designed to cater to that interest – whether it’s a short one-one-one chat about building good habits or an hour-long compilation of novel ideas.
Here are some of the best podcasts that help put life in perspective.
TED Radio Hour
Each episode of TED Radio Hour, put on by NPR, unites several different TED talks around a common topic, even bringing in sounds from the actual TED stage.
The talks often approach the topic, which can be a question or idea, from varying perspectives. Recent topics include happiness, religion, giving, and mental well-being.
Though TED talks have received some criticism for watering down the science behind their research, the podcast provides an easy on-ramp for people looking to explore new ideas.
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin has written extensively on happiness – both her own and others’ – and distills many of the big concepts in her weekly podcast, which she co-hosts with her sister, Elizabeth Craft.
Many of the episodes center around cultivating happiness through the building of good habits (and the avoidance of bad ones).
For something that is so elusive for many people, the co-hosts present happiness as something well within reach.
In Hidden Brain, host Shankar Vedantam guides listeners through their own cognitive missteps, biases, and blind spots.
He reveals the many hard-to-see ways our decision making and judgment are influenced by various forces, such as our built-in fear of losing money and our tendency to romanticize the past.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the human brain, but Vedantam shows listeners that even what we do know can be almost impossible to notice.
Arming the Donkeys
- Arming the Donkeys
Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely is an expert in human irrationality.
In Arming the Donkeys, he sits down with authors, researchers, and fellow social scientists, to discuss the many ways humans seem to violate their own self-interest through behavior.
That can mean overpaying for certain goods, feeling bad when you should be feeling good, and generally misunderstanding the world around you.
Hosted by journalist Stephen Dubner, one half of the dynamic duo behind the “Freakonomics” book series, the podcast delves into similar offbeat matters.
Dubner invites academics and regular folks alike onto the podcast to discuss such topics as productivity, medicine, hot dogs, and success, among many others.
The topics are as disparate and far-flung as they are in the books, but nevertheless united by their ability to surprise and intrigue.
Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris blends current events and cognitive science in his podcast “Waking Up.”
Listeners may start the series thinking about the brain as a source of agency and control, but walk away seeing the many ways it behaves like a computer that runs on chemicals.
Harris and his guests also contemplate the effects of meditation, the nature of compassion, and society’s tendencies to stereotype.
All In The Mind
Put on by the Australian Broadcast Company, All In The Mind reminds listeners that human behavior must come from someplace. And that place just happens to be a squishy 3-lb. lump of tissue nestled between our ears.
Host Lynne Malcolm introduces her audience to the many sides of human psychology, including the importance of staying social to our love affairs with conspiracy theories.
Each episode is backed by carefully vetted research to ensure the findings are reliable (and you can feel safe sharing the insights with your friends).
The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman
- The Psychology Podcast
Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman is the Scientific Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Imagination Institute. His podcast breaks down the complexities of the human mind and gives special attention to the nature of creativity.
Each episode involves a one-one-discussion with a different guest working in the field of psychology or behavior.
Without coming off as preachy, there’s a comforting reassurance to many of the episodes – that people can take control of their lives for the better.
- 99% Invisible/Facebook
Hosted by Roman Mars, 99% Invisible tells the hidden stories of the fixtures of everyday life. It explains why doves are beloved but pigeons get a bad rap and how Salt Lake City is always quietly guiding you.
The stories aren’t about humans themselves, or technically even behavior, but each one taken together helps break the vast set of assumptions people have about how the world works.
These insights reveal much of human behavior to be guided by faulty assumptions and bias. Realizing the stories behind everyday life may help to live more intentionally and thoughtfully.