Invisibilia

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A thief knocks down your door and you are flooded with fear. Your baby smiles up at you and you are filled with love. It feels like this is how emotions work: something happens, and we instinctively respond. How could it be any other way? Well, the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows that's not in fact how emotions work. We offer you a truly mind-blowing alternative explanation for how an emotion gets made. And we do it through a bizarre lawsuit, in which a child dies in a car accident, and the child's parents get sued by the man driving the other car.
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question we ask children, and adults. In American culture the concept of the future self is critical, required. It drives us to improve, become a richer, more successful, happier version of who we are now. It keeps us from getting blinkered by the world we grew up in, allowing us to see into other potential worlds, new and different concepts, infinite other selves. But the future self can also torture us, mocking us for who we have failed to become. We travel to North Port, Florida, where the principal of a high school did something extreme and unusual to help his students strive for grander future selves - a noble American experiment that went horribly wrong. If you or somebody you know might need help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Can you discover an emotion? We travel to the jungles of the Philippines where an anthropologist named Renato Rosaldo lived with the Ilongots, an isolated tribe of headhunters. There he learns about legit, an emotion so intense, and varied, and scary to him, that he can't really map onto the usual palette of American emotions. It takes many years, and a shocking and tragic event, for Rosaldo to fully grasp legut. Then we follow a young woman who does something on dates that virtually guarantees their failure. Along the way , she gains insight into her own emotions, and those of a generation of kids raised to be happy.
In "Fearless," co-hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller explore what would happen if you could disappear fear. A group of scientists believe that people no longer need fear — at least not the kind we live with — to navigate the modern world. We'll hear about the striking (and rare) case of a woman with no fear. The second half of the show explores how the rest of us might "turn off" fear.
In "How to Become Batman," Alix and Lulu examine the surprising effect that our expectations can have on the people around us. You'll hear how people's expectations can influence how well a rat runs a maze. Plus, the story of a man who is blind and says expectations have helped him see. Yes. See. This journey is not without skeptics.
How is it that two neighbors can look out their window at the exact same thing, and see something completely different? This is a question many people in America are asking now. We explore it by visiting a small community in Minnesota, called Eagle's Nest Township, that has a unique experience with the reality divide: some of the people in the town believe that wild black bears are gentle animals you can feed with your hands, and others think they are dangerous killers. This divide leads to conflict and, ultimately, a tragic death. So, is there a "real" truth about the bear, or is each side constructing its own reality?
What happens when you discover a part of yourself that is so different from who you think you are? Do you hold on to your original self tightly? Do you explore this other self? We travel to England to meet an insect with a split personality. Then we talk to an internet famous cartoonist who's been hiding a part of himself for years, and a woman who records herself sleep talking, and is amazed at what she finds.
Is there a part of ourselves that we don't acknowledge, that we don't even have access to and that might make us ashamed if we encountered it? We begin with a woman whose left hand takes instructions from a different part of her brain. It hits her, and knocks cigarettes out of her hand and makes her wonder: who is issuing the orders? Is there some other "me"in there I don't know about? We then ask this question about one of the central problems of our time: racism. Scientific research has shown that even well meaning people operate with implicit bias - stereotypes and attitudes we are not fully aware of that nonetheless shape our behavior towards people of color. We examine the Implicit Association Test, a widely available psychological test that popularized the notion of implicit bias. And we talk to people who are tackling the question, critical to so much of our behavior: what does it take to change these deeply embedded concepts? Can it even be done?
In this episode we find that the solution can be the problem. The hour begins with a charming couple from Utah who stumble across a clever fix to their clogged drain problem one day while they are showering together. For them, the impulse to fix the problem leads to a happy adventure into the world of patenting and manufacturing a new product. From there, the hour takes a turn to explore how this very same impulse to fix a problem — the impulse that has led the human species to invent telephones and bicycles and rocket ships — has surprising consequences when it comes to the problem of mental illness.
What would it be like if you could control your mood with a hand held device? Literally turn the device to different settings and make yourself happier and sadder? Alix Spiegel talks to a woman who has that power. If you or somebody you know might need help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The concept of bubbles (social bubbles, media bubbles, political bubbles) has become popular lately as people grapple with the unexpected outcomes of the 2016 election. We talk to two people who are making attempts to break out of their bubbles, and expose themselves to new points of view. We start with a woman seeking to break out of the confines of the human bubble altogether, by teaching herself to experience the world more like a dog. Then we meet a young man named Max, who has made a life out of hopping from bubble to bubble.
Invisibilia is a show that runs on empathy. We believe in it. But are we right? In this episode, we'll let you decide. We tell the same story twice in order to examine the questions: who deserves our empathy? And is there a wrong way to empathize? If you or somebody you know might need help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
In "The Secret History of Thoughts," co-hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller ask the question, "Are my thoughts related to my inner wishes, do they reveal who I really am?" The answer can have profound consequences for your life. Hear the story of a man gripped by violent thoughts, and explore how various psychologists make sense of his experience. Also, meet a man trapped inside his head for 13 years with thoughts as his only companion.
In this episode we look at situation where someone flips the script – does the opposite of what their natural instinct is, and in this way transforms a situation. The clinical term is "complementarity." Usually when someone is hostile to us, we are hostile right back. But then in rare cases someone manages to be warm, and what happens as a result can be amazing. The episode starts with a story about a dinner party in DC, when an attempted robbery was foiled by... a glass of wine and some cheese. Then we travel across the pond, to Denmark, where police officers are attempting to combat the growing problem of Islamic radicalization with... love. And finally, we talk to a man who attempted to flip the script on one of our most basic animal functions: finding a mate.
In Entanglement, you'll meet a woman with Mirror Touch Synesthesia who can physically feel what she sees others feeling. And an exploration of the ways in which all of us are connected — more literally than you might realize. The hour will start with physics and end with a conversation with comedian Maria Bamford and her mother. They discuss what it's like to be entangled through impersonation.
A lot of communities today are taking a hard stand against sexual harassment and assault. Using social media shaming, ostracism, professional excommunication, whatever punishment is painful enough to shift the moral code by brute force. Through one incident in the Richmond Virginia hardcore music scene, we chronicle a social media callout and ask what pain can accomplish. CONTENT WARNING: This episode contains obscenities and descriptions of sex and violence. For resources on handling accountability for harm done, please visit: n.pr/2GZqccC.
A panel of judges sits to decide the fate of the young woman. She's the child of addicts and an ex-addict and ex-felon herself, and she's asking the court to trust her to become an attorney. The outcome of her case hinges on a question we all struggle with: are we destined to repeat our patterns, or do we generally stray in surprising directions? - a question increasingly relevant in an age when algorithms are trying to predict everything about our behavior. CONTENT WARNING: This episode contains descriptions of sexual abuse.
In this episode of Invisibilia, we explore our relationship with uncertainty through the eyes of a chief meteorologist. We wonder: what do you do when you don't know what to do? And how do we handle it when that question has no answer?
Alix presents one of our favorite episodes from our friends at NPR's history podcast "Throughline." For centuries, the United States has been a prime destination for migrants hoping for better economic opportunities, fleeing danger in their home countries or just seeking a new life. But has there ever been a moment when Americans were the ones who felt compelled to flee elsewhere? In this episode, two stories that challenge the idea of who and why Americans sought refuge in other countries.
A young woman discovers a pattern in her dating habits that disturbs her - a pattern that challenges her very conception of who she is and what she believes in. The realization sets her off on a quest to change her attractions. But is this even possible? And should we be hacking our desire to match our values?
We look at how our culture's massive effort to address pain has paradoxically increased it. And we follow one young girl as she struggles through a bizarre and extreme treatment program. NOTE: The treatment in this episode is administered by trained professionals in a hospital setting (and should not be implemented without medical supervision).
What happens when you treat artificial intelligence with unconditional love?
The Power Of Categories examines how categories define us — how, if given a chance, humans will jump into one category or another. People need them, want them. The show looks at what categories provide for us, and you'll hear about a person caught between categories in a way that will surprise you. Plus, a trip to a retirement community designed to help seniors revisit a long-missed category.
Tech Genii Alix and Hanna expose the unseen forces behind the extra downloads that may have mysteriously appeared in your feed this week.
Been hungry for more Invisibilia? Alix and Lulu pop in to tell you a bit about what they are working on for Season 2 — and a way you can hear a brand new Invisibilia story. On Tuesday, July 28, Lulu will be premiering a new story at an event called Cast Party. She'll be joined by Radiolab, Reply All, The Truth, dancers and comedians, and more. Best part? The night will be simulcast to MOVIE THEATERS all over the country! You can learn more and find out where it's playing near you at castparty.org.
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Podcast Details

Started
Dec 18th, 2014
Latest Episode
Mar 27th, 2020
Release Period
Weekly
No. of Episodes
67
Avg. Episode Length
38 minutes
Explicit
No
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