human behavior

Nepal, a country of 25 million, is struggling out of poverty after a decadelong civil war. Squabbling politicians have paralyzed government, and high unemployment means 1,500 youth leave every day for jobs in Malaysia and the Middle East.

So, as the United Nations International Day of Happiness dawns, Nepalis may seem on the surface to have reason to be unhappy.

Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

Here in America we're taught to celebrate ideas, to think outside the box and to fan the flames of innovation whenever possible. But what do we do when an idea becomes destructive? And even worse; when that idea becomes an ideology?

This is the prospect we're facing with extremism around the world. Now America, a nation well adapted to win wars by conventional means, is being forced onto a battlefield it's less accustomed to-- one where social media, propaganda and targeted messaging are the weapons of choice.

Hospitals are one of the worst places to try to get a good night's sleep, just when you need it the most. And though many have tried to muffle the noise of beeping monitors and clattering carts, the noise remains a big problem for many patients.

But what if we looked at a night in the hospital as a long overseas flight? As you settle in, they hand out eye masks and earplugs. And you cleverly brought along melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone sold at drugstores everywhere.

Andrew/flickr creative commons

Respected researcher and psychologist John Mayer says we can become the best version of ourselves by building our “personal intelligence” to understand ourselves and perceive what makes others tick.

Ted Murphy / Creative Commons

A study co-authored by Yale University finds a link between problem gambling and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Over the years, it's been difficult for psychiatrists to classify problem gambling. It was once considered a impulse control disorder.

In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, problem gambling is classified as an addiction.

A new study by Yale University, St. Louis University, and the VA finds an overlap between problem gambling and obsessive compulsive behaviors. 

PT Vote / Flickr Creative Commons

Why do we vote the way we do? The easy answer, of course, is that we pick the politician whose values, beliefs and opinions most closely resemble our own. But while that does play a part, there are other, less obvious influences as well.

It turns out that much of why we make the voting decisions we do comes from our subconscious: biases we hold towards things like a candidate's height, weight, looks, tone of voice, and even choice of clothes. Campaigns have known this for years and, with every vote being fiercely sought, have employed a variety of tactics to make their candidate appeal to parts of our psyche we're not even aware of.

The ouster of Bryan Stockton from his perch as CEO at Mattel this week came as the toymaker's best-known brands like Barbie stagnate and it loses business to Web-based games.

Stockton himself said last year that Mattel lacked an innovative culture and blamed it in part on something specific: bad meetings. That's a common and persistent corporate ailment.

Scott Ryan-Hart is a cartographer for the Ohio Department of Transportation, where a typical meeting can last more than two hours.

Wessel Krul / Creative Commons

Think of "room escape" like a fancy cocktail: one part mystery, one part problem-solving, and two parts teamwork, with a dash of adrenaline-inducing claustrophobia on top.

If you're still puzzled, then congratulations -- that's the point.

Room escape is a new form of puzzle-based entertainment that's only just begun to catch on in America. It involves transforming ordinary rooms into extraordinary playscapes: richly themed environments in which willing participants are locked inside, and forced to solve mind-bending puzzles in order to escape.

Fear is one of the strongest and most basic of human emotions, and it's the focus of Fearless, the second episode of Invisibilia, NPR's new show on the invisible forces that shape human behavior.

This segment of the show explores how a man decided to conquer his fear of rejection by getting rejected every day — on purpose.

The evolution of Jason Comely, a freelance IT guy from Cambridge, Ontario, began one sad night several years ago.

Fire: Sparking Imagination Since Two Million B.C.

Jan 14, 2015
BriSaEr / Flickr Creative Commons

Things burn: Our environments, resources, and all forms of monument to self. And since the beginning, so too has our imagination. The inspiration humans have drawn from fire throughout the millennia is as impressive as it is immeasurable. Why fire occupies such an elemental place in the creative wellsprings of our consciousness is certainly a debate to had.

In 1954, Roger Bannister did the previously unthinkable. He ran a mile in under four minutes. Six weeks later, his chief rival John Landy, did the same thing, and bettered Bannister's performance.

Thirteen months later, three other runners broke four minutes. Bear in mind that this had been considered impossible for as long as there had been time-keeping at track meets.

Unraveling the Web of Deception

Dec 23, 2014
Chion Wolf / WNPR

We fool people all the time. Whether with bad intent or not, deception has become a common practice in today's society. While modern tools such as texting, social media and the internet at large have all made the practice easier, deception in its most basic form goes back to Man's beginning.  Some believe it to be an assertion of power while others claim it's in our blood- a practice born out of our species' need to cooperate in order to survive.

Chris Huggins/flickr creative commons

Humor, like pornography, is famously difficult to define. We know it when we see it, but is there a way to figure out what we really find funny—and why?

Phil Whitehouse / Creative Commons

It seems that all too often, bosses get a bum rap from their employees. But why?

This hour, we talk to management expert Bruce Tulgan about his new book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems. We learn about some of the challenges managers come up against in the workplace, and find out some of the best ways to handle them.

Commerce Marketing Communications Photography / Texas A&M UNiv

A new Yale University Study reveals a negative bias toward mental health patients whose symptoms are explained biologically.

Saying it wants to build "a safer Twitter," the company is announcing changes to two areas: how it handles harassment and the tools that let users block people who've sent abusive messages. One woman who has experienced such abuse calls the change "a big step up."

Twitter announced the changes in a blog post Tuesday, which reads in part:

All of us are familiar with the sound a smartphone makes when an email or text has arrived. Our somewhat Pavlovian response is to pick up the device, see who the message is from and read it.

In Germany, a growing number of these emails come from the boss contacting employees after work. That's not healthy, say experts on work-related stress, including psychologist Gerdamarie Schmitz in Berlin, who is feeling the technological encroachment herself.

Josh Glovo / Creative Commons

John Aldridge, a 45-year old lobster fisherman from Long Island, flew off the back of his boat when a plastic handle supporting a box hook snapped with the power of his pull. He grabbed at the side of the boat, missing it by inches before landing in the water at 3:30 am, alone and stunned, as the boat sped away with his partner sleeping in his cabin. They were 40 miles off the coast of Montauk, Long Island. First, yelling, then panic, then silence before he allowed himself to think he was going to die. 

Do you talk to yourself? Is it a silent inter-narrative or do you talk aloud? What form of address to you use to yourself?

When I'm mad at myself I sometimes address myself as Colin. But, I sense that when LeBron speaks to himself as LeBron, it's more affirming. 

I talk aloud quite a bit. A hangover, I think, from growing up as an only child.

The Spanish and Argentine novelist Andres Neumann has a new work, "Talking to Ourselves," in which he explores the solitary inner narrative that each of us conducts either silently, aloud, or writing a diary. 

Horia Varlan/flickr creative commons

As elections are held across the U.S., raising the volume on what needs fixing in America, many Americans choose to work on helping citizens in other countries. Whether paid, or unpaid, we wonder what inspires work that says we are living now in a global village.

Twice a year, most Americans do a truly bizarre thing. In coordinated fashion, we change our clocks an hour ahead or behind and proceed as if the new time tells us what we should be doing: when to eat, when to sleep, when to wake and when to work.

Earth, of course, spins and rotates on its merry course, unperturbed by our temporal machinations. If we used to wake after sunrise, we might now wake before morning light. If we used to drive home with the setting sun, we might now drive home in darkness.

People living in the United States have little to no reason to fear contracting Ebola, a deadly viral illness causing an epidemic in West Africa. Yet on Friday night, some Americans will dress up in hazmat suits akin to what health workers wear when treating an Ebola patient.

And, of course, there's even a "sexy" version.

Scenes. Conversation. Politics. What inspires artists working in their studios?

Inspiration can come from the quiet of the mind, or, as we just noticed, the spark that results in art can be set off because of world events. Connecticut artist Lula Mae Blocton explains how her work on paper was inspired by events in Newtown, Connecticut.

How are Americans sizing up the threat from Ebola?

A Harvard School of Public Health poll finds that more than a third of Americans (38 percent) are worried that Ebola will infect them or a family member over the next year.

Most (81 percent) believe Ebola can spread from someone who is sick and has symptoms. And that's correct.

Phil Whitehouse / Creative Commons

It’s National Boss’s Day, so today we’re diving into the world of office management. 

This hour, we talk to management expert Bruce Tulgan about his new book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems. We learn about some of the challenges managers come up against in the workplace, and find out some of the best ways to handle them.

Javie Delgado, Flickr Creative Commons

It's hard to improve on the poet, Rilke, who wrote, "Love consists of this, that two solitudes meet, protect, and greet each other." But did Rilke have to deal with Angry Birds and Snap Chat?

Anna Fox / Creative Commons

A couple of weeks ago, I was sick with the April flu, lying in bed in a New York apartment, and trying to distract myself by watching one of the film adaptations of "Nicholas Nickleby." I found myself repeatedly moved to tears, especially when anything good or kind happened. Okay, part of this was that I felt a little vulnerable, and may have over identified with poor tubercular Smike. But another part, I'm convinced, was the excitement generated by pure moral language, which you don't encounter so much in modern culture.

Krystal International Vacation Club / Creative Commons

Research shows that using your vacation time can have some major benefits. For one, it’s better for productivity, and -- as one study shows -- it can even be better for your health. But are Americans taking enough time off, or are we really a "no-vacation nation"? 

Roxanne Ready / Flickr Creative Commons

Take a few seconds to reminisce about your childhood "best friend." Maybe it was a boy, a girl, an imaginary friend, or perhaps a stuffed toy. This stuffed toy was your childhood confidant that you dragged everywhere, from the local supermarket to the preschool sandbox, a transitional object that temporarily stood between you and your relationship with your parents. 

Chronic stress is hazardous to health and can lead to early death from heart disease, cancer and of other health problems. But it turns out it doesn't matter whether the stress comes from major events in life or from minor problems. Both can be deadly.

And it may be that it's not the stress from major life events like divorce, illness and job loss trickled down to everyday life that gets you; it's how you react to the smaller, everyday stress.

The most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death, according to one study that followed 1,293 men for years.

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