Who We Are

Hidden Brain Media is an independent production company that aims to help curious people understand the world, and themselves.

Our host and Executive Editor Shankar Vedantam has been reporting on human behavior and social science research for more than 25 years. In 2010, he published a book further exploring these topics and introducing the idea of “the hidden brain.”

What, exactly, is the “hidden brain”? This is a term Shankar created to describe a range of influences that manipulate us without our awareness. Some aspects of the hidden brain have to do with mental shortcuts or heuristics; others are related to errors in the way memory and attention work. Some deal with social dynamics and relationships. The “hidden brain,” in other words, is a metaphor, much like the “selfish gene.” Just as there are no strands of DNA that shout, “Me first!” no part of the human brain is disguised under sunglasses and fedora. By drawing a simple line between mental activities we are aware of and mental activities we are not aware of, the “hidden brain” subsumes many concepts in wide circulation: the unconscious, the subconscious, the implicit.

Our exploration of these ideas can be heard every week on the Hidden Brain podcast and radio show. Shankar and NPR launched the podcast in 2015, and it now receives millions of downloads per week, and is regularly listed as one of the top 20 podcasts in the world. Our radio show, which debuted in 2017, is heard on more than 400 public radio stations across the country.

In 2019, we launched Hidden Brain Media to allow us to connect more deeply with our audience and to experiment with new ways of telling Hidden Brain stories across a range of different platforms.

The Hidden Brain Team

Shankar Vedantam

Shankar Vedantam (@HiddenBrain) founded Hidden Brain Media in 2019, and is the host and executive editor of the Hidden Brain podcast and radio show. From 2011 to 2020, he was a social science correspondent with NPR. Before that, he was a national correspondent at The Washington Post. Between 2007 and 2009, he authored the weekly Department of Human Behavior column in The Washington Post. In 2010, he published The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives. Shankar is the winner of several journalism awards and was a 2009-2010 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Tara Boyle

Tara Boyle (@taranoelleboyle) is executive producer of the Hidden Brain podcast and radio show, and the head of content for Hidden Brain Media. Tara oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows’ producers. She also provides strategic support to Shankar in the development of new projects for Hidden Brain Media. Previously, Tara spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.

Autumn Barnes

Autumn Barnes (@abarnesf) is technically an associate producer at Hidden Brain, but she wears many hats: contributing to the show as a researcher, writer, fact-checker and tech-support. Autumn started her career in radio at her local NPR member station, Montana Public Radio, and then went on to work in NYC as a producer for Rough Translation, Planet Money and The Indicator.

Andrew Chadwick

Andrew is a long-time audio professional with a heavy focus on radio; he’s worked in AM, FM, and XM, but most of his time has been spent in public radio. Since leaving DC for the Great Plains, he’s struck out on his own and has been loving the work-from-home world of mixing and editing podcasts.

Ryan Katz

Ryan Katz (@ryangordonkatz) is a producer with Hidden Brain. Before joining Hidden Brain, Ryan produced audio with APM Reports, WBEZ, Audible, and Pagatim. He’s also written or produced stories for ProPublica, Love + Radio, Topic, The Intercept, BBC, and Esquire. He’s been lucky to have lived on four different continents, and suffers from a hopeless addiction to a mediocre European soccer team.

Laura Kwerel

Laura Kwerel (@laura_kwerel) is the lead producer of Hidden Brain’s new sister podcast, My Unsung Hero. Her specialities include building sound-rich narratives, thinking of sparkly ways to write and mix, and sewing the feeling of “warm fuzzies” into the show. Before her time at Hidden Brain, she spent a decade as the senior producer for Interfaith Voices, where she earned seven first-place awards for her religion storytelling. Her radio/life mantra is “find all the places for joy you can.”

Brigid McCarthy

Brigid McCarthy (@mccarthy_brigid) is a senior producer of the Hidden Brain podcast and radio show. Before joining the Hidden Brain team, Brigid was editor of Vox’s daily news podcast Today, Explained.  She was also senior editor of the history podcast Backstory and a producer at NPR’s Weekend Edition and Morning Edition.  She’s also reported for NPR’s news magazines and PRI’s The World, covering everything from the Church of Beethoven to why golf is such a mentally challenging sport.  Brigid majored in history at Georgetown University.

Annie Murphy Paul

Annie Murphy Paul is a science writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times MagazineScientific American, and The Best American Science Writing, among other publications. She is the author of three books: The Extended MindOrigins, and The Cult of Personality. Annie is a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, the Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship, and the Bernard L. Schwartz Fellowship at New America. She lives in New Haven and reads psychology journal articles for fun. 

Kristin Wong

Kristin Wong (@thewildwong) is a writer and researcher for Hidden Brain Media. She researches topics and guests for the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, helping script episodes and interviews along with the production team. She also writes the Hidden Brain newsletter. Prior to joining Hidden Brain Media, Kristin worked as a full-time freelance journalist, writing about human behavior for places like the New York Times, Lifehacker, Forge, and New York magazine’s The Cut.