Shankar Vedantam, on the inspiration behind Hidden Brain:

“There are two kinds of explorers. One travels to exotic lands, ventures where no one has gone before. The other kind of explorer revels in discovering the surprising and the extraordinary in the mundane and everyday. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by this second kind of exploration. Nothing delights me more than to hear an insight that transforms what I think I know already, that reshapes how I see the world, that shows me the extraordinary in the ordinary.

“Think about what happens when you visit a new country for the first time: You pay attention to the sights. You listen to the sounds. You marvel at the natural wonders. But if you look around, you notice the people who live in those places going about their daily lives, bored in their commutes, barely able to look up from their phones and chores, utterly unimpressed by the wonders around them. The central mission of Hidden Brain is to help people see the world with fresh eyes, to become tourists in their own lives.

“Nowhere is this journey of exploration more profound than in the discoveries we can make about our own selves. Our inner worlds are so much with us, so familiar to us, that many of us have lost the ability to marvel at our own minds. Yet, there is no form of exploration more exhilarating. Every episode of Hidden Brain aims to help people get to know themselves a little better, to think of their inner worlds with less judgment and more curiosity.

“Philosophers have told us for centuries that the highest wisdom is to know ourselves. I draw inspiration from the world of poetry:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

— T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Shankar Vedantam — Photo by Jamey Stillings