The Human Zoo

The Human Zoo

United Kingdom

The Human Zoo explores the foibles, quirks and behaviour of that most fascinating of species - us

Episodes

The Strangeness of Tradition  

It's the time of year when we fall into the familiar, the traditions we've recycled since childhood. But why do we do it? Michael Blastland examines the psychology of how we behave around Christmas. Mistletoe, gift-giving, decorated evergreen trees - irresistibly or unthinkingly, we all act out this time of year in a similar way. Do we simply copy each other? Is it about reinforcing group identity? Or do we fear the consequences if we transgress tradition? In fact, how traditions arise and take hold - and more widely, what becomes conventional behaviour - is core to being human. How did Captain James Cook use convention to win over Fuegian tribesman? Is tradition as much about the present as the past? And why is there moral outrage when we violate these traditions? Michael Blastland investigates with resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Contributors this week include Professor Robert Sugden, an economist from University of East Anglia; Professor Anne Murcott, anthropologist from SOAS, University of London; and Dr Björn Lindström, researcher at the Emotion Lab, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm. The programme also includes writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe on Midnight Mass and when is the correct time to cook the turkey, and the cast of Andrew Pollard's Little Red Riding Hood from the Greenwich Theatre. Producer: Dom Byrne A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

The Lives of Things  

Storms rage and floods take their toll - is this nature taking its revenge? Michael Blastland turns the lens of psychology on how we treat objects and other entities as if they are 'alive'. Not just the weather - we rail against a crashed laptop, dote on our cars and have conversations with our pets. Why do we anthropomorphise the things around us? In fact, we tend to exaggerate what psychologists call 'agency' in all kinds of ways - as if there's a mind behind what goes on in the world, with feelings and intentions. Does this mean we see conspiracy, blame, praise, and power where it doesn't belong? Michael Blastland investigates with resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Producer: Dom Byrne A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

The Other  

Amidst public anxiety over any number of threats to British interests, Michael Blastland turns the lens of psychology from 'us' to 'them', and perceptions of 'the other'. From sports teams to supermarkets, politics to religion, we define ourselves partly by the other. And with the news full of fear of terrorist attacks, talk of war and immigration, the question of how we perceive groups outside our own is increasingly relevant. How do we see 'them', whoever they are? Are we naturally fearful of those who aren't like us? What is the morality of otherness? Can our categorising of the other lead to a potential for racism? Michael Blastland investigates with resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Contributors this week include sports commentator Alison Mitchell on otherness in cricket, and comedian Simon Evans on its function in standup. Producer: Eve Streeter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

The Tide Is With Us  

The series that looks at current events through the lens of psychology. From scandals to markets, elections to traffic jams, discover the nuts and bolts of human behaviour that link public life to our most private thoughts and motivations. Are people led by the head or by the heart? How rational are we? And how do we perceive the world? All human behaviour could turn up in The Human Zoo - including yours. In this episode, Michael Blastland explores why so many people - be they the leaders of political parties, or people who drink too much - think other people share their beliefs and choices. All political parties tell us that the tide is going their way. But it's a strange tide that flows in all directions. Even extremists and revolutionaries, it seems, are likely to think that there are many other supporters eager to join them. Why do we think so many more people are like us? Even when we're asked to describe the typical height of people we see around us, we're more likely to estimate too low if we're short and too high if we're tall. How far does this tendency go, why do we do it, and what are its implications for politics, public health or extremists? Find out in The Human Zoo, recorded before an audience at Warwick University's Festival of the Imagination, featuring the latest psychological research, and the author AL Kennedy on how she goes about becoming someone else in fiction. Michael Blastland is joined by resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Producer: Dom Byrne A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

A Word of Advice  

The Human Zoo is the programme that looks at current events through the lens of psychology. From scandals to markets, elections to traffic jams, discover the nuts and bolts of human behaviour that link public life to our most private thoughts and motivations. Are people led by the head or by the heart? How rational are we? And how do we perceive the world? We like to say that all human behaviour could turn up in The Human Zoo, including yours. In the last episode of the series - how does advice work? The government tells us to cut down on sugar in our diets. Obama suggests Britain should remain committed to the EU. And poor Greece has been inundated. How, psychologically, do we receive this 'expert' advice? When do we accept it and when do we ignore it? And what about advice from friends, especially the unasked-for kind? On relationships, how to live your life, what job to take - we find it annoying to hear and take on - but why? And at the same time, we can't resist dolling out what we think are our wise words of wisdom. Michael Blastland investigates, with resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Special guests this week include Sir Christopher Meyer, former British ambassador to the USA; Prof Nigel Harvey, psychologist at University College London; Dr Stephan Dombrowski, psychologist at the University of Stirling; Professor Daniel Oppenheimer, psychologist at the UCLA Anderson School of Management; plus Daily Telegraph columnist Sally Peck.

Perfect People  

The Human Zoo is the programme that looks at current events through the lens of psychology. From scandals to markets, elections to traffic jams, discover the nuts and bolts of human behaviour that link public life to our most private thoughts and motivations. Are people led by the head or by the heart? How rational are we? And how do we perceive the world? The programme blends intriguing experiments that reveal our biases and judgements, explorations and examples taken from what's in the news and what we do in the kitchen - all driven by a large slice of curiosity. We like to say that all human behaviour could turn up in The Human Zoo, including yours. This week, is what's expected of us as citizens psychologically absurd? The law punishes us if our attention lapses at the wrong moment. The state says we should be able to judge whether to cash in our pension. We are all supposed to have read the terms and conditions - famously described as "the biggest lie on the internet". So are these expectations fit for real people? And what are the implications? Michael Blastland investigates, with resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Special guests this week include Guardian tech reporter Alex Hern; Greg Davies, head of behavioural and quantitative finance at Barclays; from UCL, Professor of law Cheryl Thomas and psychologist Dr David Lagnado; plus writer and comedian Rosie Wilby on dating and pre-nups.

The Improvising Mind  

The Human Zoo is the programme that looks at current events through the lens of psychology. From scandals to markets, elections to traffic jams, discover the nuts and bolts of human behaviour that link public life to our most private thoughts and motivations. Are people led by the head or by the heart? How rational are we? And how do we perceive the world? The programme blends intriguing experiments that reveal our biases and judgements, explorations and examples taken from what's in the news and what we do in the kitchen - all driven by a large slice of curiosity. We like to say that all human behaviour could turn up in The Human Zoo, including yours. In this episode: the flat mind. What if our 'inner world' of images, thoughts and beliefs isn't as three-dimensional as the world around us? What if we're just making it up as we go along? Recorded at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Michael Blastland investigates, with resident Zoo psychologist Professor Nick Chater and reporter Timandra Harkness. Special guests this week are advertising guru Rory Sutherland, psychologist Dr Kate Cross from St Andrews University, Elleke Boehmer, professor of world literature in English at at Wolfson College Oxford and author of The Shouting in the Dark, neuroscientist Dr Peter Zeidman from University College London, Dr Martin Coath from the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University and experimental psychologist Professor Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol. Presenter: Michael Blastland Producer: Eve Streeter and Dom Byrne A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Morals and Norms  

The Human Zoo is a place to learn about the one subject that never fails to fascinate - ourselves. In this episode, morals and norms. Naked tourists on Malaysian mountains? Professional footballers sprawling on the streets of Tenerife? The team turns the lens of psychology on news of bad behaviour. How do we know about the unwritten rules that govern us? And why does it cause such outrage when we get them wrong? Michael Blastland investigates with resident Zoo psychologist Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick University, and roving reporter Timandra Harkness. Special guests include Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University, Digital Human presenter Aleks Krotoski, psychologist Dr Kate Cross, as well as writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe on how his mother started a bread roll fight with a Lord. Presenter: Michael Blastland Producer: Eve Streeter and Dom Byrne A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

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