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Shelves of candy jars (terren in Virginia/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

Logic and emotion aren't the only forces that guide our decisions. This hour of Radiolab, we turn up the volume on the voices in our heads, and try to make sense of the babble. Forget free will, some important decisions could come down to a steaming cup of coffee.


UPDATE: The Williams & Bargh Yale coffee study "Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth" was replicated in 2014 by researchers at three different universities, Kenyon College, Michigan State University, and University of Manchester. They did not observe the same results as in the original study. They conclude that the difference between the original and the replications may have been due to some issues with the methods of the original study ("The effect observed by Williams and Bargh may have been due, in part, to unconscious cues given by the researcher") or may simply have been due to chance. They are very careful in their language to not discredit the original study but they advise that future researchers be more cautious "when considering whether exposure to hot or cold temperatures impacts prosocial behavior." In sum: the original Yale study mostly still stands, but researchers now look the methods and results with slight skepticism (not outright disbelief though). You can check out the replications here:



John Bargh, Antoine Bechara, Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Johnson, Jonah Lehrer, Gary Loveman,, Mike Pesca, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Barry Schwartz, Baba Shiv and Lawrence Williams

How Much Is Too Much?

Turns out, Robert is more impulsive than Jad, and Jad is more analytical than Robert. Shocking, right? Sadly for Jad, Robert's style may help him better navigate the overwhelming number of choices available throughout modern life's expanse of options, which may also lead him to a greater sense of well-being, ...

Comments [55]

Overcome By Emotion

Instinct or analysis? Wouldn't things be easier if we could get emotion out of the way and let rational analysis lead? Except that so often, that gut feeling turns out to be right. We explore both extremes. Antoine Bechara, a psychology professor at USC, tells us about the case ...

Comments [11]

Is Free Will Really Free?

It's scary to think that choice might just be an illusion.

Comments [26]

Comments [137]


suck my weaner

Mar. 12 2018 10:41 AM

hey bi*ches

Mar. 12 2018 10:35 AM
JL from Montreal

everyone bitchin about the sexual orientation comment needs to chill. you are overreacting and need to tone down your social justice warrior political correctness attitude, its not helping anybody and discredits your arguments when you have to nitpick at every little thing, really think how you would like it if someone judged every little thing you ever say and finds it offensive somehow... Grow up

May. 15 2017 11:03 PM

I am very disappointed.
Show some fvcking class, you tool. This isn't the Jerry Springer show.

Dec. 17 2016 04:55 PM
junco from Utah

In reference to comments below criticizing Jad's offhand "gay, straight, bi..." remark in regards to choice (most recently schadendude)...
I imagine they're talking about LIFESTYLE, not ORIENTATION. I don't think anyone is disputing that ORIENTATION isn't a choice (and yes, to view it as one is damaging). Rather I think he's saying the choice to live an OPEN & SOCIALLY ACCEPTED L/G/B LIFESTYLE is something that's relatively new (not to imply there's only one way to be gay). I would argue it's only recently coming into true fruition with the awesome 2015 Marriage Equality ruling.
I mean, it's not like homosexuality is some new development, but you could say that the positive (US) social perception of it is.
Anyways, rant over.

All in all, good show! I'm pretty new to RadioLab (1st time through the archives) and I love how it provides an entertaining springboard into my own research of topics I had no exposure to before.

Peace.... bitchez

Dec. 14 2016 01:31 PM
Debbie from Dallas, TX

The program on choice and whether it can be "too much of a good thing" reminded me of a favorite passage from Walker Percy's novel The Last Gentleman:

“Like many young men in the South, he became overly subtle and had trouble ruling out the possible. They are not like an immigrant's son in Passaic who decides to become a dentist and that is that. Southerners have trouble ruling out the possible. What happens to a man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course.”
― Walker Percy, The Last Gentleman

(Percy says in the next sentence nothing happens, or war happens, which forces some version of the possible to become actual, and then the young Southern man will fight, without having been required to make a choice.)

Dec. 06 2016 02:25 PM
Laura from San Jose, CA

when I hear these programs I think about them and wonder what's the take away? How do I extrapolate this information and use it to benefit the work I do with children.
There have been numerous studies that show when we are under stress that we prefer sugary things to eat. Our body craves it. Doesn't this include the stress we place on our minds, as in trying to memorize and prepare for tests?
Couldn't we then say that children in America are stressed every day just by the way we present information and expect children to learn it? It would be more beneficial for both children and educators to look at the whole child including stress, diet, and how learning is received by the students, if we are to really address the topic of obesity of children in America.

Dec. 03 2016 07:05 PM
Schadendude from washington, dc

Sexual Orientation is NOT a "lifestyle". People do not "choose" to be heterosexual any more than they choose to be homosexual. This attitude is incredibly offensive and typical of the Old White Heterosexual Men favored on this program.


Barry Schwartz: Every imaginable **lifestyle** is available.

Jad: You can be Gay, Straight, Bi...

Barry: Exactly.

No. You *can't* just be Gay, Straight, Bi. Declaring choice in sexual orientation is dangerously misguided, aside from simply incorrect. Ask any Straight person if they "chose" their sexual orientation. For that matter, ask any Gay person if they chose. You might as well say Race is a choice.

I'd like to know when Barry and Jad "chose" to be heterosexual. Are they denying their attraction to men?

Dec. 03 2016 12:24 PM

If the fruit salad has pineapple, definitely going with the fruit salad

Feb. 03 2016 04:16 AM
Erik from United States


May. 20 2015 12:43 PM

I found this podcast so insightful. I couldn't bring myself to stop listening. So fascinating, can't wait to listen to other podcasts.

Feb. 05 2015 08:41 PM

There is no such apple variety as "Yazz", there is however a variety known as "Jazz". That this error has never before been addressed does not reflect well on either the program staff nor its listeners.

Jan. 05 2015 01:58 PM

I was really distressed when among all the life "choices" one has, you rattled off some related to sexuality. As if someone chooses to be gay or not.

Jan. 05 2015 09:36 AM
Tim from Los Angeles

You guys seem to be chuckling heartily over the daily routine of Oliver Sacks, but I think it’s more disturbing than humorous. Ironically, given his study of unusual conditions and behaviors over the years, Sacks himself sounds like he’s very much in need of a good therapist. His daily food routine is not just habitual but seems downright pathological—a bit obsessive, a bit compulsive (regulating the compulsive by limiting the number of apples, lest he eat a huge quantity of them), and quite unnerving. Yikes! What he doesn’t seem to understand is that the body will regulate its appetite very nicely if you’re eating proper foods to begin with, unless of course you have some major hormonal or other malfunction that proper diet won’t correct by itself. He hasn’t really eliminated the stress of choosing; he’s succumbed to a different type of food obsession even as he believes he’s narrowed down to his few favorites and is quite content with this pathology of restriction.

Jan. 04 2015 07:16 PM
bahfafah from Eugene, Oregon

For all the years I taught high school my answer to the question "What should a high school graduate be able to do?" was always the same: Make a decision. Your report today reinforced that belief adding much to our understanding how easily our decisions can be influenced by external stimuli. Thank you for a thought provoking morning.

Jan. 04 2015 02:05 PM
Fowlers from wamu

Dear NPR,

These can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees programs, with their emphasis on neuroscience and other minutiae, are killing the brain cells of your listeners and dulling their capacity to think and to engage socially and democratically and civically. It's the Freakanomicsization of radio.


Jan. 04 2015 12:57 PM
Mike from Honolulu

I am disappointed that there are so many people commenting on the bitches comment (Please, really?) where the program is about questioning whether one really has any such thing as free will.
In following the meat of the program I am quite taken a back. Is it really just an illusion? Sounds like it is...
I ordered I.M.Probulos book, The Illusion of Free Will. Seems he has an ax to grind with those who are of a religious nature, looking at his other books. Hopefully it will not interfere with his thesis.
M. Gladwell is a brilliant person and I enjoy his insights on this subject as much as I do on all other areas he chooses to focus on.

Keep up the great work Radiolab! Continue to startle us.

Jan. 04 2015 02:18 AM
Linda Haynes from Grass valley, calif.

U have the most interesting shows. They truly can change r lives if we let them. Thank u!

Jan. 01 2015 05:54 PM
Han Seok-Hoon from Daegu

As a Korean, I'm puzzled about the whole "Korean apple-pear" thing. Yes, Korean apple-pears (also known as Asian pears or Nashi pears) don't taste like apple, but they're mildly sweet and juicy and cool and crisp like a brisk Autumn morning. But... of the many that I have had, they have a regular core, like other pears. Yes, it is large, but only proportionally so with other apples and so on.

Surely Jad did not pick up a "Korean MELON" (or 참외 "cham-ae") by accident, did he? Because those are quite further off from apples (despite having a similar texture), and have a huge, mildly terrifying worm-like core (to those not expecting them).

Dec. 04 2013 10:45 PM

solarblast: I think the show you are referring to is episode 2 of season 1 called Stress.

Jul. 08 2013 03:45 PM
Jessica Cheung from Middlebury, VT

I wonder if the hot coffee vs. iced coffee experiment took into account the context of the room temperature? For instance, if it was a really hot day, say 90 degrees and humid, would the results of the experiment have been different? Holding a hot cup of coffee where I was already sweltering would probably cause me to dislike the person who asked me to suffer from more heat, whereas iced coffee would be a relief from the heat and cause me to like the person who gave me that small relief. Very different results. So, how do these different outcomes change the inferences drawn from the original experiment?

Apr. 26 2013 06:15 PM

I'm always so impressed to hear the older episodes from RadioLab. Its really almost scary how high you've set the bar for yourselves. I was unnervingly impressed with the content of this episode and the soundscapes used to assist in transporting the thoughts to your audience was really, genuinely amazing.

Priming was really the most scary thing about this episode. Because even though the hot coffee trigger is definitely a bummer. Its just ONE trigger that they chose to mention. You just know that the "Spooks" in high places would probably have a plethora (more like a dictionary) of additional triggers to manipulate people's behavior at a fundamental level. Given that the overall tenor of the episode is that we don't have as much control over our actions as you might think (not to sound like a conspiracy theorist) then it kind of begs the question.. If we don't have that much control, given the effectiveness of priming, are we currently "Under Control"?. If we were, how would we know?.. When I look around I see almost a limitless supply of opportunities to prime not just individuals, but entire groups of people and populations. This stuff is scary.. And what they talked about in this episode is probably the tip of the iceberg.. Because as a rule of thumb, by the time this information gets to the "masses" like us, its probably already been in extensive use 50 years ago before we knew what priming even was..

Needless to say, beware of politicians handing you hot cups of coffee..

Apr. 24 2013 09:26 AM

I just registered. I don't see a forum for general comments and questions, so I'm just posting here.

Maybe a month or more ago I heard a science program, maybe RadioLab, talk about furniture in a doctor's waiting room. It was costing the doctors a lot of money. Apparently, it was wearing out quite quickly, but no one knew why. Finally, someone discovered that it was stressed patients waiting to see the doctor. There was a solution. What was it.

Apr. 23 2013 11:03 PM
Will Spurgeon from Tulsa

Just caught the end of a replay of this, really interesting. I would offer hope that while the idea that we can never get total control of our subconscious is disturbing for some, you don't really need total control. You need just need considerable influence, which you have by actively "choosing" as best you can to expose your mind to positive, constructive things and avoid negative, hateful, destructive things.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Apr. 23 2013 02:13 PM
Han from Atlanta, GA

I love this episode, "Choice." I never realized emotion is so important in decision.

Apr. 22 2013 07:21 PM
Mary from Columbus, OH

No, no, Au revoir isn't a permanent thing - it simply means, "until we see each other again". Except that on Radiolab, we never see each other. Maybe it should be "au reecoute"? ;-)

Apr. 22 2013 11:05 AM
Laura from Portland, OR

Stay with us... bitches.

Apr. 21 2013 11:36 PM
Ellen from San Antonio

The last comment on "Choices", of the way our choices are culturally formed at a subconscious level that apparently cannot be moderated, reminds me of the best explanation of the concept "original sin" I ever heard; the limitation placed on free will by the choices/actions of all those who came before us.

Apr. 21 2013 03:03 PM
Abigail Williams from Minneapolis, MN

At the very beginning of "Choice", were you suggesting that sexual preference is a choice? I don't appreciate that opinion because it undermines the experiences of queer people and simplifies the subject of sexuality. In addition, it is not a fact or agreed upon. Putting that sound bite in the program shows me there is not careful thought about how your words and opinions may come across going into all parts of the show. I continued listening hoping the show would come around and address it somehow but was left without any resolution.

In short, I was disappointed in this oversight.

Apr. 20 2013 07:42 PM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

I do wish you folks would respond to my emails. I'm a scientist who has studied the limits of adaptivity (choice making) for all kinds of natural systems. There's a fascinating link between the emergance of "information overload", our societal disinterest in things "complex" and the sudden growing inequity between investor profits and wages... i.e. tying together the whole crisis of modern society!

Apr. 18 2013 08:20 AM
Mario from Los Angeles

Jad's got jokes, deal with it bitches. lol

Apr. 09 2013 06:01 PM

I visited many websites but the audio quality for audio songs present at this website is in fact

Mar. 07 2013 01:18 PM

Dec. 10 2012 01:16 PM

Dissecting the last thought you shared- even though we can all agree, choice is not entirely conscious, i would argue it is still "we" who are doing the choosing- it's just that the "I" is faceted at so many different levels- my sub-conscious, my ego, my mind, my emotion, my "gut" instinct, is all me. Memory is made in the present, and we are all creatures of memory- and at any given moment when we act, we act off the infinite collective database embedded in our "I." Really quite beautiful, thank you for this episode.

Sep. 27 2011 11:55 AM
Scott from Portland, Oregon

You guys make doing the dishes way better.

Sep. 18 2011 04:03 PM
Graeme Sandell from Portland, OR

Just re-listened to the episode. Interesting to see how many people zeroed in on Jad's use of "bitches". It left me wondering if there was some sort of future show in the works using feedback about this word use. Well?

Jul. 10 2011 07:13 PM
Sherry Borzo from Des Moines, Iowa

Love your show! I stumbled onto you a couple of years ago on the radio and only recently started downloading old episodes.

I know it's old news but I was confused by the word "bitches" simply for the reason I was trying to get its relevance in the context of the program. This made me listen a second time because I hate not getting the joke . . . and also the concepts presented in this show were so wonderfully compelling.

Thanks for your wonderful production and writing. You are radio studs!


May. 28 2011 06:26 AM
JT from Salt Lake City, Utah

Luv ya byotches! :)

As always, you forced me to think, cry, laugh and wonder about the world, consider all it's peculiarities and realize that perhaps the world is much more different than it seems. Power to RadioLab, I am listening to every episode and already feel the nostalgia that I will feel once I have finished them all. Luckily it is still in production, such a rare occasion that the good thing doesn't get cancelled. *knocks vigorously on wood* (I guess I should have listened more to the Superstitions episode, oh well).

Apr. 15 2011 01:16 AM
nancy Porter

I love this show....and am trying to get my friends to listen ....thanks and keep doing great stuff. Such a relief to tune into intelligent conversation......given most of the other options.....

Mar. 29 2011 12:27 AM
Helena from Melbourne, Australia

I didn't even hear the bitches comment, it slid right by without me noticing. Inspired by RadioLab, I decided to experiment. I'm an Australian and swearing on the radio isn't that unusual. So, I sent the podcast to friends and after they had listened, I asked them if they had heard any swearing. Only one of my friends noticed, she's from LA and although she thought it was hysterically funny, she did notice even after living downunder for 15 years. Okay, the sample size was small - only 12 people, but interesting.

A great show! Keep up the good work and don't worry about offending the Aussies, we love it.

Dec. 03 2010 05:19 PM

The bitches comment was hilarious! I heard it a couple days ago and laughed for a while. Keep it up amigo.

Nov. 14 2010 01:30 PM
Ryan Wiancko

Hahah, I listened to the show where Jad apologized for the bitches comment before listening to this and laughed at the need for an apology.. Then I listened to this and laughed my ass off even harder. Well put Jad, way to keep from getting too serious. About Rachels comment about being too smart: "the show is just smarter than that. I mean, WTF, right?" If anyone things than anyone is smarter than that to be offended by a meaningless word then I'd question how smart they are.. Besides how seriously can we take anyone that gets offended by a 'bitches' comment and follows it by asking 'What the F@!%?

Keep it up Jad and don't bend to the sticks in the mud

Sep. 21 2010 03:30 AM
Mark Plutowski from Cupertino

Great show, as always.

There may be a simpler explanation for people holding 2 items in mind choosing the fruit snack, versus those holding 7 or more items in mind choosing the sweeter snack instead. It is very well established that thinking requires energy. Keeping more items in working set requires more thinking, thereby burning energy at a higher rate, causing the brain to prefer the quick sugar fix. Quite a rational choice!

Sep. 19 2010 06:25 PM
Heather Prosser


sorry this post is about a year "after the fact", but I'm a relatively new listener and just downloaded all the podcasts. THE SHOW IS OUTSTANDING. If I could find a way to cook it off and inject it directly into my veins I think I probably would.

For a variety of reasons I wouldn't dream of boring you with, this particular episode changed my mind, and subsequently my life for the better. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Please keep doing your utterly fascinating and truly beautiful radio show just exactly as you do, for as long as humanly possible.

Best wishes guys!

Dec. 07 2009 01:50 AM

Salespeople are good at priming, quite intuitively. Also with practice and training, I suppose, but when you try and sell an idea to someone, if you use the right tones of voice and say the right kinds of words, people are more likely to agree with you. I notice it in my job as a tour guide. It can be the difference in people liking the tour or being bored.

Sep. 08 2009 01:16 PM

Just take the road less traveled :-)

May. 31 2009 10:16 PM

this forum somewhat goes in different directions itself, in a good way of course. one road is the best choice and the other road is the worst.

Apr. 10 2009 12:55 AM

I've been catching up on RadioLab podcasts this month and heard the "bitches" line last week. After hearing the apology today and finding the controversy in the comments here I have to support Jad, at least partially.

While I was a little shocked to hear the word (and backed up the track to be sure), it was not that I was offended, merely surprised at this atypical vocabulary for the context. We have a *choice* of whether we are going to obey the statement "Stay with us ...", but we aren't *really* going to stop listening. We are slaves to our desire to listen to quality programs such as this, hence we are Jad & Robert's bitches in the current slang use of the term. Perhaps that's deeper than the thought that actually went into it at the time, but many decisions are influenced by the subconscious, aren't they?

Apr. 06 2009 03:34 PM
pat grady

this show is wonderful.

my radio affiliate is airing RadioLab while the host of fresh air in on vacation. hearing 1 episode on the way home from work, i made sure when i got home to hop on the computer and subscribe to their podcasts.

i just listened to "the obama effect" podcast and i learned that the "bitches" thing in "choice" was a problem. regretfully, i haven't bothered to read any of the posts above me. i'm quite through with trolling message boards and forums, but this envokes a very personal feeling i have concerning this issue.

it was funny. i quite literally laughed out loud when that segment ended. i happen to identify with a culture that quite frequently uses vulgarities as terms of endearment toward those you care about. it's strange, but the evolution of language is a strange thing sometimes.

people have every right to be angry. but i would like to point out something that this show covered in the "choice" episode.

at the 47 minute mark of the episode, there is a man speaking of focus groups.
at the end of his thought he states, "the only reason these shows make it on the air is that somebody at some point said, 'you know what, ignore that stuff. i like it.'"

at some point you have to recognize that what you're doing is a form of art, and you are free to exercise artistic liberty in producing the show.

it matters less if what you did was right compared to having the right to do it. you do have that right, and sometimes "just ignor[ing] that stuff" is the right to do.


Feb. 14 2009 08:23 PM
Renshin Bunce

Does Jad read this stuff? I also looked at the post-show feedback and saw nothing there. I'd really like to get a response to the comments on his calling his listeners "bitches." The negative feeling it left in me has remained as I listen to subsequent RadioLab podcasts. It's very disappointing.

Jan. 05 2009 03:10 PM

I love every episode. I was curious about the "JOE" experiment. They never mentioned the temperature outside on the day/s of the experiment. Presumably it was cold outside. I wonder if on a hot day, a cold cup would have a similar effect? Maybe this seems like a small point, but I don't think so. I tend to get annoyed when told, basically, that I don't have free will... Thoughts?

Dec. 29 2008 04:04 PM

I was surprised at the insinuation at the opening of the show that one has a choice about sexual preference.

Dec. 17 2008 07:38 PM

Great show! Makes me think of a recent podcast (I think NeuroPod?) that mentioned the brain shows activity up to 7 seconds prior to consciously making a decision/choice -
(covered in Wired: and (

Welcome, back, RL hoes!

Dec. 16 2008 11:11 AM

Huh. While I'm not offended by the "bitches" comment, it just doesn't seem to fit. The show is just smarter than that. I mean, WTF, right? I'm disappointed to find out it was just an impulsive gag rather than a plant for a future show...

Regardless, Radio Lab is still my favorite NPR show, hands down. Thanks guys for the incredible work that you do.

Dec. 15 2008 01:56 AM

This was so, so, so amazing. Love the show, guys.

Dec. 14 2008 03:32 AM

The 'bitches' thing is stupid. Either you want to be taken seriously or you want to pander to 'youngsters' by using whatever jive talk you think is hip.
I would strive to be taken seriously. Your audience is smart enough, act like it.

Dec. 12 2008 01:25 PM
Dan J.

The show closes up with the idea that we are not in charge of all of our individual choices. Run with that idea for a moment. This mean that individual choices are ruled by society. Which makes sense. Earlier in the show one researcher describes US societal preference of Whites over Blacks. Still it isn't all that interesting, so run the idea out further. Society is an organism that makes choices. I will suppose that while each individual choice I make may be ruled by society, I get to guide the overall thrust of the ensemble of my decisions. My mind interacts with the Mind of Society, charting my course either with the current or against the current depending on the bent of my tiller.

So far only mildly interesting. But think about the vast tracts of text that look at how each of us must reform ourselves to bring about a satisfactory world. Bibles, Korans, Bagivad Ghita, Buhhidist texts that set out rules which best govern the individual to create a just society. Easy to write because each individual writer knows his or her person best.

I would wish for a text that explains the rules of the society itself. What would the text look like that explains how the societal origanism must be origanized? How must that Society think? What should drive its decisions?

Is it possible to write a Bible class text on this topic?

Dec. 10 2008 10:31 PM

As an architect I deal with an innordinate amount of choice in my daily life. If you have a hard time at the grocery store, you wouldn't imagine the amount of choice available in building construction and design. So - I have two comments:
1) To counteract my work related choices, I simplify my life choices - I LOVE grocery stores like Lidle and Fresh and Easy. I modify my palate to match their options and live wonderfully.
2) Three is the perfect number.Clients, Bosses, and even Employees. Give them three choices and only three choices. They are thrilled while you look thoughtful yet organized - it's a win win situation.

Dec. 08 2008 11:18 PM
stanley dorn

The topic is interesting but I had to turn it off because Jad and maybe particularly Robert are microscopically controlling in how they let the listener have the experience (and now Mike Peska is doing the same thing. The effect for me is that they are as impressed by their own thought processes they are in the story itself. Perhaps this is unintentional but I feel like saying "Just tell me, already!" Sorry but its like trying to getaway from a self-involved person who has buttonholed you at a party.

Dec. 08 2008 04:46 PM
Paul Hilfinger

I have to agree with previous doubts about the arguments against "purely rational" behavior. Where a decision is necessary within some period of time, it is irrational to let a search for logical perfection prevent that decision. Chess-playing programs, for example, don't routinely run out their clocks trying to find the perfect move, because they are programmed rationally to take into account that a time limit is part of the rules. When time considerations require a decision, they will take the best they've found so far.

Dec. 06 2008 06:42 PM

Loved "Choices". I haven't laughed so hard in a long reminded me of how great "talk" radio is. I grew up listening to the radio in the 50's and still prefer it to TV. Everyone is having so much fun on RadioLab that it is contagious!!! Keep up the great work!

Dec. 05 2008 06:13 PM

OK..Try this one.. A Bitch is a female dog...

Dec. 05 2008 03:33 PM

Poor choice of terminology for the female sector Bucco!!!

Dec. 05 2008 03:22 PM

This explains why my husband takes 6 years to order food and always ends up eating my choice. He never accepted the fact that I could go to a clothing store and in 5 minutes decide an outfit I like. " why don't you look around?" he always asks. "I like what I like" was always my answer and now its a legitamite one to him! Great story!
p.s. I love Berkeley bowl!

Dec. 04 2008 10:26 PM

Oh Jad, you are breaking my heart. "Bitches" as a term of endearment for us? Gender biased insults are still demeaning to women and disrespectful to everyone. I can understand it slipped out in a moment of stress in the studio and it was meant to be funny and ironic, but it didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the otherwise brilliant pod cast.

Dec. 04 2008 12:59 AM
alexandre van de sande

coming here to praise radiolab a bit since the episode 2 wasn't that well received.

A radiolab with steven johnson AND malcom gladwell! good god!

I am the only one that think there is a constant "free will is an illusion" that runs on radiolab? I beg to disagree and I think I have chaos theory on my side.

Maybe radiolab should go medieval "free will" debate's asses, but with a science approach. Newtoninan determinism vs chaos theory. Uncertainity principle vs Multiple universes. etc.

Dec. 03 2008 11:30 AM

I enjoy this podcast because the producers have amazing resources. They do a good job of putting everything together for laymen like myself. And I enjoy the experimentation with audio...But 'bitches'? That was cynical and unnecessary. What are you, Jad, ODB? It would be one thing if you put that comment in context. (Were you priming us? Was this an example of a bad choice? Will you be surprising us in a future episode about the significance of your Comedy Central moment?) It would be one thing to do that on your own podcast, but you have some amazing people who work on this program, and there should be a line of decorum. This is the kind of thing that breaks morale and ruins reputations. It's not clever or edgy, it's just asinine. Now that I've written this, I'm going to listen and probably enjoy the rest of your programs.

Dec. 02 2008 11:26 PM
Rayna Hikman

yes. jad called us bitches.
i was listening to the podcast on the train home and had to listen back, i didn't believe it. i think it's weird too. i mean, i get it, but i didn't think they would use that term. i guess they are our friends. close friends.
i love it when robert says, "it has a surprise" when they discover the pear/apple anus. like he's excited. i have renewed wonder when i hear that kind of delight.
thank you

Dec. 02 2008 10:11 PM

As usual superb radio and quite informative. There was, however, one teeny tiny issue. I am not a huge Star Trek fan. In fact I am just like most people who are familiar with the series--just passing time watching TV. During your section on "What if we had just a rational brain as opposed to not having emotions like a Vulcan would we be better off?" The problem is that you kept invoking Mr. Spock. As far as I can recall Mr. Spoke had a human Mother and did have emotions which he kept in check with his rational Vulcan self except there were times when he lost that ability and "succumbed." So my point is Mr. Spock is not a good example. Mr. Spock is bi-species.

Dec. 01 2008 05:16 PM

i happen to think korean apple pears are delicious, and superior to all other apples.

Dec. 01 2008 03:35 AM

I second the twitter suggestion!!

awesome show, as always! and the stay with us comment was a total LOL moment!

Nov. 30 2008 12:33 AM
Janice in GA

Y'all need a Twitter feed.

Just sayin'....

I love this show.

Nov. 29 2008 07:57 PM

I agree with Anonymous above (Nov 19th) about the alternate explanation of the chocolate/fruit choice. In addition to the mental stimulant and energy benefits of cake, there may be an emotional component that goes as follows: "I'm working really hard here; if I have to interrupt my task to stop and pick a snack, I'll at least reward myself."

I think the idea of the brain at war with itself between emotion and rationality is simplistic and limited in its explanatory power. The emotions are informed by the prefrontal cortex, just as the prefrontal cortex is negotiating with emotional needs and impulses.

Nov. 29 2008 03:32 PM
Marc Naimark

Heehee... Robert said "Dr Spock" instead of "Mr Spock".

Nov. 29 2008 07:44 AM
Marc Naimark

Michael is right about "au revoir". "Adieu" is a definitive farewell. But in practice, "au revoir" is a pretty strong good-bye. You really wouldn't use it to go to a break. I would translate "Let's go to a break" as "et si on faisait une pause?".

Nov. 29 2008 07:32 AM
Marc Naimark

"Rognons" are animal kidneys, the kinds that one eats. "Reins" are human kidneys, the kind that one doesn't east. Unless one is a cannibal.

Nov. 29 2008 07:18 AM
Renshin Bunce

Very disappointed by the "stay with us, bitches." I feel like you handed me a cold cup of coffee, right at the start of a fresh season.

Nov. 28 2008 12:56 AM
Mike House

Is it a mistake that this entire season is available as audio streams on the RLab website before they air? Is this just a special Thanksgiving gift to us fans? Seriously, everyone go check out the individual episode pages for Season 5, they're all there!

Nov. 28 2008 12:42 AM

Bitches, nice intro. Good to have you guys back. Great stuff, can't wait for the next one.

FYI Jad, that apple you described, it's actually a pear and it will taste much better when served cold. You should give it another go.

Nov. 27 2008 08:16 AM

Very interesting show. I conjure up the most fantastical thoughts and theories of reality and existence when I'm high on Marijuana. Coincidentally, I always choose the cake when I'm in that state. Perhaps there is a relation... And no, I'm not currently partaking.

Nov. 27 2008 02:55 AM

I've been listening to the podcast for a couple years now, just went to the show in Chicago...fantastic... but I had to write to tell you how thrilled I was by Choice. My biggest pet peeve with people is that they can't make decisions anymore. I'm always pushing my teenage nieces and nephew to make choices but they seem paralyzed by the pressure. I always ask, "what are you so afraid of?" and they can never answer. I worry if they can't make these small decisions now, how will they ever survive in adulthood. Your show was enlightening, and I hope they choose to listen when I forward them the podcast. Great work!

Nov. 25 2008 06:53 PM

Hah! I just got online to leave a comment asking if Jad actually says, "Stay with us... bitches," only to find that it's been thoroughly discussed. :)

Nov. 24 2008 05:40 PM

This episode was great. I am always amazed how everything goes back to the emotional YOU and the rational YOU. (who isn’t bipolar!)

With regards to 7 + or - 2 the emotional and rational brain; this point made so much sense, it is no wonder that those who are stressed out with many things to do or on their mind may in fact be overweight due to the emotional attachment to food and the inability to deal with the underlying issues.
Similarly, the particular idea that gut feeling is an more like an average of all feelings - was an amazing concept.

BRAVO Radio Lab.

And I knew Bitches was said lovingly, besides Robert and Jad can do no wrong.

Nov. 24 2008 04:56 PM
Eric Hanson

I found a lot of comfort researching my book. Not just focusing on the work, but learning about the mistakes, missed chances, bad choices and subsequent reprieves of famous people in history. Doing something colossal and regretting it five minutes later. Stuff happens regardless. The most poignant moment in A Book of Ages is Albert Camus dying in a car accident with a train ticket in his pocket. Luckiest? Theodore Dreiser deciding tickets on the Titanic were too expensive. Still, Dreiser never wrote another great novel.

Nov. 24 2008 12:16 PM

I literally laughed out loud when Chocolate Cake and Fruit Salad started arguing. Radiolab never disappoints in the sound department.

Nov. 24 2008 01:50 AM

Oh, my God! I had this conversation about too much choice with my best friend in high school a number of times once we got to college, and people started pressuring us to decide what our major was going to be, and what we wanted to be when we grew up. Nice to know there is scientific proof!

Nov. 23 2008 09:38 PM

From The Morning News:

Question 8: Although I laughed and found it very amusing… what’s up with you calling us bitches? Do feel your older listeners understood the joke or a little hope for riling them up?

Yeah, we wondered whether to include that or not. That happened late one night in the studio, after Krull and I had been bickering about something. We threw it in just for kicks. No offense intended! Bitches was meant lovingly.

Nov. 23 2008 07:56 PM

to both hosts: i love your show, am proselytizing in my native vienna, austria and already created a small circle of addtional fans of radio lab.

as to two little language excursions in your choice show:

au revoir does indeed NOT mean good-bye, but literally "to seeing (you) again" - same as in "arrivederci": a rivedere ci: to seeing each other gain,

or in "Auf Wiedersehen" - same story: wieder sehen - to see again.

an, speaking (of) german: i liked your allusion to "Sturm und Drang", literally "Tempest and Urge". you will score even better if next time you pronounce it "Shtoorm" - true german! ;-)

again, i think it is the best science series i've ever heard on the radio, and i listen to a lot of them.

Nov. 23 2008 07:07 AM

Apple-Pears (Li) are delicious! :(

Nov. 22 2008 04:30 PM

I have found that when i rent two movies i never watch them. If i rent one movie i usually watch it that night or the next day. Now i know why.

Nov. 22 2008 01:14 AM
daniel w

I'm pretty sure that you guys are missing the scope of this show. I figure with FCC hearings on profanity in the news lately, Radiolab is planting a seed. They are probably "priming" their audience for an upcoming episode on profanity or maybe the weight of words. I hope at least.

keep up the thought provoking shows.

Nov. 22 2008 12:32 AM

this is great. paradox of choice in america. being scared to make a decision is being scared to live.

i'm not personally overloaded with choices. i'm definitely over influenced. To many people to many voices...

Nov. 21 2008 06:38 PM
Shaun Oen

I love this episode but, as others have lamented before, the disinteresting stuff was front loaded and the truly great things were at the end but not truly completed. It was a marvelous hint to be sure yet with no pay off I feel almost cheated. Blue balled bitch, as it were.

Jad, I love the bitches comment and when my girlfriend and I heard that when we were listening we had to stop the podcast until the laughter died down. Can we make a request for a continuation of the train of thought that we left off on at the end of Choices and explore the free will versus programing?

Nov. 21 2008 05:36 PM
Matt Slaven

Good anecdotes, and production guys. I noticed the tamed down "WNYC" that was discussed this summer, too. I think you made a good compromise of keeping yourself and your listeners happy. It made me smile.

I personally thought the 'bitches' bit was funny, but I hope that part is edited out when its distributed to the NPR stations. I'm a big believer in getting the information and ideas you guys gather into as many minds as possible, and think adding 'bitches' only turns people away. I might be wrong though, so I guess the radio stations will let you know what feedback and listener ratings were after that moment..

And Wayne, you are not alone (as the show already proves). I have begun thinking this past year that the reason Americans choose to be distracted by so much entertainment is precisely because we are "the land of opportunity" - Too much opportunity - and it drives us mad thinking about what we should do, so we choose not to think about it. But then that disengages us from our surroundings and our selves, which is a disaster for everyone.

Nov. 21 2008 04:22 PM
Sargun Dhillon

Man, that was awesome, bitches.

I love what they've done with the audio. I'm looking forward to a new season of Radiolab.

Nov. 20 2008 09:01 PM

Maybe Jad would like one of the "Science: it works, bitches" t-shirts from xkcd (if he hasn't already got one that is) :-)

I love the cartoons -

Am going to enjoy the new podcast (yay!) at the weekend :)))

Nov. 20 2008 08:05 PM

Welcome back, bitches. The season is off to a great start.

It occurred to me that possibly the thing with the coffee was a subliminal suggestion involving the guy's name, JOE. As in CUP OF JOE, which never suggests an iced coffee but a piping hot cup.

Also it made me think of the drug dealing mom from the cable show WEEDS. You always see her drinking an iced latté out of a clear plastic cup, and somehow this seems a perfect prop to enhance her characterization as a MILF--which makes me wonder if JOE paired up with iced coffee introduced some low-level gender panic in the subjects.

Anyway keep edifying and entertaining, bitches.

Nov. 20 2008 06:29 PM

@ Jeff -The "bitches" comment I think may have been Jad acknowledging a young listener demographic? perhaps? maybe?

This program is always full of welcome surprises. :)

Nov. 20 2008 11:17 AM

Great idea. I hate choice. Even my friends will tell you I hate Subway. I'll end up screaming to the sub-maker: "The picture looks good. JUST GIVE ME WHAT'S IN THE PICTURE!" 'cause they always ask EXACTLY what you want on it. I end up ordering after my friends and having what they have.

It's not quite on the level of "Elliot" though.


Nov. 20 2008 12:57 AM

I love this show so much. If that makes me one of their 'bitches', so be it. haha

That had to be an accident, but I love it either way.

Nov. 19 2008 07:22 PM

In regards to the sexuality choice comments. I don't think they were saying that sexuality was a choice, rather that nowadays it is more acceptable to have a lifestyle other than heterosexuality. Perhaps their wording was wrong, but I doubt RadioLab meant to say it was a choice.

Otherwise, FASCINATING episode. I put this one on CD and gave it to one of my professors. Love it!

Nov. 19 2008 06:45 PM

Loved the show! Exquisitely made, as always. Had to whip out a paper and pencil and draw little charts with my own summary of what was discussed. That dense, and that delicious.
Left me thinking, ok, why did Jad call us bitches, I kinda liked it, and who the hell is at my drivers seat? Brings a different perspective to awakening the conscious mind. Is there one? Lets ask the observer. Thank you guys!

Nov. 19 2008 06:40 PM

Oh man, I gotta disagree with some parts of this show. First of all, when the test subject chooses the cake, why is that presented as an emotional decision, of the ID overruling the rational, self-preserving superego? That's one possible explanation, but to me it seems more likely that the when the brain in working harder (remembering seven digits), the need for energy increases, and simple sugars provide the quickest route to that. Obviously this is just a hypothesis, but it's backed by the data just as strongly as the interpretation given in the podcast(unless the researchers did other work that isn't presented here).

As for the apple choice....well, how is size, price, and skin color related to quality in fruits? It's not, really (not across species anyway), so Jad was using entirely the wrong metrics to make his choice.

So while this episode is interesting so far, it's not even close to being scientific.

Nov. 19 2008 06:16 PM

Eh, I don't know about you, but I only listened to it once, noticed how amazingly fast my brain picked up this 'fluke' in the recording, and moved on. I stand corrected, I am nobody's bitch. Have some dignity, will'ya?
Looking forward to future shows, all fantastic work.

Nov. 19 2008 06:10 PM

Er. Choices, not changes. Duh.

Nov. 19 2008 04:15 PM

Yow, we're all Jad's bitches! That made me do an aural double-take. I'm so glad your show is back and the new season is underway. The Changes episode was, as usual, compelling and interesting, but it also reminded me of some salient points for my line of work (human factors). Thanks for producing such a fantastic show and I can't wait for next week!

Nov. 19 2008 04:15 PM
Connor Walsh

Re the sexuality bit, I took it to be referring to available (implied easily available) choices of lifestyle.

Nov. 19 2008 04:04 PM
David G

Oh.My.God. I just fell in love with Jad for calling us bitches! I will listen to him say that phrase no less than 30 more times.

I love you bitch!

Nov. 19 2008 03:48 PM


People can CHOOSE to be Gay, Straight, Bi? Wrong at 2:34

Really? I believe the angst of those decisions is whether hide it from everyone else or to be Out of the Closet. People in the past were wracked with guilt and pain from their sexual orientation. It isn't a choice no matter what the religous institution say.

Nov. 19 2008 12:45 PM
Elizabeth GM

I loved the show, though I've heard a lot of this material about choice in other contexts. The segment with Oliver Sacks was wonderfully funny. (I defy anyone not to laugh out loud when Robert Krulwich and Oliver Sacks are laughing simultaneously in your ear. Or when you try to imagine Sacks barfing up kidneys.)

But "stay with us, bitches"? That neither rang true nor did I think it was cool.

Nov. 19 2008 12:42 PM

I loved this episode. I found it both fascinating and disturbing, which is what good radio has the power to do.

I definitely wanted to hear more about the idea that conscious will is an illusion, and I'm excited to read more into it. It brings up a lot of questions. What if free will doesn't exist? How much control do we even have? We must live with the assumption that we do have free will, but if we don't, would it be possible for us to comprehend that? Would knowing the truth (of our lack of free will) be worth the horrible, helpless, meaningless feeling that accompanies that realization? And after listening to an episode like this one, how does one shake that feeling?

Thanks for the thought provoking episode... bitches!

Nov. 19 2008 11:50 AM

I nearly choked to death from laughing at the 'bitches' bit. More unexpected profanity please.

Great episode - as good as ever.

Would love to find out more about how people make/don't make their choices after leaving college - that was the hardest part of my life.

Nov. 19 2008 08:03 AM

I just started listening to Choice while addressing college applications. Oh, is it eery.

Nov. 19 2008 01:55 AM

Hooray New Radiolab! I share this show with everyone I know.

BUT I have 2 comments on this one.

1.It was a good example of burning your logic out with the apple choices, but it was completely by chance on both accounts and therefore the outcome was also random. On another day you might have made the right choice of apple. I think it might have been inferred that thinking it out too much will lead ultimately to a poor choice.

2. YOU CANT LEAVE US WITH A CLIFF HANGER "Conscience Will is an Illusion"

Right, Next Episode you do has to be on the Illusion of Conscience Will. The Book you mentioned at the end...Chapter 1 "Illusion" will give you plenty of Material to work with.

Thanks SO much!

Nov. 19 2008 12:05 AM
Jacob Poulsen

Loved the bitches!

Nov. 18 2008 11:59 PM

Oh my god he DID say bitches! I heard it before, I could have sworn he said bitches and decided he must have said "if you choose". But I just listened again and he DEFINITELY says "bitches."


Nov. 18 2008 10:51 PM
Joseph K

Hah! ‘Bitches.’ Totally missed that. Had to check it again.

Lovely to have you guys back. As usual the fact that there’s only an hour frustrates the hell out of me because my anticipation for the next segment is higher every time one wraps up!

Nov. 18 2008 10:43 PM

I was thrilled to see a new episode in my iTunes, but I was somewhat disappointed by Choice.

I felt that it:
-featured fewer scientists and more pop science writers
-didn't let me into complex, surprising science that I hadn't intersected in other media channels (though the gambling story was fascinating!)
-featured only male guests. This drives me nuts.
-had less of elegance and more gimmicks in the audio effects

I'm still hoping to love the rest of the season, as I have all the content to date. This one won't be an episode I choose to listen to again.

Nov. 18 2008 10:10 PM
One Of Jad's Bitches

Ha! I love it. And yes, I was suprised, but hey, I guess if the shoe fits... I've listened to the whole show twice already.

Nov. 18 2008 10:04 PM

Really great episode. I loved Malcolm Gladwell's part. A lot of what he said was said and explored was also in his book, Blink. Great book. Great episode too. And I find it hilarious that Jad totally called us bitches

Nov. 18 2008 10:00 PM

Did anyone else get depressed thinking about how easily the "rational" part of our brains get fatigued? That, and the whole "priming" thing. Altogether very depressing. I wonder just what the actual limits are in those areas. I feel like they barely scratched the surface in this show.

Nov. 18 2008 06:18 PM

I thought I was the only one that felt the way they describe at the beginning with the college students being paralyzed with so many choices. I went through the same thing and it basically killed my college career. I felt like there was so much to do or to be or to try or to become. Hey this philosophy class is cool maybe I should major in that, but hey I also like this art program over here, but I might want to learn to play an instrument over there, or hey writing is fun, or on and on and on. That same sense of missing out on all of these other things because you pick just one or two.

Personally, I have a hard time dealing with a lot of modernity for this same reason. Just too much, way too fast. You cant keep up and will never be able to. They touched on this in the Time episode with the artist that lives completely in the 19th century.

I don't know. Anyone else?

Nov. 18 2008 04:52 PM
Erika Barber

Yes, I believe, you are correct. I came here to check and see if I needed to have my head, and er, ears checked. Also, notice...Apples and Pears vs. Apples and Oranges in the Oliver Sacks segment?

Nov. 18 2008 04:41 PM
Jes Sanders

Pardon me, but around the 2:40 minute mark, at the end of the introduction, did Jad actually say, Stay with us . . . bitches." Did I hear that right? What's that all about?

Nov. 18 2008 04:10 PM
Eric Allam

Jose E. Rodriguez, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that emotion is counterproductive. As the episode show its really this tug-o-war between the new "rational" brain and the old "emotional" brain. I do agree that maybe they could have used a better example to show what someone with a pure "rational" brain would be like. It reminds me of I, Robot (movie version, caution spoilers ahead), in which the entirely "rational" robot chose to save Will Smith's character instead of the little girl because it had rationally calculated his chances of survival to be higher than the girls. Because of this very inhuman action by the robot, Spooner ends up hating the robots because they are poor decision makers. Any human would have chose the little girl without thinking, and this, to most humans, would have been considered the correct choice.

Nov. 18 2008 04:06 PM

love it.

Nov. 18 2008 03:18 PM
Richard Card

I opened my itunes today, AND there was a new Radio Lab... thank you for season 5

Nov. 18 2008 03:09 PM
Ryan Shevlin

Hooray for the Berkeley Bowl! I live right behind it. No Zazz apples right now, but they have Jazz. Just don't sample the fruit or you could end up banned for life.

Nov. 18 2008 02:46 PM
Peter Vlasveld

good start to the fifth season. keep it up!

Nov. 18 2008 02:42 PM
Luis Giron

Hooraayyyyy! I've been waiting for so long :)

Nov. 18 2008 02:17 PM
Jose E. Rodriguez

I just heard a big advocacy on the second part of the show for "emotion."
I love RadioLab, but I have to disagree on them with this one.
As an example they use the "emotionally catatonic" businessman who was unable to make choices because he had a damaged lobe during an operation which sort of turned off his emotional center.
There are a couple of problems with Robert's conclusion that emotion is essential to function:
1. The man achieved that state due to trauma, so he can hardly be considered a "stand in" for a normal entirely rational being.
2. The decisions that plague him are full of emotionally charged imaginary scenarios, like "will the blue pen stand out too much," "will I run out of ink." So maybe you could argue his emotion center has been rewired, or screwed up somehow.
3. Our society is already hard wired to be emotionally ruled. That is how a consumer society works. So to say we need more emotional behavior, or even a little of it, is like saying we need to "work on our smoking," or like saying that "drinking is essential in our lives." The truth is that people are already WAY too emotional. This can be seen by all the drastic decisions we are manipulated into taking by politicians: like the war, the bailout, etc.

Nov. 18 2008 12:45 PM

hah! as soon as I write that, it updates.

Nov. 18 2008 12:00 PM

has this been uploaded to the podcast? my iTunes doesn't seem to detect it.

Nov. 18 2008 11:59 AM

Am I crazy? Or did I just hear Jad call the entire audience bitches in the very beginning of the episode. Around 4:40 of the podcast, Jad says "Stay with us.....bitches". Isn't that kind of weird?

Nov. 18 2008 11:55 AM

I am dying to know how to 'prime' myself. Please, let us know.

Nov. 18 2008 11:03 AM

Whoot, wonderful episode, BUT I'm fairly sure Jad called us all the proverbial "bitches" directly after the intro. Will some else please acknowledge this? I think its great that we on such a basis, I mean, that's what I call my friends in such situations. What exactly spurred that choice? Thoughts? anyone? anyone?

Nov. 18 2008 04:36 AM

Yay!!! Radio Lab is back!!

This episode reminded me of the book, Stumbling on Happiness. He explains how having too many choices can make us unhappy.

Nov. 18 2008 02:49 AM

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