A smorgasbord of senses

The world is bigger than you think. I don’t mean geographically, though maybe that too. I mean in terms of its textures and sounds and smells; I mean in terms of its hues and vibrations. There are depths and layers to the world that we don’t usually experience, that we might actually never be able […]

Of chimps and children

Welcome back, friends! Apologies for the brief delay in getting this episode out. We’re now happily back on track and super stoked for what we have coming up—starting with today’s episode.My guest is Dr. Michael Tomasello, a voraciously interdisciplinary thinker, an incredibly productive scientist, and a pioneer in the systematic comparison of chimpanzee and human […]

The ABCs of writing systems

Have you ever pondered the letter P, or maybe reflected on the letter R? As in, thought about their structures, their shapes, and how they came to be. I, to be honest, had not. I have never given these letters—or any other letters—much thought. But that’s what we’re up to today. In this episode, we’re […]

The brilliant swarm

Right now, as I’m recording this, there’s an astonishing spectacle unfolding in the forests of Tennessee. Every June, vast swarms of Photinus carolinus fireflies light up the night there. The members of this particular species don’t just blink erratically and independently. They sync up; they flash in a dazzling unison, creating waves of light that seem to propagate […]

Children in the deep past

When we think about ancient humans, we often imagine them doing certain kinds of things. Usually very serious things like hunting game and making tools, foraging for food and building fires, maybe performing the occasional intricate ritual. But there was definitely more to the deep past than all this adulting. There were children around, too—lots of […]

The quest for human uniqueness

Welcome back friends! Today’s episode is an audio essay. Those who’ve listened to the show for a while now know that this is a classic Many Minds genre. But we actually haven’t done one in quite awhile. This one takes on a topic that is big, consequential, and above all quite fun: our species’ long-running […]

Animal minds and animal morality

Your friend is in a bit of distress. They’ve just been dunked in a pool, and they can’t pull themselves out. You’re looking on as they’re paddling furiously, trying to hold onto the pool’s ledge. Fortunately, there’s a way to save your friend, to give them an escape route. The thing is, there’s also something […]

What is language for?

Welcome back friends and happy spring! (Or fall, as the case may be.) Today’s show takes on a disarmingly simple question: What is language for? As in, why do we say things to each other? What do words do for us? Why do our languages label some aspects of the world, but not others? My […]

Blindness, neuroplasticity, and the origins of concepts

It’s an old question: How does experience shape our minds and brains? Some people play the piano; others drive taxis; others grow up trilingual. For years now, scientists have examined how these and other kinds of life experiences can lead to subtle differences in our concepts and cortexes. But to really push on the question, […]

Magic and the bird mind

To be a good magician, you have to be a good psychologist. If you want to pull off a really good magic trick, you need to know your audience—what they are likely to attend to or gloss over, what shortcuts they take, what predictions they tend to make. Which all raises a question: Could you […]