Why Factor, The [World Service]

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Episodes

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For most of us, speaking fluently comes naturally. But if you have a stutter, getting the words out can be a real struggle. Some sounds are repeated or prolonged or a word gets stuck and doesn’t come out at all. At times it’s impossible even to say your own name or where you live, which can cause huge distress and embarrassment.

Stammering or stuttering (it’s the same thing) affects more than 70 million people globally – that’s about 1% of the world’s population. It’s a neurological condition, based on the brain’s wiring. But other factors, like genetics, also play a part. Becky Milligan examines why some people develop a stammer, what treatments are available and whether stammering can ever be cured.

Becky talks to Dr Deryk Beal from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, to find out how the brain of someone who stutters is different from someone with no stutter; she visits the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children where 12 year-old Sam is getting treatment from speech therapist Kevin Fower; we hear from 22 year-old Rishabh Panchamia, who was so ashamed of his stammer he considered suicide. He’s now found fluency with the help of the McGuire programme. And Becky meets Betony Kelly who tells us that being open about having a stammer has helped her to accept and be proud of it as part of her identity.

(Photo: Rishabh Panchamia playing snooker. Credit: BBC Copyright - Rishabh Panchamia)

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What do our accents say about us? Why do they matter?

On this week’s Why Factor Jo Fidgen meets an Englishwoman who suffers from a rare condition known as Foreign Accent Syndrome which causes her to speak with a French-sounding accent. What can her situation teach us about accents and why they matter? Jo explores why English sounds different across the globe and takes an accent lesson from a Canadian drama teacher. And did you know some animals have accents too?

Produced by Laura Gray

(Photo: A woman's mouth smiling. Credit: Getty Images)

Addiction: Why Do Some People Succumb To It?2016021920160222 (WS)Why does pleasure and desire lead to addiction in some people but not others?

What happens when the biochemistry of the brain’s pleasure and reward system goes wrong? How can something that starts off being pleasurable end up making us feel so low? Mike Williams talks to scientists and former addicts to search for some answers to the power of addiction.

(Photo: Collection of different hard drugs heroin, pills, tobacco and alcohol. Credit: Shutterstock)

Adolescence2014020720140208 (WS)
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Mike Williams asks why adolescence is often so difficult.

In the west, teenagers are commonly perceived as being volatile, moody and are often seen as being “trouble.?? Why? Well, er, because they’re teenagers aren’t they? All that growing, all those changes...

But in recent years scientists have discovered that changes to the brain, which occur during puberty, make young people less able to control their emotions and result in different attitudes towards risk as compared to adults. Can these changes to the brain explain why adolescence can be such a difficult period of our lives? Or is adolescence a manufactured cultural concept we’ve invented?

Find out on The Why Factor with Mike Williams.

(Image of three teenagers smiling. Credit: Think Stock)

Age Of Consent2016012220160125 (WS)Why does the age of consent for homosexual relationships differ?

The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered by law to be capable of agreeing to sex. It is just a number, but a number which varies greatly around the world. It is bound up with child protection, notions of honour and marriage, and concerns about paedophilia and society’s strange obsession with lust.

Mike Williams asks whether the broad range of ages implies the number is simply a social construct or if it is based on any hard and fast scientific evidence.

For much of history, laws have regulated relationships between women and men, girls and boys but why does the age of consent for homosexual relationships differ?

(Photo: Cartoon graphics of two hands with question marks on a red background, asking yes or no)

Ageing2013040520130406 (WS)
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Why are attitudes towards older people often so negative?

Why are attitudes towards older people often so negative? Traditional definitions used to mark old age at around retirement, 60–65 but with many of us expected to live well into our eighties and beyond, that now seems absurd. Mike Williams talks to the old and the young, and asks how might we re-think of this period of our lives?

(Image of a woman holding hands with a relative. Credit: AFP/Getty Images )

Ageing2013072620130727 (WS)
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Why are attitudes towards older people often so negative?

Traditional definitions used to mark old age at around retirement, 60– 65 but with many of us expected to live well into our eighties and beyond, that now seems absurd. Mike Williams talks to the old and the young, and asks how might we re-think of this period of our lives ?

(Image of a woman holding hands with a relative. Credit: AFP/Getty Images )

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Why do so many people drink alcohol? And why do some struggle to control it?

Alcohol has been part of human civilisation for thousands of years. Evidence from pottery residues suggests that people in ancient China may have been enjoying the delights of wine as long ago as 9,000 years. But our attraction to the ethanol molecule may go back much further than that – to a time when our distant ancestors were eating nothing but fruit.

So why do we drink the stuff? What are the benefits? And why do some people have problems controlling their drinking?

Alcohol Addiction2017122520171226 (WS)Catherine Carr asks why excessive drinking can sometimes seem to be socially acceptable

Catherine Carr asks why excessive drinking can sometimes seem to be socially acceptable. And why countries like America and India have at times turned against alcohol. She hears stories of addiction in India and Kenya and a history of temperance and prohibition movements in America. Medical specialists explain why people can become alcoholics, why some people are drinking more and the treatments available. How Alcoholics Anonymous began and how a new synthetic alcohol may provide a solution.

(Image: People drinking, Credit: Shutterstock)

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Why would you go to the coldest place on Earth? A place mostly devoid of life, where there are rarely more than a few thousand other humans spread out across a landmass twice the size of Australia. A place whose sublime beauty is matched by its capacity to kill you, very fast.

We are talking about Antarctica. A continent which belongs to no nation has no government and is run according to an international treaty signed nearly 60 years ago.

Shabnam Grewal went there many years ago and knows the joy of being surrounded by ice blue glaciers and the hardships of working in a freezing climate. She talks to others who were drawn there too, by the beauty of the place or in search of knowledge or to test themselves and understand who they really are.

(Picture: A Freediver in Antartica, Credit: Freedive Antarctica / Barcroft / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Why are we fascinated with Antarctica?

Are You A Numbers Person?2017051520170516 (WS)Are you a numbers person? Timandra Harkness explains how we get intimidated by numbers.
Assisted Death2016093020161003 (WS)Is it ever right to take a life? Mike Williams explores the dilemmas of assisted death.

Is it ever right to take a life? Mike Williams explores the ethical dilemmas of assisting death.

In a few countries, terminally-ill people — suffering pain and distress — are allowed to get help from friends, family and physicians to bring their lives to an end. In many countries, it’s a crime.

Helping someone to kill themselves is illegal in the UK but there are attempts to get the law revised. The rules are most liberal in Belgium where, recently, a 17 year old boy became the first minor to be granted help with dying. And, in the United States, California has become the fifth state to approve what they’ve called “physician assisted death??

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Ben Carter & Kara Digby

(IMAGE: Woman touching elderly man's hand. Credit: Arman Zhenikeyev/Shutterstock)

Attraction2016062420160627 (WS)Why are we attracted to some people and not to others?

Why are we attracted to some people and to not others? Mike Williams explores the factors that lie behind our feelings of attraction. He speaks to the authors Christy and Clare Campbell. Christy fell in love at first sight, but it took Clare six months to feel that strong sense of attraction. After 40 years of marriage they are still attracted to each other.

Beauty, facial symmetry, personality and values all play a role in our attraction to others. Evolution biologist Dr Anna Machin from Oxford University explains the science behind attraction. Dr Machin explains how chemicals released in our brains gives us the confidence to approach someone who we are attracted to and how the smell and taste of a prospective partner can tell us a lot of their genes and whether they will be a compatible mate.

(Photo: A couple gazing at each other. Credit: Shutterstock)

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What is it about humans and our relationship with water which evokes so much in us?

Why do we bathe for purification?

In the first of two programmes on bathing, Mike Williams looks at bathing for purification.

This week, supernatural waters. We take a look at the rituals and symbolism of bathing; to wash away our sins, cleanse our souls, to prepare ourselves for an encounter with the divine....ceremonies of purification from Christian baptism to the Sacred River Ganges... from the ancient Roman Empire to the modern Middle East.

Next week: water, bathing, health and well-being.

Past programmes include The Sea, Make-Up and The Ball.

(Image: Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of the holy Ganges river believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth. Copyright: Getty Images)

Bathing: Water, Health And Well-being20130621The second of two programmes looking at why we bathe: the rituals and practices.

Why do we bathe?

The second of two programmes examining the rituals of bathing. Last week: spiritual purification and supernatural waters.

Do you enjoy a hot bath or is water too precious where you live to bathe in? This week is about cleansing the body and clearing the min

Why Factor, The [world Service]

Beauty Pageants2019030420190305 (WS)Beauty pageants project an image of inspiring glitz and glamour. Often contestants enter these competitions to boost their confidence and take advantage of the platform they provide.
But, there are plenty of critics who argue they objectify women, and are out of place in a world striving for gender equality.
In this week’s Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks: in an age of female empowerment, why do women still compete in beauty pageants?

Presented and Produced by Sandra Kanthal
Editor: Richard Knight

Audio clips courtesy of:
Binibining Pilipinas 2010- Crowning Moment
Audio: From Youtube footage Credit: Name: tpageant
Virtually Viral – Guys Go Insane over Miss Philippines
Audio: From Youtube footage Credit: Name: Virtually Viral
Miss Universe 2015
Audio: From Youtube footage Credit: Name: Vevo/Fox
Miss Peru 2017
Audio: From Youtube footage Credit: Name: Guardian News

Photo: Silhouette of woman holding a beauty queen crown
Credit: Getty Images

Why do women still compete in beauty pageants?

Being At Sea2018081320180814 (WS)Lesley Curwen has sailed thousands of miles around Europe on her yacht and knows the strange joy of being out of sight of land.
Talking to fellow sea-lovers - sailors, a marine biologist, an artist and a Captain of a merchant ship - she asks why we are drawn to go to sea and put ourselves at the mercy of wind and waves. Is it a yearning to be close to nature, a test of self-reliance or can science explain why our brains are attracted to the ocean?

Photo: The sea. Copyright Shutterstock

Sailor Lesley Curwen asks why we are drawn to go to sea

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Mike Williams peers into the world of black and asks why it has so many different meanings

From the mythology of night time and darkness, to being rebellious and cool, to a word which has come to define a race of people, black, as a colour and a concept, has always meant many things. Why?

Where do positive and negative ideas that have been associated with black come from, how much resonance do they still hold today? Mike Williams peers into the world of black, its science, history, psychology and politics and asks why black has so many different meanings.

(Image of a man walking down a darkened street during a snowstorm. Credit Getty)

Blame2019020420190205 (WS)When things go wrong, we crave something or someone to blame. It’s a strategy which puts people on the defensive, and can create a toxic culture. People remember when they have been blamed for something, and will be quicker to deflect blame themselves. It’s a primitive emotion which can be found in almost every society. In this edition of the Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks: why do we play the blame game?

Contributors to this programme include:
Mark Alicke, Psychology Professor, Ohio University
Terri Apter, Psychologist and Author of Passing Judgement: The Power of Praise and Blame in Everyday Life.
Charlie Campbell, Author of Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People
Dr Cicely Cunningham, Oncologist and founder of the campaign: Learn Not Blame
Richard Gowthorpe, Criminal Defence Lawyer
Armele Philpotts- relationship and family therapist and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Image: Pointing Fingers
Credit: Getty Images

Why are we so quick to point the finger of blame?

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The weird world of the colour blue.

In the physical, material sense, it's quite rare in nature... But, at the same time, it surrounds us. Babies can't detect it. The Himba tribe of Namibia can't describe it. Pablo Picasso turned to it after a friend committed suicide and in the West it's creative and reliable in the East it's cold and deathly. This week on the Why Factor, we're talking about something different - the colour blue.

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Why do we place so much trust in brands? What are they and who benefits from them?

Why do we place so much trust in brands? And who benefits from them?

Walk down any street in any town or city anywhere in the world and you’ll be bombarded by brands screaming out to be noticed. It’s the way businesses get us to believe in their product, and to ultimately sell us stuff, but where does this concept of brands and branding originate from, and why do we place such trust in belief in what they stand for?

Look at every product these days and you’ll see how branding works. From those double golden arches, to that little green fruit, to the small tick that urges us to just do it, everything now is designed in such a way that makes us believe in the power of the product, but why?

Journeying through the history of brands and branding, moving right the way through to the modern day, Mike Williams talks to those involved in branding. Is it an art? Is it a science? Is it a fair relationship, or do marketers have consumers at a disadvantage when it comes to getting us to believe in their product?

Produced by Johny Cassidy

(Image: A man looks at a shop window display as he passes by a clothing store. Photo credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Look at every product these days and you’ll see how branding works. From those double golden arches, to that little green fruit, to the small tick that urges us to just do it, everything now is architected and designed in such a way that makes us believe in the power of the product, but why?

This weeks Why Factor will try and answer some of those questions. Journeying through the history of brands and branding, moving right the way through to the modern day, Mike Williams will talk to those involved in branding. Is it an art? Is it a science? Is it a fair relationship, or do marketers have consumers at a disadvantage when it comes to getting us to believe in their product?

Breath-holding2017101620171017 (WS)Lucy Ash goes in search of her inner dolphin, as she asks why people hold their breath

Inhaling and exhaling – we all do it. No breath means death. So why restrict it? And how does holding our breath affect our bodies and minds? Some argue holding your breath is a good way to manage stress. But what happens when small children do it unconsciously? Lucy Ash goes in search of her inner dolphin, as she finds out why people hold their breath.

(Image: Athlete breath holding underwater, Credit: Shutterstock)

Bullies2018022620180227 (WS)Why do bullies do what they do? Shivaani Kohok explores the reasons for bullying behaviour. She talks to two bullies who explain why they do what they do – in one case, a young woman realised how the online comments she had posted about others who had previously bullied her were in fact another form of bullying behaviour.

Shivaani talks to experts who provide insight into the different types of bullies including "victims" and "ringleaders". She investigates cyber-bullying, bullying in the family, as well as workplace behaviour where bullying bosses can turn on their highest performing managers.

(Image: Child being bullied, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do bullies do what they do? Shivaani Kohok explores the reasons for bullying behaviour. She talks to two bullies who explain why they do what they do – in one case, a young woman realised how the online comments she had posted about others who had previously bullied her were in fact another form of bullying behaviour.

(Image: Child being bullied, Credit: Shutterstock)

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Why do we bully, why do some do it and others allow it?

Why do humans bully, why do some do it and others allow it? Are bullies born or do they learn their bullying? Mike Williams speaks to anthropologist Christopher Boehm about links between the bullying behaviour of our ape ancestors and our own behaviour. He also speaks to author Helene Guldberg about the challenges defining the term as well as performance poet Shane Koyczan about his experience being both bullied and being a bully.

(Image of a teenage boy bullying another boy. BBC Copyright/Corbis Royalty Free)

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is a practice that’s been carried out for centuries – but why do we do it?

Burial is a practice that’s been carried out for centuries by different cultures and religions around the world – but why do we do it? Mike Williams goes to a Jewish cemetery where Mitzi Kalinsky from the Jewish Joint Burial Society explains the reasons behind their burial practices. He talks to Caitlin Doughty, an American mortician who is trying to revolutionise burial practices in the US and considers what he would like to happen to his body, after he dies.

(Image: Gravestones in a cemetery. BBC copyright)

He talks to Caitlin Doughty, an American mortician who is trying to revolutionise burial practices in the United States and considers what he would like to happen to his body, after he dies.

Carrying Guns2017010620170108 (WS)
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In the countries where it's legal, why do people choose to bear arms?

In 1994, most Americans said they owned their gun for sport or hunting. Fast forward twenty years and now most people say they have their gun for self protection. So what changed in this time; did crime increase? Actually, the data shows that crime has declined significantly over time. So what are people really scared of? And is it rational to respond in this way?

We visit a gun licensing class in Texas, USA to hear what prompted people to sign up. We also hear from Angela Stroud, sociologist and author of the book Good Guys With Guns, who argues that it’s not crime people are scared of, but something much less tangible. We also hear from a psychologist in a country you may not associate with gun

Why Factor, The [world Service]

Carrying Guns2018042320180424 (WS)In the USA, those least likely to become victims of gun violence are the most likely to carry guns. So if they are not likely to become victims of crime, what are they really afraid of?
We speak to people getting their gun licence to try and untangle what lies behind their anxieties and discover it’s about something much less tangible.

Presenter: Aasmah Mir
Producer: Phoebe Keane

Photo: Maria Mathis with her gun on her ranch in Texas, USA, Credit: BBC)

In the US, those least likely to be victims of gun violence are most likely to carry guns

Childlessness2017071020170711 (WS)Why do some people choose to remain childless?
Cinderella2019040820190409 (WS)
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Popularly known through the1950 Disney film of the same name, Cinderella has become a childhood classic all over the world. But different versions of her story can be traced all the way from Asia to Africa and beyond. These variants provide a snapshot of the history and cultures from which they emerge, providing clues to the tale’s longevity. In this episode Sandra Kanthal asks: Why is Cinderella such a popular story to tell.

Guests:
Gessica Martini – PhD Student, Durham University
Juwen Zhang – Professor of Chinese, Willamette University
Rym Tina Ghazal – Author and Journalist
Ousseina Alidou – Professor of African Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University
Dee Dee Chainey – Author and Co-founder of Folklore Thursday

Editor: Richard Knight
Producer: Tural Ahmedzade

Photo: Cinderella About to Try on the Glass Slipper by Richard Redgrave
Credit: Historical Picture Archive/Corbis via Getty Images

Why is Cinderella such a universal story?

Clapping2017040320170404 (WS)Becky Milligan uncovers the secrets of applause and how it can be used to infect us all.
Comic Book Superheroes2016092320160926 (WS)Why are we so fascinated with the superheroes which populate our comic books and movies?
Compassion Fatigue2018100120181002 (WS)
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We hear about disasters and bad things happening in the world around the clock. Thanks to our TVs and smartphones we are bombarded 24/7. And charities use those same platforms to appeal to us for donations almost as frequently.

Those whose job it is to care – doctors, nurses, mothers even – face even more relentless demands on their compassion. Until one day some feel they cannot go on anymore.

We are all vulnerable to compassion fatigue – whether we are unable to deal with more bad news, or to care for our patients and children. But why do we get it? Why do we stop caring? And what is the impact on society when people just switch off and tune out?

Photo: Overwhelmed by the demands made on us. Credit: Getty Creative Images

Why do we get overwhelmed by caring about other people?

Complexity2017090420170905 (WS)Why do potentially life changing devices often feel so frustrating?
Confidence: How It Can Help Us2019052720190528 (WS)
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How confidence can motivate, get us off the couch, make us healthier, enterprising, decisive and help us live up to our potential
We also learn how doctors, entrepreneurs and whole economies can benefit from the right kind of confidence and the ways in which we can tell the good from the bad. In this edition of the Why Factor, Michael Blastland asks: why do we admire confidence?

Contributors:
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova - Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic - Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Dr Anne McGuinness – University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Dr Josephine Perry – Sports Psychologist
Don Moore – Professor of Management of Organizations, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley

How confidence can motivate us and help us live up to our potential

Contributors:
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova - Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic - Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Dr Anne McGuinness – Emergency Medicine Consultant, University College Hospital Trust
Dr Josephine Perry – Sports Psychologist
Don Moore – Professor of Management of Organizations, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley

Contributors:
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova - Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic - Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Dr Anne McGuinness – University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Dr Josephine Perry – Sports Psychologist
Don Moore – Professor of Management of Organizations, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley

Confidence: Why It Misleads Us2019052020190521 (WS)
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From doctors to politicians to your boss, people often ask us to put our confidence in them. We’re often urged to build more confidence in ourselves. But one of the most consistent findings in psychology is that there is very little overlap between confidence and competence; how good people think they are, and how good they really are. In this edition of the Why Factor, Michael Blastland asks: why do admire confidence?

Contributors
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova, Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Glen Fukushima -Senior Fellow, Center For American Progress
Dr Anne McGuinness – University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Photo Credit: Multiple exposure of businesswoman arms crossed / Getty Images

Film Credit: The Great Imposter Trailer 1960 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment / Director Robert Mulligan

There is little overlap between how good people think they are and how good they are

From doctors to politicians to your boss, people often ask us to put our confidence in them. We’re often urged to build more confidence in ourselves. But one of the most consistent findings in psychology is that there is very little overlap between confidence and competence; how good people think they are, and how good they really are. In this edition of the Why Factor, Michael Blastland asks: why do admire confidence?

Contributors
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova, Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Glen Fukushima -Senior Fellow, Center For American Progress
Dr Anne McGuinness – University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Photo Credit: Multiple exposure of businesswoman arms crossed / Getty Images

Film Credit: The Great Imposter Trailer 1960 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment / Director Robert Mulligan

Conspiracy Theory2016030420160307 (WS)The Why Factor asks why some people believe in conspiracy theories and whether it matters.
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The Why Factor asks why some people believe in conspiracy theories and whether it matters
Copying Art2016061020160613 (WS)Why do people copy famous works of art and who buys them?
Cryonics2017012720170129 (WS)
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Why do some people choose to be frozen at death, hoping to be brought back to life?
Dark Tourism2017110620171107 (WS)Why do we visit sites of death, disaster and atrocity?
Debt2013122020131221 (WS)
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Mike Williams finds out how the way we lend and borrow money is changing.

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Mike Williams finds out how the way we lend and borrow money is changing. Mike travels to Blackpool to meet 71 year old Jeannette whose life was ruined by debt, he speaks to David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 years, and learns about a ground breaking debt collection service that finds people jobs before asking for their money.

(Image of a man holding US 100 dollar bank notes. Credit: Corbis)

Dinosaurs2018030520180306 (WS)They roamed our planet for millions of years before most of them were wiped out. So what’s our fascination with the dinosaur? And will our love affair with them endure?

Not only is this reptile beast loved by children across the world but it also fires our imagination and has become part of our popular culture, as well hooking us into science.

Mary–Ann Ochota talks to Professor Paul Barrett, Natural History Museum, London about the history of the dinosaur; Dr Laverne Antrobus on why kids love this creature so much; Dr Ben Garrod, a self-confessed dinosaur Geek; Randy Kohl who has collected over 10,000 Dinosaur toys in his 63 years as well as Serena Korda, an artist inspired by the dinosaur.

Presenter: Mary-Ann Ochota
Producer: Smita Patel

(Photo: Two dinosaurs fighting each other Credit: Shutterstock)

Credit: “Apeing the Beast” music by Grumbling Fur (aka Alexander D Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan)

Why do so many people love Dinosaurs?

They roamed our planet for millions of years before most of them were wiped out. So what’s our fascination with the dinosaur? And will our love affair with them endure?

Mary–Ann Ochota talks to Professor Paul Barrett, Natural History Museum, London about the history of the dinosaur; Dr Laverne Antrobus on why kids love this creature so much; Dr Ben Garrod, a self-confessed dinosaur Geek; Randy Kohl who has collected over 10,000 Dinosaur toys in his 63 years as well as Serena Korda, an artist inspired by the dinosaur.

Credit: “Apeing the Beast?? music by Grumbling Fur (aka Alexander D Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan)

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What’s it for and how is it done? With Mike Williams

Diplomacy. What’s it for and how is it done? This week we present a user’s guide to the 'great game'. We hear about the tense negotiations and the rows, about the polite language and the secret code words used to deceive opponents. And we hear about cigars and lavish dinners and discover the importance of sandwiches. With Mike Williams.

Disgust2013051020130511 (WS)
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Why do we experience disgust?

Disgust is an emotion that we all experience, but what purpose does it serve? And what role does it play in our moral judgements?

Mike Williams speaks to the ‘disgustologist’ Val Curtis about how revulsion protects us from disease and learns how disgust can be used – and abused - as a political weapon.

He tests the limits of his own disgust – in the kitchen and with the philosopher Steve Clarke. And tries to find out – is there a link between how easily we are disgusted and the way we vote?

(Image of actor and comedian Frankie Howerd tasting his own cooking at home. Credit: Getty Images)

Dogs2018052820180529 (WS)Why do we have such a close and complex relationship with dogs? No matter whether you love or hate them, it’s undeniable they’ve built up a special relationship with us that most animals haven’t.

On this episode of The Why Factor, we find out why dogs are so special. Mary-Ann Ochota delves into the emotion, science and history that sets them apart - be they friend, foe or food.

(Image: Essex Search and Rescue, Credit: Gabriela Jones/BBC)

Why do we have such a close and complex relationship with dogs? No matter whether you love or hate them, it’s undeniable they’ve built up a special relationship with us that most animals haven’t.

(Image: Essex Search and Rescue, Credit: Gabriela Jones/BBC)

Dolly, Dylan Or Daft Punk2016042320160424 (WS)Gemma Cairney explores our eclectic tastes in music and where those tastes come from
Dreaming2018012220180123 (WS)Why do some sleep disorders turn normal dreams into terrifying nightmares? And what do they tell us about the workings of the brain?

Dreaming usually occurs in REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep) when our brains are very active, but our bodies are almost completely paralysed. But sometimes, the switch that paralyses our muscles is faulty, causing conditions that can significantly impact our days and nights.

Neurologist, Dr Guy Leschziner, from Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals in London, introduces us to some of his patients with problems that include sleep paralysis and hallucinations.

We meet Evelyn whose sleep has been plagued by visions so scary, she doesn’t want to go to bed; we hear from Christian who has narcolepsy, a rare brain condition that makes him suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times. And we meet John who has REM sleep behaviour disorder (known as RBD) which causes him violently to act out his dreams, sometimes injuring himself and his wife, Liz. And we learn how RBD may be an early warning of degenerative brain conditions like Parkinson's disease and certain types of dementia.

These disorders arising from dreaming sleep help us to understand why we dream and the role of REM sleep.

(Photo: Sleeping woman having nightmare, Credit: Getty Images)

We meet Evelyn whose sleep has been plagued by visions so scary, she doesn’t want to go to bed; we hear from Christian who has narcolepsy, a rare brain condition that makes him suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times. And we meet John who has REM sleep behaviour disorder (known as RBD) which causes him violently to act out his dreams, sometimes injuring himself and his wife, Liz. And we learn how RBD may be an early warning of degenerative brain conditions like Parkinson's disease and certain types of dementia.

(Photo: Sleeping woman having nightmare, Credit: Getty Images)

Driving2016072920160801 (WS)As auto-piloted cars begin tests Mike Williams asks if we will miss driving

Why do we love driving? Mike Williams asks if we would miss driving, as auto-piloted cars are tested in cities around the world. He talks to Dr Lisa Dorn, psychologist and associate professor of driver behaviour, Dr Zia Wadud an associate professor in transport studies, technology reporter Brian Fung, racing team owner Eddie Jordan and top gear presenter Sabine Schmitz.

(Photo: White driverless car on road. Credit:Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

Dubbing Movies2017111320171114 (WS)Rhianna Dhillon finds out why so many films are dubbed into another language

Rhianna Dhillon finds out why so many films are dubbed into another language. She discovers the artistic, social and political reasons why countries like Italy, France and Spanish speaking countries have opted to dub rather than subtitle movies. Why it’s still a controversial issue in the Indian film industry. And she takes advice from Dietmar Wunder, the actor who voices James Bond in German, as she tries her hand at the art herself.

(Photo: Actress dubbing documentary. Credit: Getty Images)

Dystopias2020011320200114 (WS)Dystopic fiction is going through a bit of a boom at the moment, but why is it that we can’t seem to get enough of stories where ordinary people struggle to survive against an all-powerful state, or in a post-apocalyptic world? Is it because they reflect the anxieties we already feel about the world we live in, or because they allow us to escape it? Shabnam Grewal asks: Why is dystopic fiction so appealing?

Produced and presented by Shabnam Grewal
Editor: Andrew Smith

(Photo: Destroyed cityscape. Credit: Stock Photo/Getty Images)

Eavesdropping2017081420170815 (WS)Why do we eavesdrop?

On trains, in cafes, offices and in the street, we cannot help overhearing conversations not intended for our ears. Catherine Carr explores why we eavesdrop, and whether it is a harmless habit or a dangerous invasion of privacy. The poet Imtiaz Dharker takes ‘furtive pleasure’ in ‘lying in wait for secrets that people don’t even know they’re telling’ and sometimes what she hears ends up in her poems. Canadian journalist, Jackie Hong, eavesdropped on the radio communications of police and paramedics to get the news in real time. Not everything we hear in public is interesting to us: Lauren Emberson devised a psychology experiment to show why we find other people’s mobile phone conversations so difficult to ignore. In some circumstances, eavesdropping can be problematic. The historian Anita Kr䀀tzner-Ebert, who works at the Stasi Records Agency, has been conducting new research into cases of neighbours and strangers who eavesdropped and reported on each other in East Germany. Professor of Acoustic Engineering, Trevor Cox explains how some buildings have allowed embarrassing secrets to be overheard and literary scholar, Ann Gaylin says that eavesdropping scenes in novels show writers have always been curious about human curiosity.

(Photo: Woman cupping ear, Credit: Dmitro Derevyanko/Shutterstock)

Emotional Labour2019042920190430 (WS)Many jobs require workers to manage their emotional expressions with others. Flight attendants are expected to smile and be friendly even in stressful situations, carers are expected to show empathy and warmth, whereas bouncers and prison guards might need to be stern or aggressive. This management of emotions as part of a job is called ‘emotional labour’. It is something many people perform on top of the physical and mental labour involved in their work. Psychologists have shown that faking emotions at work, and suppressing real feelings, can cause stress, exhaustion and burnout. These efforts can be invisible, and that sometimes allows employers to exploit them. Nastaran Tavakoli-Far speaks to sociologists, psychologist, economists and bartenders and asks why we should value emotional labour.

Why should we value emotional labour?

Why should we value emotional labour?

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What is envy and why can it be dangerously destructive or make us strive for success?

Why do we envy other people? Mike Williams meets a woman who is experiencing severe ‘baby envy’ because she cannot have a child. He explores the role envy plays in literature, whether social media makes us all more envious and if the emotion - often considered dangerously destructive - can sometimes be a force for good.

(Photo: A baby wanting the gold cup for herself. Credit: Getty Images)

Exams2017061220170613 (WS)Are exams a fair judge of ability and understanding, or just a memory test?

All over the world this summer young people are sitting exams which will have a big impact on their future. In some places, a single exam might determine whether and where candidates go on to university, their future earning potential, and even their marriage prospects. Given the stakes, it is easy to see why so many cultures place great importance on exam success. However, is this one-size-fits-all approach to assessment really a good judge of ability and understanding? Or do exam results only tell us about a candidate’s ability to memorise material and perform under stressful exam conditions?
Caroline Bayley meets the educators and experts defending traditional exams and those coming up with alternative models of assessment. Tony Wagner from the Harvard Innovation Lab in the US thinks traditional exams will become obsolete in the future as work places change their hiring criteria. Mike Thomas, Vice Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire in the UK explains why exams can have a negative impact on mental health. Dr Chun-yen Chang from National Taiwan Normal University has conducted research into whether there might be a gene that determines how well we think under exam conditions.
Producers Lizzy McNeill and Viv Jones

(Image: Students take exams for University, Credit: bibiphoto/Shutterstock)

Extreme Sports2019010720190108 (WS)Whether it’s climbing Everest, hiking through the Amazon jungle or cycling round the world, why are more of us taking on extreme endurance challenges which push our minds and bodies to the limit?

Marathons now seem commonplace and a whole new breed of extreme events have come along such as the double, triple or even Deca Ironman, sailing thousands of miles alone, multi-day adventure races and activities that defy description.

Presenter Lowri Morgan spends much of her time seeking out these adventures and extreme challenges. She is an ultra-runner and has raced 350 miles non-stop across the Arctic Circle and run through the Amazon jungle.

She talks to other runners about what motivates them to tackle such long distances, often in extreme conditions. We hear from one competitor racing in the Himalayas who started taking on endurance challenges after a difficult time in his life. Another runner who is attempting to get the record number of ultra marathons in a year and run a thousand marathons in four years, says he has yet to celebrate any of his achievements.

According to experts, the main motivation for competitors is to test themselves to the limit and to set and achieve a goal. Endurance athletes appear to have a higher tolerance to pain than the rest of us and a more positive mood, not only after a race but during their daily lives too.
But there can be downsides. There’s evidence that endurance athletes – in particular runners – have a much higher chance of exercise addiction which can impact on their health and family life.

But for many, the satisfaction they feel when they have completed such an extreme event means they soon come back for more.

Presenter: Lowri Morgan

Producer: Paul Grant

Editor: Gail Champion

(Photo: Endurance athlete Lowri Morgan in training / Photo credit: Lowri Morgan)

Why are more people taking on extreme endurance challenges which test them to the limit?

Why are more people taking on extreme endurance challenges which test them to the limit?

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Why is making eye contact so important?

Why is making eye contact so important? Catching someone’s eyes across a crowded room can lead to a passionate love affair. Yet catching the wrong person’s eye in a bar could lead to a tussle of another kind.

Mikes Williams explores why eye contact is an essential part of a baby’s development; how it is used to attract a partner and what our eyes give away about us, which is beyond our control.

(Photo: Eyes making contact. Credit: Shutterstock)

Eye Witness Identification2016102820161031 (WS)Mike Williams asks why scientists and courts are so worried about eye-witness testimony

Can you believe your own eyes? Can you trust your own memory? Why is it that so many social scientists and so many in the police and the judiciary are so very concerned about eye-witness testimony. Mike Williams talks to an attorney at the Innocence Project in New York, a retired judge, a professor of psychology and a memory expert in an attempt to find out why we try – and often fail – to accurately recall a face or an event.

(Photo: Black and White image of four men in a suspect line up. Credit: Shutterstock)

Fact Checkers2018111220181113 (WS)Fake News - sometimes it’s obvious to spot, other times it requires more thoughtful investigation. That’s a fact checker’s job; dedicated researchers trying to flesh out what is true and what is not in the deluge of information we see every day. In 2015 the International Fact Checking Network was established to give strength to this small but dedicated group. It now has 62 verified signatories. In this episode of the Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal speaks with fact checkers from Turkey, the Philippines and Brazil; to find out what motivates them to combat Fake News, especially in countries where speaking truth to power comes with considerable risk. How do they do this difficult job, and why are they so determined to improve the skills all of us can use to call out false claims?

Photo: A fact checking journalist at work
Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Why Fact Checkers are so important in the fight to combat fake news

Family Names2014031420140317 (WS)Last names tell a story. Your last name could determine your career. It could decide how easily you move through society or alternatively how hard it could be to get ahead. Some last names grow longer and longer as they carry a family story from generation to generation. Others stagger under a double barrel as partners perpetuate their own last names through their children and a hyphen.

So what’s in a last name? A whole lot as Mike Williams discovers in The Why Factor.

(Image: A mixture of surnames from around the world. BBC Copyright)

Could your last name determine your career? Mike Williams explains

Fanfiction2016032520160328 (WS)What is fanfiction and who writes it?

A pregnant Captain Kirk gives birth on the Enterprise, Harry Potter and his rival Draco Malfoy fall in love and you take a starring role in your favourite book, film or TV show. Seems unlikely? With fanfiction any of this - and more - becomes possible.

Fanfiction is a global phenomenon with amateur writers creating new stories in the existing fictional worlds of their most loved films, TV shows and books. For many it is an obsession – but why do they do it? And, how do the writers whose works are taken on by the fanfiction community feel about it?

It is not for the money; fanfiction is a non-commercial pursuit, although some writers do make the transition from amateur to published author. The most famous example of this is E.L. James, whose blockbuster book 50 Shades of Grey, started out as fanfiction based on the Vampire inspired Twilight series. Chilean author Francisca Solar tells us how her own Harry Potter fanfiction landed her a book contract.

But turning pro is not the goal for most ‘fanfic’ writers; it is the freedom to play with their most loved characters in a uniquely creative world, with very few limits.

(Photo: A black and white picture of Captain Kirk and Mr Spock credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Fantasies2018041620180417 (WS)We all fantasise from time to time – about landing our dream job, finding our perfect partner or moving into our ideal home. But some people go much further, creating new personas and elaborate fantasy worlds that become central to their lives. Nicola Kelly finds out why, spending time with cosplayers, delving into the virtual world of Second Life and visiting the nightclub where people explore their sexuality by dressing as unicorns and dancing to trance music.

(Image: Human unicorns in parade, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do people create and inhabit fantasy worlds?

We all fantasise from time to time – about landing our dream job, finding our perfect partner or moving into our ideal home. But some people go much further, creating new personas and elaborate fantasy worlds that become central to their lives. Nicola Kelly finds out why, spending time with cosplayers, delving into the virtual world of Second Life and visiting the nightclub where people explore their sexuality by dressing as unicorns and dancing to trance music.

Farewell Letters2016101420161017 (WS)Why do we write farewell letters? And how do we find the words to say goodbye?

Why do we write farewell letters? Whether it is messages from the living to the dying or from the dead to the living, how can we find the words to say goodbye?

A letter from a daughter to her dying father, a last letter from a soldier on the eve of battle, messages of love from a dying mother to her young daughter and a suicide note from a father to his teenage son. Mike Williams explores the comfort and pain of goodbye letters.

Contributors: Susan Geer, Last Goodbye Letters; Joe Williams, The Enemy Within; Brendan McDonnell, Herman’s Hands; Laura Colclough; Julie Stokes, Founder, Winston’s Wish; Anthony Richards, Imperial War Museum.

(Photo: Woman and child walking along woodland path. Credit: Shutterstock)

(Clip credit: The Mummy Diaries (2007), Ricochet/Channel 4 TV)

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Why people choose to abstain from food for religious - and non-religious - reasons
Fathers And Daughters2019031820190319 (WS)Fathers are often regarded as secondary parents in many cultures, perhaps even more so when they have girls. We examine why this can be damaging, and the ways in which fathers can have a profound influence on how their daughters navigate the world.

Evolutionary anthropologist Dr Anna Machin explains why human fathers are in the only five per cent of mammals that stick around after the birth of their offspring, and why that’s important, particularly for girls. Father and daughter team Jerry and Chloe Hughes, who run a fine art foundry, talk about how working together has changed their family dynamic for the better.

We also look at the consequences of a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship. Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology Dr Linda Nielsen describes how a poor relationship with a father affects a daughter’s life choices well into adulthood.

Writer and podcaster Carvell Wallace gives some sage parenting advice to fathers of teenage girls, and we hear from Australian dad Jonathan Poyter, who took part in a 13-week programme called DADEE at Newcastle University in Australia, where dads and daughters learn to bond through sports.

And it’s not just a one way street. Dr Joan Costa-Font, professor in the Department of Health Policy at the London School of Economics, tells us about his latest research, which shows that daughters also have a big impact on the behaviour of their fathers.

Presenter: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Producer: Edwina Pitman
Editor: Richard Knight

Photo: A father and daughter playing (Credit: Getty Images)

Why the father-daughter relationship is so important

Why the father-daughter relationship is so important

Fattism2019031120190312 (WS)We are told obesity is on the rise - globally. But if you think about it, how often do you see an obese chief executive, or tech entrepreneur, or politician even? Especially a female one. Perhaps the reason is because society discriminates against fat people.

In this Why Factor we explore why it is OK to be anti-fat, where that attitude comes from, and what it feels like to be on the receiving end of society’s prejudice.

Producer: Gemma Newby

(Photo: A woman and a man sit together. Credit: Getty Images)

Why is it OK to be anti fat?

Why is it OK to be anti fat?

Fear - Episode 12012120120121203 (WS)In the first of two programmes on fear, we ask what actually fear is and discover it's a surprisingly difficult question to answer. What does fear mean to us and how do we face our fears, imaginary or otherwise? Are our fears universal or culturally specific?

What is fear? Are our fears universal and how do we go about facing our fears?

In the first of two programmes on fear: we ask what actually fear is and discover it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer.

What does fear mean to us and how do we face our fears, imaginary or otherwise? Are our fears universal or culturally specific?

Fear - Episode 22012120720121208 (WS)
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This week the second of two programmes about fear, why do some of us like to be frightened? Why, in a darkened cinema, do we enjoy and endure fear, horror and suspense? We'll delve into the human mind to find out.

We will also go behind the camera to learn how the film-makers manipulate our senses and play on our deepest, most primeval fears.

(Image of Janet Leigh Credit: Associated Press)

In the second of two programmes about fear, why do some of us like to be frightened?

This week the second of two programmes about fear: Why do we like to be frightened?

This week the second of two programmes about fear: Why do some of us like to be frightened?

Why, in a darkened cinema, do we enjoy and endure fear, horror and suspense? We’ll delve into the human mind to find out.

And we’ll go behind the camera to learn how the film-makers manipulate our senses and play on our deepest, most primeval fears.

Fear Of Animals2016081220160815 (WS)What lies behind our often overwhelming fear of harmless animals?

Why do we still fear animals that pose no serious threat to us and how can the effect of that irrational fear be so overpowering? As Mike Williams discovers in this week’s Why Factor, the answers lie deep in our evolutionary past and deep inside our brains.

Mike faces his own animal fear at London Zoo, where we also meet people overcoming their fear of spiders. Arachnophobia is one of the most common animal phobias and American Psychologist Joshua New’s research suggests humans are better at identifying and locating spiders than any other perceived threat. Could our fear of spiders be a leftover from our evolutionary ancestors?

Neuroscientist Dr Dean Burnett reveals what happens in our brains when we’re frightened by animals, and this is not always by the traditional spider or snake. We hear from a woman in Greece who has a rather surprising animal phobi

Why Factor, The [world Service]

Fear Vs Fact2016080520160808 (WS)Are we living in an age where messages of fear dominate and the truth goes unheard?
Female Friendships2018073020180731 (WS)
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Just like in the TV show Sex and the City, female friendships tend to be uniquely close – women talk often and share a lot. But this level of intimacy can make the relationships susceptible to serious and even terminal breakdown.

As friendships increasingly take place through social media, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far looks at why new technology can be a mixed blessing for female friendship by exaggerating existing vulnerabilities yet enabling increased connectedness.

She also learns why it’s a particular problem for teenagers as well as how a mutual admiration of One Direction can be the bedrock of a good friendship.

(Photo: Three Female Friends. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why is new tech a mixed blessing for female friendships?

Fishing2018062520180626 (WS)People have been fishing for thousands of years – it is one of the last hunter gatherer activities. But increasingly it is becoming more difficult, as fish stocks dwindle or regulation limits the number of fishes that can be caught. Caz Graham asks why do people continue to fish despite these difficulties. She goes out into the Solway Firth in the north of England, with a group of haaf net fishers who use a traditional form of salmon fishing that dates back over a thousand years. She hears how new regulations have limited the number of fish that can be caught – something that the fishers say could threaten this form of fishing.
To find out more about how people continue to fish internationally, we hear from a fishing community in Alaska, and about tuna fishing in the Maldives. On the North East coast of England, we meet a fishing party as they complete successful day’s fishing from the tiny harbour of Staithes – and further along that coast, we hear from a trainee at the Whitby Fishing School who explains why he wants to join the fishing industry. Professor Calum Roberts of York University in the UK explains the motivation behind fishing and the changing character of fishing today.

(Image: Old fisherman with nets, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do people want to fish when it is increasingly difficult?

Fitness Apps2019011420190115 (WS)In a world increasingly obsessed with health, the fitness technology market is booming. Whether you’re a serious athlete or just enjoy a casual run or cycle around your local park on a Sunday morning, it seems more and more of us are using fitness devices and activity trackers to record our efforts.

But what is the motivation for measuring every aspect of a workout? Can it inspire us to go further, faster or longer? Sharing our performances online allows us to compete virtually with pretty much anyone across the globe – but does it risk turning every training session into a race?

Presenter Lowri Morgan talks to the CEO of one of the most popular activity trackers Strava which has more than 36 million members. James Quarles says the main reasons why people use these apps and devices are motivation, competition and simply recording your efforts.

But in South Africa in the township of Soweto, the local cycling club is using the data from activity trackers to try to persuade sponsors and professional cycling teams to take on their best riders. They say the statistics help back up their claims about the potential of a rider.

While for many these devices and apps are a great help in motivating us to exercise, for some they can increase the risk of exercise addiction. Sport psychologist Dr Josie Perry says athletes can do many more miles training than is necessary simply because they are chasing an online challenge.

Lowri meets cyclist Ben Dowman from the UK who says in the past he became somewhat obsessed with trying to top the leader board on his activity tracker – even monitoring the weather to know when the wind direction would be most favourable to beat his rivals’ times.

As more of us record every step, pedal stroke and heartbeat, these apps and devices are changing the face of exercise as we compare, share and compete online.

Presenter: Lowri Morgan
Producer: Paul Grant
Editor: Gail Champion

(Photo: Female cyclist points to a smart watch on her wrist showing heart rate./Photo credit: ipopba\Getty )

What motivates some to record every aspect of their exercise regime and share it online?

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Could you forgive the person who killed your child or who raped or tortured you?
Giving Away Data2018043020180501 (WS)Why are we giving away our personal data so cheaply and with so little thought? Aasmah Mir asks if it is too late to secure our information. And if it is, whether we should charge for it. She talks to a law professor who believes everyone now has sensitive facts or preferences recorded on what he calls a “database of ruin”, a journalist whose details were revealed after she joined an infidelity website and an entrepreneur who is trying to help people make money by advising them on how to sell their personal data.

(Photo: Woman on laptop. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why are we giving away our data so freely?

Giving Presents2019012120190122 (WS)A present connects, communicates and makes people generally happy. It can strengthen a relationship, but also jeopardise it. Have you ever wondered why a certain present was chosen for you? And how much thought goes into the presents you give?
This Why Factor unwraps the social complexities that surround the giving of gifts.

Lore Wolfson finds out what makes a perfect present and receives clues on how to choose it. While revealing the risks inherent to the act, especially when a gift is given across cultures, she also learns why it’s best not to give a clock to someone from China and seeks advice on the pitfalls that need to be navigated.

A psychologist uncovers some underlying motivations of why we give presents and shares tips on dealing with disappointing ones.

The truth about gifts – donated free and without obligation – in the Why Factor.

Presenter: Lore Wolfson
Producer: Sabine Schereck
Editor: Andrew Smith

Picture Credit: Getty Creative / iStock / AntonioGuillem

Giving a gift - simple pleasure or risky business?

Giving a gift - simple pleasure or risky business?

Goths2017050820170509 (WS)Why would anyone be a goth? What is the appeal of this dark and spooky subculture?
Grief2016100720161010 (WS)Why do we feel so many different emotions when someone close to us dies?
Habits2017050120170502 (WS)Shiulie Ghosh explains why we are all creatures of habits
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Whether it is making or fixing something, why do we enjoy working with our hands?

There is something satisfying about working with our hands. Whether it is making something, fixing something or caring for someone, tactile skills are rewarding and valuable. Maria Margaronis asks what it is about working with our hands that make us so fundamentally human.

(Photo: Woman's hands holding a decorative pot)

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Why do some people fill their homes and their lives with stuff?

Imagine your home is so filled with stuff that moving around it is almost impossible. Every bit of space is piled high with books, pictures, DVDs and newspapers so you can’t even get into some rooms – not even the bathroom or kitchen. There’s nowhere to sit and no room for visitors.

That’s what life is like for those with a hoarding disorder and their close family and friends. It’s a recognised mental illness, an uncontrollable desire to acquire and keep an excessive number of objects and it’s thought to affect between 2-6% of the UK and US population. So why do some people hoard? And why is it so difficult for them to get rid of some of the many thousands of items that clutter their home?

Mike Williams meets Stephen whose apartment is so swamped with possessions that his young children can’t stay. He hears how the extreme hoarding habits of one American father led his teenage daughter to make a suicide bid. And, on a positive note, there are lessons for compulsive hoarders on how to resist the urge to acquire more things.

Contributors:

Bill Barry and Stephen, Tenants, Liverpool Housing Trust

Randy Frost, Professor of Psychology at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

Heather Mattuozzo, Founder, Clouds End

Fabio Gygi, Anthropology lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University

Kimberly Rae Miller, author, ‘Coming Clean’, a memoir

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Lots of clutter in a front room. Credit: BBC Copyright - taken in contributor's house by presenter with contributor's permission)

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Why does homosexuality exist? Is it nature or nurture? Mike Williams and guests discuss

Ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics next month and the controversy surrounding Russia’s anti-gay laws, Mike Williams and a panel of guests discuss homosexuality. Essentially, why does it exist? Is there any evolutionary advantage? And what is the current thinking in the nature vs nurture debate?

(Image: A participant unfolds a rainbow flag during a local annual gay pride parade. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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Why do we read horoscopes?

On this week’s Why Factor, Mike Williams gets a reading from celebrity astrologer Susan Miller and delves into the history and psychology of horoscopes. He unpicks the complicated relationship between religion and astrology and questions why some of us make important life decisions based on our horoscope while others think it is all nonsense.

(Image: Getty)

Horses2018112620181127 (WS)The horse has been part of human society since earliest times – archaeologists have unearthed evidence from over 5000 years ago in central Asia. Over the centuries, the horse has been celebrated in myths and legend, it has played a role as human society developed, in farming, in warfare and in the industrial revolution. Today’s thoroughbreds are valued in millions of dollars for their potential to win races and massive prize-money for their owners – while owning a pony is the romantic dream of countless young girls.

Caz Graham explores the deep connection between horses and humans. She hears the reasons why horses are so much a part of daily life Mongolia, and how the fell ponies of northern England are valued for their capacity to work.

For all our shared history, there remains a strong element of mystery about horses. Many people believe in the therapeutic potential of horses but the science behind it remains difficult to pin down. In this programme Caz hears from academics, authors, legendary racehorse trainers, as well as those individuals who love their horses, in order to understand more about the special relationship between the horse and humans.

Photo: Alex with one of her horses

Exploring the connection between horses and humans

Exploring the connection between horses and humans

How America Sees Itself2016042220160425 (WS)How America's sense of national identity is perceived by the American people

What are notions of national identity and how does it arise? We look at probably the most powerful country on the planet - the United States of America. What is its character? And what do Americans see when they look at themselves. Mike Williams travels around the States to uncover the ideology involved in being an American.

(Photo: The Statue of Liberty. Credit: Timothy A.Clary/AFP /Getty Images)

How The Rest Of The World Sees America2016042920160502 (WS)What does the world see when it looks towards America?

Mike Williams asks what the rest of the world thinks of the United States, one of the most recognisable nations on the planet. This is the second part of a programme looking into the concepts of identity for the BBC World Service's Identity season.

(Photo: The American Flag. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

How To Live Small2017100220171003 (WS)Why is living space important and how much do we really need?

Why is living space important and can we learn to live with less of it? Why are the Japanese so good at living small and is sharing space more important than having space to ourselves?

To find out why, Catherine Carr meets the principal investigator on the HI-SEAS project; a specialist in Japanese compact homes; a housing expert; the owner of a Tiny House; a man who grew up in slum; an environmental psychologist and an anthropologist.

(Photo: Inside a dolls house. Credit: Shutterstock)

Human Remains In Museums2017082820170829 (WS)Why is storing and displaying human remains in museums contentious?

Many museums around the world hold human bodies and body parts. Egyptian mummies draw huge crowds curious about our ancient past and specimens in medical museums allow us to imagine our own bodies from the inside. Many of these museum objects have become highly contested. Whilst some people may look at them and see artefacts or tools for knowledge, for others, human remains remain human.
Shivaani Kohok explores why storing and displaying human remains in museums is so contentious. Many human remains in medical museums were obtained without the consent of the people they were removed from: curators like Carla Valentine of the Barts Pathology Museum in London argue that they should be preserved because they tell a story of the history of medicine, and may still be useful for scientific study. Bob Weatherall has been campaigning for decades to get museums to return remains of Aboriginal Australians to their communities of origin so they can be respectfully laid to rest. Chip Colwell, curator of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, explains how museums in America have reacted to calls for the repatriation of Native American human remains. Alice Dreger, historian and philosopher of anatomy, believes that museums should consider whether some repatriation claims could result in a loss of scientific learning. J Nathan Bazzel donated his hip bones to a museum after they were surgically removed.

(Photo: Barts Museum, Credit: Carla Valentine, Courtesy of Pathology Museum at Queen Mary University London)

Hunting2016010120160104 (WS)Why do we hunt? Why kill animals when we no longer need to do so to eat?

Why do we hunt? In some societies hunting is necessary to get food, but why do those who can buy meat in a shop go out hunting? Do they like to kill? Or is there something else at play? Lucy Ash talks to hunters from Canada, South Africa, the US and Scotland, who between them have killed animals ranging from deer to elephants, to ask them why they do it.

She finds out that the majority of hunters don’t actually like the act of killing, but hunt because they enjoy the adrenaline-fuelled tracking, or being out in nature with heightened senses, or simply to provide for their families in a way they find much more satisfying than simply buying meat in a grocery store. And then there are some reasons that go deeper.

(Photo: A hunter with this dog and a deer)

Hypnotism2018020520180206 (WS)Curing phobias, managing pain, entertainment: hypnotism has a number of tangible benefits. But it can also carry significant risks for the most suggestible people. So why would anyone allow a stranger to access their mind?

Nicola Kelly speaks to performers, dentists and therapists who use hypnotism in their work and discovers how the brain functions when in a trance. Through hypnosis, she faces her own fear of rats, hears from a patient who had his front tooth extracted without anesthetic and witnesses colleagues convinced they are Donald Trump.

But does the hypnotic trance really exist? Sceptics explain why they no longer believe it works and set out the hidden dangers.

Presenter: Nicola Kelly
Producer: Chloe Hadjimatheou

(Image and Credit: Ben Dali)

Why would anyone allow a stranger to access their mind?

(Image and Credit: Ben Dali)

Hypochondria2017021020170213 (WS)What is hypochondria, and why don't we take this misunderstood malaise more seriously?
Hypocrisy: Why Do People Often Say One Thing And Do Another?2016010820160111 (WS)Is hypocrisy part of the human condition?

Do as I say, not as I do. No-one likes a hypocrite, and we like being accused of hypocrisy even less. Yet most of us are hypocritical to some degree. So why do we profess one thing but do another? How far is hypocrisy part of the human condition? And what would a world be like without it? Mike Williams presenting.

Produced by Ben Crighton

(Photo: Hypocrisy Sign. Credit to Shutterstock)

Identity2016040120160404 (WS)The Why Factor examines one simple question: Who are you?

As part of the BBC World Service Season on Identity, The Why Factor examines one simple question: Who are you? Did you choose your identity or was it given to you? Mike Williams asks how our identities are created and if that shapes the way we see the world, and the way the world sees us.

(Crowds on Oxford Street, London UK. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Immortality2018052120180522 (WS)Although we don’t like thinking about it, most of us are resigned to the fact that we won’t escape death in the end. But there are people who have dedicated their entire lives to conquering death. This relatively new movement of so called ‘transhumanists’ believes that science is close to finding a cure for aging and that immortality may be just around the corner. Chloe Hadjimatheou asks why some people chase immortality.

(Image: Theatre, Credit: Copyright ©2018 Alcor Life Extension Foundation)

Why do people chase immortality? We those who believe science is close to beating death

Although we don’t like thinking about it, most of us are resigned to the fact that we won’t escape death in the end. But there are people who have dedicated their entire lives to conquering death. This relatively new movement of so called ‘transhumanists’ believes that science is close to finding a cure for aging and that immortality may be just around the corner. Chloe Hadjimatheou asks why some people chase immortality.

(Image: Theatre, Credit: Copyright ©2018 Alcor Life Extension Foundation)

Impersonators: Why Do People Pretend To Be Someone Else?2016012920160201 (WS)Examining the world of the Impersonators, con-artists and entertainers

Impersonators, imposters, con-artists and entertainers – those people who pretend to be who they are not. Some do it for financial gain, some to pay tribute to a music icon and some simply to raise a laugh. But what happens when people start to believe their own stories, start to believe their fantasy life is real? It is mainly men who pose as police officers, soldiers, special forces: figures with a badge, a uniform, some aura of authority. Mike Williams explores what motivates people to be somebody they are not.

(Photo: David Boakes impersonating Michael Jackson. Credit to Mike Williams)

Examining the world of the Impersonators, con-artists and entertainers

Imposter Syndrome2017103020171031 (WS)Why do some of us often feel like frauds?

Have you ever felt like a fraud? You think that one day your mask will be uncovered and everyone will know your secret. According to psychologists, this is a common feeling that many of us suffer from and it has a name; Imposter Syndrome. The term was coined by two American psychologists, Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes, in 1978. Dr Clance and Dr Imes first thought the feeling was only experienced by high achieving women, but quickly found that men experienced it too. According to subject expert, Dr Valerie Young, women are more susceptible to imposter feelings because they internalise failure and mistakes- whereas men are more likely to attribute failure and mistakes to outside factors. However, those who belong to minority groups of whom there are stereotypes about competence also commonly experience imposter feelings.
If you suffer from imposter syndrome, don’t worry you’re in good company; Maya Angelou, Robert Pattinson, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and many more successful people have expressed feeling like imposters.
Presented by Afua Hirsch
Produced by Priscilla Ng’ethe

(Image: Puppet and mask, Credit: Shutterstock)

Initiations2017120420171205 (WS)Initiations can involve ordeals yet people put up with the pain. So why do we need them?

Coming of age rituals, hazing at universities or entrance rites into secretive organisations, initiations are present in every culture around the world. They are often secretive and can involve horrific ordeals and yet people are still prepared to put up with the pain. So why do we need them and what happens if they are absent?
Rhianna Dhillon talks to young men in South Africa who’s coming of age circumcisions went horribly wrong, learns about the inner workings of gang initiations and the mysterious rites held by the elite Skull and Bones organisation. She discovers that however harmful the initiation ceremony, it almost always serves a valuable purpose.

Interviews2018021920180220 (WS)Job interviews are stressful experiences and have mostly been proved by scientists to be ineffective at selecting the right candidates. So why has this means of selection survived so long and why is so much value placed on it? Catherine Carr explores the cultural and psychological bias that flaws them, how we might improve the experience both as interviewee and interviewer, and the extent to which technology might hold promise in making the process fairer.

(Image: Someone at an interview, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do we rely on the interview process when it's proven to be ineffective?

(Image: Someone at an interview, Credit: Shutterstock)

Intuition: Why Should We Be Cautious Of It?2019101420191015 (WS)In the second and final part exploring intuition Nastaran Tavakoli-Far speaks to cricket players who used data to win championships and hears about business leaders who trumpet their successes and forget the times their intuition led to failure. She talks to psychologists and Nobel Prize winners about why we get so attached to our intuitions and forget the times it was wrong, and why we should probably use a mix of both intuition and rational analysis when making decisions.

Alex Wakely – former Northamptonshire County Cricket Captain

David Ripley – Northamptonshire County Cricket Coach

Thomas Gilovich – Professor of Psychology, Cornell University

Daniel Kahneman – Winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, Psychology Professor at Princeton University, author of ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’

Eric Bonabeau – Chief Scientific Officer, Telepathy Labs

Prof Gary Klein – Cognitive Psychologist and President of Shadowbox LLC

Right Honourable Lord David Willetts – Resolution Foundation and former UK Minster for Universities and Science

Presenter and producer: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: Toddler looking at a birthday cake on a table. Credit: Stock Photo. Getty Images)

Why do we get so attached to our intuitions? And can they mislead us?

Intuition: Why Should We Trust It?2019100720191008 (WS)
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In part one of two episodes exploring intuition, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far speaks to a detective who had an intuition that someone was a serial killer, as well as hearing stories about firefighters who saved themselves from death after listening to their intuition.
She also speaks to psychologists, neuroscientists and a Nobel Prize winning economist to find out more about how intuition is formed and how it works, and also hears about intuition’s role in the world of politics.

Detective David Swindle – Head of Crime Solutions

Prof Gary Klein – Cognitive Psychologist and President of Shadowbox LLC

Prof Daniel Kahneman – winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in in Economic Sciences, Psychology Professor at Princeton University, author of ‘Thinking fast and slow’

Prof Antonio Damasio – professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of Southern California and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute

Dr Michelle Wright – Investigative Psychology Researcher and Chartered Psychologist

Right Honourable Lord David Willetts – Resolution Foundation and former UK Minster for Universities and Science

Presenter and Producer: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Editor: Richard Knight

(Image: Firefighter and Fire. Credit: Stock Photo. Getty Images )

What exactly is intuition? And why should we trust it?

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Laziness, slothfulness, idleness and apathy are used as criticisms and insults against individuals, groups and sometimes whole countries. But why? The Greeks saw laziness as a virtue and something to be sought after whereas today we look down on being unproductive. Should we keep ourselves constantly busy or is laziness something we should feel less guilty about? Isn’t a little bit of downtime good for the soul? After all, do good things not come out of taking it easy?

(Photo: Legs extended on a hammock. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do we look down on laziness?

Laziness, slothfulness, idleness and apathy are used as criticisms and insults against individuals, groups and sometimes whole countries. But why? The Greeks saw laziness as a virtue and something to be sought after whereas today we look down on being unproductive. Should we keep ourselves constantly busy or is laziness something we should feel less guilty about? Isn’t a little bit of downtime good for the soul? After all, do good things not come out of taking it easy?

(Photo: Legs extended on a hammock. Credit: Shutterstock)

Life, Liberty And The American Identity2016043020160501 (WS)What is the American Identity and why is it a portrait recognized around the world?
Listening2017030320170305 (WS)
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Why is listening different from hearing? And how can we develop that skill?
Loneliness2016061720160620 (WS)What is loneliness and why do we feel it?

What is loneliness and why do we feel it? Why do some people feel lonely when surrounded by people and others never feel lonely at all. Mike Williams finds out why feeling lonely can help us to survive.

Feelings of loneliness do not only come from the position we can sometimes find ourselves in. Studies of twins in Holland have shown that loneliness has a hereditary element. And surprisingly loneliness can also be contagious.

Mike speaks to the Chinese artist Li Tianbing about how growing up under China’s one child policy shaped his art and to a Swedish entrepreneur who invited 11 people to come and live with her to combat her loneliness.

(Photo: Woman alone on a bridge. Credit: Shutterstock)

Luck2014042520140426 (WS)
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Does luck exist and does believing in luck help or hinder us in life?

Most people believe in some aspects of luck. Is believing in luck something which can empower us or does it mean we give up whatever control we feel we have over our lives? Mike Williams discusses luck with former professional cricketer Ed Smith, therapist Alexander Anghelou and Cambridge psychologist Mike Aitken. And Mike also visits a casino to meet a reformed gambler.

(Image of a Four Leaf Clover traditionally thought to bring good luck. Credit: Getty)

Machines And Morals2018032620180327 (WS)Machines are merging into our lives in ever more intimate ways. They interact with our children and assist with medical decisions. Cars are learning to drive themselves, data on our likes and dislikes roam through the internet. Algorithms can determine who gets government assistance and help suggest our romantic partners.
But machines learn from the instructions humans give them. So, how do we know that the technology we are creating is going to do the right thing?
In this week’s Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks if now is the moment we need to think about machines and morals?

(Photo: Human and Robot hands, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why we need to think about machines and morals

Machines are merging into our lives in ever more intimate ways. They interact with our children and assist with medical decisions. Cars are learning to drive themselves, data on our likes and dislikes roam through the internet. Algorithms can determine who gets government assistance and help suggest our romantic partners.
But machines learn from the instructions humans give them. So, how do we know that the technology we are creating is going to do the right thing?
In this week’s Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks if now is the moment we need to think about machines and morals?

(Photo: Human and Robot hands, Credit: Shutterstock)

Magicians: Inside Their Minds2016031120160314 (WS)Who are the magicians and why do they enjoy performing for us?

Tricksters, conjurers, the world of magicians. Who are they and why do they do what they do? We began by asking ourselves why we enjoy magic shows and why we allow them to deceive us. But it turns out that the psychology of the magicians themselves is as interesting as the psychology of the audience. So what is in the mind of a magician?

(Photo: A magician performs card tricks with the help of his assistant. Credit: Getty Images)

Make-up2013053120130601 (WS)
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This week, why do we wear make-up?

It is an essential part of women’s days all around the world – putting on their face before they leave the house.

This week Mike Williams explores why millions of women and some men paint their faces.

The programme delves back into history to look at why it was worn in the past and how this has shaped what we do today. He looks at the rise of the makeup industry and how it’s struggled to overcome cultural and biological boundaries particularly when trying to sell to men.

He asks whether the sheer scale of the make-up industry is driven by marketing or if there are more, innate biological reasons for the practice – a desire to look attractive and powerful.

(Image of a man applying mascara to his eyelashes. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Male Friendships2018072320180724 (WS)
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From the Obama-Biden bromance to the transformative experience of the men’s group, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far explores what men can get from their friendships with other men that is unique.

With theories from Aristotle to the modern day, she looks at how long held notions of masculinity sit within redefined gender roles and can prevent men from getting close to other men.

And also learns about the importance of music in making friends and why being able to show our weaknesses is so crucial to forming friendships.

(Photo: Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Credit: The White House)

Why do men crave friendships with other men?

Male Violence2017071720170718 (WS)Why are men more violent than women?

Anybody who watched the European Championships of football last summer in France would have seen shocking scenes of violence between fans. The vast majority, if not all, were men. Men also commit more than 90% of murders across the world and are more likely to join a gang.
Why are men more violent than women? Caroline Bayley speaks to ex-football hooligan Cass Pennant about his experiences and motivation when violence became his way of life. Former British Army officer Jane Middleton explains the differences between men and women on the battlefield when she served in Afghanistan. And, Caroline also hears views from Sweden about how equal violence between men and women in relationships is.

(Photo: Group of football fans fighting in street. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Manners2012122820121229 (WS)
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The strange customs and conduct that make up ‘good manners’. Where do they come from?

On the programme today, the strange customs and conduct that make up ‘good manners’. Where do they come from? What purpose do they serve?

And how do they change from place to place?We’ll serve up linguistics, civility, civilisation and some gender politics too.

(Image of English film actor Roger Moore opening the door of his Volvo for Isabelle McMillan in a scene from the television series 'The Saint' Credit: Getty Images)

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Tracing the power and use of masks and what they mean for us culturally

Mike Williams traces the power and culture of masks and asks what they mean for us.

Masks: from sub Saharan Africa to the west coast tribes of Canada to the Mardi Gras of Rio, New Orleans and Venice masks define realities - of religious belief, of healing power, of theatre and entertainment, of concealment and of memorialization in death. They have been around as long as humanity and they evoke both fascination and fear. Mike Williams traces the power and culture of masks and asks why we have them and what they mean for us.

(Image: A group wearing masks of legendary heroes as they perform a dance in Minhe County of Qinghai Province, northwest China. Credit: Getty Images)

From sub Saharan Africa to the west coast tribes of Canada to the Mardi Gras of Rio, New Orleans and Venice, masks define realities - of religious belief, of healing power, of theatre and entertainment, of concealment and of memorialisation in death. They have been around as long as humanity and they evoke both fascination and fear. Mike Williams traces the power and culture of masks and asks why we have them and what they mean for us.

Memorialisation2014110620141109 (WS)How we remember the dead, and why does it matter? Mike Williams starts with the promise of so many nations never to forget the death and suffering of the World War One, to explore how the dead have been remembered around the world and through the ages.

Produced by Ben Crighton

Image: Ceramic poppies covered in rainwater at the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red evolving art installation at the Tower of London Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

Memorialisation2014110820141109 (WS)How we remember the dead, and why does it matter?

How we remember the dead, and why does it matter? In this special edition of The Why Factor Mike Williams starts with the promise of so many nations never to forget the death and suffering of the First World War, to explore how the dead have been remembered around the world and through the ages.

Produced by Ben Crighton

(Image: Ceramic poppies covered in rainwater at the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red evolving art installation at the Tower of London Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

Memory2013090620130907 (WS)
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Is human memory reliable and can we control what we remember and what we forget?

How human memory works and why some memories are remembered more easily than others

Memory plays a big part in shaping our identity, but can we rely on what we recall about ourselves and about others? Mike Williams finds out how human memory works and why some memories flood back more easily than others. He also explores whether different senses trigger different types of memories.

Mike speaks to memory experts Martin Conway, Elizabeth Loftus, Gisli Gudjonsson, Maria Larsson and Simon Chu. The reader is Roberto Pistolesi.

(Photo: Image of a brain scan. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Williams finds out how human memory works and why some memories flood back more easily than others. He also explores whether different senses trigger different types of memories.

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Why men only? Discover why some men prefer it to be just them.

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at a men only club? Maybe you have even asked yourself why segregated groups still exist. According to sociologist Todd Migliaccio, society has historically been male dominated making men only clubs suited to the running of it. However, with the current drive towards gender equality and movements such as MeToo and Time’s Up, it begs the question; Why men only?

Presented by Afua Hirsch

Produced by Priscilla Ng’ethe

(Photo: David Staples at the United Grand Lodge in the Grand Temple Credit: Priscilla Ng'ethe)

Men, Women And Language2017112020171121 (WS)Women apologise too much, men interrupt more. Are these stereotypes true?
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Is meritocracy just a utopian idea?

The concept that you can get ahead on your work and talents, also called meritocracy, is something we mostly agree is good. We also equate it with a fairer society, one where the social order is not determined by birth but one which gives us some sort of agency over our futures.

However the term itself was coined as a warning. So why do we believe in it so strongly? The sociologist Michael Young first used the term to describe a dystopia where believing in meritocracy would legitimise inequality. We speak to his son, the journalist Toby Young, about his father’s and his own views about shortcomings of meritocratic societies. We hear from schoolgirls in inner-city London who question meritocracy, but are determined to get ahead in the world regardless.

Entire cultures and societies are formed around the concept of meritocracy. Psychology Professor Shannon McCoy tells us about the American Dream and how buying into it can alter people’s well-being, and Prof Ye Liu tells us about the civil servant exams of ancient China and the country’s current relationship with meritocracy.

Finally the author Anand Giridharadas cautions us about buying into this concept and gives us the view from both India and Silicon Valley, and consultant Joelle Emerson talks about how she tries to help tech companies in California hire more diverse workers.

Presenter: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Producer: Ivana Davidovic
Editor: Richard Knight

Millennials And Business2020020320200204 (WS)Whether it is the growth in co-working spaces around the world full of 20 and 30-somethings starting their own thing, to TV shows on entrepreneurship, all the way to the big successes out of California’s Silicon Valley, the millennial generation are attracted to starting their own businesses. However, it is not just about making money but also about passion and doing good.

Christine Selph from Deloitte and professor Ethan Mollick from the Wharton School of Business give us an overview of this generation and of entrepreneurship. We go to a session run by Pop Up Business School to speak to some millennials about their motivations. Ayzh founder Zubaida Bai and Upstart founder Richard Dacalos tell us about the power of social entrepreneurship to solve problems which can be neglected by governments, while former World Bank economist Charles Kenny cautions us about focusing too much on the individual at the expense of government.

Presenter and producer: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Editor: Andrew Smith

Why are millennials so attracted to starting their own businesses?

Whether is the growth in co-working spaces around the world full of 20 and 30-somethings starting their own thing, to TV shows on entrepreneurship, all the way to the big successes out of California’s Silicon Valley, the millennial generation are attracted to starting their own businesses. However, it’s not just about making money but also about passion and doing good.

Christine Selph from Deloitte and Professor Ethan Mollick from the Wharton School of Business give us an overview of this generation and of entrepreneurship. We go to a session run by Pop Up Business School to speak to some millennials about their motivations. Ayzh founder Zubaida Bai and Upstart founder Richard Dacalos tell us about the power of social entrepreneurship to solve problems which can be neglected by governments while former World Bank economist Charles Kenny cautions us about focusing too much on the individual at the expense of government.

Mirrors2013012620130128 (WS)Mike Williams explores the myths and mysteries of the mirror

Each day billions of us look into a mirror without giving it a second thought but do we really understand what we’re seeing?

This week, Mike Williams explores the science and history behind the mirror and hears about the myths and mysteries of this everyday object.

(Image of customers seen in a mirror as they shop for goods. AFP PHOTO. Credit to Louisa Gouliamaki - Getty Images)

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Does true love have to be monogamous? We hear three very modern love stories.

Around the world people have different rules for their relationships - rules often dictated by culture and religion. In many societies the most important of these is sexual fidelity - true love and monogamy are expected to go hand in hand - but why should love mean forsaking all others? And what happens to relationships when monogamy is cast adrift?

(Image of couples kissing and celebrating the eve of Valentine's Day. Credit: Getty Images)

Around the world people have different rules for their relationship - rules dictated by culture and religion. In many societies the most important of these is sexual fidelity - true love and monogamy are expected to go hand in hand - but why should love mean forsaking all others? And what happens to relationships when monogamy is cast adrift?

Mothers And Daughters2019032520190326 (WS)Is there any truth to claim that the mother daughter relationship is more fraught than any other dynamic? Psychologist Professor Terri Apter explains how conflict can help mothers and daughters renew their bond. Mother and daughter team Sally and Sarah Kettle advocate shared experience as a way to strengthen family ties, something they found while rowing across the Atlantic together for four months, and comedian Sindhu Vee talks about the unique features of a mother’s expectations.

We also hear how, despite the best of intentions, many mothers can disempower their daughters in order to thrive in a patriarchy. Author and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak warns about the ways daughters are taught to blend in, especially in cultures which are more gendered. Dr Leyla Hussein has had first-hand experience of female genital mutilation, and explains how women have become the foot soldiers of a patriarchal system that promotes such practises.

Writer and matriarchy scholar Vicki Noble describes how the mother daughter dynamic is different in societies where women wield power, and life coach Kasia Urbaniak, who teaches women the foundations of power and influence, explains what a mother can do to empower her daughter.

Presenter: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Producer: Edwina Pitman
Editor: Richard Knight

Photo: Mother and daughter together.
Credit: Getty Images

A look at why living in a patriarchy affects the mother-daughter relationship

A look at why living in a patriarchy affects the mother-daughter relationship

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Why do some instruments get all the tunes and the respect, while others are left at the bottom of the heap? The leader of the orchestra is always a violinist, and the guitarist usually gets to leap around at the front of the band. Meanwhile other instruments, like the drums, don’t get a lot of attention - except when it comes to being the butt of jokes.

Matt Allwright is on a mission to uncover the source of this terrible injustice, and find out whether his own beloved “low status” instrument – the pedal steel guitar – can ever find the spotlight.

Guests include:

• Stewart Copeland – The Police (drums)
• Dr Daria Kwiatkowska – composer, University of Birmingham (piano)
• Margaret Birley – Keeper of Musical Instruments, Horniman Museum
• Superorganism (assorted)
• Richard Farnes – conductor
• Stephen Bryant – leader, BBC Symphony Orchestra (violin)
• Tony Bedewi – BBC Symphony Orchestra (timpani)
• Tomoka Mukai – BBC Symphony Orchestra (flute)
• Steve Magee – BBC Symphony Orchestra (contrabassoon)

Why is there a hierarchy of musical instruments?

Matt Allwright is on a mission to uncover the source of this terrible injustice, and find out whether his own beloved “low status ? instrument – the pedal steel guitar – can ever find the spotlight.

Why is there a hierarchy of musical instruments?

Names2014030720140308 (WS)
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What’s in a name? Each of us has one and it is a fairly fundamental part of us. But what does the name say about us - and about our parents who, in most cases - chose it for us?

Why do some names go in and out of fashion? And is the freedom to name our children as we wish a fundamental human right? In the first of two programmes on names, we begin with first or given names. The programme is presented by the solidly-named Mike Williams.

(Image: A mixture of names from around the world. BBC Copyright)

Everyone has one, but what do names say about us?

Names 22014031420140315 (WS)Last names tell a story. Your last name could determine your career. It could decide how easily you move through society or alternatively how hard it could be to get ahead. Some last names grow longer and longer as they carry a family story from generation to generation. Others stagger under a double barrel as partners perpetuate their own last names through their children and a hyphen.

So what’s in a last name? A whole lot as Mike Williams discovers in The Why Factor.

(Image: A mixture of names from around the world. BBC Copyright)

Could your last name determine your career? Mike Williams explains

News20170821News has a powerful effect on people. But why do we have it? And what's it for?

News has a powerful pull. We spend so much of our time checking it, absorbing it and talking about it. And some of us even claim to be addicted to it. But why, asks David Baker, do we need news in the first place? So much of what goes on in the world is beyond our control and hearing about it can just make us more depressed. Would we be better off just disconnecting from the news? Or is it part of our civic duty to be informed? And is news really just another form of entertainment – a modern-day version of that basic human pleasure of swapping stories around the campfire?

(Photo: Men sit with paper and phone, Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

News has a powerful pull. We spend so much of our time checking it, absorbing it and talking about it. And some of us even claim to be addicted to it. But why do we need news in the first place? So much of what goes on in the world is beyond our control and hearing about it can just make us more depressed. Would we be better off just disconnecting from the news? Or is it part of our civic duty to be informed? And is news really just another form of entertainment – a modern-day version of that basic human pleasure of swapping stories around the campfire?

Newspapers2016070820160711 (WS)Digital news is threatening newspapers, so why do they survive and what is their future?

Free, digital news is threatening traditional newspapers around the world, so why do they survive and what is their future? Mike Williams speaks to legendary newspaper editor Sir Harry Evans and journalist in exile Qaabata Boru who fought to set up an independent newspaper in a Kenyan refugee camp.

Mike also hears from Melody Martinsen who owns and edits The Choteau Acantha, a tiny newspaper in rural Montana where not even the premature birth of her son stopped publication.

And at the British Library’s newspaper archive, Mike learns how, as chronicles of ordinary people’s lives, newspapers can throw up some surprise stories missed by the history books.

(Image: Early edition of the Daily Mirror spread on table. Credit: Image courtesy of the British Library)

Digital news is threatening newspapers, so why do they survive and what is their future?

Nitrogen: Forgetting Fritz2013010420130105 (WS)
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Why has one of the world’s most important scientists been forgotten?

He worked with something without which, we'd all be dead. It's in our DNA and the plants we eat could not exist without it.

Fritz Haber was the brilliant German, Jewish chemist who used nitrogen to help feed billions but arguably, kill millions.

Find out why with Mike Williams.

(Image: Fritz Haber Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Nitrogen: Forgetting Fritz2013122720131228 (WS)
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Why has one of the world’s most important scientists - Fritz Haber - been forgotten?

Why has one of the world’s most important scientists been forgotten? Fritz Haber was the brilliant German Jewish chemist who used nitrogen to help feed billions, but arguably, kill millions.

He worked with something without which, we'd all be dead. It's in our DNA and the plants we eat could not exist without it.

Find out why with Mike Williams.

(Image: Fritz Haber Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Noise2018011520180116 (WS)Why high levels of noise affects all of us. David Baker explores how different sounds can impact on people without them even knowing and how to make our lives more tranquil. From the clangs and clatter of city life to weapons that use sound to harm us, noise can be a lot more dangerous than we think. But help is at hand from quieter underground stations to restaurants where the sound changes to reflect our moods and preferences.

(Image: Crowded, noisy, station; Credit: Shutterstock)

Why high levels of noise affects all of us and how to make our lives more tranquil

(Image: Crowded, noisy, station; Credit: Shutterstock)

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Mike reveals that looking to the past can protect us in a number of surprising ways.

Why do we look back and yearn for the past, longing for some golden age when society was supposedly simple, innocent and kind? Why do we recall sweet memories of our youth? And the bitter-sweet memories of love and loss?

Mike Williams speaks to a social psychologist who reveals that looking to the past can protect us in a number of surprising ways. He hears from a woman from the former German Democratic Republic who waxes nostalgic about life there. And he meets a man born in the 1970s who spends most of his time living in the 1940s.

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Why has the open plan office become the norm in many places, despite the distractions?

Millions of us work in open plan offices, whether in modern, efficient buildings with the latest technology and design, or in more traditional set-ups with rows and rows of desks. Mike Williams asks why the open plan office has become the norm in many places, and whether they are as good for the workers, as for the bosses’ bottom lines.

Open plan offices have many advantages: a higher density of people means big savings in real estate costs. They also make it easier to communicate, help or seek help from co-workers. They even make your boss seem more accessible. But the downsides are considerable. People find they get distracted by co-workers’ phone calls and conversations and scientists report that this impacts on your concentration and productivity.

(Photo: Image of workers in an open plan office. Credit: BBC)

Open plan offices have many advantages: a higher density of people means big savings in real estate costs. They also make it easier to communicate, help or seek help from co-workers. They even make your boss seem more accessible, too. But the downsides are considerable. People find they get distracted by co-workers’ phone calls and conversations, and scientists report that this has impact on your concentration and productivity, even when you’re not even consciously aware of the distraction.

(Image of workers in an open plan office - BBC Copyright)

Mike Williams asks why so many people work in open plan offices, despite the distractions.

Optimism And Pessimism2013110820131109 (WS)
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Why do some people have a darker outlook on life while others have a brighter one?

Mike Williams asks why some of us are half glass full and others half glass empty.

Dr Michael Mosley, a self-proclaimed 'proud pessimist', says that given a choice he would prefer to be an optimist, as pessimism affects his relationships and optimists tend to live longer. So he recently agreed to try and convert his darker outlook on life to a brighter one. Over seven weeks, his brain was manipulated by psychologists at Oxford University for a BBC documentary in order to try to turn Dr Mosley into an optimist. He reports back on the success or otherwise of the experiment. But do we have a choice? Ros Taylor says we do. Once a pessimistic average opera singer, she realised that her real passion in life was psychology. She retrained to become a clinical psychologist and claims to have taught herself to become a 'pragmatic optimist'.

Mike Williams puts optimist Ros Taylor up against pessimist Michael Mosley to ask if the glass should be half-full or half-empty and why should we care?

(Image: A glass of water on a wooden table. Credit: Getty Images)

Organ Donation2016102120161024 (WS)Why do we donate organs and will we still need to in the future?

Mike Williams asks why we donate organs and explores whether in the future we’ll need to.

It’s become quite a common thing but, when you think of it, it’s remarkable — that we can take a part of one human (dead or alive) and insert it into another to cure them.

Last year — across the planet — an estimated 119,000 people received transplant

Why Factor, The [world Service]

Pain2018021220180213 (WS)Pain comes to us all at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s a short, sharp shock. Other times, it seems to cling to us. A person’s pain is a unique experience and describing what hurts is not a simple task. In this edition of the Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal asks why we need to understand more about pain and learns more about new ways being developed to manage and measure pain.

(Photo: Pain level meter indicating maximum Credit: Shutterstock)

The Why Factor asks why we need to understand more about pain.

Parties2019121620191217 (WS)It’s the festive season, which means there are lots of parties going on. If you’re planning a party, what kind of celebration will it be? Organising the right food, drink and, crucially, guest list requires time and effort. Party planning has been listed as one of the most stressful professions you can have so, in the spirit of the season, in this edition of the Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal is asking: why is it so hard to plan the perfect party?

Contributors:
Claire Derrick: Co-founder, The Event Academy
Rosie Hart: Course Director, The Event Academy
Kim Glasgow and Henry Khan: Students, The Event Academy
Liz Taylor: Managing Director, Taylor Lynn Corporation
Robin Dunbar: Professor of Evolutionary Psychology – Oxford University
Priya Parker: Author, The Art of Gathering – How We Meet and Why It Matters

Why is party planning so hard?

Contributors:
Claire Derrick: Co-founder, The Event Academy
Rosie Hart: Course Director, The Event Academy
Kim Glasgow and Henry Khan: Students, The Event Academy
Liz Taylor: Managing Director, Taylor Lynn Corporation
Robin Dunbar: Professor of Evolutionary Psychology – Oxford University
Priya Parker: Author, The Art of Gathering – How We Meet and Why It Matters

Plane, Train And Bird Spotting2018102920181030 (WS)
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Why do people love plane, train and bird spotting?

Novice aviation geek Alys Harte enters the worlds of twitchers, birders, watchers and spotters.

She meets Noel Marsh-Giddings, who has flown on the shortest and longest flights on the planet - just for the sake of flying; she goes ‘birding’ on the east coast of England with Ashley Saunders where they have a close encounter with a sparrow hawk (and a photobombing mallard!) and speaks to Prof. Kiyohito Utsunomiya, transport economist and railway fan about the subcultures within subcultures that make up Japanese ‘tetsu’ train spotters.

Photo: Man in a field with binoculars. Credit: Getty Creative Images. ISO3000

Pleasure: Why We Like The Things We Like2016021220160215 (WS)The science of pleasure and why we like the things that we like
Polygamy2017062620170627 (WS)Why would anyone share their husband or wife with another partner?
Radio Requests2016041520160418 (WS)Music fans and radio stations from Mexico to Myanmar explain the appeal of radio requests
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Why do we feel regret \u2013 is it right to live with it, or should we get over our mistakes?
Resilience2019120920191210 (WS)Resilience is one of the buzzwords of the moment with multiple self-helps books and motivational speakers all promising us we can learn to be resilient, and use this skill to manage our pain. But what exactly is resilience and why does it help some people to cope better in times of stress than others?

In this Why Factor, Abby Hollick examines why some people, in the face of trauma, seem to be extraordinarily resilient and tests her own inner reserves to discover if she is naturally resilient or not.

Dr David Westley, head of psychology at Middlesex University
Ann Masten, professor at the University of Minnesota
Lucy Wairimu Mkuria, psychologist
Dr Nimmi Hutnik, author of Becoming Resilient: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to Transform Your Life
Melanie Reid, journalist for The Times
Dr Atle Dyregrov, clinical psychologist and Director of the Centre for Crisis Psychology in Bergen.

Presenter and Producer: Abby Hollick
Editor: Andrew Smith

(Photo: Man being rescued by two firefighters. Credit: Getty Images / Stock Photo)

Why are we resilient?

Restaurants2018040920180410 (WS)Why do so many people decide to open a restaurant?

Mary-Ann Ochota speaks to the people who have been through the joys and stresses of serving fine food around the globe, those who are just embarking on the journey, and those who are exploring new and modern ways to serve food.

However, according to Restaurant Consultant Linda Lipsky, a majority of restaurants fail in their first year. So why do so many people still dream of opening a restaurant when the odds are stacked against them? Can the reality ever match the fantasy? And why are so many people willing to risk it all to chase their dream?

Presenter Mary-Ann Ochota
Producers: Priscilla Ng’ethe & Chloe Hadjimatheou

(Image: Restaurant Interior: Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do people dream of opening a restaurant? Is the reality anything like the fantasy?

Returning Home2017061920170620 (WS)Why do foreign migrants yearn to go home and does returning make them happy if they do?
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Why did this type of aggressive behaviour evolve? And what purpose does it serve?
Rhetoric2018100820181009 (WS)
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What can the social media generation learn from the ancient art of persuasion?

Rhetoric has been described as the art of persuasion. Used to its best effect, it can make what you say very convincing. In the age of non-stop tweets, news updates and digital distractions, discourse feels like it’s become more immediate, less considered and, often, more aggressive. What should be reasoned rhetoric now often deteriorates into the quest for the perfect putdown. In this week's Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal finds out why, in the age of the 280 character polemic, it could be useful to learn more about the ancient art of rhetoric, and how this is yet another arena where machines may have an advantage over humans.

Image: A statue of Aristotle (Credit: Getty Images)

Romance2017091820170919 (WS)Why is it such an enduring concept and what does it mean in the modern world?

Red roses, romantic dinners and Valentine’s Day might have become the modern expression of Romance – but where do its ancient roots lie? And do traditional ideas about Romance conflict with today’s experience of gender, love and sexuality?

Afua Hirsch talks to Eddie and Justin Outlaw about their experience of Romance as a gay couple in America’s deep south. We also hear from Kiru Taye, a Nigerian author who wanted to challenge the predominately white and western world of Romance novels; and sex and attachment expert Sarah Merrill describes how the romantic instinct is etched into our very biology.

Yet in the world of swipe right, swipe left dating apps – how might our experience of Romance be changing?

(Image: Book, heart pages, Credit: Shutterstock)

Romance Fraud2018050720180508 (WS)Why do people fall for online romance frauds? With false online profiles, doctored photographs, and convincing background stories, online fraudsters target people who are looking for love and online relationships. Once they have hooked their victims, they set about stealing money from them. But what convinces people that their new relationship is so realistic that they become willing to hand over large amounts of money to someone who they may never meet.
Shari Vahl explores why people fall for such frauds, hearing the stories of two women and the online relationship they believed would bring them a new future – and which turned out to be an costly false hope. Shari hears from cyber-psychology expert Monica Whitty and people hacker Jennifer Radcliffe, as well as from police in the UK and USA. What are the hooks that these international criminal gangs use to defraud their victims and what happens when victims discover that the truth about their online relationship.

(Image: Internet dating gone wrong, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do people fall victims to online romance frauds

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Why do we run? Because we were born to run or because we want to be healthier?

Running is experiencing an explosion in popularity in the UK and across the world. So why are we running now more than ever - the recession, the Olympic competitive factor, the new social media app revolution, public health awareness, mid-life crises, rising life expectancy? Mike Williams, not exactly a natural runner, tests out these theories and is persuaded to try out barefoot running himself.

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has become more popular according to a recent study. Why do people listen to it?
Safe Space2016060320160606 (WS)Mike Williams asks what exactly is a safe space?

The ideal university experience is expected to train the minds of students by exposing them to new ideas and challenging their assumptions. Why then, in the English speaking west at least, are some students rebelling against this principle by insisting there are some ideas which are so abhorrent they should not be heard? To them a university should be a safe space. In this edition of the Why Factor, Mike Williams tries to discover where the balance lies between freedom of speech and protection from offence and asks what exactly is a safe space?

Producer: Sandra Kanthal

Image: Students sharing space on campus (Credit: Rawpixel/ Shutterstock)

Schadenfreude2019070120190702 (WS)Schadenfreude is a German word that means “harm-joy”. It is the pleasure we feel from someone else’s misfortune, and it can come in many shades. It is the laughter we can’t stifle when someone unexpectedly falls over, or the triumphant pleasure we feel when a rival is defeated. We can also feel it when something bad happens to someone we genuinely like.

Edwina Pitman examines why, even when we’re happy and successful, we can’t help but enjoy others’ bad luck.

Contributors:
Esther Walker - journalist
Dr Tiffany Watt Smith - cultural historian and author of Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune
Professor Richard Smith - professor of psychology, University of Kentucky
Dr Andre Szameitat - reader in psychology, Brunel University
Anuvab Pal - Comedian
Mike Wendling - Editor, BBC Trending

Presented and produced by Edwina Pitman
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: Cheerful young woman lying on sofa with laptop in modern office lounge. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do we enjoy the misfortunes of others?

Why do we enjoy the misfortunes of others?

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Caz Graham finds out why people go to their school reunion.

Why do people go to their school reunion? Caz Graham goes to a 50th anniversary school reunion in the North of England where she meets people who are encountering friends who have not seen each other for years. She hears how the event prompts their memories of school days from the 1960s and also what they have done in the years since leaving school.

Caz explores the strength of feelings that school day memories produce and finds out from experts why these enduring memories draw people back to reunions. She hears from Professor Vered Vinitsky Seroussi about the importance of being able to recount what has happened in our lives to those who were our first friends during school days. The benefits of attending a school reunion are explained by Professor Jerome Short.

School reunions happen around the world and can start just a few years after leaving school – Jen Bilik has attended four reunions, starting with the tenth anniversary and explains how her attitude towards them changed over the subsequent years. She explains how attending a school reunion is a way of taking part in a longitudinal study of our lives.

(Image: School Reunion. Credit: Shutterstock)

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They represent power, they can generate fear, but why do we have them?

Secrets have become harder to conceal and easier to divulge in online blogs and other social networks sites and in open office settings. Secrets can be used as weapons. They represent power, they can generate fear.

In the shadowy world of espionage and in our ordinary lives secrets are a currency. But why do we have secrets? And what are the consequences either for holding onto a secret or for giving it away?

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They represent power, they can generate fear, but why do we have them?

They represent power, they can generate fear, but why do we have secrets?

Secrets have become harder to conceal and easier to divulge with the availability of online blogs and other social networks sites as well as open office settings. Secrets can be used as weapons. They represent power, they can generate fear.

In the shadowy world of espionage and in our ordinary lives secrets are a currency.

But why do we have secrets? And what are the consequences either for holding onto a secret or for giving it away?

(Image of a woman holding a finger to her mouth. Credit Getty Images)

Self-harm2017060520170606 (WS)Why do some people cause physical pain to themselves as a way to manage their emotions?

We all experience negative emotions and find different ways to cope – maybe by exercising or by listening to music. But some people deliberately inflict pain on themselves as a way of managing how they feel. Why? Experts believe 15% of adolescents self-injure at least once, with some children as young as 9 using self-injury as a coping mechanism, albeit an unhealthy one. The behaviour can lead to feelings of guilt and distress; family and friends often don’t know how to help. Catherine Carr explores the impact self-harming has on those who do it and those close to them.
She speaks to Matthew Nock, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University who explains the type of person most at risk of engaging in self-injury and the reasons why they use it to regulate their emotions.

News reporter, Aidan Radnedge, describes why he began self-harming at university; and how his family and friends have given unstinting support throughout his road to recovery.

Writer and editor, Janelle Harris, explains what it was like to discover that her daughter, Skylar, was self-harming aged 11. Now 18 and having graduated from high school, Skylar is no longer injuring herself and is looking forward to going to college next year.

Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Priory Group of mental health hospitals and clinics in the UK, offers advice for parents on how to react if their children are self-harming – and offers alternative coping strategies for those struggling to deal with their feelings.

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this programme, please visit the following websites for support and advice:

Befrienders Worldwide: http://www.befrienders.org/about-self-harm
Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/what-speak-us-about/signs-you-may-be-struggling-cope/helping-you-through-self
LifeSIGNS: http://www.lifesigns.org.uk/
Talk Life: https://talklife.co/

Presenter: Catherine Carr
Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Image: Sad beautiful girl, Credit: Wayhome studio/Shutterstock)

Self-help2018060420180605 (WS)
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Why do we believe complete strangers can guide us in improving every aspect of our lives

Why do we believe complete strangers can guide us in improving every aspect of ourselves. Mary-Ann Ochota explores whether the self-help industry really changes peoples’ lives. Mary-Ann visits a self-improvement workshop, talks to the owner of an Indian finishing school and to two academics who spent a year in bitter competition as each attempted to outdo the other in self-improvement.

(Image: Yes you can, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why do we believe complete strangers can guide us in improving every aspect of ourselves. Mary-Ann Ochota explores whether the self-help industry really changes peoples’ lives. Mary-Ann visits a self-improvement workshop, talks to the owner of an Indian finishing school and to two academics who spent a year in bitter competition as each attempted to outdo the other in self-improvement.

(Image: Yes you can, Credit: Shutterstock)

Self-marriage2018051420180515 (WS)Why do people marry themselves – and what even is self-marriage?

The Why Factor meets the self-married, who argue if marriage is about committing to an individual - to love and cherish, in sickness and in health - who better to commit to… than yourself?

Mary-Ann Ochota finds out why this emerging phenomenon is so popular amongst women in particular. And why self-marriage can be either a radical act of self-love, or the ultimate cosplay. And sometimes both.

(Image: Grace Gelder, Credit: Amy Grubb)

Why do people marry themselves, is it narcissism, or a bold step to finding happiness?

Why do people marry themselves – and what even is self-marriage?

Why Factor, The [world Service]

Separating The Art From The Artist2019041520190416 (WS)
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Why can’t we judge art at face value? How does the identity, behaviour and cultural context of the artist play a part in how we approach their artwork? Edwina Pitman explores why we can’t seem to separate the art from the artist.

Guests:
John Myatt, artist
Paul Bloom, Professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University
Michelle Hartney, artist
Lionel Shriver, novelist
Ananya Mishra, PhD researcher in English, University of Cambridge
Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs, National Coalition Against Censorship, New York
Bob Sturm, Associate Professor in Speech, Music and Hearing at Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

Presented and Produced by Edwina Pitman
Editor: Richard Knight

Photo: Woman looking at the Pablo Picasso painting 'The Dream'
Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Why does what we know about an artist affect how we see their work?

(Photo: Woman looking at the Pablo Picasso painting The Dream. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Serial Killers2017102320171024 (WS)Why do many of us find serial killers and their crimes so intriguing?
Short2017042420170425 (WS)Why do some short people lie about their height?
Sibling Birth Order2018040220180403 (WS)Shivaani Kohok explores why so many people feel that the order in which we are born shapes our character and destiny. Whether you’re the eldest, the youngest or a middle child can make a difference to how we see ourselves and how we relate to others, according to psychologists. And some studies suggest that there economic and educational advantages to being the first or later born child – depending where in the world you live. Herself the eldest of three, Shivaani talks with other sisters of different ages to find out why they love or hate their place in their sibling hierarchy.

(Image: Siblings of different ages, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why is the order in which we are born seen as a key to our character?

Sign Language2017073120170801 (WS)Lee Kumutat explores why deaf people are divided on the significance of Sign Language
Sleepwalking2018010120180102 (WS)Bizarre bedtime behaviours that include a woman who went motorbiking while asleep

Why do some of us do bizarre things in our sleep? Like riding a motorbike, using a shoe to ‘phone for pizza or even having sex while sleeping? These are complex behaviours and yet sleepwalkers aren’t aware of what they’re doing and often have no memory of their strange night-time activities.

These sleep disorders are known as non-REM parasomnias and include conditions like night terrors and sleep eating.

Neurologist, Dr Guy Leschziner, talks to patients he’s been treating at his sleep clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in London. They include Jackie who began sleepwalking as a child and continued her strange night-time behaviour as an adult, even driving her car whilst sleeping; from Alex who rescues people from floods in his sleep. And we hear from Tom, whose recent diagnosis of sexsomnia has had a significant impact on his life.

(Image: Girl on tightrope in moonlight, Credit: Shutterstock)

Smart Speakers2019012820190129 (WS)The number of smart speakers in US households has increased by 78% year-over-year, from 66 million in December 2017 to 118 million in December 2018. About ten million people in the UK now use one and, on average, one in 10 people in the world now own a smart speaker. And it does not seem like the rise is stopping any time soon.

Presenter Paul Bakibinga investigates the current possibilities of a smart home and voice design. Together with experts he explores how owning a virtual assistant - always on and always listening - introduces a whole host of issues to consider - from privacy through to child development and rampant consumerism. But, using your voice for browsing the internet, playing music or ordering groceries has proved to be a lifeline for disabled and elderly users.

We hear from child psychologist Rachel Severson, online privacy expert Florian Schaub, computer voice expert and psychologist Jonathan Gratch, Google’s Cathy Pearl and the author of Radical Technologies Adam Greenfield.

We are also invited to a multi-generational home of smart speaker users who don’t all agree whether these machines are a force for good or another way of surrendering our privacy.

Presenter: Paul Bakibinga
Producer: Ivana Davidovic

(Photo: Smart Speaker. Credit: Getty Images)

How are smart speakers affecting us, from privacy to child development?

Smiling2017021720170219 (WS)
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Whether a toothy grin, a megawatt beam or a faint curve of the lips, why do we smile?
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Why do we like to go fast \u2013 why are we so taken with speed?

We live in a world where going fast – and faster – is an everyday fact of life. Where fast cars, fast boats and fast athletes command our attention.
In theme parks we queue for the most fastest, most exciting rides. But why do we find speed so thrilling?

Caz Graham meets people who risk their lives to set world speed records, the boss of a Formula One race team, and a sports psychologist to ask – why are we so taken with speed?

What motivates people like Formula 1 or speed boat drivers to stretch themselves to the limits of what might be dangerous? Do we like scaring ourselves?

Caz visits the annual Coniston Power Boat Records Week in the English Lake District to meet the teenager who hopes to break a world water speed record and she hears of the risks that going at speed on water can entail. She hears from a ‘thrill engineer’ about why people like to ride roller-coasters. From the psychologist who worked with the UK’s Olympic cycling team in 2016, Caz hears what it takes psychologically to be able to want to go faster and faster. And from the man in charge of Renault’s Formula One team she discovers the engineering effort that goes into designing fast cars – and what it takes to be the driver of such cars as they race around high speed tracks.

(Photo: Zapcat powerboat racing, Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall, UK. Credit: Education Images/UIG/Getty Images)

Stammering2017022420170226 (WS)
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Why does this speech disorder cause so much shame amongst the millions affected by it?
Statues: Why We Put People On Pedestals2016050620160509 (WS)To some statues pay homage to gods, to others they are attempts at immortalising man
Status2018070220180703 (WS)How often do you think about other peoples’ opinion of you?

In many parts of the world status is something we can change through education, occupation and wealth but what if you come from a culture where the status you are born with is inescapable? We speak to author Sujatha Gidla about growing up as one of India’s Untouchables: the outcasts of the country’s rigid Caste system.

Lifestyle and fashion blogger Sasha Wilson shows us how high the status stakes are in the completive online world of Instagram. And is the pursuit of status bad for our mental health? Professor Richard Wilkinson believes so and argues that the bigger the gap between rich and poor the greater our obsession becomes with it.

Finally, is status something we can just buy? Brian Hamilton runs a business selling Scottish noble titles to the highest bidder and so presenter Priscilla Ngethe considers becoming Baroness of Pentland…

(Field recordings of the Shuar Ecuadorian Indians thanks to Mike Woloszyn and freesound.org)

Image: John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in the Class Sketch from Frost Over England, 1967 (Credit: BBC)

How would you define your status in society? And why do some suffer status anxiety?

Staying Put2017100920171010 (WS)Why do people decide to stay put when faced with a natural disaster?
Supernatural Powers2016031820160321 (WS)Mike Williams asks why supernatural beliefs have such a hold over different societies
Surrogacy2017092520170926 (WS)Why would a woman choose to carry a baby for a complete stranger?
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Why some words have such power to shock and offend

#*?@! %$&@*! Why do a few, select words have such power to shock and offend? With help from swearing historian Melissa Mohr, Mike Williams traces the history of taboo language from Roman times to the present day and hears how cultural taboos have shaped offensive language down the centuries.

He talks to American psychologist Professor Tim Jay about why we swear and discovers that children start using profane language at a much earlier age than you might imagine. And he meets psychologist Dr Richard Stephens who persuades him to take part in two swearing experiments, one of them rather painful, with some surprising results.

(Picture: A teenage boy in a hoodie making an offensive gesture, censored. Credit: BBC)

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is everywhere once you become aware of its presence. Mike Williams reports

Symmetry is everywhere once you become aware of its presence. We see symmetry all around us; in art, architecture and science but also in more complex forms, buried deep into the genetic code of nature. Why does symmetry exist and why do we see such beauty in it?

Mike Williams talks to the Oxford professor and mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy about the fundamental properties of symmetry; how we are sensitive to the order and simple beauty of symmetry. We hear from New York fashion photographer Alex John Beck about his work on symmetry in faces and why we find symmetrical faces attractive. Plant biologist Dr Paula Rudell explains how bees are also attracted to symmetry in flowers. Lebanese composer and musician Bushra el Turk demonstrates the use of symmetry in music and the pleasures we experience when hearing it.

But there’s another side to symmetry. The danger of symmetry in the mistaken molecular structure used for the drug thalidomide. And isn’t the best thing about symmetry breaking from its strict order and rules?

(Image: Orchids have bilateral symmetry which bees are attracted to for pollination. BBC Copyright)

Talking About Death2015082120150822 (WS)
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It’s something that will come to all of us. So why is it so hard to talk about death?

Mike Williams meets a British doctor facing her own mortality and another in India who wrestles with telling her patients the bad news.

Produced by Smita Patel

(Photo: Four gravestones in a graveyard. Credit: Shutterstock)

Tattoos2012091420120915 (WS)
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Why do we do we have tattoos? Join Mike Williams in this new series.

In this first programme, Mike asks why people have tattoos.

Where do they come from and what do they say about us?

From the Maori of New Zealand to the Mexican Mafia, Mike explores the universal motivation behind why people decorate their bodies with ink.

Broadcast and podcast every Friday from September 2012.

(Image: David Beckham's tattooed bare back. Credit:ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do we do the things we do? Join Mike Williams in this new series.

Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions to inform us about the way we live in the 21st century.

Tattoos2013071920130720 (WS)
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Where do they come from and what do they say about us?

In this programme, Mike asks why people have tattoos.

From the Maori of New Zealand to the Mexican Mafia, Mike explores the universal motivation behind why people decorate their bodies with ink.

(Image: David Beckham's tattooed bare back. Credit: ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Thankless Tasks2017052220170523 (WS)Dotun Adebayo discovers why anyone does a job where lots of people hate you
The 100th Programme: The Life Of Why2014090520140908 (WS)Celebrating the 100th edition of The Why Factor

In the 100th edition of the Why Factor, Mike Williams explores what we have learnt about our very existence. From teenagers and coming of age to retirement, burial and much more along the way.

Producer: Helena Merriman

The Apology2014071120140712 (WS)
20140714 (WS)
Why do we say sorry – and what do we really mean by it?

Why do we say sorry – and what do we really mean by it? Mike Williams explores the apology, from ancient Greece to today’s penitent politicians. Is an apology alone worth anything? Is it just part of a process, leading to action or forgiveness? And can one generation apologise for the actions of another?

Producer: Nina Robinson

(Photo: A banner reading 'Sorry’. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The Ball2013052420130525 (WS)
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Mike Williams asks why we like playing with a ball, and what that says about us.

A ball is a simple, everyday object that holds such a deep appeal for us that we have been playing with them since the dawn of time, and on every continent. Mike Williams finds out why.

Some scientists argue that ball playing helped us become human, by developing the parts of the brain involved in speech, emotions and decision making. But why is ball playing fun? One explanation is that the unpredictability of never quite knowing where a ball will fall, means a ball game can give us the kinds of emotional highs and lows that would take unusually good fortune, or tragedy, to get otherwise.

You can listen to more programmes like this here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00xtky9

(Image of a young boy holding a ball. Credit to AFP/Getty Images)

The Boxers Of Bukom2013011820130119 (WS)
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Why are the men of Bukom in Accra so good at boxing?

Why has the tiny area of Bukom in Accra, produced five World Champion boxers, including Ghana’s greatest ever fighter, ‘The Professor’ Azumah Nelson?

What does this area tell us about raw talent versus environment in the nature/nuture debate?

Why are the men of Bukom so good at boxing?

Find out with Mike Williams on the Why Factor.

(Image of Azumah Nelson trading blows during a bout in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getty)

The Bullet2012101220121013 (WS)
20121015 (WS)
The history and design of the bullet and why people use them

Mike Williams finds out why armies use one type of bullet, while gangsters use another and what the phrase full-metal jacket tells us about our qualms about killing each other.

The bullet has been at the heart of the world's battles for many centuries. Although the essential idea hasn't changed much since the 15th Century, the way the bullet and its use has evolved is revealing.

He hears from doctors, soldiers and criminals about why such a small object causes so much damage and what it means to shoot someone, and be shot.

The Cigarette2012100520121006 (WS)
20121008 (WS)
In this week’s programme Mike Williams looks at why people start smoking?

Nearly 50 years after the world first learned that smoking kills, millions are still picking up the habit.

And he discovers who was behind one of the most lethal inventions of all time: the cigarette.

The City2013070520130706 (WS)
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This week, Mike Williams looks at life in a modern metropolis.
The Crowd2017121120171212 (WS)Why we take courage from a crowd

When a group of people come together, they form a crowd. Strangers connect and share a common purpose and identity. It's an exhilarating experience.
At football matches, music festivals and protest marches, people become energised in groups. They can be frightening places when they erupt in violence, or peaceful forms of protest when we try to change social norms. In this edition of the Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks why we take courage from a crowd.

(Image: Large crowd of people, Credit: Shutterstock)

The Drum2012121420121215 (WS)
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Why do we find the beat of the drum so intoxicating?

Why are human beings compelled to tap their feet or bob their heads to the beat of music?

It seems like a very basic thing to do. But no other animal is able to synchronise their whole body to a beat in the way we do, and very few other animals can even recognise a beat.

Mike Williams goes in search of where exactly in our bodies we feel this beat and what evolutionary purpose the ability to drum and move to the drum beat might have had.

(Image of a man playing drums - credit: Getty)

The Family Tree2016111820161120 (WS)
20161121 (WS)
Why are so many people obsessed with discovering their family origins?

Mike Williams asks why so many people are obsessed with discovering their family origins and also learns new things about his own ancestors along the way. Genealogy is a growing phenomenon driven by the digitisation of old paper records, websites offering to DNA test your saliva for $100 and TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are, which explore celebrities family histories.

But what does spending hours, weeks and – in some cases – years trying to discover names or dates that might reveal the identity of someone related to us hundreds of years ago say about us? And, what are we really looking for?

Mike talks to Else Churchill at the Society of Genealogists in London, Nathan Lents, professor of molecular biology at John Jay College in New York and Catherine Nash, professor of Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London.

(Photo: Paper cut of family symbol under tree on old book. Credit: jannoon028/Shutterstock)

The Female Orgasm2016120220161204 (WS)
20161205 (WS)
Why do we understand so little about female sexual pleasure?

Why don’t we understand how the female orgasm works? After years of scientific research, the male body is understood but when it comes to how women work, we are a long way behind. Why is there this gap in knowledge?

It appears research has been hindered by the assumption that the female body works in the same way as the male body and that for women, arousal is all in the mind. There’s also a general attitude that studying sexual pleasure isn’t important and that female orgasms aren’t important to study as they serve no purpose for reproduction.

Researchers are slowly correcting these assumptions and making surprising discoveries.

We’ll take you behind the scenes to two orgasm labs to bring you the latest research on how orgasms work for women. We’ll also hear from Callista, who struggled with excruciating pain during sex for many years but was told the problem was all in her mind. Her journey to diagnosis shows how little is known, even amongst gynaecologists and doctors, about female sexual pleasure.

Presenter: Aasmah Mir

Producer: Phoebe Keane

(Image: Woman's hand grasping a bed sheet. Credit: Shutterstock)

The Fool2014060620140607 (WS)
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Mike Williams asks why the fool or jester has been an important figure in many cultures

The fool – or jester – has been an important, even powerful, figure in many cultures, over many centuries. Why? Mike Williams explores the role of the fool, their place in culture and politics, and asks whether there is still a need for a funnyman who can speak truth to power.

(Image: Puppet Clowns stored at the Clown’s Church in east London. BBC Copyright)

The Handshake2012110220121105 (WS)Millions of us use this gesture but where does this everyday ritual come from?

This week, Mike Williams asks why do we shake hands?

All over the world millions of us use this gesture to greet others but where does this everyday ritual come from, and what purpose does it serve?

With the US presidential election just days away, Mike also looks at the role of the handshake in political life - why has it proved to be such a sensitive issue?

(Image: US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) shaking hands. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

The Heel20130111Where did the fascination with elevated footwear come from and what do they tell us?

Why do tens of millions of women all over the world choose to walk around on stilt like objects called heels?

Where did the fascination with elevated footwear come from and what do they tell us about class, power and sex?

It may surprise many to hear that high heels were first worn b

Why Factor, The [world Service]

The Kiss2017070320170704 (WS)Why do humans kiss?
The Voice2016090220160905 (WS)What do our voices reveal about ourselves?
Thin2016052720160530 (WS)Mike Williams asks why so many people want to be thin in a world grappling with obesity.
Time Perception2016051320160516 (WS)Mike Williams asks why some weeks just fly by but sometimes minutes can seem like hours?
Torture2017020320170205 (WS)
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Does torture actually work, and can its use ever be justified?
Truth2018111920181120 (WS)Every day we’re bombarded with information and, with each new story or alternative fact, we have to decide what we believe to be true.

But some of the mental short cuts we take to sift through this material allow us to be deceived: past experiences, political beliefs and laziness can all cloud our judgment. In this episode of The Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal explores why truth can be elusive. We’ll meet a woman who discovered her husband had been lying to her for 15 years, and fought through her pain to find the truth. We talk with one psychologist who argues that critical thinking skills can be weaponised to encourage a person to believe in conspiracy theories; and to someone who, through extensive research, is convinced the earth is flat. People shape their identities around their notion of truth. This may go some way to explain why it is easier to fool someone than to convince them they have been fooled.

Producer: Chris Browning

Picture: Goldfish Shark
Credit: Getty Images

Why is it so difficult to decide what is true in a world riddled with alternative facts?

Unconscious Bias2016110420161106 (WS)
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Why do we make judgments about people without even realising?
Underground2017041020170411 (WS)What lures people to delve deep beneath the earth, into the dark recesses underground?
Us And Them2018070920180710 (WS)Dividing people into groups is part of our social experience. Be it through race, gender, nationality; we build our identities through groups we belong to. And these identities can be numerous and elastic.
But, what makes us decide who is like us and who is the other?
In this week’s Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks; why do we divide the world into us and them?

(Image: Baseball caps, Credit: Sandra Kanthal/BBC)

Why do we divide the world into us and them?

Vegans2018012920180130 (WS)Why are more and more people giving up all food produced from animals? Mary-Ann Ochota explores if it’s natural for us to eat meat, and the impact on our health and the environment.
She looks at how social media is helping spread the vegan message, the pros and cons of a solely plant based diet and whether eating meat today is ethical.

(Image: Selection of Vegan dishes, Credit: Shutterstock)

Victim Blaming2020010620200107 (WS)The trauma of sexual assault is both personal and brutal. But what may be an indisputably traumatic event for one person is often challenged by another, and the responsibility for events gets scattered in the process. Why is it so common for people to look for reasons to blame the victims of sexual assault for what has happened to them?

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far finds multiple reasons from this, speaking to experts and to victims. We hear from Dr Mithu Sanyal about the role of long-standing attitudes towards gender and sexuality. New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey tell us about power and the workplace and who is more likely to be believed. Dr Jackson Katz and Dr Laura Niemi explain the roles of both group dynamics and the language we use and how these often work to protect perpetrators rather than to support victims

Presenter and producer: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Editor: Andrew Smith

(Photo: Protest sign held up during 'Slut Walk' protests against victim blaming in Munich, Germany / Credit: Alexander Pohl / Nur Photo / Getty Images)

In cases of sexual assault, why do people so often blame the victim?

Vigilantes2016123020170101 (WS)
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Why do some people take the law into their own hands?

What drives some people to take the law into their own hands? Mike Williams hears stories from Europe, Africa and the US. Stories about the men – and it is usually men – who take it upon themselves to patrol the streets or seek out paedophiles online. And, he explores what happens when vigilante groups mutate into monsters. Whether motivated by revenge, frustration or a desire to do good, does mob justice ever work?

With contributions from Scott and Callum, co-founders, Dark Justice; Laurie James, forensic criminologist, based in Botswana; Curtis Sliwa, founder of Guardian Angels; Kate Meagher, associate professor, Department of International Development, London School of Economics; Jim Gamble, former chief executive, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre; Abubakar Bukar Kagu, solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Photo: Close up of Guardian Angels' jacket with other men sitting in background, Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Violence2016072220160725 (WS)Why are men more violent than women?

Anybody who watched the European Championships of football this summer in France would have seen shocking scenes of violence between fans. The vast majority, if not all, were men. Men also commit more than 90% of murders across the world and are more likely to join a gang.

Why are men more violent than women? Caroline Bayley speaks to ex-football hooligan Cass Pennant about his experiences and motivation when violence became his way of life. Former British Army officer Jane Middleton explains the differences between men and women on the battlefield when she served in Afghanistan. And, Caroline also hears views from Sweden about how equal violence between men and women in relationships is.

(Photo: Group of football fans fighting in street. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Violent Entertainment2013080220130804 (WS)
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Why are we so drawn to violent entertainment?

Why are we so drawn to violent entertainment? Violent films, video games, dramas and stories are incredibly popular, as were brutal gladiatorial Roman contests and gory 14th century jousts. What explains this enduring attraction to violence and what kind of violence in particular are we most drawn to? And are people in violent societies just as attracted to violent entertainment as elsewhere?

The Mexican winner of the Cannes Best Director prize this year, a Professor of Fairy Tales and the guide for London’s most gruesome Jack the Ripper tour are among those answering this week’s question.

(Image of Daniel Craig pointing a gun, as James Bond. Credit: Eon productions via Press Association)

Walk On The Wild Side2013110120131104 (WS)Why has Lou Reed's music changed everything? Mike Williams explains

Mike Williams talks to critics, fans, academics and historians to try and explain why Lou Reed's music changed everything.

(Image: Lou Reed performs at the Lollapalooza music festival, in Chicago 2009. Credit: Associated Press)

What Can Chimps Teach Us About Politics?2017112720171128 (WS)What politicians might learn from chimps and other primates about politics

Professor James Tilley finds out what we can learn about politics from the power struggles within chimpanzee groups and how our evolutionary past affects the political decisions that we make today. Interviewing primatologists, evolutionary psychologists and political scientists, he explores the parallels between our political world and that of other primates. These include the way politicians form coalitions, how people choose leaders, loyalties to parties and even how, and when, we go to war. These similarities to other primates reflect our evolutionary heritage and the way in which stone-age human groups settled disputes internally and externally.

(Photo: A female chimpanzee yawns as two others nod-off, while they sit on rocks in a family group, at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. Credit: Getty Images)

What Do You Do?2017091120170912 (WS)How much emphasis do we place on our jobs defining our identity?

Why do we ask people what they do for a living?

When we meet someone and ask them what do you do – what are we really hoping to find out about that person? David Baker explores why we ask ‘what do you do?’ and finds out what happens when you decide you won’t start a relationship with a question about work. Why do we believe that our jobs are the most profound thing about us when there are so many other things we could be talking about? What might seem like a simple social convention – a way of breaking the ice – can also reveal a great deal about how much emphasis we place on our jobs as part of our identity.

(Photo: Identity branding. Credit: Shutterstock)

What Makes Us Want To Wear T-shirts?20151120Mike Williams asks why these simple garments are so appealing

They’re something you probably see every da

Why Factor, The [world Service]

Why Are Some Places Still Men Only?2018031220180313 (WS)
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Have you ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at a men only club? Maybe you have even asked yourself why segregated groups still exist. According to sociologist Todd Migliaccio, society has historically been male dominated making men only clubs suited to the running of it. However, with the current drive towards gender equality and movements such as MeToo and Time’s Up, it begs the question; Why men only?

Presented by Afua Hirsch

Produced by Priscilla Ng’ethe

(Photo: David Staples at the United Grand Lodge in the Grand Temple Credit: Priscilla Ng'ethe)

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors of a men only club?

Why Are We Afraid Of Robots?2016052020160523 (WS)They help us in homes, hospitals and factories, so do we have reason to fear robots?
Why Are We Conscious Of So Little?2019102820191029 (WS)
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Sleep, day-dreaming, meditation – these are all different states of awareness. In these states we are not really aware of what is going on around us. But even when humans are awake, we take in very little about our surroundings. So this week we speak to psychologists and neuroscientists to ask, why are we conscious of so little?

Presenter and producer: David Edmonds
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: X-ray image of human head with lightning / Credit: Getty Images)

Why are humans conscious of so little of what goes on around us?

Sleep, day-dreaming, meditation – these are all different states of awareness. In these states we are not really aware of what is going on around us. But even when humans are awake, we take in very little about our surroundings. So this week we speak to psychologists and neuroscientists to ask, why are we conscious of so little?

Presenter and producer: David Edmonds
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: X-ray image of human head with lightning / Credit: Getty Images)

Why Are We Conscious?2019110420191105 (WS)
20200907 (WS)
It turns out that much of what we do – much of our behaviour – can be conducted at an unconscious level. That raises a profound question. What is the point of consciousness? What evolutionary advantage does consciousness bestow? We speak to psychologists and neuroscientists for the answer. And we ask a philosopher whether science can ever unravel the deep mysteries of consciousness. The programme is guaranteed to hurt your brain.

Presenter and producer: David Edmonds
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: / Credit: Doorway to another world - stock photo. Getty Images)

What evolutionary advantage does consciousness bestow upon us?

Presenter and producer David Edmonds
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: X-ray image of human head with lightning / Credit: Stock Photo. Getty Images)

Why are humans conscious?

It turns out that much of what we do – much of our behaviour – can be conducted at an unconscious level. That raises a profound question. What is the point of consciousness? What evolutionary advantage does consciousness bestow? We speak to psychologists and neuroscientists for the answer. And we ask a philosopher whether science can ever unravel the deep mysteries of consciousness. The programme is guaranteed to hurt your brain.

Presenter and producer: David Edmonds
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: / Credit: Doorway to another world - stock photo. Getty Images)

Why Are We Getting Smarter2016071520160718 (WS)Mike Williams examines the Flynn Effect and finds out why we are all getting smarter.
Why Are We Shy?2019102120191022 (WS)About half the population consider themselves to have a shy personality, but most of us feel shyness in certain situations. Although some people may display outward signs of shyness such as blushing and being tongue-tied, shyness isn’t always visible to others; a surprising number of extroverts and performers are shy. Edwina Pitman examines what it means to be shy and attitudes towards shyness.

Professor Susie Scott, Professor of Sociology, University of Sussex
Kristie Poole, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
Professor Joe Moran, Professor of English and cultural history at Liverpool John Moores University and author of Shrinking Violets, A Field Guide to Shyness
Sylvie Guillem, Ballet Dancer
Susan Cain, Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Members of The London Shyness Social Group
Professor Yiyuan Xu, Professor of Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Presented and produced by Edwina Pitman
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: Woman wearing paper bag. Credit: Stock Photo / Getty Images)

Why do we feel shy and what can we do about it?

Why Are We So Gloomy About The World?2019091620190917 (WS)Statistics from around the world show huge improvements to our way of life, but many of us think the world is in decline. There are good reasons for this; climate change is often cited as the big one. But many of us aren’t aware of the huge strides we’ve made over the decades in reducing poverty, improving healthcare and tackling hunger. In fact, according to surveys of people in richer countries at least, the majority of people think the world is getting worse; but why? In this edition of the Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks if human nature is wired to fixate on the downsides of life.

Professor Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology centre at the University of Pennsylvania
Dr Hannah Ritchie, Head of Research at Our World in Data
Ola Rosling , Director and Co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation
Chris Martenson, Co-founder and CEO of Peak Prosperity
Professor Jeremy Adleman, Director of The Global History Lab at Princeton University
Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University

Presenter: Sandra Kanthal
Producer: Xavier Zapata

(Image: Woman on a train looking out of the window. Credit: Marjan Apostolovic/Getty Images)

Why Aren't More Women In Computer Science?2019062420190625 (WS)The history of computing is filled with the accomplishments of women. But in the West, the number of women taking computer science degrees has fallen sharply from its peak in the 1980s.

In the developing world, however, the trend is going in the other direction, because learning to code offers economic opportunities not available to women before. Women are still outnumbered in computer science classrooms, but there are more of them.

In this edition of The Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal asks why there areso few women in computer science, and what is driving them from a field they helped to create?

Guests:
Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton
Dr Barbara Ericson, Assistant Professor of Information, University of Michigan
Dr Anjali Das, Head of Learning, Centre for Computing History
Miriam Posner, Assistant Professor of Information Studies and Digital Humanities, UCLA
Noemi Titarenco, Software leader and product manager, Los Angeles
Fereshteh Forough, Founder: Code To Inspire

Apple Macintosh Commercial – 1984 produced by Fairbanks Films

Image: A woman studies a computer screen (Credit: Getty Images)

Computing history is filled with the accomplishments of women. But where are they now?

Image: A woman studies a computer screen (Credit: Getty Images)

Why Boredom Is Interesting2018082020180821 (WS)
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20190514 (WS)
Boredom is a powerful emotion, one which many of us will go to lengths to avoid. Psychologists describe its purpose as trying to get us to do something else. Boredom can spur us on to do something more meaningful, or tempt us into dangerous behaviours. In this edition of the Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal talks with researchers who think boredom is anything but boring.

Image: A bored woman behind a rainy window in a tram, (c) Getty Images.

Why boredom can be quite interesting

Why boredom can be quite interesting

Why Do Cities Make Us Rude?2016112520161127 (WS)
20161128 (WS)
Why do cities make us rude? What makes us behave so badly in urban areas?
Why Do Crazes Take Off?2016091620160919 (WS)What explains the success of the Hula-Hoop, Rubik's Cube and Pokemon Go?
Why Do Funerals Matter?2019081220190813 (WS)Christopher Gunness explores why funerals matter so profoundly to us, as individuals and societies. He talks to people who have lost loved ones in Ghana, Pakistan and the UK about the challenges they have faced. He discovers how burial and cremation have become popular in different countries at different times, visits a green burial place and looks at the growing world of online memorials.

Presenter: Christopher Gunness
Producer: Bob Howard

(Photo: Ghana, Accra Funeral Service. Credit: Getty Images)

Why funerals matter so profoundly to us, as individuals and societies

Why Do Men Love Sheds?2018120320181204 (WS)We all need a place to call our own. For a lot of men, that place is the garden shed. Going to the shed is sometimes seen as eccentric or strange behaviour. What is it about the space inside those four wooden walls, among the tools and the junk, that men love so much?

In this episode of The Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far tries to understand the special bond men have with their sheds. Sociologists say men go to their sheds to escape from the female and family-dominated home - the only nearby place they can think of as ‘male’. There they can make their contribution to the running and maintenance of the home. Or they may be seeking a place to think and to create great art.

In any case, psychologists argue that the shed allows men to enjoy solitude, which is crucial in how they process their feelings and emotions. Men have been socialised into their sheds and their solitude. However, that solitude can become loneliness, which psychiatrists know can lead to significant physical and mental health problems. They go to their sheds alone, and can experience an emptiness if friends and family are absent. Nas learns how the shed is being used around the world to bring men together and help them express themselves.

Photo: Gary at his shed.

We all need a place to call our own. Why, for many men, is that place the garden shed?

Why Do Men Want Six Packs?2017032720170328 (WS)Why do men all over the world crave these six bumps on their stomach?
Why Do People Hear Voices In Their Heads?2018010820180109 (WS)Meet Rachel Waddingham and meet the voices that inhabit Rachel’s head: there is three-year-old Blue who just wants to play with other children, 11-year-old Elfie who is easily offended and a panel of three critical scientists. Peter hears a voice that dictated an entire children’s book to him. Around 2% of people claim, like Rachel, to be inhabited by voices with whom they have full blown relationships. Are they all sick? What causes people to hear voices? And why have some psychologists changed their minds about the dangers of colluding with the voices?

(Photo: Rachel Waddingham)

Around 2% of people claim they regularly hear voices in their heads. Are they all sick?

Why Do People Risk Death In Pursuit Of Adventure?2019061020190611 (WS)
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Why do we choose to do things that could kill us?

What makes some people want to base jump off a building, or climb a cliff with no ropes? A thrill-seeking personality may be necessary, but is it enough to court the sort of danger that could kill? In this week's Why Factor, we explore why some people risk death in pursuit of adventure.

CONTRIBUTORS
Hazel Findlay, Professional climber.
Erik Monasterio, consultant in Forensic Psychiatry, clinical director of the regional forensic service in Canterbury New Zealand and senior clinical lecturer with the University of Otago.
Mary Philips, Professor in Psychiatry in chemical and translational science, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Tim Woodman, Professor of Psychology, School of Sport Health and Life Sciences at Bangor University.
Roberta Mancino, BASE jumper and stunt woman.
Rob Fletcher, associate professor of sociology of development and change at Hanagen University in the Netherlands.
Steven Lyng, Professor emeritus at Carthage College and Kenosha Wisconsin.

Photo: Male climber gripping on handhold while climbing in cave
Credit: Getty Images

Why Do Pet Videos Go Viral?2016081920160822 (WS)The strange success of pets on the internet. Why?
Why Do Physical Scars Matter?2020012020200121 (WS)Physical scars can be sources of shame or badges of honour: acquired accidentally or a cry for help. How should we read them, and what do they tell us about ourselves and our place in the world?

We explore the practice of scarification, intentional body modification which has been practised for millennia, where scars denote status within tribal communities and are worn with pride. Brent Kerehona tells us about the type of scarification he has: Ta Moko.

We meet stuntman Andreas Petrides, who has been Obi-Wan Kenobi’s stunt double. He also wears his scars with pride, but for different reasons: they are trophies of his profession.

For millions, scars can be sources of embarrassment. We examine the constructs of beauty that might underpin those feelings. We speak to Hemani Modasia, who suffered scarring from burns to 35% of her body when she was a child, and who wishes, ultimately, she never had them. Scars can also be interpreted as a cry for help, transversing the space between the physical and the deeply emotional. Japanese photographer Kosuke Okahara tells us about his project which captured the scars of Japanese women who suffered from self-harm across a period of 6 years.

Former Vogue editor Jackie Dixon, tells us the fashion industry is now embracing scars - they are part of the zeitgeist. We spoke to Jackie at a photoshoot in central London, where she was photographing a model for a book she is producing that celebrates scars.

The programme also hears from Professor Parashkev Nachev, a neurologist at University College London, and Nichola Rumsey, founder of the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England. Parashkev tells us the creation of scars is not fully captured by science, suggesting they are both deeply mysterious and profoundly human. Nichola places scars in a social context, and points out they often render us outliers which, for many people, is challenging and uncomfortable.

Presenter: Christopher Gunness
Producer: Oliver Newlan
Editor: Carl Johnston

(Image: Hemani Modasia. Credit: Spencer Murphy for the Scar Free Foundation)

What do the marks on our skin tell us about ourselves and our place in the world?

Why Do Some People Become Hermits?2019071520190716 (WS)If the idea of being all alone, in silence, for long periods of time fills you with dread, it might be hard to understand why anyone would choose to be a hermit. But throughout history and across all cultures, there have been people who choose to leave behind the life and people they know to live in isolation and silence.

This week, Shabnam Grewal asks: why do people become hermits?

Guests:
Sara Maitland - writer, feminist and Catholic hermit.
Ansuman Biswas - artist and part-time hermit
Michael Finkel - writer of The Stranger in the Woods, about American hermit Christopher Knight
Meng Hu - former librarian who runs a website called Hermitary
Prof Takahiro Kato - psychiatrist who specialises in hikikomori

Music by Ansuman Biswas and Stanley Keach.

Image: An isolated log cabin (Credit: Getty Images)

What makes people choose a life of isolation and silence?

What makes people choose a life of isolation and silence?

Why Do Some People Crave The Limelight?2017072420170725 (WS)Why do some people crave the limelight and what does it do to our bodies?
Why Do Some People Reject Society?2019092320190924 (WS)All over the world there are people rejecting the society they live in and choosing radically different pathways. Some are abandoning the idea of a ‘family house’ in favour of a nomadic, solitary life in a camper van. They live frugally as they travel around the country, or even the world, in their tiny homes.

Others go in a different direction, seeking a life which fulfils them and aligns with their values. They may end up in an ‘intentional community’, where both income and property are shared.

Some choose to withdraw their children from formal education and instead allow them to follow their own interests, learning what they think they need to, when they need to. Others go even further. They want to run their own country, or micro-nation, so they can live under laws and legislation they believe in. On the Why Factor this week, Shabnam Grewal meets people who reject the society they live in, and choose instead to carve out their own way.

Presented and produced by Shabnam Grewal
Editor: Richard Knight

(Image: Woman looks out the back of her camping van. Credit: Stock Photo/Getty Images)

Why do some people reject traditional forms of education, housing and even government?

Why Do Stories Matter?2019040120190402 (WS)
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Telling stories is one of the ways we connect to one and other. Stories teach us empathy and allow us to feel what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. They evolve to show us what our society considers acceptable - and what will not be forgiven. Sandra Kanthal explores why stories matter.

Guests:
David JP Philips – Communications Expert
John Yorke - Author: Into The Woods
Mirta Galesic - Professor in Human Social Dynamics, Santa Fe Institute
Jamie Tehrani, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Durham University
Elizabeth Kperrun - Founder; Zenafri Limited
Samantha Armstrong - Senior Publisher, Oxford University Press
Sandra Newman – Author: The Heavens and How Not To Write a Novel

Music Track: Make America Great Again – performed by Dave Fenley

(Photo: Woman holding an open book bursting with light. Credit: Getty Images)

How stories help us connect, teach us empathy, and set the rules of society

Why Do We (still) Wear Make-up?2019082620190827 (WS)In the 1970s, second wave feminists declared war on make-up - arguing it oppressed women, distracted them from gaining equality, and forced them to attain a beauty ideal not expected of men. And yet young women today wear more make-up than ever. Women have made gains in employment, education, sexual liberation, so why is it so many of us can’t leave the house without make-up? We explore the power and allure of mak-eup and why it works.

Presented and Produced by Gemma Newby
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: Young woman vlogging about beauty products. Credit: Getty Images)

What's the power of make-up? Why can't many of us leave the house without it?

Why Do We Admire Confidence? (part One)2019052020190521 (WS)From doctors to politicians to your boss, people often ask us to put our confidence in them. We’re often urged to build more confidence in ourselves. But one of the most consistent findings in psychology is that there is very little overlap between confidence and competence; how good people think they are, and how good they really are. In this edition of the Why Factor, Michael Blastland asks: why do admire confidence?

Contributors
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova, Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Glen Fukushima -Senior Fellow, Center For American Progress
Dr Anne McGuinness – Emergency Medicine Consultant, University College Hospital Trust

Photo Credit: Multiple exposure of businesswoman arms crossed / Getty Images

Film Credit: The Great Imposter Trailer 1960 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment / Director Robert Mulligan

The Why Factor asks: is confidence a con?

Why Do We Admire Confidence? (part Two)2019052720190528 (WS)Last week we found that there is very little overlap between how good people think they are and how good they really are. This week, we look at how confidence can motivate, get us off the couch, make us healthier, enterprising, decisive and help us live up to our potential.
We also learn how doctors, entrepreneurs and whole economies can benefit from the right kind of confidence and the ways in which we can tell the good from the bad. In this edition of the Why Factor, Michael Blastland asks: why do we admire confidence?

Contributors:
Ed O’Brien - Associate Professor of Behaviour Science, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Maria Konnikova - Psychologist and Author: The Confidence Game
Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic - Psychologist and Author: Confidence, The Surprising Truth About How Much You Need and How To Get It.
Dr Anne McGuinness – Emergency Medicine Consultant, University College Hospital Trust
Dr Josephine Perry – Sports Psychologist
Don Moore – Professor of Management of Organizations, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley

Misleading and unreliable, or a necessary virtue? Why do we admire confidence?

Why Do We Behave So Oddly Inside Lifts/elevators?2012092820120929 (WS)
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This week, the lift. Why do we behave so oddly inside them?

This week, the lift - millions of us use this piece of machinery every day but barely give it a second thought.

But the lift, or elevator, is an intriguing place where strange things seem to happen to us.

In today's programme, Mike Williams looks at the history of the lift, why we seem to behave so oddly inside them and why Hollywood has made the lift such a scene of disaster.

(Image: A person walks past the 'Untitled' installation of miniature elevators by Maurizio Cattelan. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Why Do We Blend?2019080520190806 (WS)Blending ingredients to produce something new is a distinctively human urge, and one of our most creative acts. We blend all sorts of products, such as tea, champagne and perfume. Did you know that blended whiskies combine over 30 single malts? In this week’s Why Factor, Barry Smith asks - why we blend. And why some blends work whilst others don’t.

Presenter: Barry Smith
Producer: David Edmonds
Editor: Richard Knight

Blending is a distinctly human activity. Why do we do it?

Blending is a distinctly human activity. Why do we do it?

Why Do We Care So Much About Games?2019072220190723 (WS)
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The sports teams we support say something about who we are. Our identities are bound up with the men and women who play for our side – and we experience their success and failure as if they were our own. But, if supporting your team is so important, how can there be so many people who think these contests are of little consequence? Sandra Kanthal explores why we care so deeply about the outcome of a game.

Michael Sandel, professor of Government Theory - Harvard University
Dr Martha Newson, cognitive anthropologist - Oxford University
Dr Alan Pringle, faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences - University of Nottingham
Stephen Reicher, professor of Social Psychology -University of St Andrews
Matthew Engel, sportswriter and author of That’s the Way It Crumbles
Nisha Nair, assistant professor of Business Administration – University of Pittsburgh

(Photo: Pakistan cricket superfans. Credit: Mohammed Arif, ECB National Growth Manager, Diverse Communities)

Why do so many people care so much about their sports teams?

The sports teams we support say something about who we are. Our identities are bound up with the men and women who play for our side – and we experience their success and failure as if they were our own. But, if supporting your team is so important, how can there be so many people who think these contests are of little consequence? In this week’s Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal explores why we care so deeply about the outcome of a game.

Michael Sandel, Professor of Government Theory - Harvard University
Dr Martha Newson, Cognitive Anthropologist - Oxford University
Dr Alan Pringle, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences - University of Nottingham
Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology -University of St Andrews
Matthew Engel- Sportswriter and Author of That’s the Way It Crumbles
Nisha Nair, Assistant Professor of Business Administration – University of Pittsburgh

Photo: Pakistan Cricket Superfans
Credit: Mohammed Arif, ECB National Growth Manager, Diverse Communities

Why do so many people care so much about their sports teams.

Why Do We Care Where We Come From?2019061720190618 (WS)
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The need to discover our past and what this tells us about ourselves

Most of us feel some need to know a roadmap of our past, our connections with a family tree which took root before we were born. We look for stories to tell about where we come from and seek answers in the lives of our ancestors, even in the DNA they pass on to us. In this edition of the Why Factor, Viv Jones asks why we have such a fundamental need to discover the stories of our heritage, and what they tell us about ourselves.

Contributors:
Sandy Banks, journalist
Caitriona Palmer, author of ‘An Affair With My Mother’
Fenella Cannell, Associate Professor Of Anthropology, London School of Economics
Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, University of Alberta
Catherine St Clair, founder of NPE Friends Fellowship

Image: Woman admiring the sunset
Credit: Getty Images

Why Do We Cheat On Our Partners?2019111120191112 (WS)Infidelity is seen as the ultimate betrayal, and many relationships are brought down by it. Around the world most of us agree that it’s wrong for a married person to have an affair, but that doesn’t seem to stop us: why? The answer could lie in our DNA. In this week’s Why Factor, Phoebe Keane hears how research into the mating habits of prairie voles could shed light on the extra marital affairs of humans and explores how we make decisions in the heat of the moment.

Guests:
Professor Steven Phelps, University of Texas at Austin
Assistant Professor Andrea Meltzer, Florida State University
Professor Lucia O’Sullivan, University of New Brunswick
Nicolle Zapien, Professor California Institute of Integral Studies, Psychotherapist, and Sex Therapist

Presented and Produced by Phoebe Keane
Editor: Richard Knight

Could the answer lie in our DNA, our upbringing or our lack of self control?

Why Do We Collude With Corruption?2018121020181211 (WS)It’s a bite in Mexico, a sweetener in Britain, Tea money in Cambodia. Why do we collude with corruption when it’s unfair and costs us billions of dollars?

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far examines the moral quandaries we face when asked to pay a bribe. She talks to a whistle-blower, a businessman imprisoned for corruption and experts and ordinary people affected by bribery in different parts of the world. It’s estimated that 1.6 billion people have to pay bribes just to access public services. When so many countries have signed up to fight corruption, why is it so difficult to stamp out?

(Photo: Handing over cash. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do we collude with corruption when it is unfair and costs us billions of dollars?

Why do we collude with corruption when it is unfair and costs us billions of dollars?

Why Do We Do We Have Tattoos?2012091420120915 (WS)
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Mike Williams on where tattoos come from and what they say about us.

In this first programme, Mike asks why people have tattoos.

Where do they come from and what do they say about us?

From the Maori of New Zealand to the Mexican Mafia, Mike explores the universal motivation behind why people decorate their bodies with ink.

Broadcast and podcast every Friday from September 2012.

(Image: David Beckham's tattooed bare back. Credit:ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Why Do We Feel Heartbreak?2018090320180904 (WS)
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Heartbreak after love lost has been written about for generations. Who can forget the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet? Or how Rose lost Jack in Titanic? Some of our favourite songs were inspired by heartbreak and as most of us have felt heartbreak in one form or another, relating to their words comes easy. But what causes these feelings? Is it all a figment of our imagination prompted by our society and culture or is there more to it than that? Can we fall sick or even die from a broken heart? And what does science have to say about it?

(Photo: Broken Heart. Credit: Getty Images)

We take a look at heartbreak and discuss why we suffer pain when a relationship ends.

Why Do We Find It Hard To Cut Our Losses?2019050620190507 (WS)
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At some point in our lives, we’re all likely to make an investment, in time or money or effort, which goes wrong. But, when we know we’re in a hole, why do we find it so hard to stop digging? Realising when we should cut our losses is a decision making skill that’s important in all areas of our lives. In this Why Factor Sandra Kanthal examines why we should all learn how to avoid the 'sunk cost' fallacy.

Guests:

Spencer Christian - author, You Bet Your Life
Wandi Bruine de Bruin - professor of behavioural decision making, Leeds University Business School
Dean Yeong - Malaysian writer and entrepreneur
Lior Sheffer – post-doctoral fellow, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
Christopher Olivola - assistant professor of marketing, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
Claire Gregory – co-founder, The Female Fitness Academy

Presented and produced by Sandra Kanthal
Editor: Richard Knight

When we know we're in a hole, why do we find it so hard to stop digging?

When we know we're in a hole, why do we find it so hard to stop digging?

Why Do We Find Some Voices Irritating?2016090920160912
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Why is it that we find some voices more annoying than others?

On the last episode of The Why Factor Mike Williams explored the human voice in all of its unique power and beauty; this week we investigate its unique ability to irritate and annoy.

We all have our personal bugbears when it comes to irritating voices: nasal, monotone, high-pitched or certain types of accent; but why do certain types of voice wind us up so much? And does that irritation reveal more about the speaker or about ourselves?

Neuro-biologist Professor Sophie Scott and linguists Rob Drummond and Rob Pensalfini help us to decipher whether there is anything intrinsically annoying about certain sounds or whether it is all about social conditioning: our own biases and prejudices.

Are irritating voices the same the world over? Why does the Australian accent get picked on? And what is vocal fry?

Finally, what if it is your voice that everyone hates? Mike talks to Laura Ashby, a contestant on the US game show Jeopardy! Whose voice led to a social media meltdown and to her receiving death threats.

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti

(IMAGE: B/W image of boy with fingers in his ears and girl leaning on his shoulder. Credit: Dennis Oulds/Getty Images)

Credits for clips used:

American Pie (1999) Universal Pictures. Director: Paul Weitz

Comedian Adam Hills, Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala 2006

Jeopardy! Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Fresh Air presented by Terry Gross from WHYY/NPR

This American Life presented by Ira Glass from WBEZ/NPR

The Vocal Fry Guys courtesy of Ann Heppermann

UP (2009) Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios. Director: Pete Docter

Why is it that we find some voices more annoying than others?

Why Do We Forget The Things We've Learned?2018091020180911 (WS)
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Why is it we remember some facts easily, and others slip away?

Have you ever been captivated by a book, full of stories you never knew, revelled in that new knowledge …and then forgotten it all? If the answer is yes, take heart; you are not alone. Why is it we remember some facts easily, and others slip away? In this week’s Why Factor Sandra Kanthal asks why do we forget the things we’ve learned.

Image: Brain Concept. Credit: BSIP / UIG via Getty Images

Why Do We Get Insomnia?2013032220130323 (WS)
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The second of two programmes about humans and sleep.

Around 10% of the global population suffers from insomnia. Contrary to popular belief, it is not more prevalent in bustling, noisy cities nor in workaholics. While we might think of insomnia as a modern malaise, people have always had trouble sleeping but are some of us more susceptible to it than others? If so, why?

Where did the idea that we all need seven or eight hours sleep come from? Is it true? Can insomnia really affect our genes and shorten our lives? What really works to cure it? The experts tell us what they think works and why. And we hear from insomniacs around the world about their search for a good night’s sleep.

Why Do We Get Road Rage?2016121620161218 (WS)
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Why does driving bring out the worst in some people?

Why does driving make us so angry?

Everyday millions of us across the world get into our cars and drive.

For many of us this will be an unpleasant experience because of the behavior of other drivers or even because of our own bad behavior.

Even the calmest person can become a raging demon while driving, screaming and swearing at the other road users.

What is it about driving that makes some people so angry? What can we do to stop it?

We speak with professional racing driver Nathalie McGloin about keeping control

Dr Mark Sullman tells us what’s happening in our heads when we get into the driver seat

Comedian Rhod Gilbert gives us a passionate description of what gives him road rage

Monica Chadha describes driving in Delhi

Glenn Scherer gives us a lesson in ‘car yoga’ to try and keep the rage away.

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Jordan Dunbar

(Photo: Man shouting at woman sitting in car. Credit: Shutterstock/Photographee.eu)

Why Do We Have Human Rights?2015090420150905 (WS)
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Where do Human Rights come from and how are they used?

The UN proclaimed its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, after the horrors of World War Two. But they are far from universally upheld. Yecenia Armenta Graciano’s right not to be tortured was grievously violated in Mexico, when she was beaten, suffocated and sexually assaulted to sign a confession.

Yet Human Rights are being used in an increasingly wide range of legal cases, whether to force governments to provide food for the poor, or to cut CO2 emissions to help avert climate change. So what are they, how are they evolving, and what if one person’s human right clashes with that of another?

Mike Williams talks to philosopher and law professor John Tasioulas of Kings College London; international law scholar and former UN rapporteur Philip Alston; Dutch lawyer Dennis van Berkel of the environmentalist organisation Urgenda; and India Supreme Court lawyer and human rights campaigner Vrinda Grover.

(Photo: Yecenia spent three years in prison since she was tortured to sign a confession for a crime she says she didn’t commit. Credit: Amnesty International)

Why Do We Keep Open Secrets?2018101520181016 (WS)
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Open Secrets - when everybody knows something is going on but it is never officially acknowledged. Things are left unsaid, remaining in this strange unacknowledged state for decades.

So why do some open secrets not come out sooner?

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far looks at the Catholic church, the trading floor and to the wrestling ring to find out why very different open secrets have continued for so long and why they eventually came out.

Presenter: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far
Producer: Clare Spencer

Photo: Cassius, wrestler in ring
Credit: Alistair Veryard Photogaphy

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far on open secrets in religious organisations, businesses and families

Photo: Cassius, wrestler in ring
Credit: Alistair Veryard Photogaphy

Why Do We Laugh?2012101920121022 (WS)At first glance, it seems like a very obvious basic human response - we laugh because we find things amusing. But what is it that actually triggers our laughter, do all of us find the same things funny?

In the edition of The Why Factor, we also look beyond comedy, at laughter in our everyday lives and the role it plays in the relationships between men and women.

We also hear some surprising and disturbing discoveries. Why, for instance, were those who carried out the massacre at Columbine laughing as they shot dead 13 people?

(Image: Comedian Omid Djalali. Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)

Why Do We Love Boats?2018080620180807 (WS)Why do so many of us love boats? They are used as homes as well as for work and pleasure across the world. Lesley Curwen, a proud owner of a yacht, finds out how our love affair with the boat can be a deep, passionate attachment and how some vessels can take on the character of their owners. In some cultures boats are seen as living things and the best place to create family memories far from the busy, connected world of dry land.

(Photo: A boat on the sea)

How our love affair with the boat can be a deep and passionate attachment

Why Do We Love Camping?2019093020191001 (WS)From instant messaging, to online shopping and even smart fridges, we live in a connected age where all of life’s essentials can be obtained at the click of a button. So why do so many people ditch the trappings of modern life and head off into the countryside with a tent?
In this week’s episode of the Why Factor adventure journalist Phoebe Smith sets out on a journey to discover what makes camping so special.
Along the way she discovers a camper in Kenya who spends his weekends alone immersed in nature, a family in Greenland who turned their backs on the rat race to live in a tepee and she even convinces her dad to join her for a night’s wild camping on an island in the River Thames in England.
She discovers that leaving our phones and tablets behind to spend a few peaceful nights under the stars might not just be a good way to unwind but research shows it can improve our sleep patterns and well-being. So the question is why aren’t we all doing it?

Reporter: Phoebe Smith
Producers: Nicola Dowling, Oliver Newlan and Ben Robinson
Editor: Carl Johnston

(Photo: Camping at Mount Kenya. Credit: Martin Ngugi / Getty Images)

Why do people ditch the comforts of modern life to go and sleep under the stars?

Why Do We Love Dolls?2015092520150926 (WS)
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They are human and inanimate, beautiful yet disturbing; made for children but collected by adults. From the rag dolls of Ancient Egypt to the mass produced plastic fashion dolls of today, they have existed in almost every culture. Traditionally, they have been used to teach young girls to dress well and look after others. So are they still relevant in a world where women are taking on different roles in the home and the workplace?

Mike Williams meets collectors from Syria and Switzerland. He looks at the evidence that playing with dolls develops children’s social skills, and hears how a South African maker was told ‘black dolls will never sell’ in her country.

Produced by Hannah Moore

(Photo: Dolls faces. Credit: V&A Museum)

Despite all the new entertainments on offer, dolls endure. Why?

Why Do We Love Landscapes?2018061120180612 (WS)What is it about a beautiful landscape that people like so much? Caz Graham explores the appeal of landscapes, starting with a visit to the English Lake District and the site of William Wordsworth’s poem, Daffodils.
Caz meet local poet Harriet Fraser and her husband, photographer, Rob Fraser, to hear what it is about the lakes and mountains where they work that so inspires them and other artists. She meets high altitude mountaineer Alan Hinkes to find out why he is drawn to wild and potentially dangerous mountains. And she meets day-trippers who are drawn back again and again to take in the classic Lake District vistas.
Professor Catherine Ward-Thompson, an expert in landscape architecture at Edinburgh University in Scotland explains the connection we feel with landscape and the theories that seek to explain it, including the potential therapeutic value of being part of the landscape. Hitesh Mehta, a landscape architect who specialises in eco-tourism, explains how different cultures feel a connection to their landscape.
The black and white photographs of Ansell Adams of the mountains of Yosemite and the deserts of New Mexico in the USA are classic images of these landscapes - his biographer Mary Alinder tells Caz why these places meant to much to Adams.

(Photo: A green valley and hills in the horizon)

Why do so many people love landscapes like the English Lake District?

Why Do We Love The Bicycle?2015103020151102 (WS)How did the bicycle change the world?

The bicycle - and cycling - started out as somewhat of a faddish leisure pursuit, largely the preserve of middle-aged and wealthy men. Yet it quickly became the world’s most popular means of transport and remains so to this day. So what lies behind its mass appeal?

Author and life-long cyclist Rob Penn, helps us chart the cultural and social impact of the bicycle. From helping to widen the human gene pool to blazing a trail for the women’s movement.

‘It’s like learning to ride a bike’ is a common phrase across the globe for ‘once learned, never forgotten’. But what does this suggest about the human body and cycling? Many people describe it as meditative and calming, but what if cycling could actually have a therapeutic effect on those suffering from serious medical conditions?

Dr Jay Alberts works at the Center of Neurological Restoration at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA, and has recently been looking into the impact of cycling on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease patients. We hear about his surprising results.

Finally, in the West cycling has become more of a lifestyle choice than a means of transport, but what about in countries like India? We hear from a hardy cyclist who regularly braves the streets of Old Delhi.

(Photo: Cycling guide Arpita Sinha leading a bike tour through the streets, and ditches of Delhi, India)

Why Do We Love The Bicycle?2016070120160704 (WS)How did the bicycle change the world?

The bicycle - and cycling - started out as somewhat of a faddish leisure pursuit, largely the preserve of middle-aged and wealthy men. Yet it quickly became the world’s most popular means of transport and remains so to this day. So what lies behind its mass appeal?

Author and life-long cyclist Rob Penn, helps us chart the cultural and social impact of the bicycle. From helping to widen the human gene pool to blazing a trail for the women’s movement.

‘It’s like learning to ride a bike’ is a common phrase across the globe for ‘once learned, never forgotten’. But what does this suggest about the human body and cycling? Many people describe it as meditative and calming, but what if cycling could actually have a therapeutic effect on those suffering from serious medical conditions?

Dr Jay Alberts works at the Center of Neurological Restoration at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA, and has recently been looking into the impact of cycling on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease patients. We hear about his surprising results.

Finally, in the West cycling has become more of a lifestyle choice than a means of transport, but what about in countries like India? We hear from a hardy cyclist who regularly braves the streets of Old Delhi.

(Photo: Cycling guide Arpita Sinha leading a bike tour through the streets, and ditches of Delhi, India)

This programme was originally broadcast on 02 Nov 2015.

Why Do We Make Lists?2015121820151221 (WS)From shopping lists to to-do lists – why do we make lists and what do they say about us?

Lists of things to do and things to buy. Presents we want for Christmas, or things we desire in a lover. Lists help us organise our thoughts and bring order to a confusing world. But what do they reveal about us?

(Photo: An original Madonna handwriten 1990 'to do' diary. Credit: Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images)

Why Do We Make Lists?20161225From shopping lists to to-do lists \u2013 why do we make lists and what do they say about us?

Lists of things to do and things to buy. Presents we want for Christmas, or things we desire in a lover. Lists help us organise our thoughts and bring order to a confusing world. But what do they reveal about us?

(Photo: An original Madonna handwriten 1990 'to do' diary. Credit: Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images)

Why Do We Need Diaries?2015081420150815 (WS)
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We trust them with our deepest secrets, and use them to preserve our memories. They’ve been hidden, destroyed, and read without permission. Mike Williams talks to people who write diaries, and the historians on a mission to ""rescue"" the diaries of normal people.

Produced by Hannah Moore

(Photo: A handwritten page from a diary. Credit: Mike Williams)

They hold our secrets, and preserve our memories, but why do we need diaries?

Why Do We Need To Talk About Men?2019112520191126 (WS)
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Michael Blastland investigates talk of a crisis in masculinity.

Many men believe their gender is under siege from a welter of criticism about male attitudes and behaviours. Not everyone accepts the idea of a masculinity crisis, but this programme looks at the concept of the “man box” – a set of attitudes and assumptions which many males struggle to deal with. Artist Grayson Perry joins the discussion.

Presenter: Michael Blastland
Producer: Anna Meisel
Editor: Andy Smith

(Photo: James Mace, Barber. Credit: Ian Burt)

Why Do We Shake Hands?2012110220121103 (WS)
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Millions of us use this gesture but where does this everyday ritual come from?

This week, Mike Williams asks why do we shake hands?

All over the world millions of us use this gesture to greet others but where does this everyday ritual come from, and what purpose does it serve?

With the US presidential election just days away, Mike also looks at the role of the handshake in political life - why has it proved to be such a sensitive issue?

(Image: US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) shaking hands. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Why Do We Smoke?2012100520121008 (WS)In this week's programme Mike Williams looks at why people start smoking.

Nearly 50 years after the world first learned that smoking kills, millions are still picking up the habit.

He also discovers who was behind one of the most lethal inventions of all time - the cigarette.

(Image: The silhouette of a woman as she smokes. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Why Do We Still Wear Makeup?2019082620190827 (WS)In the 1970s, second wave feminists declared war on make-up - arguing it oppressed women, distracted them from gaining equality, and forced them to attain a beauty ideal not expected of men. And yet young women today wear more make-up than ever. Women have made gains in employment, education, sexual liberation, so why is it so many of us can’t leave the house without make-up? We explore the power and allure of mak-eup and why it works.

Presented and Produced by Gemma Newby
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: Young woman vlogging about beauty products. Credit: Getty Images)

What's the power of make-up? Why can't many of us leave the house without it?

Why Do We Support Sports Clubs?2015101620151017 (WS)
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Why do sports fans follow club teams, even when they may live thousands of miles away?

Every week, hundreds of millions of people around the world surrender their emotions; leave them - for a while - in the hands of strangers. They might face dejection or, with luck, jubilation. The US National Basketball association say that less than 1% of fans globally will ever watch a game live. While the Premier League is played in England and Wales, almost half of the fans (470 million of them) live in Asia and Oceania. Mike Williams explains why sports fans do it.

(Photo: Sports fans pictured during a football match waving their flags. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Do We Talk To Ourselves?2017052920170530 (WS)In this Why Factor, Matthew Sweet asks who are we talking to when we talk to ourselves

We all do it – sometimes. It can be embarrassing or just the way we organise our thoughts, a tool for remembering what is important.

Sarah Outen, who spent four and a half years rowing, cycling and kayaking around the planet, says talking to herself, out loud, may have saved her life on more than one occasion. The actor, Steve Delaney, has created an alternate persona, Count Arthur Strong, whose most vivid character trait is talking to himself.

We all have more wisdom than we dare to think we’ve got, according the psychotherapist Philippa Perry, it’s just a matter of speaking it. In this edition of the Why Factor, Matthew Sweet asks who are we talking to when we talk to ourselves.

(Photo: A man talks to himself in the mirror. Credit to Getty Images)

Why Do We Text Instead Of Talk?2020012720200128 (WS)We can now curate who we talk to in a way that wasn’t thinkable when a bulky landline phone sat in a corner of a house and rang with anonymous urgency. The screens on our devices allow us to communicate in any number of quick, cheap but silent ways.These modern technologies are very useful, which is why they are so ubiquitous, but are they taking something from us that is deeply human? Sandra Kanthal asks why we choose to text instead of talk, and if this incredibly popular form of communication is changing the way we interact and relate with each other.

Contributors:

Gary Turk - Spoken Word Artist/Poet

Sherry Turkle - Professor of the Social Studies of Technology, MIT and Author, Reclaiming Conversation: How To Talk In The Digital Age

Sophie Scott - Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

Mary Jane Copps - Owner, The Phone Lady

Chetan Deshpande - Digital Sales and Profit Consultant

The popularity of texting is changing how we communicate and relate to each other

Why Do We Want Or Need Heroes?2016011520160118 (WS)Angie Hobbs asks why do we want or need heroes?

On the Why Factor this week, Angie Hobbs asks why do we want or need heroes? What constitutes a heroic act? Is it something you set out to do, or something you don’t choose, but live up to when it’s thrust upon you? And why do societies celebrate heroism? Professor Hobbs talks to people who’ve been hailed as heroes: Colonel Tim Collins who gave a much praised eve-of-battle speech to his troops as they were about to enter Iraq in 2003, Justin Oliphant who tackles gang violence in South Africa and Dame Ellen MacArthur who broke the record for solo round the world sailing. Angie also hears from experts on heroism: psychologist professor Alice Eagly of Northwestern University, historian Sir Max Hastings and MP and explorer Rory Stewart.

Produced by Arlene Gregorius and Jessica Treen

(Photo of a helicopter rescue. Credit: IStock)

Why Do We Wear Skirts?2015121120151214 (WS)Author Jung Chang explains how the skirt was dangerous during the cultural revolution

It’s a simple item of dress but one that says much about the societies in which we live. Mike Williams looks at this most basic form of dress the skirt. A rectangle cloth which throughout centuries has been associated with great meaning including women’s liberation and their oppression, politics & gender.

The programme includes an interview with Jung Chang, author of the bestselling “Wild Swans??, who describes how the skirt was a dangerous thing to wear during the cultural revolution.

Produced by Smita Patel

(Photo: Woman wears a polkadot skirt on a green background. Credit: Shutterstock). Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Do We Wear Suits?2015112720151130 (WS)

The suit, it’s survived for the three centuries. But what’s its appeal?

It’s a style of dress that’s spread around the world - the suit. It’s survived, largely unchanged, for the three centuries. But, where does it come from, what’s its appeal and what does it say about those who wear it? Mike Williams talks to fashion designer Paul Smith who wears one every day and to the author Jung Chang who had no choice but to follow suit during the Cultural Revolution in China.

Produced by Smita Patel

(Photo: Two men sit side by side wearing sharp suits. Credit Shutterstock)

Why Do We Wear Ties?2012092120120922 (WS)
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Why do we do the things we do? This week, Mike Williams asks why we wear neckties.

Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions.

This week he looks at the paradox at the heart of the human condition - the desire to belong and to conform, but also to hold tight to our individuality.

And we see a symbol of this paradox everyday in an apparently useless piece of clothing about 150 centimetres long - the necktie.

Why do we wear ties?

(Image: Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin wearing a tie with space designs. Credit: REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool)

Why Do We Wear Ties?2015120420151207 (WS)Why does the tie symbolise a desire to belong and conform as well as individuality?

Mike William looks at the paradox at the heart of the human condition - the desire to belong and to conform, but also to hold onto our individuality. And we see a symbol of this paradox every day in an apparently useless piece of clothing about 150 centimetres long - the necktie. Why do we wear ties?

(Photo: US astronaut Buzz Aldrin arrives on the red carpet wearing a colourful tie. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Does Commuting Make Us The Way We Are?2015100920151010 (WS)
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Why does commuting make us the people we are and how?

Hundreds of millions of us bear the stress and boredom of the same journey day in day out - the commute. For some it is a time of reflection while for others it is a time to turn the air blue with howls of frustration. Why does commuting make us the people we are and how?

(Photo: Rush hour traffic in Nairobi. Credit: Abdinoor Maalim)

Why Does Everyone Wear Trainers?2015102320151024 (WS)
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How did the trainer become an acceptable item of clothing?

Sneaker, trainer call them what you will. How did this product of the industrial revolution and a rising middle class become a global fashion item worth tens of billions of dollars a year? Especially when 85% of the purchases are never intended for its original purpose, health and fitness. Join Mike Williams for the Why Factor on Sneakers.

Produced by Julie Ball

(Photo: A man looks at a collection of sneakers in the window of a shopping mall, in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Does Music Affect The Way We Feel?2019120220191203 (WS)
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An exploration of why and how music can exert a powerful effect on our emotions

An exploration of why and how music can exert a powerful effect on our emotions. Why does one particular collection of notes make us want to get up and dance, and another calm us down?

Edwina Pitman hears from record producer turned neuroscientist Daniel Levitin about how our brains process music and from psychologist Victoria Williamson about how we react to the memories that sounds trigger. Renowned Hollywood film composer Brian Tyler demonstrates how he creates music that reflects the many shades of emotional grey between happy and sad, and Emmanuel Jal, the South Sudanese-Canadian musician and former child soldier, reveals how music helped him come to terms with the trauma of his childhood.

Guests:
Bryan Tyler - film composer and conductor
Dr Daniel Levitin - neuroscientist, and Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at The Minerva Schools at KGI and author of This Is Your Brain On Music
Dr Victoria Williamson - Lecturer in Music Psychology at the University of Sheffield and author of You Are The Music
Rob Wood - founder of Music Concierge
Bibi Heal - opera singer
Emmanuel Jal - singer and musician

Presented and produced by Edwina Pitman
Editor: Andy Smith

Why Does Nature Calm Anxiety?2019072920190730 (WS)
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As the world grows more urban, humanity moves further away from nature. Could this be the reason anxiety has become the most diagnosed mental illness in the west? The idea of mindfulness is becoming more popular as the mainstream grows more aware of how panicked we all are. How are we tackling this issue? Jordan Dunbar dives into a niche of researchers and therapists who are learning about and treating the negative symptoms of urban life with a dose of nature.

Lea Kendall, Therapist and James Kendall, Wilderness Instructor
Birgitta Gatersleben, Environmental Psychologist
Patricia Hasbach, Clinical Psychotherapist
Harini Negrenda, Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India
Layla McCay, Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health

Presented and Produced by Jordan Dunbar
Researcher Julia Webster
Editor Richard Knight

We find out how the natural world affects our mental health

We find out how the natural world affects our mental health

Why Does The World Love Drinking Tea?2015091820150919 (WS)
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Why tea is the second most popular drink in the world after water.

Tea comes in many guises - milky, sweet and spicy for those in India. The Chinese drink it as nature intended green with no milk and strong with two sugars for the average British builder. So how did this Asian leaf conquer the world to become the second most consumed drink after water? Mike Williams slurps and sips his way through this cup of calm to find out how this unassuming shrub conquered the world.

(Photo: Preparations for the Chinese Tea Ceremony, at Chaya Tea House, London)

Why Football Is The World's Game2018061820180619 (WS)Why has football becomes the world’s favourite team sport? Aasmah Mir asks why “soccer” has developed such a huge following. As the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, Aasmah talks to players and fans across the world about the game’s accessibility, simplicity and unpredictability.

(Image: Children playing football on beach, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why has football becomes the world's favourite team sport?

Why has football becomes the world’s favourite team sport? Aasmah Mir asks why “soccer?? has developed such a huge following. As the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, Aasmah talks to players and fans across the world about the game’s accessibility, simplicity and unpredictability.

(Image: Children playing football on beach, Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Grandparents Are Important2019111820191119 (WS)Asked to describe your grandparents, you may conjure fond childhood memories of trips to the park or going round for your favourite dinner after school. You may live just around the corner and see your grandparents daily or they might be a welcome voice on the phone, brightening your day from afar.

Elaine Chong discovers just why it is that grandparents matter so much to us and she finds out what happens when grandparents step in to raise their grandchildren.

In the township of Umlazi, near Durban in South Africa, she meets a group of grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren singlehandedly, after the children lost their parents in the Aids pandemic.
She uncovers research showing grandmothers have played a vital role in the survival of their grandchildren for centuries, especially before modern medicine and support services existed.
She hears the incredible story of an 11-year-old boy who is being raised by his grandparents and repays their devotion, by saving his grandad’s life.
Have you ever stopped to consider why your grandparents hold such a dear place in your heart?
Elaine hears evidence all those childhood visits, trips and gatherings play an important and lasting role in shaping our personalities.

Presenter: Elaine Chong
Producers: Ben Robinson, Nicola Dowling and Carl Johnston
Editor: Andy Smith

(Photo:Grandmother’s at the Community Centre, Umlazi, South Africa. Credit Nkosinathi Shange)

Why do grandparents care for their grandchildren and what effect does it have on them?

Why Has Feminism Affected The Mother-son Bond?2018092420180925 (WS)
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You’re a feminist. You’re pregnant. It’s a boy. What next?

Feminist mothers share with Nastaran Tavakoli-Far the complexities of bringing up a son.

One mother feels she has failed to impart her feminist values to her 17-year-old son who insists on listening to songs with misogynistic lyrics.

Another mother confesses that she is conflicted - on the one hand she thinks men have had their turn at the top of society and now they should keep quiet. On the other hand, she wants her 15-year-old son to be heard.

On the son’s side, Nastaran talks to a man who says he couldn’t trust his mother has his best interests at heart because she was a feminist. He felt so strongly about this that he set up a political party to assert men’s rights.

And then there are the men who have benefited.

Research shared with Nastaran puts forward a surprising finding – that men now feel more loved by their mothers.

Nastaran hears from a 25-year-old who says he can share everything with his mother.

In contrast, research shows that men brought up in the 1950s said they couldn’t open up and be affectionate with their mothers because of the masculine culture that dominated before feminism.

Image: Young son hugging his pregnant mother. Credit: Science Photo Library

Feminist mothers share the complexities of bringing up a son and the conflicts that arise

Image: Young son hugging his pregnant mother. Credit: Science Photo Library

Why Have Women Taken To Wellness?2018102220181023 (WS)Women are increasingly seeking out ways to look after their minds, bodies and emotions. Nutrition and lifestyle changes - from meditating to drinking green smoothies full of so-called super foods - all come under the term wellness.

There are wellness celebrities and online communities, observers even refer to a wellness industry.

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far asks what is driving women away from the medical establishment in an effort to improve their health.

Photo: Yoga Exercise At Wetland In Huangshan
Credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far asks why women seek alternative ways to improve their health.

Photo: Yoga Exercise At Wetland In Huangshan
Credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Why I⒀m Not Just Blind2016040820160411 (WS)Lee Kumutat asks why blind people must either be inspirational or deserving pity

Lee Kumutat examines why blindness comes to define the identity of people who have little or no sight. And why is sight so highly prized by people who have it. She talks to people in Kingston Jamaica, Accra in Ghana, in Edinburgh Scotland and California in the US. She asks how they navigate a world which seems to see them in two ways. People who are blind it seems must either be inspirational or deserving pity. Or even both.

(Image: Catherine Gilliland)

Why I⒀m Not Just Blind2017031720170319 (WS)
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Lee Kumutat asks why blind people must either be inspirational or deserving pity

Lee Kumutat examines why blindness comes to define the identity of people who have little or no sight. And why is sight so highly prized by people who have it. She talks to people in Kingston Jamaica, Accra in Ghana, in Edinburgh Scotland and California in the US. She asks how they navigate a world which seems to see them in two ways. People who are blind it seems must either be inspirational or deserving pity. Or even both.

(Image: Catherine Gilliland)

Why I'm Not Just Blind2016040820160411 (WS)Lee Kumutat asks why blind people must either be inspirational or deserving pity
Why I'm Not Just Blind2017031720170319 (WS)
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Lee Kumutat asks why blind people must either be inspirational or deserving pity
Why Is Architecture So Big On Instagram?2019022520190226 (WS)Instagram’s one billion users love architecture. If you search for #architecture, you will get hundreds of millions of results. Some architecture publications have more followers than household names like Cosmpolitan for example. We also seem to love to use buildings as a backdrop to our own vanity, as the number of selfies on Instagram proves. But if architecture is so popular on the platform, does that mean that architects are now starting to design our buildings and public spaces to be Instagrammable? Australian architect Scott Valentine tells us that is increasingly what clients are asking for. So much so, he’s created an Instagram design guide for architects. Carl Turner, who is behind the new multi-use building called Peckham Levels in London, which is also very popular on the app, says that Instagrammability was on the clients’ brief.

We also hear from architect Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, who works for Rem Koolhaus’s Office of Metropolitan Architecture. He is worried how the need to be always be on social media affects up-coming architects.

Travel writer Helen Coffey explains how cities are exploiting Instagram to attract visitors with installations and space design – from big, signature pieces like Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel in New York to fairly crude attempts featuring temporary pastel walls with fake flowers and large letters spelling a city’s name.

But it is not just conventionally pretty and shiny that catches the eye of Instagrammers. St Louis photographer Demond Meek became popular with his haunting photos of dilapidated houses in his city. He credits the immediacy of the platform for getting him out of a creative rut.

Art and architecture historian Philip Ursprung points out that photography and architecture have a long, common history, but also warns that many new cities are increasingly created to look good on photos and from afar, but are out of proportion and unpleasant to be in.

Presenter: Ivana Davidovic
Producer: Rose De Larrabeiti
Editor: Richard Knight

Image: Monster Building (Quarry Bay) Hong Kong
Credit: Getty Images

Is Instagram's popularity changing how architects design buildings and public spaces?

Why Is Climate Change So Politicised?2019042220190423 (WS)People on the left are more likely to accept climate change than those on the right in the USA, Australia and much of Western Europe. But it’s a question that starts with little more than a thermometer, a measurement of the temperature at the earth’s surface. Why does a science question divide people along party lines? Was it the oil industry, fuelling doubt about the science? Or something deep in our psychology, that causes us to push the science aside in favour of belonging to a tribe, a feeling that who our friends are and what they believe, matters more?

Presenter: Michael Blastland
Producer: Phoebe Keane
Editor: Richard Vadon

People on the left are more likely to accept climate change than those on the right.

People on the left are more likely to accept climate change than those on the right.

Why Is It So Hard To Get People To Pay Tax?2019060320190604 (WS)
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Our attitude to taxation is determined by a wide range of factors: whether we think our neighbours are tax dodgers, how much control we have over how funds are spent and even our gender, age and religious beliefs. Nastaran Tavakoli-Far hears tales of tax avoidance by the world’s super-rich and finds out how governments around the world are using simple ‘nudge’ techniques to get people to feel positive about paying up.

Guests:
Carla Gericke, President Emeritus of the Free State Project
Brooke Harrington, Professor of Sociology, Dartmouth College
Stewart Kettle, Senior Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team
Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Associate Professor of Economics and Strategy at Saïd Business School
Benno Torgler, Professor of Economics in the School of Economics and Finance, QUT
Kelly Sarri, filmmaker

Photo: Calculating Tax
Credit: Getty Images

Attitudes to tax are determined by some surprising factors.

Our attitude to taxation is determined by a wide range of factors: whether we think our neighbours are tax dodgers, how much control we have over how funds are spent and even our gender, age and religious beliefs. Nastaran Tavakoli-Far hears tales of tax avoidance by the world’s super-rich and finds out how governments around the world are using simple ‘nudge’ techniques to get people to feel positive about paying up.

Guests:
Carla Gericke, President Emeritus of the Free State Project
Brooke Harrington, Professor of Sociology, Dartmouth College
Stewart Kettle, Senior Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team
Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Associate Professor of Economics and Strategy at Saïd Business School
Benno Torgler, Professor of Economics in the School of Economics and Finance, QUT
Kelly Sarri, filmmaker

Photo: Calculating Tax
Credit: Getty Images

Why Is Water Exceptional?2016020520160208 (WS)What does water mean to us?

Water is the only molecule in the natural world which expands when it freezes. And that is not its only unusual feature. It is the cornerstone of all of life on this planet, and maybe others. Water is part of the myths and rituals of civilisations all over the world. But if H20, the one chemical formula just about everyone can recognise, was just a little bit different, life as we know it would not exist. Mike Williams explains why water is exceptional and what that means for all of us.

(Photo: Raindrops on a window. Credit to James Beard)

Why Learn To Be Happy?2019081920190820 (WS)What does happiness mean to you? Friends, family, the rush of a crowd or the joy of solitude? Happiness is a fundamental human desire, yet we often struggle to achieve it. Understanding what does and does not make us happy is a growing field of scientific study. In this edition of the Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks if we can really teach people how to be happy.

Laurie Santos – Professor of Psychology, Yale University
Bruce Hood – Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Bristol
Ellie Wright – Student, University of Bristol
Meike Wiking – CEO, Happiness Research Institute
Jan-Emmanuel de Neve – Associate Editor, World Happiness Report
Professor Dixon Chibanda – Psychiatrist and Founder of The Friendship Bench Project

(Photo: Note pad and smile emoticon on books. Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo: Note pad and smile emoticon on books. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Not Celebrate Introvert Personalities?2016082620160829 (WS)People are often labelled as shy, but introversion is very much misunderstood. Why?

Introverts. People who are often labelled as shy, a term coined following the work on personality types by German psychologist, Carl Jung, in 1921. But introversion is much misunderstood. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone whereas extroverts are the opposite and crave crowds. Emerging research on the biochemistry of the brain indicates that the neurotransmitter dopamine – the chemical released that provides motivation to seek rewards, is much more active for extroverts than for introverts. According to Phd and introvert researcher, Lisa Kaenzig, introverts are much less valued today than they used to be. In the past, some of the world’s most renowned thinkers, religious leaders, philosophers and writers were held in the highest esteem – many of them were working alone and were at their most creative in solitary study. However, she is part of a growing movement which is challenging a seeming bias in favour of the extrovert – for the person who talks first in meetings and makes off-the-cuff remarks and who may shout the loudest to get their ideas heard. The growth of the open plan office, group thinking and collaborative learning are all enemies to the introvert, but in recommendations by Dr Peter Aloka – a Kenyan psychologist who has been studying introvert teenage mothers in Bondo, the answers lie in teaming introverts up with extroverts and calling upon introverts to present group findings and allowing extra think time in response to questions. Where do you lie on the introvert/extrovert scale or are you in the middle – an ambivert? If you are an introvert, you’re in very good company; Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, JK Rowling and many more eminent and thoughtful people are introverts.

Presented by Anu Anand

Produced by Priscilla Ng’ethe and Nina Robinson

(IMAGE: Words in white chalk describing personality types on a blackboard. Credit - marekuliasz, c/o Shutterstock)

Why Raise Other People's Children?2017080720170808 (WS)Raising children is demanding, so why do we choose to raise other people's children?

Raising children is demanding, so why do we choose to raise other people’s children?

Raising children is demanding. It takes time, money and devotion. So, why would anyone want to raise another person’s child? In this edition of the Why Factor, Mary-Ann Ochota, explores what it means to be a parent. Can mothers who adopt or foster have the same connection to their children as a birth mother would? And, what does it say about human society that we choose to take in the offspring of others?

(Photo: Family, Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Why Scarcity Can Damage Decision Making2018110520181106 (WS)
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How when we suffer a scarcity of mental resources, we fail to plan for our futures

Ayeisha Thomas-Smith discovers how when we suffer a scarcity of mental resources, we fail to plan for our futures. That means, according to Princeton psychology professor Eldar Shafir, that millions of people on low incomes where money is scarce are finding it much harder than others to improve their lives. Not because they are untalented or do not want to, but because their brain circuitry is overloaded. And the professor believes even people who are not short of money but are trying to lose weight, could also be impacted by this scarcity mindset. Ayeisha hears about experiments in the US and India which seem to show that as our mental “band-width” diminishes and we become overloaded by problems, our chances of thinking our way out of our situation reduces as well.

(Photo: An Asylum Seeker. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Should We Work Together?2019070820190709 (WS)Open plan offices, hot-desking, group brainstorming sessions: collaboration seems to be king in the modern workplace. Recent studies have found that we are spending up to 80% of our working days either in meetings or dealing with requests from our colleagues. But is working together really the best way? Is the idea of collaboration something we’re fetishising at the cost of productivity and creativity, and have we lost sight of the benefits of working alone?

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far shares her own dislike of the BBC’s open-plan office and asks, in some desperation: why should we work together?

Guests:

Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Bring Your Brain to Work
Kerstin Sailer, reader in social and spatial networks, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
John Maeda, global head of design at Automattic

Image: Workers in an open-plan office (Credit: Getty Images)

Have we become obsessed with the idea of collaboration?

Have we become obsessed with the idea of collaboration?

Why The Father-son Relationship Is Important2018091720180918 (WS)
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Fathers can influence their sons long after the two have stopped living together. The father can act as the role model or, conversely, a cautionary tale.

In this edition of the Why Factor, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far talks with fathers and sons about how the relationship has affected them profoundly.

Image: Honduran Father and Son. Credit: Getty Images

A father can continue to influence a son long after they have stopped living together

Why the relationship between father and son can be so important.

Image: Honduran Father and Son. Credit: Getty Images

Image: Honduran Father and Son. Credit: Getty Images

Why We Need To Learn More About Pain20180212The Why Factor asks why we need to understand more about pain.

Pain comes to us all at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s a short, sharp shock. Other times, it seems to cling to us. A person’s pain is a unique experience and describing what hurts is not a simple task. In this edition of the Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal asks why we need to understand more about pain and learns more about new ways being developed to manage and measure pain.

(Photo: Pain level meter indicating maximum Credit: Shutterstock)

Why We Search For The Origins Of Life2016022620160229 (WS)Why do humans need to understand the infinite and the infinitesimal?

Mike Williams visits the ultimate cathedral of science, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, where researchers from around the world have built the largest single machine on earth to discover some of the most extreme elements of nature, from the heart of an atom to the origins of the universe.

But what drives the human need to know how the universe began and our desire to keep searching for what our world is really made of – down to the smallest particles on earth?

(Photo: A worker walks past a giant photograph of a Large Hadron Collider at an exhibition in Berlin, Germany. Credit to Getty Images)

Why Words Matter2017041720170418 (WS)Lane Greene explains how the words we choose can tell us a great deal about ourselves.

The average English-speaker knows about 25,000 words. And yet those 25,000 words can be combined into an infinite number of sentences -not a simple process. Many people believe that, whatever language you speak, the words you know have a profound influence on the way you think. This is a controversial theory among linguists. In this edition of the Why Factor, Lane Greene explains how paying attention to the language we use can give us a greater understanding of our politics, our debates, our cultures and even our own minds.

(Image: Top of woman's head with the word ""hello"" written in different languages floating above. Credit: Aysezgicmeli/Shutterstock)

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Why are we so fascinated with wine?

Wine has been referred to as the nectar of the gods, and has been tempting connoisseurs for centuries. But contained in this simple pleasure is an incredibly complex product; and anyone interested in reaching the pinnacle of the wine world must learn more about what goes into every wine bottle than most of us will ever take the time to know. In this edition of the Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal speaks to experts of the wine trade to find out why there is so much to discover from a bottle of wine.

Image: Wine being poured (Credit: Getty Images)

Why Are We So Fascinated With Wine?

Witches2017121820171219 (WS)Why do so many societies demonise women by branding them witches?

Why have so many women in so many different cultures and eras been denounced as witches? BBC Africa’s Sammy Awami visits a village in his home country of Tanzania where, just four months ago, five women were murdered after being accused of witchcraft. Sammy meets a witch doctor who believes he has met a witch and talks to a local politician who is trying to stop the killings. We also hear from Professor Dianne Purkiss, an expert on the European witch hunts of the Early Modern period. And he travels to Glastonbury in the South West of England to meets a modern-day witch, Liz Williams, owner of the Cat and Cauldron witchcraft shop.

(Image: Villagers in N. Tanzania where people have been accused of being witches, Credit: Sammy Awami/BBC)

World War One: Sacrifice2015082920150830 (WS)
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An exploration of the meaning of sacrifice to mark the centenary of World War One

To mark the centenary of World War One, Mike Williams explores the meaning of sacrifice. We often talk of military sacrifice - young men and women, giving their lives for a higher cause. The “ultimate sacrifice?? Countless acts of bravery on the battlefield have ended in death. Some are remembered, many are not. But is that sacrifice? Or, is there a darker side to be considered - not the willing self-sacrifice of a soldier, but a soldier sacrificed? And have we, as one philosopher suggests, misunderstood the meaning of sacrifice completely?

(Photo: A flower appears alongside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Yoga2017032420170326 (WS)Valley Fontaine asks why do we do yoga, and how has it become so popular?

Yoga is an ancient practice that includes meditation, exercise and spirituality. It’s said to date back thousands of years and originate in the east. But why do millions of us do it every day and how has it become so popular over time?

There is controversy about different types of yoga and whether they ring true to the original purpose of the practice. So when we do yoga, are we doing it for the right reasons?

Valley Fontaine hears from the director of a 98-year-old yoga institute in India, a religious studies professor in the US, an instructor who teaches yoga for you and your dog, founders of a yoga festival in the UK, and the 2016 women’s yoga champion.

(Image: Woman in Yoga pose near Indian temple. Credit: Pikoso.kz/Shutterstock)

Valley Fontaine asks why do we do yoga, and how has it become so popular?

Zombies2018123120190101 (WS)
20200224 (WS)
20200225 (WS)
We are asking why so many people are fascinated by Zombies. For many people the Zombie is a walking corpse that’s out to bite you, and turn you into a similarly mindless, flesh craving undead person. What’s not to like? And we seem to be going through a bit of a Zombie boom with TV series like The Walking Dead capturing the imagination of audiences worldwide.

But Zombies have been around for more than a hundred years. They first came to the attention of the American public through a book called The Magic Island, about Haiti written by William Seabrook in 1929. And we will be exploring why many say there’s more to Zombies than a reliable source of Hollywood horror. Perhaps they tell us something about significant, deep divisions at large in society. We will be tracing their history through the centuries and continents – from Africa through to Central America, the US and Europe.

Photo: A man dressed up as a Zombie
Credit: Getty Images

Why are we so fascinated by Zombies?

Why are we so fascinated by Zombies?