Why Factor, The [world Service]

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Episodes

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The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

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The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

2018101520181016 (WS)

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

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07/10/2016 Gmt2016100720161010 (WS)

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30/09/2016 Gmt2016093020161003 (WS)
Accents2014062020140621 (WS)
20140623 (WS)

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)

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)

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)
20140210 (WS)

Why is adolescence so difficult?

In the West, teenagers are commonly perceived as being volatile, moody and often seen as being “trouble”. Why? Well, because they are teenagers. 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?

(Image: Three teenagers smiling. Credit: Think Stock)

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)

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 )

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)
20130728 (WS)
20130729 (WS)

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 years. But with many of us expected to live well into our 80s 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: A woman holds the hands of an elderly relative. Credit: AFP/Getty Images )

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 )

Alcohol2014011020140111 (WS)
20140113 (WS)

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? And why do some people have problems controlling their drinking?

(Image: Scenes of debauchery and drunkenness in "Gin Lane and Beer Street" London, circa 1751. Credit: Getty Images)

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)

Animals Are Us?2015042420150426 (WS)
20150427 (WS)

Why do people try and project human qualities onto animals?

In stories, cartoons, advertisements and our everyday lives, we project human thoughts and emotions onto animals—and claim their strength and style for ourselves in the brand names of cars and cosmetics. Why do we do that, and what do we get out of it? Can we ever know what animals really feel? And are we as different from other species as we like to imagine?

Maria Margaronis meets the furry fandom, who put on 'fursonas' and cartoon-like animal costumes to meet and socialise. Neuroscientist Bella Williams up-ends some assumptions about animal brains and explains how to read a mouse’s facial expression. Children’s author Michael Rosen sportcasts an insect race. Farmer Helen Reeve reflects on how she feels about eating her own cows. And, historian Harriet Ritvo poses a thornier question - what makes our species think we are secure in our dominance over the natural world?

Produced by Sue Davies

(Photo: The furry fandom and their fursuits at a gathering of animals in a pub in the east of England. Credit to: Harlequeen)

Antarctica2018082720180828 (WS)

Why are we fascinated with Antarctica?

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)

Are You A Numbers Person?2017051520170516 (WS)

Timandra Harkness explains how we get intimidated by numbers.

Some people are numbers people – and some are not. One meltdown moment in the classroom is often all it takes to put people off maths for life. But, when you lose the ability to interrogate numbers, it makes it easier to be fooled by fancy figures. In this edition of The Why Factor, Timandra Harkness asks why people are intimidated by numbers.

(Image: Frightened looking man surrounded by numbers. Credit: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

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 and Kara Digby

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

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 and 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)

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)

Bathing - 12013061420130615 (WS)
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20130617 (WS)

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)

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

Bathing: Supernatural Waters2013061420130615 (WS)
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Why can the ubiquitous act of bathing mean so many different things for different people?

Why can the seemingly everyday activity of bathing mean so many different things for millions of people around the world? For some, unwinding in a nice, hot, soothing bath is a just reward after a long day’s work. For others, it’s an imperative act of religious faith.

In the first of two programmes on bathing, Mike Williams asks: Why do we bathe for purification? He looks at the rituals and symbolism of bathing: to wash away our sins, cleanse our souls, to prepare ourselves for an encounter with the divine.

From ceremonies of purification of the Christian baptism to the Sacred River Ganges, from the ancient Roman Empire to the modern Middle East, he traces the history of ideas associated with healing, spiritualism, purification and re-birth through the act of bathing.

(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-being2013062120130622 (WS)
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20130624 (WS)

The 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 mind… water, health and well-being.

All of our programmes are available by clicking on the Free Downloads services.

(Image: A Japanese woman takes a bath in a natural hot spring, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Credit: Getty Images)

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 mind… water, health and well-being.

All of our programmes are available by clicking on the Free Downloads services.

(Image: A Japanese woman takes a bath in a natural hot spring, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Credit: Getty Images)

Being At Sea2018081320180814 (WS)

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

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

Black2013020820130209 (WS)
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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 black and white grid, BBC Copyright)

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)

Blue2012111620121117 (WS)
20121119 (WS)

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.

Blue20121117
Blue20121119

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.

Blue Jeans2015052920150531 (WS)
20150601 (WS)

Why do blue jeans have such global appeal?

From its early days as work-wear for gold-miners and cowboys in the US, denim has transcended its origins, becoming a global fashion item. Mike Williams explores the appeal of a pair of blue jeans and the history of this simple garment. Once a symbol of youth rebellion, it is now common around the world - worn by men and women, old and young. From cowboys to the catwalk, how did denim come to dominate?

(Photo: Blue jeans hanging in a clothing store. Credit: Shutterstock)

Boredom2014040520140407 (WS)

Why do we get bored and what does it say about how we engage with the world around us?

The programme examines boredom and discovers the history of how it developed as an idea and consequently became a moral issue. Boredom is becoming a fashionable area of academic research where surprising conclusions have been reached about its effects and purpose. And even if today’s hi–tech workplace - or perhaps because of it - boredom is still to be found and presenting challenges as to how to deal with it.

Jo Fidgen discusses boredom with historian Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith from the University of London, Professor Missy Cummings, Institute for Brain Sciences, Duke University, North Carolina, USA and a former drone pilot Lt Col Bruce Black. She also submits herself to a boredom experiment with Dr Wijnand van Tilburg a psychologist at Southampton University. BBC archive recordings include Inside Job and Hancock’s Half Hour.

(Image of a lady yawning. Credit: Think Stock)

Brands2014101020141011 (WS)
20141013 (WS)

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)

Why do we place so much trust in brands? What are they 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?

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)

Bullying2013101820131019 (WS)
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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)

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)

Burial2013100420131005 (WS)
20131006 (WS)
20131007 (WS)

is a practice that\u2019s been carried out for centuries \u2013 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)

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)

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 United States and considers what he would like to happen to his body, after he dies.

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

Carrying Guns2017010620170108 (WS)
20170109 (WS)

In the countries where it\u2019s 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 guns….neutral Switzerland. They have the third highest gun ownership rate in the world, after the USA and Yemen. So why do so many people have guns there?
Is it really just as simple as protecting ourselves from harm?

Presenter: Aasmah Mir
Producer: Phoebe Keane

(Photo: Maria Mathis practices shooting her handgun on her ranch in Texas, USA. )

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 guns….neutral Switzerland. They have the third highest gun ownership rate in the world, after the USA and Yemen. So why do so many people have guns there?

Is it really just as simple as protecting ourselves from harm?

Presenter: Aasmah Mir

Producer: Phoebe Keane

(Photo: Maria Mathis practices shooting her handgun on her ranch in Texas, USA. )

Carrying Guns2018042320180424 (WS)

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

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)

Celebrity2013081620130817 (WS)
20130818 (WS)
20130819 (WS)

Why has the modern world become so obsessed with celebrity culture?

Why has the modern world become so obsessed with celebrity culture? Where does it come from? How do you achieve it? And how do you fake it? Mike Williams hears from Brett Cohen, a man who fabricated his own fame and became famous for not being famous. He also speaks to an academic who argues that evolution has left us foolishly following unsuitable celebrity role models.

From the world's first celebrity to the pop-icons of today, why are they adored by millions and why are they so influential? It is easy to understand why you might want to buy football boots endorsed by David Beckham, but why would you want underwear which carries his name? Or a perfume endorsed by singer Beyonce. Or George Clooney's favourite coffee?

(Image: Justin Bieber arriving at a music video awards ceremony in Toronto, Canada. Credit: Getty Images)

Why has the modern world become so obsessed with celebrity culture? Where does it come from? How do you achieve it? And how do you fake it? Mike Williams hears from a man who fabricated his own fame and became famous for not being famous. He also speaks to an academic who argues that evolution has left us foolishly following unsuitable celebrity role models.

From the world's first celebrity to the pop-icons of today, why are they adored by millions and why are they so influential. It's easy to understand why you might want to buy football boots endorsed by David Beckham, but why would you want underwear which carries his name or a perfume endorsed by the singer Beyonce or George Clooney's favourite coffee?

(Image of Justin Bieber arriving at a music video awards ceremony in Toronto, Canada. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do we elevate some people to the status of celebrity? What is it and what is it for?

Charisma2014100320141004 (WS)
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Why is it so hard to pin down what we mean by it? The Greeks called it a gift of grace, but it’s been widely interpreted ever since. Why do we disagree so strongly about who has it? And are its traits inherent or can they be learnt?

The programme explores the magnetic appeal of politicians, sports stars and religious leaders. And asks whether it’s possible for people to 'learn' charisma.

Produced by Bob Howard

Image: Hand holds a plasma ball with magenta-blue flames, represents personal magnetism. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Why is it so hard to pin down what we mean by charisma?

Chasing Riches2015022120150222 (WS)

Why do the rich want to get richer? What drives the wealthy to want more?

Why do the rich want to get richer? Why when you’ve got a million or even a billion do you want more? Mike Williams asks a multi-billionaire and a multi-millionaire what drives them to keep making more money. He also speaks to a banker, who looks after the wealthy and a football agent, who represents high paid players and tries to discover whether the rich are different from everyone else.

(Photo: Image of a superyacht believed to belong to a Vodka Tycoon. Credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Chastity2014080920140811 (WS)

Associated with morality, modesty, politics and religion why is chastity so complicated?

From the Europe of the Middle Ages to the wired world of today, The Why Factor this week looks at chastity – a complicated subject, tangled up with morality and modesty, with politics and religion, and with the role of women through the ages. Mike Williams speaks to, among others, an American campaigning for abstinence in US schools and a nun for whom chastity is an important part of the job. He examines chastity chosen, and chastity imposed.

Produced by Nina Robinson

Picture: Chastity belt, Credit: BBC

From the High Schools of the USA to the streets of Iran, this week we look at chastity

From the Europe of the Middle Ages to the wired world of today, The Why Factor this week looks at chastity – a complicated subject, tangled up with morality and modesty, with politics and religion, and with the role of women through the ages. Mike Williams speaks to, among others, an American campaigning for abstinence in US schools and a nun for whom chastity is an important part of the job. He examines chastity chosen, and chastity imposed.

Produced by Nina Robinson

Picture: Chastity belt, Credit: BBC

(Image: Chastity Belt. BBC Copyright)

Chess2014110120141102 (WS)

How has the 1500-year-old game mirrored politics and changes in society?

Why has the game endured over more than 1500 years and how has it mirrored politics and changes in society? We speak to Chess federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, chess pupil Diana Davletova, women’s chess champion Judit Polgar, Grande Master Dan King, Artificial Intelligence expert David Levy, chess historian Marilyn Alom and chess author Dave Edmonds.

The Why Factor looks at Chess – why has the game endured over more than 1500 years, how has it mirrored politics and changes in society?

The programme speaks to Chess federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, chess pupil Diana Davletova, women’s chess champion Judit Polgar, Grande Master Dan King, Artificial Intelligence expert David Levy, chess historian Marilyn Alom and chess author Dave Edmonds.

- has the game mirrored politics and changes in society?

Childlessness2017071020170711 (WS)

Why do some people choose to remain childless?

With increasing numbers of Westerners opting to have smaller families, some go one step further and decide to have no children at all. As a result they often face suspicion, abuse even, for being selfish or materialistic. Women, in particular, who decide to go childless, experience the full force of this near-universal stigma. Mary-Ann Ochota speaks to people who’ve made this often lonely decision.

Presenter: Mary-Ann Ochota
Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti

(Photo: Empty old swings, Credit: Chailuk Chalathai/Shutterstock)

With increasing numbers of Westerners opting to have smaller families, some go one step further and decide to have no children at all. As a result they often face suspicion, abuse even, for being selfish or materialistic. Women, in particular, who decide to go childless, experience the full force of this near-universal stigma. Mary-Ann Ochota speaks to people who’ve made this often lonely decision.

Presenter: Mary-Ann Ochota
Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti

(Photo: I don't want kids graffiti, Credit: M-Sur/Shutterstock)

Clapping2017040320170404 (WS)

Becky Milligan uncovers the secrets of applause and how it can be used to infect us all.

Why do we clap? Becky Milligan uncovers how the highly contagious nature of applause has been exploited by everyone from Roman emperors to today's politicians. She explores the different styles and rhythms. And how it can make us feel on top of the world or make us want to crawl under a stone.

With Historian Greg Aldrete, theatre critic Anne Treneman, music academic Dr Marcus Pearce, Mathematician Richard Mann, comedian Mark Cooper-Jones and former Women's Institute Chairman Helen Carey.

(Photo: A pair of hands clapping on black background. Credit:BravissimoS/Shutterstock)

Coffee2014022120140222 (WS)
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Why the production and consumption of coffee matters so much around the globe

Why is drinking coffee so compulsive, and controversial? Mike Williams explores the spread of coffee drinking, and why its production, and consumption, matters so much around the globe.

He hears about coffee’s dark origins as a mystical drink, its social function in café societies, and its recent spread through trends such as ‘Seattle coffee culture’. Are tea-drinking cultures willing to be converted? And, as producing nations like Brazil, face huge variations in world prices and the long-term threat of climate change, what does coffee’s future look like?

(Image: Hands holding coffee beans. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Why is drinking coffee so compulsive, and controversial? Mike Williams explores the spread of coffee drinking, and why its production, and consumption, matters so much around the globe.

He hears about coffee’s dark origins as a mystical drink, its social function in café societies, and its recent spread through trends such as ‘Seattle coffee culture’. Are tea-drinking cultures willing to be converted? And what does coffee’s future look like in the great producer nations like Brazil, facing huge variations in world prices and the long-term threat of climate change?

(Image of a person holding coffee beans. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Why is drinking coffee compulsive and controversial? Mike Williams explains

Coincidence2014070420140705 (WS)
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What is coincidence and why do we attach meaning to it?

What is coincidence and why do we attach meaning to it? Jo Fidgen hears World Service listeners’ gripping coincidence stories.

Some of them are almost unbelievable. But are we simply failing to understand randomness, and the law of truly big numbers?

Produced by Charlotte Pritchard

(Photo of a young woman with her hands over face. Credit: Getty Images)

What is coincidence and why do we attach meaning to it? Jo Fidgen hears World Service listeners’ gripping coincidence stories.

Some of them are almost unbelievable. But are we simply failing to understand randomness, and the law of truly big numbers?

Produced by Charlotte Pritchard

(Photo of a young woman with her hands over face. Credit: Getty Images)

Collecting2015050820150510 (WS)
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What does collecting of inanimate objects bring to our lives?

Stamps, coins, sea shells, wine - the list of things that humans collect is endless. But why do people do it? What does a collection of inanimate objects bring to our lives that other things do not? Are people attracted by the thrill of the chase, the pleasure of possession or the control in acting as the custodian of precious things?

Mike Williams talks to an eclectic group of collectors in search of some answers. Roman and Maz Piekarski have spent the last 50 years building up a collection of some of the world’s finest cuckoo clocks. When Lisa Courtney was bullied as a child she gained comfort in building her collection of Pokemon toys.Seventeen-year-old Tushar Lakhanpal started his pencil collection at the age of three and when David Fulton sold his business to Microsoft in the 90s his new found wealth allowed him to pursue and acquire one of the finest collections of rare instruments ever assembled.

(Photo: Roman and Maz Piekarski have been collecting cuckoo clocks for the last 40 years. BBC copyright)

Comic Book Superheroes2016092320160926 (WS)

Why are we so fascinated with the superheroes which populate our comic books and movies?

Why are we so fascinated with the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman - the superheroes which populate our cinema screens and comic-books? These modern, mythical, magical titans emerged from 20th century comic books but they’re descended from ancient heroes… Hercules and Odysseus, the Nordic Thor, the Babylonian Gilgamesh. Today they help keep film companies afloat by inspiring billion dollar blockbusters.

Mike talks to Jim Higgins is a writer and editor of comics, Nina Nazionale from the New York Historical Society, Steven Walsh, a bookseller at Gosh Comics, Jason Ditmer, a professor of political geography at University College London and Dr Casey Brienza, a sociologist at City University in London.

(IMAGE - Superman, Robin and Batman standing in a booth. Credit - Hulton Archive / Handout, Getty Images)

Mike Williams asks why we are so fascinated with the superheroes which populate our cinema screens and comic-books.These modern, mythical, magical titans emerged from 20th century comic books but they’re descended from ancient heroes… Hercules and Odysseus, the Nordic Thor, the Babylonian Gilgamesh. Today they help keep film companies afloat by inspiring billion dollar blockbusters.

Mike talks to Jim Higgins is a writer and editor of comics, Nina Nazionale from the New York Historical Society, Steven Walsh, a bookseller at Gosh Comics, Jason Ditmer, a professor of political geography at University College London and Dr Casey Brienza, a sociologist at City University in London.

(IMAGE - Superman, Robin and Batman standing in a booth. Credit - Hulton Archive / Handout, Getty Images)

Coming Of Age2012110920121110 (WS)
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Why do different cultures have different coming of ages?

Why do different cultures have different coming of ages? For some the advent of adulthood is celebrated by lavish parties, for others, by endurance tests and initiation ceremonies.

But they all share a commonality: the symbolic passing of childhood into the adult world which usually confers new rights: legal, political or religious.

But what really changes? And why is adolescence, for many, lasting longer than ever?

(Image: Mexican teenagers pose for photos following quinceanera, a coming of age party. Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Coming Of Age20121110
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Why do different cultures mark the advent of adulthood at different ages?

Why do different cultures have different coming of ages? For some the advent of adulthood is celebrated by lavish parties, for others, by endurance tests and initiation ceremonies. But they all share a commonality - the symbolic passing of childhood into the adult world which usually confers new rights: legal, political or religious.

But what really changes? And why is adolescence, for many, lasting longer than ever?

(Image: Mexican teenagers pose for photos following quinceanera, a coming of age party. Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Compassion Fatigue20181001

Why do we get overwhelmed by caring about other people?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Compassion Fatigue2018100120181002 (WS)

Why do we get overwhelmed by caring about other people?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Competition2014052320140524 (WS)
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Why are we competitive? Is it a natural instinct?

Why are we competitive? Is it a natural instinct? Should we nurture competition in our children so they learn that victory is the ultimate goal and that only the fittest survive? Or do we over emphasise the importance of competition at the expense of all else?

Jo Fidgen explores why we are so reliant on competition and what it means for our future success. She finds out how hormones affect our competitive behaviour and whether men are always more competitive than women.

(Photo: two hurdlers competing against each other at the Shanghai Stadium in China, Credit: Getty Images)

Why are we competitive? Is it a natural instinct? Should we nurture competition in our children so they learn that victory is the ultimate goal and that only the fittest survive? Or do we overemphasise the importance of competition at the expense of all else?

Jo Fidgen explores why we are so reliant on competition and what it means for our future success. She finds out how hormones affect our competitive behaviour and whether men are always more competitive than women.

Picture: two hurdlers competing against each other at the Shanghai Stadium in China, Credit: Getty Images

Complexity2017090420170905 (WS)

Why do potentially life changing devices often feel so frustrating?

Technology has the potential to change all our lives for the better, yet many of us are often reduced to hitting screens in frustration. So why does technology feel so complicated?

In this edition of the Why Factor, Kate Lamble explores why we get so exasperated with new technology and whether we should be concerned about increasingly complex solutions to simple problems. Is poor design to blame? Stupidity on the users part? Or is it part of our natural psychological response to artificial devices?

(Image: Man hiding under laptop, Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock)

Confession2013062820130629 (WS)
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Why would anyone confess to the bad things they have done?

Confessing to the bad things we’ve done is uncomfortable. But can it help us to become better people?

As a Catholic priest, Father Stephen Wang has heard thousands of confessions. Mike Williams asks him how he copes with the burden of so many people’s sins. He also meets a young woman who chose to admit she had wronged friends and family - and said sorry. And he hears what happened when a rapist confessed to the woman he attacked.

(Image: Priests listen to pilgrims confess their sins in Cologne, Germany. Credit: Getty Images)

Confessing to the bad things we’ve done is uncomfortable. But can it help us to become better people?

As a Catholic priest, Fr Stephen Wang has heard thousands of confessions. Mike Williams asks him how he copes with the burden of so many people’s sins. He also meets a young woman who chose to confess to the people she had wronged. And he hears what happened when a rapist confessed to the woman he attacked.

All of our programmes are available by clicking on the Free Downloads services.

(Image: Priests listen to pilgrims confess their sins in Cologne, Germany. Credit: Getty Images)

Conspiracy Theory2016030420160307 (WS)

The Why Factor asks why some people believe in conspiracy theories and whether it matters.

Throughout history people have held conspiracy theories which cast doubt on the official narratives of some very serious events - from the Holocaust to 9/11, Diana to JFK, Lockerbie to Sandy Hook.

What prompts people to think in this way? How should Governments react to the people who doubt them? Or are they in fact critical in our attempts to hold Governments to account?

Mike Williams talks to a psychologist, a Professor of Political Science and a conspiracy theorist as he attempts to separate fact from fiction.

(Photo: Conspiracy word cloud concept, with abstract background. Credit: Shutterstock)

Throughout history people have held conspiracy theories which cast doubt on the official narratives of some very serious events - from the Holocaust to 9/11, Diana to JFK, Lockerbie to Sandy Hook.

What prompts people to think in this way? How should Governments react to the people who doubt them? Or are they in fact critical in our attempts to hold Governments to account?

Mike Williams talks to a psychologist, a Professor of Political Science and a conspiracy theorist as he attempts to separate fact from fiction.

(Photo: Conspiracy word cloud concept, with abstract background. Credit: Shutterstock)

Conspiracy Theory2017012020170122 (WS)
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The Why Factor asks why some people believe in conspiracy theories and whether it matters

Throughout history people have held conspiracy theories which cast doubt on the official narratives of some very serious events - from the Holocaust to 9/11, Diana to JFK, Lockerbie to Sandy Hook.

What prompts people to think in this way? How should governments react to the people who doubt them? Or, are they in fact critical in our attempts to hold governments to account? Mike Williams talks to a psychologist, a professor of Political Science and a conspiracy theorist as he attempts to separate fact from fiction.

(Photo: Conspiracy word cloud concept, with abstract background. Credit: Shutterstock)

Conspiracy Theory2017012220170123 (WS)

Throughout history people have held conspiracy theories which cast doubt on the official narratives of some very serious events - from the Holocaust to 9/11, Diana to JFK, Lockerbie to Sandy Hook.

What prompts people to think in this way? How should governments react to the people who doubt them? Or, are they in fact critical in our attempts to hold governments to account? Mike Williams talks to a psychologist, a professor of Political Science and a conspiracy theorist as he attempts to separate fact from fiction.

(Photo: Conspiracy word cloud concept, with abstract background. Credit: Shutterstock)

The Why Factor asks why some people believe in conspiracy theories and whether it matters

Cookery2014112920141130 (WS)

Why do we cook food rather than just eat it raw?

Why do we cook, and not just eat raw food like all other animals? Jo Fidgen hears that our ancestors first started to cook about two million years ago, and the advent of cookery coincides with our developing bigger brains, and smaller guts. Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that it was cooking that led to both these developments, as cooked food is easier to digest, and allows the body to absorb more calories from the food, thus making it possible to fuel a bigger brain. So cooking made us human.

Historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto adds another dimension to this argument. He says cooking led to communal mealtimes and the move from solitary scavengers to organised groups - and thus the start of human society. Nowadays we also cook because we enjoy it, or to show our affection for those we cook for. But there are other, more basic reasons for cooking, such as making food safe to eat.

Jo Fidgen talks to primatologist Richard Wrangham, food historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, nutritionist Daniel Commane, and Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, a couple who run a Middle-Eastern restaurant.

(Image: A chef prepares food at a wine and food festival, New York. Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Copying Art2016061020160613 (WS)

Why do people copy famous works of art and who buys them?

Why do people try to create old masters and modern art, brush stroke by brush stroke? And, why do people buy them? He talks to art copier David Henty, fine art expert and gallery owner Philip Mould, Paul Dong a Beijing based art auctioneer, Colette Loll founder and director of the Washington-based Art Fraud Insights and art copy customer Patricia Burns from Canada.

(Photo: A copy of Pablo Picasso's The Weeping Woman painted by David Henty, courtesy of the artist D.Henty)

Why do people try to create old masters and modern art, brush stroke by brush stroke? And, why do people buy them? He talks to art copier David Henty, fine art expert and gallery owner Philip Mould, Paul Dong a Beijing based art auctioneer, Colette Loll founder and director of the Washington-based Art Fraud Insights and art copy customer Patricia Burns from Canada.

(Photo: A copy of Pablo Picasso's The Weeping Woman painted by David Henty, courtesy of the artist D.Henty)

Crime Fiction2015030720150308 (WS)

Why do we love stories about criminals and the people who bring them to justice?

Why do people all over the world enjoy stories about criminals and the people who bring them to justice? And what do the detective stories of a particular time or place reveal about that culture? From the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes to new South African crime fiction, Helen Grady investigates.

(Photo: The shadow of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Credit: Peter Ruck/BIPs/Getty Images)

Cross Dressing2013121320131214 (WS)
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Artist Grayson Perry, a train driver and a detective novelist on why they cross dress

Why do men cross dress? Mike Williams interviews Helen, a London Underground train driver, Peter a detective novelist - who prefers dressing as Penny - and Peter’s wife who helps to choose the clothes and decide Penny’s look. He talks to the artist Grayson Perry about the relationship between his art and cross dressing. He also poses the question why is it that western society accepts men in kilts, priests in cassocks but has issues with men in skirts?

(Image: Artist Grayson Perry walking down the catwalk during a fashion show, in London. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do men cross dress? Mike Williams looks for the answers.

Why do men cross dress? Mike Williams looks for answers and interviews Helen, a London Underground train driver, Peter a detective novelist -who prefers dressing as Penny - and Peter’s wife who helps to choose the clothes and decide Penny’s look. He talks to the artist Grayson Perry about the relationship between his art and cross-dressing and poses the question why is it that western society accepts men in kilts, priests in cassocks but has issues with men in skirts?

(Image of the artist Grayson Perry walking down the catwalk during a fashion show, in London. Credit: Getty Images)

Cross-dressing2013120620131207 (WS)
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Why do men cross dress? Mike Williams looks for the answers.

Why do men cross dress? Mike Williams looks for answers and interviews Helen, a London Underground train driver, Peter a detective novelist - who prefers dressing as Penny - and Peter’s wife who helps to choose the clothes and decide Penny’s look. He talks to the artist Grayson Perry about the relationship between his art and cross-dressing and poses the question why is it that western society accepts men in kilts, priests in cassocks but has issues with men in skirts?

(Image of two transvestites kissing during a parade. AFP/Getty Images)

Crying2013120720131209 (WS)

emotional tears is uniquely human but why do we do it?

Crying emotional tears is uniquely human. We cry over almost anything and for almost any reason – from tears of sadness to tears of joy. Music can induce them, films, stories and television news too. We do not produce tears when we are first born – it takes a few months until we are able to. But once we can, we do it right up until our final days. So why do we cry? Mike Williams traces some of the competing theories of tears with the help of scientists, psychologists, and a historian. He also watches as an actress is made to cry by her acting coach.

(Image: A tear drops falls from a person's eye. BBC copyright)

Cryonics2017012720170129 (WS)
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Why do some people choose to be frozen at death, hoping to be brought back to life?

Can deep-frozen bodies ever return from the dead? Before death you can express a choice about what happens afterwards. Burial perhaps? Cremation? Or something else? Maybe you could ask for your body to be pumped full of anti-freeze, then suspended, upside down, in a vat of liquid nitrogen at 196 degrees below zero, in the hope that the medicine of the future can resurrect you. Is this wishful thinking or the secret to a very, very long life?

Mike Williams explores the science, the motivation and the ethics behind cryonics and asks whether frozen human bodies will ever be fit for a new life.

Contributors:
Peggy Jackson, hospice social worker
Robin Hanson, associate professor of economics, George Mason University, USA
Danila Medvedev, co-founder and deputy director, KrioRus
Barry Fuller, professor of surgical sciences and low temperature medicine, University College London Medical School
Clive Coen, professor of neuroscience, King's College, London
Nils Hoppe, professor of ethics and law in the life sciences, University of Hannover, Germany

Presenter: Mike Williams
Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Peggy Jackson and Robin Hanson. Credit: BBC Copyright - contributors gave us permission to use this image)

Cultural Memory2013022220130223 (WS)
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We all have memories but do we share some of those, socially or collectively? If so, why?

We all have memories but do we share some of those, socially or collectively? If so, why? Most countries have things in the past which they’d rather forget but how successful or otherwise are elites at coercing our “collective” memories or manipulating national narratives?

Mike Williams looks at the concept of cultural and collective memory and asks if after wars, or a period of intense trauma, is it best to confront our memories or is a period of silence the best way to come to terms with the realities of the past?

(Image of Vorochilov, Molotov, Stalin posing at the shore of the the Moscow - Volga Canal in 1937 in this manipulated picture. In the original picture Nikolai Yezhov was standing on the right. Yezhov was the senior figure in the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) under Joseph Stalin during the period of the Great Purge. After Yezhov was tried and executed his likeness was removed from this image between 1939-1991. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

We all have memories but do we share some of those, socially or collectively? If so, why? Most countries have things in the past which they’d rather forget but how successful or otherwise are elites at coercing our “collective? memories or manipulating national narratives?

Mike Williams looks at the concept of cultural and collective memory and asks if after wars, or a period of intense trauma, is it best to confront our memories or is a period of silence the best way to come to terms with the realities of the past?

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

Dance2014032120140322 (WS)
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Why does movement move us?

Dance exists in every culture. It’s thought that humans were dancing before we learned to speak.

But why do we have this desire to move, and what are we trying to communicate? Mike Williams explores the idea of ‘muscular bonding’ – that moving together creates communities. He hears how Indian Kathak dance connects body and soul, how a Northern Australian society uses dance to blur gender divides, and how watching others dance makes us move too.

Picture: Dancers perform 'Bharatanatyam' on wheelchairs, a classical Indian dance at an event in Bangalore. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

exists in every culture. It’s thought that humans were dancing before we learned to speak.

But why do we have this desire to move, and what are we trying to communicate? Mike Williams explores the idea of ‘muscular bonding’ – that moving together creates communities. He hears how Indian Kathak dance connects body and soul, how a Northern Australian society uses dance to blur gender divides, and how watching others dance makes us move too.

Picture: Dancers perform 'Bharatanatyam' on wheelchairs, a classical Indian dance at an event in Bangalore. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Dark Tourism2017110620171107 (WS)

Why do we visit sites of death, disaster and atrocity?

Millions of people every year visit sites of death, tragedy and destruction, from nuclear disaster zones to genocide memorials. Why do we go? Is it an effort to understand the darker parts of our history, or are we just indulging our morbid curiosity?

Mary-Ann Ochota becomes a dark tourist herself to try and find out, visiting the former Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. She also goes to Grenfell Tower in west London, the scene of a deadly fire that tore through a residential apartment in the summer of 2017. Since the night the fire started, people with smartphones congregated to capture the moment and they are still coming. Mary-Ann speaks to local residents to find out about the impact and ethics of their visits.
We also hear from Peter Hohenhaus, who is perhaps the ultimate dark tourist, having visited around 700 dark sites all over the world.

(Image: Teenage tourists at Auschwitz, Credit: Getty Images)

Daydreaming2015041020150412 (WS)
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Does everyone\u2019s mind wander? And why do we do it?

Freud thought daydreaming was not a useful activity, and many teachers across the world have been heard to say “stop daydreaming” to their pupils. But it seems to have redeeming purposes.

Opera singer Noah Stewart explains how he uses daydreaming as a way to prepare himself for the stage. And Peter Moore, an IT contractor who was held hostage in Iraq, describes how his mind began to fill the emptiness of his days with dreams of escape and comfort.

While daydreaming may be universal across cultures, there seem to be many differences in in how we do it - from playful vivid fantasies, to problem solving, to obsessing. And is daydreaming a taboo subject? We explore why it’s not discussed.

(Photo: A young girl lays on the grass daydreaming. Credit: George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Death Penalty2015032120150322 (WS)

Why more than 50 countries around the world still execute certain criminals

More than four billion people live in countries which retain the death penalty. Mike Williams asks why more than 50 countries around the world still execute certain criminals. What is the death penalty for and how is it carried out? He talks to a former American prison officer who presided over 33 executions in the US state of Ohio and asks whether he has any regrets. He also speaks to a Nigerian former death row prisoner who escaped the gallows with just seconds to spare. And he hears from a lawyer in Indonesia where two convicted Australian drug traffickers are awaiting execution.

Produced by Caroline Bayley

(Photo: The Texas death chamber in Huntsville, Texas. Credit to: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

Debt2013122020131221 (WS)
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How the way we borrow and lend money is changing

Mike Williams finds out how the way we lend and borrow money is changing. He 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: A man holding US $100 bank notes. Credit: Corbis)

Mike Williams finds out how the way we lend and borrow money is changing.

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)

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Dinosaurs2018030520180306 (WS)

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?

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)

Diplomacy2014053020140531 (WS)
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How to get ahead in diplomacy, from negotiations to polite language and secret code words

Diplomacy - what’s it for and how is it done? 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. Presented by Mike Williams.

(Image: A mixture of words relating to Diplomacy. BBC Copyright)

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

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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20130513 (WS)

Why do we experience disgust?

Disgust is something 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, finds out what it’s like to be the object of someone else’s disgust and explores the idea that there is “wisdom in repugnance” with philosopher Steve Clarke.

(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?

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)

Dolly, Dylan Or Daft Punk2016042320160424 (WS)

Gemma Cairney explores our eclectic tastes in music and where those tastes come from

Pop, Blues, RnB, Hip Hop, Folk, Reggae, Metal - why do we like the music that we like? As part of the Identity Season, BBC Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney asks why we listen to the music we do. What is the importance of music in forming an identity in adolescence, be it a social identity, a gender identity or another group identity? In a world where the internet gives us access to what everyone else is listening to – what does what’s on our playlist say about us?

Do record companies and media outlets dictate what music we end up listening to, or are they led by audiences’ preferences? Singers, songwriters, radio DJs and music experts explain how the recipe for international success in the music industry has changed over the years. Although the popular music charts and radio playlists can give an indication of what people like to listen to, streaming has become an increasingly popular way to listen to music, and the data behind the streams reveals nuanced listening habits among different cities and age groups.

This documentary includes lively interviews with international stars, record industry experts, academics and music writers providing a range of perspectives on our diverse musical tastes. Gemma will speak to music fans in different parts of the world, asking them why they choose the music they do, and how it shapes their identity. The programme is filled with a rich variety of music, both recorded and live performances, from the Lollapalooza festival in Chile to the haunting sounds of Iceland.

Produced by Flora Carmichael and Peter Snowdon

(Photo: Gemma Cairney in Reykjavik exploring Iceland’s unique musical identity)

Pop, Blues, RnB, Hip Hop, Folk, Reggae, Metal - why do we like the music that we like? As part of the Identity Season, BBC Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney asks why we listen to the music we do. What is the importance of music in forming an identity in adolescence, be it a social identity, a gender identity or another group identity? In a world where the internet gives us access to what everyone else is listening to – what does what’s on our playlist say about us?

Do record companies and media outlets dictate what music we end up listening to, or are they led by audiences’ preferences? Singers, songwriters, radio DJs and music experts explain how the recipe for international success in the music industry has changed over the years. Although the popular music charts and radio playlists can give an indication of what people like to listen to, streaming has become an increasingly popular way to listen to music, and the data behind the streams reveals nuanced listening habits among different cities and age groups.

This documentary includes lively interviews with international stars, record industry experts, academics and music writers providing a range of perspectives on our diverse musical tastes. Gemma will speak to music fans in different parts of the world, asking them why they choose the music they do, and how it shapes their identity. The programme is filled with a rich variety of music, both recorded and live performances, from the Lollapalooza festival in Chile to the haunting sounds of Iceland.

Produced by Flora Carmichael and Peter Snowdon

(Photo: Gemma Cairney in Reykjavik exploring Iceland’s unique musical identity)

Dreaming2018012220180123 (WS)

Why do some sleep disorders turn normal dreams into terrifying nightmares?

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)

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)

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)

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 Krätzner-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)

Embarrassment2014102420141025 (WS)
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What is embarrassment, why do we feel it and is it a good thing? Mike Williams finds out

A knot in the stomach, a blush to the face, a wish that the ground would swallow us up and end our misery. We’ve all experienced embarrassment and wished it would never happen again.

But why do experience these feelings and what do they mean? Mike Williams asks psychotherapist Philippa Perry to explain embarrassment and what it says about us and how other people see us.

Dr Jieyu Liu, deputy director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, tells Mike how the different generations in China view the reasons for embarrassment and how far it differs from “loss of face”. She also discusses how it is possible to feel embarrassed for “the nation”.

And former top cricketer and sports commentator, Ed Smith, reveals how sportsmen and women deal with embarrassment and whether it can be managed for better performance and results.

Produced by Simon Coates

(Image of a woman looking embarrassed. Credit: Shutterstock)

Encryption2015072420150726 (WS)
20150727 (WS)

What is encryption and why do we do it?

We use encryption every day - in our bank transfers, on our mobile phones and whenever we buy anything online. Yet what is it and why is it so important? Mike Williams explores cryptography from the Roman Caesar Cipher to modern day computer encryption.

Classified as a munition in the USA until the late 90s, lawyer Cindy Cohn recounts the court case she fought which helped put computer encryption into the public’s hands. Science writer Simon Singh talks us through some the mathematics behind the ciphers and Andrew Clark, a specialist in Information Forensics details the darker side of encryption, through its uses in crime.

Encryption also plays into our obsession with secrets, puzzles and hidden messages. We hear from a fan of the electronic duo, Boards of Canada, who obsessively followed a trail of encrypted clues left by the band in 2013. Finally, encryption lies at the heart of the debate about national security and individual privacy. We hear from an anonymous contributor from Pakistan where the use of encryption is restricted.

(Photo: Encrypted icon of a padlock and its keyhole. Credit: Shutterstock)

Envy2014032820140329 (WS)
20140331 (WS)

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)

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)

Eye Contact2014061320140614 (WS)
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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)

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)

Family Names2014031420140315 (WS)
20140317 (WS)

Could your last name determine your career? Mike Williams explains

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

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

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)

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)

Fasting2013091320130914 (WS)
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Why people choose to abstain from food for religious - and non-religious - reasons

Humans need to eat to survive. So why would someone go voluntarily without food - or even water?

Many of the major religions observe periods of fasting for spiritual reasons. Charlotte McDonald speaks to those who have fasted to find out why they do it. Also, is there a place in modern society for fasting for non-religious reasons? She speaks to Michael Mosley about the science behind fasting and why some people are choosing it as a lifestyle choice.

(Image: Indian Muslims offer prayers prior to breaking their fast on the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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 120121203

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

Fear - Episode 22012120720121208 (WS)
20121210 (WS)

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 - Episode 220121208
Fear - Episode 220121210

Why do some of us enjoy and endure fear, horror and suspense?

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)

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 phobia…

Presenter: Mike Williams
Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti

Film clip: 1984 (1984) Umbrella-Rosenblum Films Production. Director: Michael Radford

Image: A tarantula spider. Credit : Credit: Miguel Rojo/Getty Images

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 phobia…

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti

Film clip: 1984 (1984) Umbrella-Rosenblum Films Production. Director: Michael Radford

Image: A tarantula spider. Credit : Credit: Miguel Rojo/Getty Images

Fear Vs Fact2016080520160808 (WS)

Are we living in an age where messages of fear dominate and the truth goes unheard?

Mike Williams asks if we now live in a post-factual age — where messages of fear dominate and the truth goes unspoken or unheard? He investigates the “Backfire Effect” which means that entrenched views can become more entrenched – when confronted by contradictory facts. Politicians are often accused of distorting the truth – with Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump the latest.

(Image - Group of people standing with one holding a newspaper with the headline "Earth Doomed". Credit - Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

Mike Williams asks if we now live in a post-factual age — where messages of fear dominate and the truth goes unspoken or unheard? He investigates the “Backfire Effect? which means that entrenched views can become more entrenched – when confronted by contradictory facts. Politicians are often accused of distorting the truth – with Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump the latest.

(Image - Group of people standing with one holding a newspaper with the headline "Earth Doomed". Credit - Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

Female Body Hair2013083020130831 (WS)
20130901 (WS)
20130902 (WS)

The history of hair removal and what it tells us about notions of female beauty

Why do so many women feel the need to get rid of their body hair? Why is it fine for a man to sport hairy legs, but unthinkable for most women?

It’s a sensitive subject - touching on ideas about female sexuality and gender politics that stretch back almost to the beginning of time.

(Image of an actress with her arms up in the air, posing for a portrait. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do so many women feel the need to get rid of their body hair?

Why do so many women feel the need to get rid of their body hair? Why is it fine for a man to sport hairy legs, but unthinkable for most women?

It’s a sensitive subject – touching on ideas about female sexuality and gender politics that stretch back almost to the beginning of time.

(Image of an actress with her arms up in the air, posing for a portrait. Credit: Getty Images)

It’s a sensitive subject - touching on ideas about female sexuality and gender politics that stretch back almost to the beginning of time.

Female Friendships2018073020180731 (WS)

Why is new tech a mixed blessing for female friendships?

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)

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)

Fire2013071220130713 (WS)
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Why are we fascinated with fire and what do myths tell us about how we view its power?

Why do we have such a fascination with fire? Our attempts to master fire have shaped who we have become – in some cases civilising us, but in other cases, corrupting us. What motivates arsonists to use fire as a weapon and what do the various myths about the origins of fire tell us about how we view its power?

(Image: A boy practising fire breathing on the roof of a building. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do we have such a fascination with fire?

Why do we have such a fascination with fire? Our attempts to master fire have shaped who we have become – in some cases civilising us, but in other cases, corrupting us. What motivates arsonists to use fire as a weapon and what do the various myths about the origins of fire tell us about how we view its power?

Fishing2018062520180626 (WS)

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

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)

Forgetting2015031420150315 (WS)

Why do we lose our memories, and why are there are some things we can not forget?

We look inside the brain to find out why we lose our memories, and why there are some things we can not forget. We talk to a neuroscientist seeking to unlock the secrets to how we remember things. And, the woman who can’t forget an episode that occurred over 70 years ago.

(Photo: Woman sits behind the driving wheel, forgetting something. Credit: Shutterstock)

Forgiveness2016122320161225 (WS)
20161226 (WS)

Could you forgive the person who killed your child or who raped or tortured you?

Could you forgive the person who killed your child or who raped or tortured you? Some crimes, some events are so awful, so cruel, it’s impossible to imagine ever being able to say to the wrongdoer, ‘I forgive you’.

Mike Williams hears the stories of those who have experienced unimaginable pain and suffering at the hands of others. And discovers what it feels like to turn anger and desire for revenge against the perpetrators into compassion and understanding for them. What does the act of forgiveness mean to the offender?

The programme explores how learning to forgive can make us happier and healthier. But how in some cases, the atrocity is so enormous that forgiveness is a step too far.

Contributors:
Madeleine Black, Counsellor based in Glasgow, Scotland
Robert Enright, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, USA
Martin Palmer, Theologian and Historian of religion
Sarah Heatley, mother of Nina and Jack
Kemal Pervanic, survivor, Omarska concentration camp during the Bosnian war

Presenter: Mike Williams
Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Family standing on cliff edge with hills in background. Credit: BBC Copyright (with permission from contributor)

Could you forgive the person who killed your child or who raped or tortured you? Some crimes, some events are so awful, so cruel, it’s impossible to imagine ever being able to say to the wrongdoer, ‘I forgive you’.

Mike Williams hears the stories of those who have experienced unimaginable pain and suffering at the hands of others. And discovers what it feels like to turn anger and desire for revenge against the perpetrators into compassion and understanding for them. What does the act of forgiveness mean to the offender?

The programme explores how learning to forgive can make us happier and healthier. But how in some cases, the atrocity is so enormous that forgiveness is a step too far.

Contributors:

Madeleine Black, Counsellor based in Glasgow, Scotland

Robert Enright, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, USA

Martin Palmer, Theologian and Historian of religion

Sarah Heatley, mother of Nina and Jack

Kemal Pervanic, survivor, Omarska concentration camp during the Bosnian war

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Family standing on cliff edge with hills in background. Credit: BBC Copyright (with permission from contributor)

Gardens2014082920140830 (WS)
20140901 (WS)

Why do people have gardens and do gardening?

For thousands of years, in every corner of the world, people have been gardening – including in war and in prisons. Helena Merriman explores the peculiar magic of garden and asks why people take so much pleasure in it.

She talks to the designer of 58 of China’s public gardens, finds out what swimming mice reveal about the secret properties of soil and hears about the extraordinary lengths one man went to create a garden in Guantanamo Bay.

(Image of a Classical Chinese Garden. Credit: Shutterstock)

For thousands of years, in every corner of the world, people have been gardening – including in war and in prisons. Helena Merriman explores the peculiar magic of garden and asks why people take so much pleasure in it.

She talks to the designer of fifty-eight of China’s public gardens, finds out what swimming mice reveal about the secret properties of soil and hears about the extraordinary lengths one man went to to create a garden in Guantanamo Bay.

She talks to the designer of 58 of China’s public gardens, finds out what swimming mice reveal about the secret properties of soil and hears about the extraordinary lengths one man went to create a garden in Guantanamo Bay.

(Image of a Classical Chinese Garden. Credit: Shutterstock)

Ghosts2014081520140816 (WS)
20140818 (WS)

Why do so many people claim to see ghosts?

Ghosts have been haunting people all over the world for centuries. But why do they persist in this age of reason? Mike Williams explores the fear and fascination ghosts produce and finds out how our reaction to apparitions has changed over the years.

We join a group of ghost hunters in England on a spooktacular tour of a derelict orphanage; Mike meets the cultural historian Dr Shane McCorristine in the birthplace of the Victorian ghost story; and the psychologist Professor Christopher French explains the mind’s capacity to produce hallucinations.

(Image of a ghostly woman standing by the window. Credit: Shutterstock)

Given Names2014030720140308 (WS)
20140310 (WS)

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

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)

Giving Away Data2018043020180501 (WS)

Why are we giving away our data so freely?

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 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)

Gold2013042620130427 (WS)
20130428 (WS)
20130429 (WS)

Why are we so fascinated by gold?

Gold - what is it about this rare, inert metal which has captivated us for thousands of years? The answers may not be what you might think. Mike Williams explores our obsession with gold. He looks at chemistry, Einstein's theory of relativity and the many myths and mystery of glorious gold.

(Image of gold bars. Credit AFP/Getty Images)

- what is it about this rare, inert metal which has captivated us for thousands of years? The answers may not be what you might think. Mike Williams explores our obsession with gold. He looks at chemistry, Einstein’s theory of relativity and the many myths and mystery of glorious gold.

Gossip2014082220140823 (WS)
20140825 (WS)

Why do we like to gossip \u2013 and is it good for us?

It’s a regular, if not always a reliable source of news. Without gossip, cafes, bars and workplace water-coolers would often be silent. But why do so many of us feel the need to discuss other people’s lives? Gossiping’s been punished in the past, but it’s big business now and may, Mike Williams explains, even be good for us

Produced by Chris Bowlby

(Image of two girls gossiping to one another. Credit: Science photo library)

Why do we like to gossip – and is it good for us?

It’s a regular, if not always a reliable source of news. Without gossip, cafes, bars and workplace water-coolers would often be silent. But why do so many of us feel the need to discuss other people’s lives? Gossiping’s been punished in the past, but it’s big business now and may, Mike Williams explains, even be good for us

Produced by Chris Bowlby

(Image of two girls gossiping to one another. Credit: Science photo library)

Goths2017050820170509 (WS)

Why would anyone be a goth? What is the appeal of this dark and spooky subculture?

Why would anyone be a goth? What is the appeal of this dark and spooky subculture that embraces death, pain and sadness? Goths have been attacked, abused and are often misunderstood, but still choose to stand out – dramatically - from the crowd.

Catherine Carr talks to goths about their music, their dress and their love of the darker side of life. Why has this scene that began in the UK in the late 1970s and has spread worldwide, adapted and endured?

She hears from gothic vlogger, Black Friday, about how others react to her striking style and that of her goth husband, Matthius; she learns from Dr Catherine Spooner of Lancaster University about the role and influence of gothic literature in the goth scene and finds out from Professor Isabella Van Elferen of Kingston University, London about the transcendental power of goth music. Catherine talks to gothic blogger, La Carmina, about the extraordinary and extreme goth scene in Japan that includes body modifications; Dr Paul Hodkinson of Surrey University explains the enduring appeal of the subculture and why once a goth, you’re always a goth. And she meets Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter Sophie, a goth, was murdered because of the way she looked.

Presenter: Catherine Carr
Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Black Friday and husband Matthius. Credit: BBC Copyright)

Graffiti: Why Do We Do It?2015100220151003 (WS)
20151004 (WS)
20151005 (WS)

Graffiti is both an ancient and modern activity, but why do we do it?

From Stone Age caves, to the buildings of Pompeii and on the walls of our modern cities we find evidence of a very human – and ancient – urge to leave a mark. Why? Mike Williams joins the artists at a Graffiti competition held in London and talks to Art Historian Richard Clay, professor of Digital Humanities at Newcastle University.

This still illegal activity has gained a more acceptable face in the growth and popularity of street art, but in many countries, graffiti writers still risk their lives to paint political messages on public walls. Researcher Rana Jarbou has been documenting Graffiti in the Arab World since 2007. She reveals the role it has played in the war in Syria.

Graffiti can be political and artistic, but sometimes it is as simple as scratching names and love hearts into desks. For four years Quinn Dombrowski took photographs of the Graffiti left on the study desks of The University of Chicago’s Library. The scrawled messages are an insight into the emotional lives of the students there.

Finally, back in London at the Graffiti competition, Mike picks up a spray-can and has a go himself.

(Photo: The letters TWF graffiti sprayed on a wall. Credit: Mike Williams)

From Stone Age caves, to the buildings of Pompeii and on the walls of our modern cities we find evidence of a very human – and ancient – urge to leave a mark. Why? Mike Williams joins the artists at a Graffiti competition held in London and talks to Art Historian Richard Clay, professor of Digital Humanities at Newcastle University.

This still illegal activity has gained a more acceptable face in the growth and popularity of street art, but in many countries, graffiti writers still risk their lives to paint political messages on public walls. Researcher Rana Jarbou has been documenting Graffiti in the Arab World since 2007. She reveals the role it has played in the war in Syria.

Graffiti can be political and artistic, but sometimes it is as simple as scratching names and love hearts into desks. For four years Quinn Dombrowski took photographs of the Graffiti left on the study desks of The University of Chicago’s Library. The scrawled messages are an insight into the emotional lives of the students there.

Finally, back in London at the Graffiti competition, Mike picks up a spray-can and has a go himself.

(Photo: The letters TWF graffiti sprayed on a wall. Credit: Mike Williams)

Grief2016100720161010 (WS)

Why do we feel so many different emotions when someone close to us dies?

Why do we feel so many different and intense emotions when someone close to us dies? Whether it is yearning, sadness, anger or even shame, Mike Williams explores why each person’s grief is unique.

The pain of losing a loved one initially seems so unbearable, yet most bereaved people do eventually find a way to adjust to their changed life. So what happens when we grieve and why does grief sometimes get complicated?

Mike talks to Bill Burnett, who is learning to live without his wife, Betty. She died in 2010 after 43 years’ marriage, yet Bill still talks to her photo and asks her advice. And, we hear from Rhonda O’Neill who lost her husband in a plane crash and then her young son to kidney disease two years later. She describes feeling tormented by the belief she could have done something more to save her son’s life.

We also hear from eminent UK psychiatrist Dr Colin Murray Parkes, who describes what happened to one of his patients who buried his grief, and from Dr Katherine Shear, professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and director of the Center for Complicated Grief.

(Photo: A woman hugging a man. Credit: Vibe Images/Shutterstock)

Group Thinking2015122520151228 (WS)

Why do we succumb to 'Groupthink' and how do we overcome the urge to be part of a crowd

Anyone who has ever been in a meeting has seen the phenomenon of "Groupthink" first hand. The will of the crowd over shadows the wisdom of individuals and it can lead to dangerous consequences. Mike Williams asks why humans succumb to "Groupthink" and how we fight the tendency to follow the herd even if it leads to very perilous outcomes.

(Photo: A meeting. Credit: Shutterstock)

Anyone who has ever been in a meeting has seen the phenomenon of "Groupthink" first hand. The will of the crowd over shadows the wisdom of individuals and it can lead to dangerous consequences. Mike Williams asks why humans succumb to "Groupthink" and how we fight the tendency to follow the herd even if it leads to very perilous outcomes.

(Photo: A meeting. Credit: Shutterstock)

Habits2017050120170502 (WS)

Shiulie Ghosh explains why we are all creatures of habits

How do you start your day? It’s a more complicated question than you think – and that’s because you don’t think about it very much. Quite a lot of what we do, we do every day. We create order by forming habits. From the way we brush our teeth to how we drive a car, ride a bike even tie our shoelaces – these are things we do every day without thinking. And it is a good thing we do because if we had to make multiple choices for every single simple activity our brains would just clog up. But, there are good habits and bad habits. Ones that help us through the day and ones we can not control. Shiulie Ghosh explains the difference between these behaviours and why, one way or another, we are all creatures of habit.

(Photo: New Habits v Old Habits Credit: Shutterstock)

Hands2017031020170312 (WS)
20170313 (WS)

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: Artist Hitomi Hosono holds her ceramic pot)

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)

Hoarding2016111120161113 (WS)
20161114 (WS)

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)

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)

Homosexuality2014012420140125 (WS)
20140127 (WS)

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)

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)

Honour2014122720141228 (WS)

People have fought for it and died for it. Why is this notion so powerful?

People have fought for honour and died for it. People have murdered others because of it. Why is this notion so powerful and so lasting? In this edition we examine the honour-codes of the Japanese samurai, we explore honour in the works of William Shakespeare and look at the persistence of so-called honour killings.

Produced by Ian Muir-Cochrane

(Photo: A man dressed in a Samurai costume and helmet during a festival in Japan. Credit: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Horoscopes2014041820140419 (WS)
20140421 (WS)

Why do we read horoscopes?

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)

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)

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)

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 Chillies Became Hot2015061920150621 (WS)
20150622 (WS)

The origins and history of chillies and why we eat a food that burns

The chilli pepper is a work of ‘evolutionary elegance’. Its complex chemistry can fool our brains. Why do we eat something that causes us pain?

Mike Williams explores the origins and history of chillies, thought to be the hot and humid climates of Bolivia and northern Brazil before being spread through the world by Portuguese colonists in the 15th entury. He finds out that ancient chillies were not hot.

Dr Josh Tewkesbury from the University of Washington explains why the chilli pepper developed heat and why human beings are one of the only mammals in the world to actually enjoy eating them. We unlock the pungency and flavour of chillies in curries with chef and writer Roopa Gulatti. And we uncover their power and punch in powder and pepper spray with Dr Anuj Baruah, a biotechnologist in the north-eastern state of Assam, India, who extracted the chemical compound inside the chilli for India’s ministry of defence.

Award winning science writer and journalist, Deborah Blum gives her analysis of the chemistry inside the chilli and its development to explain why she thinks that plants like chillies are ‘formidable military machines’. Finally, Mike tastes one of the world’s hottest - the bhut jolokia - also known as the ghost or poison pepper.

Produced by Nina Robinson

(Photo: A selection of chillies)

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)

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)

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)

Why would anyone allow a stranger to access their mind?

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)

Hypochondria2017021020170212 (WS)
20170213 (WS)

What is hypochondria, and why don\u2019t we take this misunderstood malaise more seriously?

Hypochondria: the fear of having a serious, undiagnosed illness. We may mock the hypochondriac, but a constant fear of sickness and death can be a debilitating and distressing condition in itself, with some sufferers even ending up in wheelchairs. So why don’t we take this misunderstood malaise more seriously?

Presenter: Becky Milligan
Producer: Ben Crighton

(Photo: Man in white coat with placing stethoscope on man's chest. Credit: Michal Kowalski/Shutterstock)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

Image: People holding hands around a fire, Credit: Getty Images

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)

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

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)

Jargon2015050120150503 (WS)
20150504 (WS)

Why do we use jargon?

Why do we use jargon - the deliberate obfuscation of language? Or in other words, saying things in a way that makes it difficult to understand. George Orwell, in the early 20th Century, hated this ‘inflated style’ of writing and there have been many attempts to get rid of it. In the 1940s Sir Ernest Gowers from the British Civil Service wrote a book - Plain Words - which has been reprinted again and again, most recently by his great grand-daughter who tells presenter Mike Williams why jargon is just as bad today as it ever was. It has been blamed for pulling the wool over the eyes of the general public and it’s the same all over the world.

(Photo: The classic work Plain Words, originally written and published by Sir Ernest Gowers who wanted to see the English language free of jargon. BBC copyright)

Karma2014101720141018 (WS)
20141020 (WS)

Is Karma fatalism or guidance on how to improve your life?

Karma is a fundamental part of many eastern based religions including Hinduism and Buddhism. It is commonly interpreted as action. Those who believe in it say their past actions influence their life today and their future actions will have positive or negative repercussions in this life or the next. What impact does this belief have on individuals and communities? Does it encourage fatalism or is it a guide to improving your life? And does collective karma exist?

The programme talks to an Indian guru Swarmi Sukhabodhananda, buddhist agnostic Stephen Batchelor, scientist Jim al-Khalili, associate professor of religious studies Elizabeth Harris and journalists Mark Tully and Mary Finnigan.

Produced by Bob Howard

Laziness2018031920180320 ()
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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)

Letters2014112220141123 (WS)

The disappearing art of the hand-written letter and three stories of love

The disappearing world of the handwritten letter – a letter of advice on love from a father to a son, letters to a man who spent decades on death row in America, and letters between lovers. How will we understand our family history now that there is no box of fading letters in the attic? How will we remember old loves and times gone by?

(Photo: ‘The Letters’ (detail) by Simone Sandelson used with her permission. Credit: Mike Williams)

Life, Liberty And The American Identity2016043020160501 (WS)

What is the American Identity and why is it a portrait recognized around the world?

As part of the BBC World Service “Identity” season The Why Factor explores how the one of the fundamental tenets of our personal make up, our national identity.

Few countries have a stronger sense of themselves than the United States of America and few are so strongly drawn in the minds of people right across the world. The ubiquity of McDonalds, America’s unflinching patriotism and loyalty to the flag, the country’s foreign military interventions, sometimes disastrous, other times not, its religious devotion and its long drawn out, highly public elections, all form part of the uniquely American character.

In this documentary, Mike Williams asks what makes up the identity of an American. At Ellis Island in New York, he will explore the setting which greeted generations of European immigrants who made the country a melting pot. He will visit the Alamo in Texas and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to draw on America’s myths and legends and ask how a unique devotion to the Constitution has evolved into a devout and demonstrative patriotism which seems ubiquitous in all walks of life. And, he will look at the ever present issues of race and wealth and ask if they still determine the identity each citizen has placed upon them.

(Image: Crowds at the Veterans Day ceremony in Washington DC/ Credit: Win McNamee/Getty)

US National Anthem sung by Lady Antebellum at the 2010 Sugar Bowl

As part of the BBC World Service “Identity? season The Why Factor explores how the one of the fundamental tenets of our personal make up, our national identity.

Few countries have a stronger sense of themselves than the United States of America and few are so strongly drawn in the minds of people right across the world. The ubiquity of McDonalds, America’s unflinching patriotism and loyalty to the flag, the country’s foreign military interventions, sometimes disastrous, other times not, its religious devotion and its long drawn out, highly public elections, all form part of the uniquely American character.

In this documentary, Mike Williams asks what makes up the identity of an American. At Ellis Island in New York, he will explore the setting which greeted generations of European immigrants who made the country a melting pot. He will visit the Alamo in Texas and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to draw on America’s myths and legends and ask how a unique devotion to the Constitution has evolved into a devout and demonstrative patriotism which seems ubiquitous in all walks of life. And, he will look at the ever present issues of race and wealth and ask if they still determine the identity each citizen has placed upon them.

(Image: Crowds at the Veterans Day ceremony in Washington DC/ Credit: Win McNamee/Getty)

US National Anthem sung by Lady Antebellum at the 2010 Sugar Bowl

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)

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)

Loyalty2015011720150118 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why are we loyal, and who are we really loyal to?

Who are you loyal to? Your family, partner, employer? Why? Mike Williams talks to people whose loyalty has been challenged – from the wife of an unfaithful husband, to a doctor who blew the whistle on her employers. Are we ultimately only really loyal to ourselves?

A Catholic priest argues that it is better to be committed to values than loyal to superiors. Mike also hears how loyalty can be created to get people to kill – such as in the military.

(Photo: A loyal dog looks up to his master. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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)

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.

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)

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)

Machines And Morals20180402
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)

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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20130603 (WS)

Why millions of women - and some men - paint their faces

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 has 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: A man applying mascara to his eyelashes. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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)

Why do men crave friendships with other men?

From the Obama – Biden bromance to the transformative experience of the men’s group, in this programme presenter 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)

From the Obama – Biden bromance to the transformative experience of the men’s group, in this programme presenter 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)

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)
20121231 (WS)

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)

Manners20121229
Manners20121231

The strange customs and conduct that make up \u2018good manners\u2019. 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)

Masks2014011720140118 (WS)
20140120 (WS)

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

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.

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

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

: 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)
20150101 (WS)

How do we remember the dead and why does it matter?

How do we remember the dead and why does it matter? Mike Williams considers the promise of so many nations never to forget the death and suffering of World War One, and explores 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

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)

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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20130909 (WS)

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)

Men Only2018031220180313 ()
20180313 (WS)

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?

Beliefs about language and gender are everywhere; we are told that women apologise more, men interrupt more, women talk more, that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But are any of these things true? Why do so many people believe them?

Catherine Carr speaks to leading linguiss Deborah Cameron and Janet Holmes, who have studied thousands of conversations and gathered data to discover the truth. She also interviews one of the most senior women in technology, Nicola Mendelsohn from Facebook, to discover how stereotypes impact women in leadership roles.

(Photo: Donald Trump listens behind Hillary Clinton as she answers a question Credit: Reuters)

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)

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)

Monogamy2013082320130824 (WS)
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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 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?

Mountains2013080920130810 (WS)
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What draws people to mountains and take risks scaling dangerous peaks?

For the last few hundred years, humans have tried to scale ever more dangerous peaks. But why do they do it? Mike Williams travels to the Alps to find out. He speaks to skilled climbers including the son of American mountaineer John Harlin II, who died trying to scale the north face of the savage Eiger in Switzerland.

Why do they take such risks and what do they get out of it?

(Image: North Face of the Eiger Mountain in the Swiss Alps. BBC Copyright)

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

Nationality2015071020150712 (WS)
20150713 (WS)

How would you define yours and how much does it matter?

How would you describe your nationality and how much does it matter? When did we start defining ourselves by where we are from and why? And how does our nationality affect who we are?

The concept of nationality, historically very specific, is becoming increasingly fluid. More and more people: for economic reasons, for love and increasingly to escape conflict, leave the countries they were born in.

Mike Williams explores what nationality means to us today by attending a British Citizenship ceremony in London. He speaks to the new citizens from all over the world, to find out why they wanted to become British and to discover how that decision has affected their own personal sense of nationality.

He finds out about the history of the modern ‘nation state’ and considers the sporting world where athletes often compete for a different country from the one they were born in.

Finally, what is it like not to have a nationality? Mike speaks to two men who have spent their lives stateless due to the partition of India in 1947.

Produced by Rose de Larrabeiti

Photo: one of the new Citizens getting their certificate confirming their new British Nationality. Credit: Click Print Photos

News20170821

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?

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

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)

Nitrogen: Forgetting Fritz2013010420130105 (WS)
20130107 (WS)

Why have we forgotten Fritz Haber?

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 also used science to prolong the First World War where tens of thousands met a dreadful end.

With Mike Williams.

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

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)
20131230 (WS)

Fritz Haber harnessed nitrogen to feed billions, but was also the pioneer of gas warfare

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)

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)

Why has one of the world’s most important scientists - Fritz Haber - been forgotten?

Noise2018011520180116 (WS)

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

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)

Nostalgia2013092720130928 (WS)
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20130930 (WS)

Why do we look back and yearn for the past, or recall sweet memories of our youth?

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.

(Image of holiday makers waving at the seaside in 1930. Credit: Getty Images)

Nudity2014120620141207 (WS)

Why does the naked human form provoke such strong reactions?

We are all born naked, yet there is a taboo about displaying naked bodies in public. Societies around the world have established conventions about who may see what, when and where. So why does the naked human form provoke such strong reactions?

A fully-clothed Mike Williams visits a life drawing class, speaks to the founder of a topless protest group, and hears from an academic about how the former East German government tried, but ultimately failed, to ban public nudism.

(Photo: Tourists look at David by Michelangelo in Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, Italy. Credit: Lornet/Shutterstock)

Open Plan Offices2013021520130216 (WS)
20130218 (WS)

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)

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, 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)
20131111 (WS)

Why do some people have a darker outlook on life while others have a brighter one?

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)

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?

It has become quite a common thing but when you think of it, it is 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 transplants but many more are still waiting. In the United States alone more than 120,000 are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. For many people, that life-saving operation will have to wait until someone else dies.

Mike Williams talks to a surgeon in the United States, a doctor in Israel whose direct action led to an improvement in donation rates, a daughter who gave a kidney to her father and a man who altruistically donated a kidney 20 years after a family tragedy.

(Photo: Man and daughter smilling. Credit: Nicholas Evans)

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 transplants… but many more are still waiting… Demand outstrips supply. In the United States alone more than 120,000 are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. And, for many people, that life-saving operation will have to wait until someone else dies.

Mike Williams talks to a surgeon in the United States, a doctor in Israel whose direct action led to an improvement in donation rates, a daughter who gave a kidney to her father and a man who altruistically donated a kidney 20 years after a family tragedy.

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Ben Carter

(Photo: Man and daughter smilling. Credit: Nicholas Evans - personal photo)

Pain2018021220180213 (WS)

The 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)

Perfume2014122020141221 (WS)

Why do we use perfume and what does it say about us?

For centuries perfume has been used to show status and wealth, for medicinal and for religious reasons and the global business is now worth tens of billions of dollars a year. So why do we still perfume ourselves? What image are we trying project when we use a fragrance that emanates from our bodies and permeates the air? Mike Williams talks to a historian, an archaeologist, a 'nose' and a business analyst to find out. He also learns how to make Eau de Cologne.

(Photo: A craftswoman works on a perfume bottle at a fragrance workshop in Paris. Credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Pets2013050320130504 (WS)
20130505 (WS)
20130506 (WS)

Why do we live with cats and dogs?

Why do we live with cats and dogs? Mike Williams meets cat and dog owners in Kenya and North Wales to find out what the real nature of the relationship with our furry friends is. Where did they come from? Why do we become so attached to non-humans? Can they love us back?

Mike talks to psychologist Sam Gosling who has studied whether there really are cat and dog people. And he questions whether the relationship is really all about fluffy cuteness – could there be a dark side to our keeping of pets? Human geographer Yi Fu Tuan thinks so.

Produced by Lucy Proctor.

(Image of an owner kissing her pet cat. Credit AFP/Getty Images)

Plane, Train and Bird Spotting20181029

Why do people love plane, train and bird spotting?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Plane, Train and Bird Spotting2018102920181030 (WS)

Why do people love plane, train and bird spotting?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Pleasure: Why We Like The Things We Like2016021220160215 (WS)

The science of pleasure and why we like the things that we like

Why do we like the things that we like? At the root of it is 3, 4 -Dihydroxyphenethylamine - or Dopamine - a chemical produced by the nerve cells in the brain to signal to others. But as Mike Williams finds out our pleasure circuit can be triggered by some obvious and not so obvious things.

(Photo: a young woman listens to music on headphones. Credit to Shutterstock)

Why do we like the things that we like? At the root of it is 3, 4 -Dihydroxyphenethylamine - or Dopamine - a chemical produced by the nerve cells in the brain to signal to others. But as Mike Williams finds out our pleasure circuit can be triggered by some obvious and not so obvious things.

(Photo: a young woman listens to music on headphones. Credit to Shutterstock)

Poetry2014111520141116 (WS)

Why do we read, or write poetry, as opposed to prose?

Jo Fidgen asks why we read, or write poetry, as opposed to prose? What can poetry do that prose can’t? And why do we respond to poetry in a way that we don’t respond to prose? Jo talks to award-winning American poet Jane Hirshfield, to Cambridge cognitive neuroscientist Usha Goswami, to Brazilian “cordel” poetry expert Paulo Lumatti and to Rachel Kelly, author of Black Rainbow, who found poetry helped her recover from severe depression, and now reads poems in workshops with prisoners and others.

(Image: A poet writes before a poetry performance at a club in New York. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Jo Fidgen asks why we read, or write poetry, as opposed to prose? What can poetry do that prose can’t? And why do we respond to poetry in a way that we don’t respond to prose? Jo talks to award-winning American poet Jane Hirshfield, to Cambridge cognitive neuroscientist Usha Goswami, to Brazilian “cordel? poetry expert Paulo Lumatti and to Rachel Kelly, author of Black Rainbow, who found poetry helped her recover from severe depression, and now reads poems in workshops with prisoners and others.

(Image: A poet writes before a poetry performance at a club in New York. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Polygamy2017062620170627 (WS)

Why would anyone share their husband or wife with another partner?

When many people struggle to maintain one relationship, why do some people enter into multiple simultaneous marriages? Lucy Ash speaks to polygamists around the world to find out why they were drawn to these complex arrangements and how they manage them.
Lucy hears about rotas, hierarchies and curfews from the stars of a popular South African reality TV show about a businessman, his four wives and their ten children. The creator of a dating website in Gaza explains why many of his clients are looking for second or third wives. A woman who left her Mormon plural marriage in the American state of Utah tells how having to share her husband with a sister wife had a devastating impact on her mental health. What about polyandry – one woman marrying multiple men? Anthropologist Katie Starkweather explains why some societies have favoured it.

(Photo: Models on wedding cake, Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Portrait Photography2015011020150111 (WS)

Why do we want to capture human faces?

From the first photographic portraits captured in the 1830s to the “selfies” of today, we seem fascinated by images of the human face. Mike Williams asks if it is simple vanity or something deeper; perhaps an attempt to learn how other people see us or a desire to capture something of ourselves that may live on when we are gone.

Produced by Smita Patel

(Photo: Old black and white and sepia photos at a flea market in Paris, France. Credit: Shutterstock)

Privacy2014022820140301 (WS)
20140303 (WS)

Why is privacy so important to us?

Although we assume a natural right to privacy, we readily give it away on our mobile phones and on social media websites. So as technology alters the very definition of what privacy is and the science of surveillance becomes ever more acute, is the idea of privacy little more than a quaint last-century notion? Mike Williams traces its history, and ponders what a society without privacy might look like.

(Image: Girls peer through a crack in the door. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

: Although we assume a natural right to privacy, we readily give it away on our mobile phones and on social media websites. So as technology alters the very definition of what privacy is and the science of surveillance becomes ever more acute is the idea of privacy little more than a quaint last century notion? Mike Williams traces its history, and ponders what a society without privacy might look like.

(Image: Girls peer through a crack in the door. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Protest2014091220140913 (WS)
20140915 (WS)

What brings people out into the streets to take direct action against the powerful?

Ptsd2013030220130304 (WS)

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and why is it so controversial?

This week we’ll explore Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD. What is it? And why is it so controversial?

Many people in the world are exposed to extraordinary, traumatic events- wars, earthquakes, accidents and crime. Most recover in time but, for some, the trauma takes over their lives, leaving them unable to function.

Mike Williams talks to a war veteran and a tsunami survivor, who tell their stories of how they came to be diagnosed with PTSD. But do the public know what this diagnosis really is? Or has it been confused with a broader term for anyone who has suffered a trauma? Is it a useful diagnosis across cultures?

(Image of French soldiers in vietnam. Credit:STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do humans respond differently to trauma?

Why do humans respond differently to trauma? This week Mike talks to a war veteran who has suffered from PTSD and has now recovered; he speaks to psychiatrists and looks back to find out how humans have coped with traumatic events in the past.

Through time and across cultures, humans have witnessed terrible events, wars, violence and torture. Did they have what we might today call PTSD? What started out as a condition for returning war veterans has spread across the world to survivors of earthquakes to road traffic accidents but how useful a label is it?

This week we’ll explore Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD. What is it? And why is it so controversial?

Many people in the world are exposed to extraordinary, traumatic events- wars, earthquakes, accidents and crime. Most recover in time but, for some, the trauma takes over their lives, leaving them unable to function.

Mike Williams talks to a war veteran and a tsunami survivor, who tell their stories of how they came to be diagnosed with PTSD. But do the public know what this diagnosis really is? Or has it been confused with a broader term for anyone who has suffered a trauma? Is it a useful diagnosis across cultures?

(Image of French soldiers in vietnam. Credit:STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Racism2014041120140412 (WS)
20140414 (WS)

Why are people racist and judged by the colour of their skin?

Why are some people racist and judge others by the colour of their skin? Is it some deep seated fear of the ‘other’ which has roots in genetic and cultural difference or are exposure to artificial factors constructed by politicians and the media to blame?

This week's Why Factor with presenter Jo Fidgeon explores the experience of racism around the world and in different societies. She finds out about the personal experiences of racism and how it affects peoples’ everyday lives. She also begins to understand how racism is perpetuated through generations and cemented through institutional racism.

(Image: Members of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan participate in a neo-Nazi rally. Credit: Associated Press)

Why are people racist and judged by the colour of their skin? Is it some deep seated fear of the ‘other’ which has roots in genetic and cultural difference or is exposure to artificial factors constructed by politicians and the media to blame?

Today’s ‘Why Factor’ with presenter Jo Fidgeon explores the experience of racism around the world and in different societies and discover the genetics behind race. She finds out about the personal experiences of racism and how it affects peoples’ everyday lives. She also begins to understand how racism is perpetuated through generations and cemented through institutional racism.

Radio Requests2016041520160418 (WS)

Music fans and radio stations from Mexico to Myanmar explain the appeal of radio requests

When there are so many ways in the world we can listen to music, why does getting your request played on a radio station feel universally so special and exciting? Gemma Cairney speaks to music fans and radio stations from Mexico to Myanmar. They tell us why a request can bring so many people together and sometimes leave even listeners and DJs in tears.

And, we find out how radio stations across the world are finding new ways to allow song requests to interact with their audiences and keep them tuning in.

(Photo: Country cowboys in Uganda. Photo Credit: Will Boase)

When there are so many ways in the world we can listen to music, why does getting your request played on a radio station feel universally so special and exciting? Gemma Cairney speaks to music fans and radio stations from Mexico to Myanmar. They tell us why a request can bring so many people together and sometimes leave even listeners and DJs in tears.

And, we find out how radio stations across the world are finding new ways to allow song requests to interact with their audiences and keep them tuning in.

(Photo: Country cowboys in Uganda. Photo Credit: Will Boase)

Regret2017011320170115 (WS)
20170116 (WS)

Why do we feel regret \u2013 is it right to live with it, or should we get over our mistakes?

Regret – why do we feel this negative emotion? Is it right to live with it, or should we simply get over our mistakes of the past?

Mike Williams speaks to a palliative care nurse who recorded the regrets of the dying, and the man with 50,000 regrets, all entrusted to him by anonymous strangers who have confessed the biggest regrets of their lives on his website.

(Photo: Statue of woman with head in hand. Credit: Cheryl E. Davis/Shutterstock)

Why do we feel regret – is it right to live with it, or should we get over our mistakes?

– why do we feel this negative emotion? Is it right to live with it, or should we simply get over our mistakes of the past?

Mike Williams speaks to a palliative care nurse who recorded the regrets of the dying, and the man with 50,000 regrets, all entrusted to him by anonymous strangers who have confessed the biggest regrets of their lives on his website.

(Photo: Statue of woman with head in hand. Credit: Cheryl E. Davis/Shutterstock)

Rejecting Riches2015021420150215 (WS)

Why do some people give the vast majority of their money away?

Why do some people refuse to be rich? The lottery winner who gave it all away, the vegetable stall holder who never allowed herself to accumulate wealth, and the businessman who sold his big house and flashy car to set up a Christian project in Uganda tell their stories.

(Photo: Hands holding money. Credit: Momentstock)

The music in this programme has been changed from the original broadcast.

Restaurants2018040920180410 (WS)

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

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 and Chloe Hadjimatheou

(Image: Restaurant Interior: Credit: Shutterstock)

Retirement2013033020130401 (WS)

Why do we retire?

The idea of retirement is historically new. But with widespread demographic changes now meaning that many of us are expected to live into our eighties and beyond, how much sense does it make to stop people working when they reach their mid-sixties? Mike Williams looks at retirement asks how we might re-think this period of our lives.

(Image of a carpenter working in his workshop. Credit AFP/Getty Images)

The idea of retirement, when after a life’s work was a time to take it easy and enjoy the fruits of your labour, is new, but is it just a temporary one? Why should people be forced to stop working in their mid to late sixties? Does it realty make any sense any more?With widespread demographic changes meaning that most of us will live longer, Mike Williams asks how we might re-think this period of our lives.

(Image of a carpenter working in his workshop. Credit AFP/Getty Images)

Returning Home2017061920170620 (WS)

Why do foreign migrants yearn to go home and does returning make them happy if they do?

Why do foreign migrants yearn to go home and what happens when they do? Some have had no choice, but others are influenced by nostalgia for their early lives. Or sometimes by disillusionment with their adopted country. When they go back, can the old country live up to their hopes and dreams? Shivaani hears emotional tales from those returning to Jamaica, Sierra Leone, India and Ghana.

(Image: Empire Windrush, Credit: Getty Images)

Revenge2016120920161211 (WS)
20161212 (WS)

Why did this type of aggressive behaviour evolve? And what purpose does it serve?

The desire for vengeance – to harm those who’ve harmed you - is part of human nature. Whether it’s getting your own back on a cheating partner or settling a score with a childhood bully, many of us have considered retribution against the person who’s done us wrong. Yet often we decide not to act on that instinct.

So what motivates someone to take revenge and why did this kind of aggressive behaviour evolve? Mike Williams talks to a perpetrator who found it sweet and hears the tragic story of a victim of impossibly cruel revenge.

Contributors:
“Annie”, who took revenge
Michael McCullough, Professor of Psychology, Miami University
Dr David Chester, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Sarah Heatley, mother of Nina and Jack
Philippe Sands QC, International Human Rights lawyer and author, East West Street
Professor Jack Levin, Co-Director, Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Presenter: Mike Williams
Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: White Voodoo doll with red pins on cork background. Credit: Shutterstock/Scott Rothstein)

The desire for vengeance – to harm those who’ve harmed you - is part of human nature. Whether it’s getting your own back on a cheating partner or settling a score with a childhood bully, many of us have considered retribution against the person who’s done us wrong. Yet often we decide not to act on that instinct.

So what motivates someone to take revenge and why did this kind of aggressive behaviour evolve? Mike Williams talks to a perpetrator who found it sweet and hears the tragic story of a victim of impossibly cruel revenge.

Contributors:

“Annie?, who took revenge

Michael McCullough, Professor of Psychology, Miami University

Dr David Chester, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University

Sarah Heatley, mother of Nina and Jack

Philippe Sands QC, International Human Rights lawyer and author, East West Street

Professor Jack Levin, Co-Director, Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: White Voodoo doll with red pins on cork background. Credit: Shutterstock/Scott Rothstein)

Rhetoric20181008

What can the social media generation learn from the ancient art of persuasion?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Rhetoric2018100820181009 (WS)

What can the social media generation learn from the ancient art of persuasion?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Rhetoric2018100820181009 (WS)

What can the social media generation learn from the ancient art of persuasion?

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Risking Life For Strangers2014091920140920 (WS)
20140922 (WS)

Would you risk your life for a stranger?

Why would someone risk their life for a stranger? Why would a 54-year-old Englishwoman leave her home, her son, her grandchildren and travel nearly 5000 miles (8000 km) to the Ebola hot-zone of West Africa? Why did Cokie van der Velde do it twice? And why is she doing it again?

The deadly Ebola virus has spread through West Africa and threatens to spread further. It has claimed nearly 2,500 lives. The World Health Organisation says the health crisis is unparalleled in modern times, and that the death toll could eventually be in the tens of thousands. The United States has plans to send up to 3000 troops to help combat the epidemic.

On the Why Factor this week, Cokie van der Velde tells Mike Williams about conditions on a Liberian Ebola ward and about the fear she feels as she cleans bodily fluids from the floors and puts the victims into body-bags. It’s an experience which has forced her to reassess her attitude to death - the death of her patients and her own.

Produced by Neal Razzell

(Image of Cokie van der Velde in Guinea. Photo Credit: Medecins Sans Frontieres)

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 victims to online romance frauds

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)

Running2014010320140104 (WS)
20140106 (WS)

In the UK, running is increasing in popularity. So why are we running now more than ever?

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 or rising life expectancy? Mike Williams, not exactly a natural runner, tests out these theories and is persuaded to try barefoot running himself.

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

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.

Sad Music2013092020130921 (WS)
20130922 (WS)
20130923 (WS)

has become more popular according to a recent study. Why do people listen to it?

Helena Merriman asks why people listen to sad music. A recent study has shown that sad music has become increasingly popular, but why do people choose to listen to it, and what goes on in the brain and the body when they do so?

Helena speaks to Japanese pianist and music researcher Dr Ai Kawakami who has some surprising answers about some of the positive feelings people experience when they listen to sad music. American writer Amanda Stern tells Helena why she regularly listens (and cries) to sad music and British composer Debbie Wiseman, known for her moving TV and film scores, explains what makes a piece of music sound sad.

You’ll also hear pieces of sad music suggested by BBC listeners from all over the world.

(Photo: A woman with headphones on, listening to sad music. BBC Copyright)

Sad Music2015013120150201 (WS)

has become more popular according to a recent study. Why do people listen to it?

A recent study has shown that sad music has become increasingly popular, but why do people choose to listen to it, and what goes on in the brain and the body when they do so?

Helena Merriman speaks to Japanese pianist and music researcher Dr Ai Kawakami who has some surprising answers about some of the positive feelings people experience when they listen to sad music. American writer Amanda Stern tells Helena why she regularly listens (and cries) to sad music and British composer Debbie Wiseman, known for her moving TV and film scores, explains what makes a piece of music sound sad.

You’ll also hear pieces of sad music suggested by BBC listeners from all over the world.

(Photo: A woman with headphones on, listening to sad music. BBC copyright)

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)

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)

School Reunions2018071620180717 (WS)

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)

Secrets2013110120131102 (WS)
20131104 (WS)

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

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?

Secrets2013111520131116 (WS)
20131118 (WS)

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)

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

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)

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)

Self-marriage2018051420180515 (WS)

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?

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)

Serial Killers2017102320171024 (WS)

Why do many of us find serial killers and their crimes so intriguing?

Serial killers and their terrible high profile crimes have spawned a massive global industry... feature films, documentaries, TV series, books, magazine profiles, hit podcasts and video games. But why do many of us find serial killers so intriguing? Is it their psychology or the gory details of their murders? Becky Milligan explores the dark world of the serial killer and asks if any of us could be one.

(Image: Dark city alley, Credit: Shutterstock)

Serial killers and their terrible high profile crimes have spawned a massive global industry... feature films, documentaries, TV series, books, magazine profiles, hit podcasts and video games. But why do many of us find serial killers so intriguing? Is it their psychology or the gory details of their murders? Becky Milligan explores the dark world of the serial killer and asks if any of us could be one.

Sharing2014121320141214 (WS)

Why do we share? And, what happens inside our brains when we do?

Why do we share? What makes it different from giving? And what does it have to do with strategy and impulse control? Mike talks to the scientist Nikolaus Steinbeis who found out which region of the brain is active when we share and why small children have problems with that. He visits the Redfield Community in the north of London, where over 20 people share a household and he discusses with a young 'couchsurfer' and a software specialist from the Linux foundation about the pros and cons of sharing.

(Photo: Two teenage girls lying on the grass sharing headphones. Credit: Shutterstock)

Short2017042420170425 (WS)

Why do some short people lie about their height?

Why do some short people lie about their height? How much difference does a few inches make? Felicity Evans is 5 foot (152 cm) tall. That’s 5 inches shorter than the average woman in the UK. In this edition, she examines whether society discriminates against short people and if so, why? She asks what’s it like being shorter than normal and how it affects your self-confidence, career choice and overall happiness.

She talks to Joe Mangano, who at 5’4” hasn’t grown since he was 15 years old. He describes how it feels to be treated like a child.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Dror Paley, explains how he makes patients taller by breaking then lengthening their legs.

Felicity meets Vince Graff (5 foot 2”) who shares his experience of finding love and happiness, despite being well below average height; and Isobella Jade, known as the ‘shortest working model in New York City’, offers her advice on how to be successful despite being at least 6 inches shorter than the average catwalk model.

The programme also hears from Tim Frayling, Professor of Human Genetics at Exeter University and Lance Workman, Professor of Psychology at the University of South Wales.

Presenter: Felicity Evans
Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Graphic illustration of the height measurement of a tall and short person. Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Why do some short people lie about their height? How much difference does a few inches make? Felicity Evans is 5 foot (152 cm) tall. That’s 5 inches shorter than the average woman in the UK. In this edition, she examines whether society discriminates against short people and if so, why? She asks what’s it like being shorter than normal and how it affects your self-confidence, career choice and overall happiness.

She talks to Joe Mangano, who at 5’4? hasn’t grown since he was 15 years old. He describes how it feels to be treated like a child.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Dror Paley, explains how he makes patients taller by breaking then lengthening their legs.

Felicity meets Vince Graff (5 foot 2?) who shares his experience of finding love and happiness, despite being well below average height; and Isobella Jade, known as the ‘shortest working model in New York City’, offers her advice on how to be successful despite being at least 6 inches shorter than the average catwalk model.

The programme also hears from Tim Frayling, Professor of Human Genetics at Exeter University and Lance Workman, Professor of Psychology at the University of South Wales.

Presenter: Felicity Evans

Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Graphic illustration of the height measurement of a tall and short person. Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Sibling Birth Order2018040220180403 (WS)

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

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)

Sign Language2017073120170801 (WS)

Lee Kumutat explores why deaf people are divided on the significance of Sign Language

Every country in the world has at least one Sign Language. Each is a complete communication system with its own grammar, lexicon and structure and has evolved over centuries, just like their verbal counterparts.
Although many have legal status under disability legislation, only four have been given the status of a recognised official language.
But not everyone who is deaf uses sign language, and not everyone who uses sign language is deaf.
There is a debate in deaf communities as to whether they have ‘hearing loss’ or ‘deaf gain’
Why do some people view deafness as a disability, while others celebrate it as a cultural inheritance?
Some deaf rights campaigners say that Sign language is a signifier of belonging to a Deaf community, with a rich cultural legacy.
But does the choice to use hearing aids and cochlear implants to help use verbal language really mean a rejection a deaf culture and a deaf identity – or a practical way to integrate with a predominantly hearing world?

(Image: Smiling mother signing with child, Credit: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock)

Presenter: Lee Kumutat

Silence2013030820130309 (WS)
20130311 (WS)

What role does silence play in our lives and why can it be so poignant or so awkward?

What role does silence play in our increasingly noisy lives? Why can silences be so poignant or so awkward? Strangely for radio, the programme will contain lots of silence… and the thoughts of musicians, scientists, religious thinkers and others.

(Image: The inside of the anechoic chamber room, one of the quietest rooms on earth. Credit: BBC Copyright)

This week: what role does silence play in our lives?

This week: What role does silence play in our increasingly noisy lives?

Why can silences be so poignant or so awkward?

Strangely for radio, the programme will contain lots of silence… and the thoughts of musicians, scientists, religious thinkers and others.

Singing2013041920130420 (WS)
20130421 (WS)
20130422 (WS)

is a way of bringing people together, expressing joy or sadness. Why do we sing?

It’s something that all individuals and societies have done for millions of years. But why do we sing? Today singing is a way of bringing people together, expressing joy, sadness and almost every emotion. Is there an evolutionary reason why and how humans developed the complex vocal structures involved in singing?

Mike Williams talks to biologists, voice coaches and vocalists to find out.

(Image of Chinese women singing in a choir in Chongqing, China. Credit Getty Images)

Why do we sing?

It’s something that all individuals and societies have done for millions of years. But why do we sing? Today singing is a way of bringing people together, expressing joy, sadness and almost every emotion. Is there an evolutionary reason why and how humans developed the complex vocal structures involved in singing?

Mike Williams talks to biologists, voice coaches and vocalists to find out.

(Image of Chinese women singing in a choir in Chongqing, China. Credit Getty Images)

Skyscrapers2015022820150301 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why we build tall buildings

In every city in the world there is a viewing platform where you can gaze down upon the place from on-high. But why do we like to build tall and be high – what is it about standing tall and defying gravity that matters so much? Are Skyscrapers simply about vanity or are there practical and even spiritual reasons why we want to build so high? Mike Williams ventures up the Shard, the tallest building in London, with its architect Renzo Piano. He talks to Blair Kamin, Architecture Critic at the Chicago Tribune – the city that brought us the skyscraper, as well as experts Daniel Safarik, from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and Dr. Phillip Oldfield, from the University of Nottingham.

Produced by Wesley Stephenson

(Photo: The Sears Tower rises above the skyline in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Sleep2013031520130316 (WS)
20130318 (WS)

The first of two programmes which looks at human behaviour and sleep.

The first of two programmes which looks at human behaviour and sleep

Why do we Sleep?
At first glance, it seems a silly question but actually it is one that’s been baffling scientists for decades. We spend a third of our lives asleep, but sleep science hasn’t got much further than being sure that we sleep because we get sleepy.

As Mike falls into a deep slumber to the sound of his own recording voice, we will find out exactly what happens when we sleep, from circadian clocks to sleep spindles to the famous REM, and how we have thought about this dark and private side of our lives across ages and cultures.

We explore conflicting theories about the purpose of sleep. One theory is that we developed our sleep patterns to allow our body and mind to repair itself at night. While we know our body grows and heals while we sleep, we know much less about what our brain is doing and a century after Freud and Jung’s explanations, we’re still far from scientific consensus on what dreams are for. Are we consolidating memories? Are we rehearsing our responses to threatening situations? Or is it all random imagery created by an organ that is designed to be awake and can never fully shut down? Another theory is that while our bodies use the opportunity while we are asleep for restoration, it is not why we evolved to sleep around eight hours a day. Could it be as simple as we sleep because our ancestors didn’t need to be awake any longer?

(Photo of actress Joan Gardner asleep in November 1933. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do we Sleep?

At first glance, it seems a silly question but actually it is one that’s been baffling scientists for decades. We spend a third of our lives asleep, but sleep science hasn’t got much further than being sure that we sleep because we get sleepy.

As Mike falls into a deep slumber to the sound of his own recording voice, we will find out exactly what happens when we sleep, from circadian clocks to sleep spindles to the famous REM, and how we have thought about this dark and private side of our lives across ages and cultures.

We explore conflicting theories about the purpose of sleep. One theory is that we developed our sleep patterns to allow our body and mind to repair itself at night. While we know our body grows and heals while we sleep, we know much less about what our brain is doing and a century after Freud and Jung’s explanations, we’re still far from scientific consensus on what dreams are for. Are we consolidating memories? Are we rehearsing our responses to threatening situations? Or is it all random imagery created by an organ that is designed to be awake and can never fully shut down? Another theory is that while our bodies use the opportunity while we are asleep for restoration, it is not why we evolved to sleep around 8 hours a day. Could it be as simple as we sleep because our ancestors didn’t need to be awake any longer?

(Photo of actress Joan Gardner asleep in November 1933. Credit: Getty Images)

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)

Smiling2017021720170219 (WS)
20170220 (WS)

Whether a toothy grin, a megawatt beam or a faint curve of the lips, why do we smile?

It’s probably something we take for granted and do every day - whether a toothy grin, a megawatt beam or just a slight upturn of the corners of the mouth. But have you ever considered why we smile and what effect is has on other people? Scientists say it’s one of our most basic human expressions and it’s easier to smile than to frown. Aasmah Mir explores the power of the smile, how easy it is to fake and what happens when you lose the ability to smile.

Aasmah discusses the science behind a smile with Marianne LaFrance, professor of psychology at Yale university and with neuropsychologist, Dr Hamira Riaz.

She talks to Jonathan Kalb, professor of theatre at Hunter College, City University of New York, who lost his smile overnight, and speaks to 16-year-old Teegan O’Reilly from Dublin, Ireland, who was born with a rare neurological condition which means she can never smile.

Aasmah also hears from Dr Subodh Kumar Singh, director of GS Memorial Plastic Surgery Hospital in Varanasi, who has created thousands of smiles at his hospital in India. And meets photographer Rick Pushinsky, who reveals what happened when the wife of a former British prime minister smiled too much.

(Photo: Smiling mouth. Credit: Thinkstock)

It’s probably something we take for granted and do every day - whether a toothy grin, a megawatt beam or just a slight upturn of the corners of the mouth. But have you ever considered why we smile and what effect is has on other people? Scientists say it’s one of our most basic human expressions and it’s easier to smile than to frown. Aasmah Mir explores the power of the smile, how easy it is to fake and what happens when you lose the ability to smile.

Aasmah discusses the science behind a smile with Marianne LaFrance, professor of psychology at Yale university and with neuropsychologist, Dr Hamira Riaz.

She talks to Jonathan Kalb, professor of theatre at Hunter College, City University of New York, who lost his smile overnight; and speaks to 16 year-old Teegan O’Reilly from Dublin, Ireland, who was born with a rare neurological condition which means she can never smile.

Aasmah also hears from Dr Subodh Kumar Singh, director of GS Memorial Plastic Surgery Hospital in Varanasi, who has created thousands of smiles at his hospital in India. And meets photographer Rick Pushinsky, who reveals what happened when the wife of a former British prime minister smiled too much.

(Photo: Man in swimming shorts, smiling with his thumb up leaning against a window. Credit: Rick Pushinsky)

Solitude2013112220131123 (WS)
20131125 (WS)

How far can or should we pursue solitude?

Solitude - time on our own – has had a bad press. It’s certainly becoming more common in many parts of the globe, as seen in the increasing numbers choosing to live alone. But it’s easily confused with loneliness, or demonised as weird or threatening in the form of ‘the loner’.

So how far can or should we pursue solitude? How does it relate to our hyper-connected world?

We hear from a ‘semi-hermit’ on how she lives her life, a survivor of solitary confinement who also feared compulsory company, a champion of ‘the loner’s manifesto’ and an expert on global solo living.

(Image: A lonely man watches the sun-rise as he sits on top of a mountain. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

- time on our own – has had a bad press. It’s certainly becoming more common in many parts of the globe, as seen in the increasing numbers choosing to live alone. But it’s easily confused with loneliness, or demonised as weird or threatening in the form of ‘the loner’.

So how far can or should we pursue solitude? How does it relate to our hyper-connected world?

We hear from a ‘semi-hermit’ on how she lives her life, a survivor of solitary confinement who also feared compulsory company, a champion of ‘the loner’s manifesto’ and an expert on global solo living.

(Image: A lonely man watches the sun-rise as he sits on top of a mountain. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Williams discovers why many of us want to be alone.

Speed2013102520131026 (WS)
20131027 (WS)
20131028 (WS)

Why are we obsessed with speed? Mike Williams investigates.

The Manifesto of Futurism written in 1909 declared that “the splendour of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed!”

And the addiction has taken hold. So what is it about speed? A desire to lose control, a suppressed childishness or just the reality of 21st Century urban life? And what would the speed merchants of 1909 in their 190 km per hour roadsters make of today’s rocket propelled cars trying to reach 1600 km per hour?

Mike Williams meets the students of the Bloodhound club at Heathland School west London, Wing Commander Andy Green preparing himself to attempt a new land speed record in Bloodhound SSC and experiences a bit of speed for himself on the Mercedes Benz World test track.

(Image: RDC 500 mile motor race at Brooklands race track in Weybridge, Surrey 1929. Credit: Getty Images)

The Manifesto of Futurism written in 1909 declared that “the splendour of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed!?

And the addiction has taken hold. So what is it about speed? A desire to lose control, a suppressed childishness or just the reality of 21st Century urban life? And what would the speed merchants of 1909 in their 190 km per hour roadsters make of today’s rocket propelled cars trying to reach 1600 km per hour?

Mike Williams meets the students of the Bloodhound club at Heathland School west London, Wing Commander Andy Green preparing himself to attempt a new land speed record in Bloodhound SSC and experiences a bit of speed for himself on the Mercedes Benz World test track.

(Image: RDC 500 mile motor race at Brooklands race track in Weybridge, Surrey 1929. Credit: Getty Images)

Stammering2017022420170226 (WS)
20170227 (WS)

Why does this speech disorder cause so much shame amongst the millions affected by it?

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)

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)

Statues: Why We Put People On Pedestals2016050620160509 (WS)

To some statues pay homage to gods, to others they are attempts at immortalising man

For thousands of years mankind has erected pillars of public art. Statues exist across almost every culture. To some they pay homage to gods, to others they are attempts at immortalising man. Their toppling has become a symbol of regime change. They are worshipped and prayed to, idolised and in some cases despised. They are a unique art form that has seemingly never gone out of vogue.

Lucy Ash explores the significance of these sculptures and speaks to Jasleen Kaur, a young artist whose art examines if history can be retold through art. In the UK, the Oxford University campaign to remove a statue of the controversial figure, Cecil Rhodes, has sparked a passionate debate around the way we view the past. In South Korea, she speaks to protest sculptors whose statue of a little girl outside of the Japanese embassy in Seoul almost derailed a 10-year Korean-Japanese relations agreement.

Lucy examines why societies insist on placing its people on pedestals. What are the motivations behind the commissioning of statues? And, what sentiment can they project onto a population? Why have the building of statues become pet projects for the politically powerful? And, can culture be exported across borders and can any statue really stand the test of time?

(Photo: Kim Seo-kyung (left) and Kim Eun-sung (right) sculptors of the 'Comfort Women' statue)

For thousands of years mankind has erected pillars of public art. Statues exist across almost every culture. To some they pay homage to gods, to others they are attempts at immortalising man. Their toppling has become a symbol of regime change. They are worshipped and prayed to, idolised and in some cases despised. They are a unique art form that has seemingly never gone out of vogue.

Lucy Ash explores the significance of these sculptures and speaks to Jasleen Kaur, a young artist whose art examines if history can be retold through art. In the UK, the Oxford University campaign to remove a statue of the controversial figure, Cecil Rhodes, has sparked a passionate debate around the way we view the past. In South Korea, she speaks to protest sculptors whose statue of a little girl outside of the Japanese embassy in Seoul almost derailed a 10-year Korean-Japanese relations agreement.

Lucy examines why societies insist on placing its people on pedestals. What are the motivations behind the commissioning of statues? And, what sentiment can they project onto a population? Why have the building of statues become pet projects for the politically powerful? And, can culture be exported across borders and can any statue really stand the test of time?

(Photo: Kim Seo-kyung (left) and Kim Eun-sung (right) sculptors of the 'Comfort Women' statue)

Status2018070220180703 (WS)

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

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)

Staying Put2017100920171010 (WS)

Why do people decide to stay put when faced with a natural disaster?

When Hurricanes’ Harvey and Irma made landfall in America, hitting Houston and Florida respectively, people who lived in the predicted paths of these devastating storms faced an agonising choice – should they leave their homes or stay put. The Authorities and news media were warning people about the dangers of the storms, yet despite that some people decided to stay. Shivaani Kohok asks why, when natural disaster is imminent, do some people decide not to leave?

The reliability of warnings about the storm – and previous experiences – explains why some people do not heed official advice or instructions, according to Judith Fox, from the University of Denver, Colorada.

On the slopes of Mount Etna, Chiara Vigo has a vineyard which in 1981 was almost destroyed by a fast-moving eruption – the lava flow stopped metres short of the property. She explains why how she and her husband have restarted wine production – and how the family feel about living and working on the slopes of an active volcano. They have no option but to stay put.

(Image: Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma, Credit: Getty Images)

Sticky Songs2014050920140510 (WS)
20140512 (WS)

What makes snippets of popular songs go round and round in our heads?

What makes snippets of popular songs go round and round in our heads? Which songs are likely to be earworms or 'sticky songs' and what sort of person is most susceptible to them? If an earworm is driving you mad, how do you get rid of it? And what might the wider mental health benefits be of understanding where the mind goes when we let it off the leash?

(Image: Teenager listening to CD’s with headphones on)

What makes snippets of popular songs go round and round in our heads? Which songs are likely to be earworms or 'sticky songs' and what sort of person is most susceptible to them? If an earworm is driving you mad, how do you get rid of it? And what might the wider mental health benefits be of understanding where the mind goes when we let it off the leash?

(Image: Teenager listening to CD’s with headphones on)

What makes snippets of popular songs go round and round in our heads? Mike Williams explains

Suicide2015040320150405 (WS)
20150406 (WS)

Every year, across the world, around a million people take their own lives. But why?

The desire to live is strong in us humans. But it’s not always enough. Sometimes people fall so low that they can see only one way forward. And every year, across the world, around a million people take their own lives. Why?

The answers are as complex and numerous as the people themselves but, often, there are common features… and, by understanding these, it may be possible to help them.

Presenter: Mike Williams
Producer: Ben Carter

If you’ve been affected by this programme and would like to get help please visit: www.samaritans.org or www.befrienders.org

(Photo: Steve Mallen whose 18 year-old son Edward took his own life in February 2015. BBC Copyright)

Supernatural Powers2016031820160321 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why supernatural beliefs have such a hold over different societies

Juju, Evu, Witchcraft, the evil eye, Voodoo, black magic. There are many names for beliefs that supernatural forces can be harnessed by people who are out to cause harm. Harm to someone’s health, finances, relationships, even their political ambitions. Mike Williams asks why these beliefs still appear to have such a strong hold across different societies, crossing boundaries of wealth and education. And why some attempts to combat these “evil forces” might help in reinforcing fear in them. He speaks to Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku, anthropologists Dr Hermione Harris and Peter Geschiere, Line Mariani Playfair and campaigner Vicky Ntetema.

Produced by Bob Howard

(Photo: Human skull on a book next to the clock. Concept of black magic. Credit: Shutterstock)

Juju, Evu, Witchcraft, the evil eye, Voodoo, black magic. There are many names for beliefs that supernatural forces can be harnessed by people who are out to cause harm. Harm to someone’s health, finances, relationships, even their political ambitions. Mike Williams asks why these beliefs still appear to have such a strong hold across different societies, crossing boundaries of wealth and education. And why some attempts to combat these “evil forces? might help in reinforcing fear in them. He speaks to Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku, anthropologists Dr Hermione Harris and Peter Geschiere, Line Mariani Playfair and campaigner Vicky Ntetema.

Produced by Bob Howard

(Photo: Human skull on a book next to the clock. Concept of black magic. Credit: Shutterstock)

Surrogacy2017092520170926 (WS)

Why would a woman choose to carry a baby for a complete stranger?

Why would any woman choose to carry a baby for a total stranger? Modern medicine has enabled the childless to have a baby that’s blood-related, by using another woman to carry the pregnancy to term. But what does it feel like to hand over a child that’s been growing in your womb? And should money be involved? Some people condemn surrogacy as a dangerous industry that exploits the vulnerable. Others see it as a welcome solution to the heartache of infertility.

Mary-Ann Ochota explores the emotional and ethical complexities of surrogacy and meets women from around the world who’ve chosen to give birth to babies for others.

(Photo: Nadine, Credit: Nadine Burger)

Swearing2013101120131012 (WS)
20131013 (WS)
20131014 (WS)

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)

#*?@! %$&@*! 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)

Symmetry2014051620140517 (WS)
20140519 (WS)

Why does symmetry exist and why do we see such beauty in it?

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 and how we are sensitive to the order and simple beauty of it. 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 Rudall 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 – and hearing it disrupted, in unexpected ways.

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

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)

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

Talking About Death2015082120150822 (WS)
20150823 (WS)
20150824 (WS)

It\u2019s something that will come to all of us. So why is it so hard to talk about death?

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)

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)

Tattoos2013071920130720 (WS)
20130721 (WS)
20130722 (WS)

What motivates people to decorate their bodies with ink?

In this programme, Mike Williams 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.

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

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)

Television2015051520150517 (WS)
20150518 (WS)

Why does television have such a powerful influence on our lives?

Television is beamed into our homes through a proliferation of channels and devices. TV has become an integral part of our lives, all over the world, in just a few short decades. Why has TV taken a grip on us which has never weakened? It influences our politics, our cultural attitudes and social perceptions. Does it mainly distract or engage us?

Presenter Mike Williams finds out about TV’s humble origins with the grandson of TV inventor John Logie Baird, and runs through some of television’s most viewed moments. We feature one of the biggest reality TV stars in the Middle East, winner of Arab Idol 2013 singing contest, Mohammed Assaf, who shares his thoughts on the medium. TV, once tightly controlled, has escaped into the world and continues to change our societies in unimaginable ways.

(Photo: A wall of 750 television screens at an exhibition celebrating 50 years of television broadcasting, in Melbourne, Australia. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Thankless Tasks2017052220170523 (WS)

Dotun Adebayo discovers why anyone does a job where lots of people hate you

Why take on a role where lots of people hate you for doing it? Dotun Adebayo talks to people whose daily life can include verbal and even physical abuse. They include an 18 year old referee in Manchester who has been head-butted and spat upon. He hears about electricity workers in Lagos in Nigeria who are regularly beaten up as they disconnect disgruntled customers. And the plus side of doing a thankless job from a debt collector in Jamaica and death row lawyers in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

(Photo: Man at top of pole fixing electric cables. Credit: Umar Shehu Elleman, BBC journalist)

The 100th Programme: The Life Of Why2014090520140906 (WS)
20140908 (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 \u2013 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)

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)
20130526 (WS)
20130527 (WS)

Why play with a ball? Mike Williams finds out how ball games first evolved

A ball is a simple, everyday object that holds such a deep appeal for us. We have been playing with them since the dawn of time 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 gives us the kinds of emotional highs and lows that would take unusually good fortune, or tragedy, to get otherwise.

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

The Boxers Of Bukom2013011820130119 (WS)
20130120 (WS)
20130121 (WS)

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)

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 Bullet20121012
The Bullet20121013
The Bullet20121015

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 Circus2015041720150420 (WS)

How did modern circuses develop? And why do they appeal to adults and children worldwide?

From clowns to tight-rope walkers, fire-eaters to elephant trainers, the modern circus has been around for centuries. Mike Williams explores its origins and asks why it appeals to adults and children around the world. As part of the programme, Mike learns how to do the flying trapeze, takes tips from an acrobat at the Moscow State Circus and hears from a clown from Cirque Du Soleil – who has a rather alarming story about audience participation. Mike also talks to a lion trainer with the biggest animal act in the world and finds out what happened when he accidentally fell on one of his big cats.

Produced by Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Martin Lacey jr. performs at The Circus Krone Show in Munich, Germany. Credit: Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)

The City2013070520130706 (WS)
20130707 (WS)
20130708 (WS)

Why do humans live in cities? And, what are the pros and cons of the modern metropolis?

These days we humans have become an urban-dwelling species. So how has the city changed us? What are the pros and cons of life in a modern metropolis? From the experience of a single individual we'll zoom out, to view neighbourhoods and communities and to the city as a whole - a place that we have shaped and which, in turn, shapes us.

(Image: Commuters drive past the city of Bangalore. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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)
20121217 (WS)

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 Drum20121215
The Drum20121217

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 Evolution Of Beards2015060520150607 (WS)
20150608 (WS)

How did beards evolve and what is their purpose?

Why did beards evolve and what is the point of them? Evolution may have decided they make a man more manly and can attract the opposite sex but many women are divided in their opinion of the beard. In some religions and cultures a beard is sacrosanct whilst some societies remain hair free.

Should you shave them, trim them or grow them to extraordinary length. Mike Williams visits the world’s oldest barber shop to find out the secrets of a close shave and a tidy beard.

(Photo: Men participate in a bearded Competition. Credit: Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

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)

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)

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)
20140609 (WS)

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)

– 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 Handshake20121102
The Handshake20121103
The Handshake20121105

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 Heel2013011120130112 (WS)
20130113 (WS)
20130114 (WS)

Where 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 by….men.

(Image: Photograph taken of a lady in heels by Maria Pavlova - Getty)

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 by….men.

(Image: Photograph taken of a lady in heels by Maria Pavlova - Getty)

The Heel2013112920131130 (WS)
20131202 (WS)

Where did the fascination with elevated footwear come from? Why wear high heels?

Why do tens of millions of women all over the world choose to walk around in high 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 by men.

(Image: Photograph taken of a woman in heels by Maria Pavlova - Getty)

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 by….men.

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

The Kiss2013041220130413 (WS)
20130414 (WS)
20130415 (WS)

Why do humans kiss?

Why do humans kiss? You might think it is a universal trait, something that we all do. But when European explorers travelled the world, they met tribes that didn’t kiss. So is it a learnt response after all? ? It can be as a greeting, or a sign of reverence or supplication - but we will be talking about the romantic kiss - face to face, lips to lips. We examine the biochemistry, psychology, anthropology and history of kissing. Where does it come from?

(Image of two women kissing at a festival, credit AFP/Getty Images)

You might think it is a universal trait, something that we all do. But when Charles Darwin travelled the world, he met tribes who didn’t kiss. So is it a learnt response after all? A kiss can be used for different purposes: as a greeting, romantic or sexual gestures, whilst some people even kiss the ground. But where does it come from?

(Image of two women kissing at a festival, credit AFP/Getty Images)

The Kiss2014050220140503 (WS)
20140505 (WS)

Why do humans kiss?

Is kissing universal to all cultures? It might be today, but one 19th century African chief’s daughter got a fright when a British explorer tried to kiss her. Do prostitutes kiss? Julia Robert’s character in the 1990 film ‘Pretty Woman’ said no to kissing clients. A former sex worker in London tells us about her experiences. What happens to your body when you kiss? Your pupils dilate, your pulse races - hormones play havoc. Is the first kiss special? Secretive in Egypt, passionate in Ghana, romantic in China, coy in the US - we hear about people's first kisses and what they meant to them. Why do we kiss? There is no single answer, but many bizarre theories: did it evolve from children’s eating habits?

Mike Williams investigates.

(Image of two women kissing at a festival, credit AFP/Getty Images)

The Kiss2017070320170704 (WS)

Why do humans kiss?

Why Do humans Kiss?

You might think it is a universal trait, something that we all do. But when European explorers travelled the world, they met tribes that didn’t kiss. So is it a learnt response after all?

It can be as a greeting, or a sign of reverence or supplication- but we will be talking about the romantic kiss- face to face, lips to lips.

We examine the biochemistry, psychology, anthropology and history of kissing. Where does it come from?

(Image of two women kissing at a festival, credit AFP/Getty Images)

The Lie2013051720130518 (WS)
20130519 (WS)
20130520 (WS)

Why do we lie? How do different cultures define telling the truth?

Many psychologists argue that learning to lie is an important stage for children. As early as two, children who are more developmentally advanced are much better liars. For some people, lying is something they can’t stop doing. We hear from someone whose life spiralled out of control due to her addiction to lying.

But is every lie bad? The concept of a ‘white lie’ is one we teach our children from an early age but different societies socialise their children to tell different sorts of lies. East Asian societies might be more aware of a ‘blue lie’ for example.

We explore how different cultures define telling the truth and what that shows us about our societies.

(Image: Woman holding her hand on the bible. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The Lie2013110220131104 (WS)

How different cultures define telling the truth

We all do it… don’t we? If your answer is no perhaps you’re doing it right now.

Many psychologists argue that learning to lie is an important stage for children. As early as two, children who are more developmentally advanced are much better liars. For some people, lying is something they can’t stop doing. We hear from someone whose life spiralled out of control due to her addiction to lying.

But is every lie bad? The concept of a ‘white lie’ is one we teach our children from an early age but different societies socialise their children to tell different sorts of lies. East Asian societies might be more aware of a ‘blue lie’ for example.

Mike Williams explore how different cultures define telling the truth and what that shows us about our societies.

(Image of a hand held on top of a bible.Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

We all do it… don’t we? If your answer is no perhaps you’re doing it right now.

Many psychologists argue that learning to lie is an important stage for children. As early as two, children who are more developmentally advanced are much better liars. For some people, lying is something they can’t stop doing. We hear from someone whose life spiralled out of control due to her addiction to lying.

But is every lie bad? The concept of a ‘white lie’ is one we teach our children from an early age but different societies socialise their children to tell different sorts of lies. East Asian societies might be more aware of a ‘blue lie’ for example.

Mike Williams explore how different cultures define telling the truth and what that shows us about our societies.

(Image of a hand held on top of a bible.Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The Life Of Why2014090520140906 (WS)

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

Produced by Helena Merriman

Celebrating the 100th edition of The Why Factor

The Mob2013020220130204 (WS)

Why do we behave differently when we are in a large crowd?

Why do we behave differently in crowds? An “angry” mob and “herd mentality,” – are terms frequently used to describe events like the London Riots of 2011. But is there really something in us that changes when we are in a large crowd?

The French 19th Century psychologist Le Bon, believed that in a crowd we lose our minds, our sense of self and with it our moral compass. If he’s right, can we really be responsible for our actions when we are in a crowd? And should this be taken into consideration in criminal trials?

Or do large crowds have their own social identity, an identity which can be peaceful or violent. Some social psychologists think the difference between an angry mob and a peaceful crowd often depends on how that crowd is treated by the authorities. Are they right? Or is the morphing of a crowd into a mob a completely random phenomena?

(Image: A general view of a crowd in the Mall, credit Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do we behave differently in crowds? An “angry? mob and “herd mentality,? – terms that are frequently used to describe events like the London Riots of 2011. But is there really something in us that changes when we are in a large crowd?

The French 19th century psychologist Le Bon believed that in a crowd we lose our minds, our sense of self and with it our moral compass. If he’s right, can we really be responsible for our actions when we are in a crowd? And should this be taken into consideration in criminal trials?

Or do large crowds have their own social identity, an identity which can be peaceful or violent. Some social psychologists think the difference between an angry mob and a peaceful crowd often depends on how that crowd is treated by the authorities. Are they right? Or is the morphing of a crowd into a mob a completely random phenomena?

Mike Williams puts these theories to the test in The Why Factor.

: Does something change in us when we’re in large crowds? If so, why?

The Moon2014071820140719 (WS)
20140721 (WS)

Why has the moon fascinated humans from every culture and for all time?

The moon has fascinated humans everywhere and for all time. Why? Mike Williams explores the moon in culture, how it affects life on Earth and he asks Alan Bean – one of the handful of people who have walked on it – what the moon is really like.

Producer: Richard Knight

(Image shows a full moon as seen from the sky at night. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

has fascinated humans everywhere and for all time. Why? Mike Williams explores the moon in culture, how it affects life on Earth and he asks Alan Bean – one of the handful of people who have walked on it – what the moon is really like.

Producer: Richard Knight

(Image shows a full moon as seen from the sky at night. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The Moon2015010320150104 (WS)

Why has the moon fascinated humans from every culture and for all time?

The moon has fascinated humans everywhere and for all time. Why? Mike Williams explores the moon in culture, how it affects life on Earth and he asks Alan Bean – one of the handful of people who have walked on it – what the moon is really like.

Produced by Richard Knight

Image shows a full moon as seen from the sky at night. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The Pilgrimage2014080120140802 (WS)
20140804 (WS)

Why do we go on pilgrimages?

The Pilgrimage is one of the most popular and collective human activities, and continues to grow in size. Tens of millions of Hindus bathe in holy waters at the Kumbh Mela. Jews from around the world make their way to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Islam has the Hajj and Christians have walked the same paths for centuries. Others find themselves on a pilgrimage for very different reasons. Mike Williams finds out why.

(Photo: The Grand mosque and the Kaaba in the holy city of Mecca. Pilgrims pelt pillars symbolising the devil with pebbles to show their defiance on the third day of the hajj to mark Eid al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice. Credit: Fayes Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

is one of the most popular and collective human activities, and continues to grow in size. Tens of millions of Hindus bathe in holy waters at the Kumbh Mela. Jews from around the world make their way to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Islam has the Hajj and Christians have walked the same paths for centuries. Others find themselves on a pilgrimage for very different reasons. Mike Williams finds out why.

(Photo: The Grand mosque and the Kaaba in the holy city of Mecca. Pilgrims pelt pillars symbolising the devil with pebbles to show their defiance on the third day of the hajj to mark Eid al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice. Credit: Fayes Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

The Refugee Journey20150328

At the mercy of people smugglers, how do refugees make their often perilous journeys?

At the mercy of people smugglers, they are transported by night, walking overland and travelling by sea, hiding during the day. These are journeys that are long, costly, and sometimes deadly.

Mike Williams follows the journeys of 'Howram', a Kurdish man who fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and ‘Hatem’, a Syrian, who walked through 14 countries before reaching the UK. Both journeys were long and perilous and the men left countries and families they loved. They speak of the smugglers who transported them from the Middle East and into Europe and the brutalising experiences they went through.

We hear from the acclaimed Palestine Syrian musician and composer, Abo Gabi, who fled the besieged Syrian city of Yamouk, first for Beirut in Lebanon, then for Paris. The smugglers, he believes, are the new warlords. He asks what home means when your city has been destroyed and your family and friends have been tortured and killed?

Produced by Angela Robson

(Image: Hatem, who fled Syria and walked through 14 countries transported by different groups of smugglers. Photo: BBC copyright)

The Rivals2014092620140927 (WS)
20140929 (WS)

History\u2019s greatest rivals, and the creative and destructive sides of rivalry

History and mythology are filled with great rivalries, the foundation of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus, brothers first, then enemies.

Rivals have spurred each other to create new technologies… think of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They’ve given us great sport as well: Hamilton and Rosberg on the race-track today, Evert and Navratilova on the tennis court in the 1970s and 1980s, the Yankees and the Red Sox for more than a century. The rivals have given us whole new industries and music that defines a generation.

What is rivalry? In this episode of the Why Factor we’ll hear about some of history’s greatest rivals from business, technology and sport, and explore the creative and destructive side of one-upmanship.

Produced by Gemma Newby

(Image of a Friendship and Rivalry Justice Scale on a white background. Photo credit: Shutterstock)

History’s greatest rivals, and the creative and destructive sides of rivalry

History and mythology are filled with great rivalries, the foundation of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus, brothers first, then enemies.

Rivals have spurred each other to create new technologies… think of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They’ve given us great sport as well: Hamilton and Rosberg on the race-track today, Evert and Navratilova on the tennis court in the 1970s and 1980s, the Yankees and the Red Sox for more than a century. The rivals have given us whole new industries and music that defines a generation.

What is rivalry? In this episode of the Why Factor we’ll hear about some of history’s greatest rivals from business, technology and sport, and explore the creative and destructive side of one-upmanship.

Produced by Gemma Newby

The Sackman (and Other Stories)2012122120121222 (WS)
20121224 (WS)

The Sackman - a very different Father Christmas

Sinister tales of characters that terrorise adults and children at night pervade our cultures and have been handed down from generation to generation over the centuries, be that Kenya’s Nightrunners with their supernatural powers or the European Sackman – the monster or man, who takes away naughty children in a sack.

In Iceland and the Netherlands this Child Catcher comes at Christmas, an altogether different version of the American Santa Claus. Why do we tell each other these stories? And what happens when folklore meets the modern world?

(Image of girl having nightmare Credit: Maria Pavlova, Getty)

Sinister tales of characters that terrorise adults and children at night pervade our cultures and have been handed down from generation to generation over the centuries - be that Kenya’s Nightrunners with their supernatural powers, to the European Sackman – the monster or man, who takes away naughty children in a sack.

The Sackman (and Other Stories)20121222
The Sackman (and Other Stories)20121224

The Sackman - a very different Father Christmas

Sinister tales of characters that terrorise adults and children at night pervade our cultures and have been handed down from generation to generation over the centuries, be that Kenya’s Nightrunners with their supernatural powers or the European Sackman – the monster or man, who takes away naughty children in a sack.

In Iceland and the Netherlands this Child Catcher comes at Christmas, an altogether different version of the American Santa Claus. Why do we tell each other these stories? And what happens when folklore meets the modern world?

(Image of girl having nightmare Credit: Maria Pavlova, Getty)

The Sea2013060720130608 (WS)
20130609 (WS)
20130610 (WS)

The compelling attractions of the sea through literature and science

Why is that so many of us are drawn to the ocean... to the sound of tumbling waves and the sights and smells of the sea?

It captivated the likes of Melville, Shakespeare and Byron. Whether to view it from the shore, out on the waves, or under the surface, people flock to the ocean. Mike Williams explores literature and science to discover what it is about the sea that is so compelling. He speaks to Hanli Prinsloo, a free-diver, from Cape Town in South Africa.

(Image: Two men walk into the sea, under a sunny sky. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Why is that so many of us are drawn to the ocean... to the sound of tumbling waves and the sights and smells of the sea?

It captivated the likes of Melville, Shakespeare And Byron. Whether to view it from the shore, out on the waves, or under the surface, people flock to the ocean. Mike Williams explores literature and science to discover what it is about the sea that is so compelling. He speaks to Hanli Prinsloo, a free-diver, from Cape Town in South Africa.

(Image of people walking into the sea under a sunny sky on their way to a swim. Credit to: AFP/Getty Images)

This week, Mike Williams asks why are we drawn to the sea?

The Shaved Head2012102620121027 (WS)
20121029 (WS)

Why do we care so much about the hair on our heads? Join Mike Williams to find out why.

Why do we care so much about the hair on our heads? Each year we spend billions of dollars on cutting, shaping and colouring our hair.

It's important for personal reasons, cultural and symbolic reasons too. But why? Find out, as we hear the stories of people who have had their hair taken from them.

Join Mike Williams for The Why Factor.

(Image: A US soldier getting his head shaved. Credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do we care so much about the hair on our heads?

Each year we spend billions of dollars on cutting, shaping and colouring our hair. It’s important for personal reasons.. cultural and symbolic reasons too.

But why? Find out, as we hear the stories of people who have had their hair taken from them...

The Shaved Head20121027
The Shaved Head20121029

Why do we care so much about the hair on our heads? Join Mike Williams to find out why.

Why do we care so much about the hair on our heads? Each year we spend billions of dollars on cutting, shaping and colouring our hair.

It's important for personal reasons, cultural and symbolic reasons too. But why? Find out, as we hear the stories of people who have had their hair taken from them.

Join Mike Williams for The Why Factor.

(Image: A US soldier getting his head shaved. Credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Tap2012112320121124 (WS)
20121126 (WS)

What changes when taps come to town? Mike Williams travels to Ghana.

This is the story of what happens when running water comes to town. In a rural backwater in southern Ghana the instillation of a network of standpipes six years ago made life feel more safe and secure.

But very soon land prices shot up and the rich began to move in, connecting their own private taps to the water system and draining the reservoir.

The simple addition of taps has changed this region forever – but what does it mean for the everyday lives of the people that live there?

The Tap20121124
The Tap20121126

What changes when taps come to town? Mike Williams travels to Ghana.

This is the story of what happens when running water comes to town. In a rural backwater in southern Ghana the instillation of a network of standpipes six years ago made life feel more safe and secure.

But very soon land prices shot up and the rich began to move in, connecting their own private taps to the water system and draining the reservoir.

The simple addition of taps has changed this region forever – but what does it mean for the everyday lives of the people that live there?

The Voice2016090220160905 (WS)

What do our voices reveal about ourselves?

We each have a unique voice, shaped by our biology, history, class and education. It is a powerful tool and we are often judged by the very first words out of our mouths.

Mike Williams discovers what makes one voice trustworthy and another not. We hear from a voice coach about how we can adapt and deceive with our voices and a vocalist demonstrates the power of the voice as an instrument.

We also hear from an American teenager who has been voiceless since birth but whose personalised computerised voice has enabled her to find her own.

Audio clip of Elaine Mitchener, taken from Focus (2012) by Sam Belinfante, courtesy of The Wellcome Collection.

(Photo: Woman singing into microphone. Credit: Shutterstock)

We each have a unique voice, shaped by our biology, history, class and education. It is a powerful tool and we are often judged by the very first words out of our mouths.

Mike Williams discovers what makes one voice trustworthy and another not. We hear from a voice coach about how we can adapt and deceive with our voices and a vocalist demonstrates the power of the voice as an instrument.

We also hear from an American teenager who has been voiceless since birth but whose personalised computerised voice has enabled her to find her own.

Audio clip of Elaine Mitchener, taken from Focus (2012) by Sam Belinfante, courtesy of The Wellcome Collection.

(Photo: Woman singing into microphone. Credit: Shutterstock)

The Walk2014072520140726 (WS)
20140728 (WS)

Why do we go on long walks? Mike Williams finds out

Why do we go on long walks? Aside from the seemingly obvious health benefits of exercise, what is it about walking which has had such long-lasting appeal? The German film director Herzog described walking as “spiritual” whilst Charles Dickens used walking to plot his novels.

From the German tradition of the wandern to urban street walking, it seems we’ve always gone on long walks for reasons other than necessity. Why? Mike Williams puts on his walking boots and goes in search of answers.

(Photo: Hikers walk along a path as what remains of the Findelgletscher glacier near Zermatt, Switzerland. Credit: Getty Images)

Why do we go on long walks? Aside from the seemingly obvious health benefits of exercise, what is it about walking which has had such long-lasting appeal? The German film director Herzog described walking as “spiritual? whilst Charles Dickens used walking to plot his novels.

From the German tradition of the wandern to urban street walking, it seems we’ve always gone on long walks for reasons other than necessity. Why? Mike Williams puts on his walking boots and goes in search of answers.

(Photo: Hikers walk along a path as what remains of the Findelgletscher glacier near Zermatt, Switzerland. Credit: Getty Images)

The Y Chromosome2015052220150524 (WS)
20150525 (WS)

How the Y chromosome transforms a female embryo to a male one

The Y chromosome. What makes a boy a boy? In this programme we put the Y chromosome under the microscope. We find out how it transforms a female embryo into a male one. We discover what it can tell us about the differences between men and women. We speak to a teenage boy who has not just one Y chromosome but two. And we meet the scientist who turned a female mouse male.

(Photo: X and Y chromosome on a black background. Credit: Shutterstock)

Thin2016052720160530 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why so many people want to be thin in a world grappling with obesity.

For thousands of years, a thin body was a sign of poverty or disease. But there is now a growing, global obsession with being thin. And this at a time when many populations around the world are, paradoxically, suffering epidemics of obesity. Mike Williams finds out why, as he speaks to former French model Victoire Macon Dauxerre, Tony Glenville from the London College of Fashion, Anne Becker from Harvard Medical School, Professor John Speakman from University of Aberdeen and Etta Edim from Nigeria’s Efik tribe.

Image: A vendor arranges stick-thin mannequins in a store in China (Credit: China Photos/Getty Images)

For thousands of years, a thin body was a sign of poverty or disease. But there is now a growing, global obsession with being thin. And this at a time when many populations around the world are, paradoxically, suffering epidemics of obesity. Mike Williams finds out why, as he speaks to former French model Victoire Macon Dauxerre, Tony Glenville from the London College of Fashion, Anne Becker from Harvard Medical School, Professor John Speakman from University of Aberdeen and Etta Edim from Nigeria’s Efik tribe.

Image: A vendor arranges stick-thin mannequins in a store in China (Credit: China Photos/Getty Images)

Time Perception2016051320160516 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why some weeks just fly by but sometimes minutes can seem like hours?

Mike Williams asks why some weeks just fly by but sometimes minutes can seem like hours? Why do we perceive time differently in different circumstances? Mike talks to Pakistani writer and broadcaster Raza Rumi; Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped; David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine at Houston and John McCarthy, a British journalist taken hostage in Lebanon in 1986.

(Photo: Hands of a clock over female silhouette. Credit: Shutterstock)

Mike Williams asks why some weeks just fly by but sometimes minutes can seem like hours? Why do we perceive time differently in different circumstances? Mike talks to Pakistani writer and broadcaster Raza Rumi; Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped; David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine at Houston and John McCarthy, a British journalist taken hostage in Lebanon in 1986.

(Photo: Hands of a clock over female silhouette. Credit: Shutterstock)

Torture2017020320170205 (WS)
20170206 (WS)

Does torture actually work, and can its use ever be justified?

In his first TV interview as US President, Donald Trump claimed that torture “absolutely” works and said the US should “fight fire with fire.”

But what evidence is there that torture is an effective method of obtaining valuable intelligence? And can the use of torture ever be justified?

Becky Milligan hears from a former interrogator who worked at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and now calls himself a torturer, a former political prisoner who was tortured in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, and a neuroscientist who has studied the effects of torture on the brain.

(Photo:Man sitting in chair with hands tied together behind his back with a bucket on the floor. Credit: Rommel Canlas/Shutterstock)

Touch2014013120140201 (WS)
20140203 (WS)

How do different cultures view physical contact in everyday life?

Why do humans touch each other? And how do different cultures view physical contact?

Why do humans touch each other? And how do different cultures view physical contact in everyday life? Mike Williams explores how personal contact influences people, asks where the boundaries are for touching, and meets a woman who offers a paid-for snuggling service.

(Image of a mother and daughter holding hands. Credit: Getty Images)

Trees Of Life2014021420140215 (WS)
20140217 (WS)

Why are our feelings about trees so mixed? Mike Williams explains

Wood is a vital human resource. But trees inspire myths and reverence. So, Mike Williams asks, why are our feelings about trees so mixed? He hears why every human age is a ‘wood age’, why trees are crucial to social life in African cities, why one New Zealander swapped cutting trees for spending nights in them, and why Danes fear global disease and climate change may lose them their mythical ‘tree of life’.

(Image: An arborist works on top of a tree at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. London Credit: Getty Images)

Wood is a vital human resource. But trees inspire myths and reverence. So, Mike Williams asks, why are our feelings about trees so mixed? He hears why every human age is a ‘wood age’, why trees are crucial to social life in African cities, why one New Zealander swapped cutting trees for spending nights in them, and why Danes fear global disease and climate change may lose them their mythical ‘tree of life’

Tutoring2015111320151116 (WS)

Why is private tutoring becoming so commonplace? And what impact does it have?

Why is private tutoring becoming so commonplace? In London it is estimated that 50% of schoolchildren have a tutor at some point. In Hong Kong, that figure is much higher. What impact does tutoring have education systems around the world? And does it entrench inequality? Mike Williams hears from academics, tutors and the students they teach.

(Photo: School teacher and student high five in a classroom. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why is private tutoring becoming so commonplace? In London it is estimated that 50% of schoolchildren have a tutor at some point. In Hong Kong, that figure is much higher. What impact does tutoring have education systems around the world? And does it entrench inequality? Mike Williams hears from academics, tutors and the students they teach.

(Photo: School teacher and student high five in a classroom. Credit: Shutterstock)

Unconscious Bias2016110420161106 (WS)
20161107 (WS)

Why do we make judgments about people without even realising?

Are you sexist, racist or ageist? Even if you think you are open-minded, the chances are, you will be judging people and situations without even realising. These hidden biases – which are different from conscious prejudice – lurk within our minds.

Science clearly shows that almost all of us have at least one of these tendencies - an implicit preference for one race over another, for men over women, for young over old or vice versa. Our unconscious biases are influenced by our background, our personal experiences and the culture in which we live. And, they can affect the way we behave, the decisions we make - whether it is who we hire, who we promote or even – in the case of jurors – who we believe is guilty or not guilty.

Mike Williams learns about an online assessment test that measures unconscious bias, explores the extent to which we can we limit these hidden biases, once we are aware of them. And, hears how one orchestra, in particular, has a solution to the problem – by asking prospective players to remove their shoes.

Contributors: Mahzarin Banaji, Professor of Psychology, Havard University;
Dr Pete Jones, Psychologist; Nick Logie, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment;
Yassmin Abdel-Magied, mechanical engineer and founder, Mumtaza speakers bureau;
Kayo Anosike, Music Director/Kayla Benjamin, Training Consultant;
Margenett Moore-Roberts, Yahoo’s Global Head, Inclusive Diversity;
Patrick Brayer, criminal defence attorney, St Louis, Missouri.

(Photo: Man holding a baby whilst ironing and woman fixing car. Credit: Volkovslava and Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Are you sexist, racist or ageist? Even if you think you are open-minded, the chances are, you will be judging people and situations without even realising. These hidden biases – which are different from conscious prejudice – lurk within our minds.

Science clearly shows that almost all of us have at least one of these tendencies - an implicit preference for one race over another, for men over women, for young over old or vice versa. Our unconscious biases are influenced by our background, our personal experiences and the culture in which we live. And, they can affect the way we behave, the decisions we make - whether it is who we hire, who we promote or even – in the case of jurors – who we believe is guilty or not guilty.

Mike Williams learns about an online assessment test that measures unconscious bias, explores the extent to which we can we limit these hidden biases, once we are aware of them. And, hears how one orchestra, in particular, has a solution to the problem – by asking prospective players to remove their shoes.

Contributors: Mahzarin Banaji, Professor of Psychology, Havard University;

Dr Pete Jones, Psychologist; Nick Logie, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment;

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, mechanical engineer and founder, Mumtaza speakers bureau;

Kayo Anosike, Music Director/Kayla Benjamin, Training Consultant;

Margenett Moore-Roberts, Yahoo’s Global Head, Inclusive Diversity;

Patrick Brayer, criminal defence attorney, St Louis, Missouri.

(Photo: Man holding a baby whilst ironing and woman fixing car. Credit: Volkovslava and Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Are you sexist, racist or ageist? Even if you think you’re open-minded, the chances are, you’ll be judging people and situations without even realising. These hidden biases – which are different from conscious prejudice – lurk within our minds.

Science clearly shows that almost all of us have at least one of these tendencies - an implicit preference for one race over another, for men over women, for young over old or vice versa. Our unconscious biases are influenced by our background, our personal experiences and the culture in which we live. And they can affect the way we behave, the decisions we make: whether it’s who we hire, who we promote or even – in the case of jurors – who we believe is guilty or not guilty.

Mike Williams learns about an online assessment test that measures unconscious bias, explores the extent to which we can we limit these hidden biases, once we’re aware of them. And hears how one orchestra, in particular, has a solution to the problem – by asking prospective players to remove their shoes.

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Sally Abrahams

(Photo: Man holding a baby whilst ironing and woman fixing car. Credit: Shutterstock - Volkovslava and Wavebreakmedia)

Underground2017041020170411 (WS)

What lures people to delve deep beneath the earth, into the dark recesses underground?

What lures people to delve beneath the earth, peering into the dark recesses that exist underground? Simon Cox hears from the urban explorers trying to find the hidden layers of cities that exist deep beneath our feet and the danger how do we cope with it and the fear of being in the darkness in an enclosed space. And as we travel, work and explore in deeper, longer more extensive subterranean networks, he asks what’s stopping us from spending more time there by living underground too?

Simon speaks to former miner Andy Smith, urban explorer Steve Duncan, caving expert Jules Barratt, engineer and psychologist Gunnar Jonsson and urban planners Professor Anne-Marie Broudehoux and Professor Clara Irazábal.

(Photo: Beautiful stalactites in a cave with two speleologist explorers / Photo credit: Shutterstock)

What lures people to delve beneath the earth, peering into the dark recesses that exist underground? Simon Cox hears from the urban explorers trying to find the hidden layers of cities that exist deep beneath our feet and the danger how do we cope with it and the fear of being in the darkness in an enclosed space. And as we travel, work and explore in deeper, longer more extensive subterranean networks, he asks what’s stopping us from spending more time there by living underground too?

Simon speaks to former miner Andy Smith, urban explorer Steve Duncan, caving expert Jules Barratt, engineer and psychologist Gunnar Jonsson and urban planners Professor Anne-Marie Purdoux and Professor Clara Irazábal.

(Photo: Beautiful stalactites in a cave with two speleologist explorers / Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Us And Them2018070920180710 (WS)

Why do we divide the world into us and them?

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)

Vegans2018012920180130 (WS)

Why are more and more people giving up all food produced from animals?

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)

Vigilantes2016123020170101 (WS)
20170102 (WS)

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

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)

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)
20130805 (WS)

What explains our enduring attraction to violent entertainment?

***Warning: This programme contains graphic descriptions of violence***
Why are we so drawn to violent entertainment? Violent films, video games and stories are very popular, as were brutal gladiatorial Roman contests and gory 14th Century jousts. What explains this enduring attraction to violence? Helena Merriman talks to the Mexican director of Heli, a professor of fairy tales and joins one of London’s most gruesome serial killer tours to answer this week’s question.

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

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?

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)

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

What Is A Home?2015073120150802 (WS)
20150803 (WS)

Why is a home so important and how does it shape us?

For most of us it is a sanctuary. But some people have no home at all, while for others it can become a place of terror and pain. What is home and why is the notion of home so deeply embedded in us? Mike Williams finds out how we shape our homes and how they shape us, how they reflect and reveal our personalities.

(Photo: A child's drawing of a house. Credit: Shutterstock)

What Is Charisma?2014100320141004 (WS)
20141006 (WS)

Why is it so hard to pin down what we mean by charisma?

Why is it so hard to pin down what we mean by it? The Greeks called it a gift of grace, but it’s been widely interpreted ever since. Why do we disagree so strongly about who has it? And are its traits inherent or can they be learnt?

The programme explores the magnetic appeal of politicians, sports stars and religious leaders. And asks whether it’s possible for people to 'learn' charisma.

Produced by Bob Howard

Image: Hand holds a plasma ball with magenta-blue flames, represents personal magnetism. Photo credit: Shutterstock

What Makes Us Want To Wear T-shirts?2015112020151123 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why these simple garments are so appealing

They’re something you probably see every day… maybe hundreds of them, thousands. Plain ones, coloured ones, funny ones. Often they’re promotional, sometimes provocative. They’re so common that they’re very easy to ignore.

From the catwalk to the building site and everywhere in between, these simple garments can be tools of the rebel, the protestor, the campaigner, the corporate marketeer. They are strangely powerful things… but with humble origins.

Produced by Bob Howard

(Photo: Man wearing a T-Shirt with President Vladimir Putin crossed out in red at a protest in Barcelona. Credit: Getty Images)

They’re something you probably see every day… maybe hundreds of them, thousands. Plain ones, coloured ones, funny ones. Often they’re promotional, sometimes provocative. They’re so common that they’re very easy to ignore.

From the catwalk to the building site and everywhere in between, these simple garments can be tools of the rebel, the protestor, the campaigner, the corporate marketeer. They are strangely powerful things… but with humble origins.

Produced by Bob Howard

(Photo: Man wearing a T-Shirt with President Vladimir Putin crossed out in red at a protest in Barcelona. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Are Bullets Made The Way They Are?2012101220121013 (WS)
20121015 (WS)

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.

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.

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.

Mike Williams on the history and design of the bullet and why people use them.

The history and design of the bullet and why people use them

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.

Why Are Open Plan Offices The Norm?2013021520130216 (WS)
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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)

Why Are Watches Enduring Status Symbols?2015020720150208 (WS)

Watches have been an indicator of status since their invention. Mike Williams asks why

We’re rarely far away from a device telling us the time, yet sales of luxury watches have never been higher. Mike Williams explores why the seemingly obsolete technology in mechanical watches is still highly desirable, and what wearing one says about its owner.

(Photo: Pocket Watch. Credit: Wolfman57 Shutterstock)

Why Are We Afraid Of Robots?2016052020160523 (WS)

They help us in homes, hospitals and factories, so do we have reason to fear robots?

Robots are in our homes, our factories, on battlefields and in hospitals. Some are smarter than us, some are faster. Some are here to help us, others not. Science fiction is filled with malign machines which rise against humanity. In the Why Factor this week, Mike Williams asks if we have reason to fear the machines we are creating.

Insert: “I, Robot” 2004 Twentieth Century Fox. Director Alex Proyas, based on story by Isaac Asimov

Insert: "Astro Boy"- Ep.1: The Birth Of Astro Boy (in English) © Nippon Television 1982

(Photo: Robots in Suits © Shutterstock)

Robots are in our homes, our factories, on battlefields and in hospitals. Some are smarter than us, some are faster. Some are here to help us, others not. Science fiction is filled with malign machines which rise against humanity. In the Why Factor this week, Mike Williams asks if we have reason to fear the machines we are creating.

Insert: “I, Robot? 2004 Twentieth Century Fox. Director Alex Proyas, based on story by Isaac Asimov

Insert: "Astro Boy"- Ep.1: The Birth Of Astro Boy (in English) © Nippon Television 1982

(Photo: Robots in Suits © Shutterstock)

Why Are We Getting Smarter2016071520160718 (WS)

Mike Williams examines the Flynn Effect and finds out why we are all getting smarter.

For many decades now we’ve been getting smarter. All across the planet average IQ results have been rising… by about 3 points every ten years. It’s called the Flynn Effect and it’s changing our societies. So what is it? What causes it? And what could be the consequences if — as seems possible — it goes into reverse.

(Image : Woman and man standing back to back with think bubbles. Copyright - Racorn/Shutterstock)

For many decades now we’ve been getting smarter. All across the planet average IQ results have been rising… by about 3 points every ten years. It’s called the Flynn Effect and it’s changing our societies. So what is it? What causes it? And what could be the consequences if — as seems possible — it goes into reverse.

(Image : Woman and man standing back to back with think bubbles. Copyright - Racorn/Shutterstock)

Why Boredom Is Interesting2018082020180821 (WS)

Why boredom can be quite interesting.

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 thy 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 Can\u2019t Some People Eat Certain Foods?2015110620151109 (WS)

Why are food allergies increasing in the rich world?

In some countries, about 10% of their population suffers from a food allergy. What is going on? And why do an increasing number of people believe they have an allergy when they don’t? Mike Williams asks how the food industry has responded to this growing fear of food and whether developing nations will end up with the same levels of affliction.

Produced by Rosamund Jones

(Photo: Food restrictions written in chalk on a blackboard, gluten, nut and dairy. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Can’t Some People Eat Certain Foods?2015110620151109 (WS)

Why are food allergies increasing in the rich world?

In some countries, about 10% of their population suffers from a food allergy. What is going on? And why do an increasing number of people believe they have an allergy when they don’t? Mike Williams asks how the food industry has responded to this growing fear of food and whether developing nations will end up with the same levels of affliction.

Produced by Rosamund Jones

(Photo: Food restrictions written in chalk on a blackboard, gluten, nut and dairy. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Do Cities Make Us Rude?2016112520161127 (WS)
20161128 (WS)

What makes us behave so badly in urban areas?

When we are surrounded by people why do we tend to shun them? Why do we refuse to make eye contact or say hello? And, why do tempers flare on busy city streets?

More and more of the world’s population are moving to cities. As they swell in size our behaviour changes and not always for the better. It is a familiar scene, a busy metro carriage with people pushing and shoving but never saying hello or even making eye contact. Why do cities make us act this way?

To find out we speak to social psychologist Dr Elle Boag about what is happening inside our heads. We ask Marten Sims of the organisation Happy City Lab if buildings can make us rude. We perform the Lost Tourist test to find out just how rude London is.
Olivier Giraud tells us why Parisians never give up their seat to pregnant women on the metro. And, Manhattan manners expert, Thomas Farley defends the city and explains the reason we often have to act the way we do.

(Photo: Man and woman arguing on street. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why when we are surrounded by people do we tend to shun them? Why do we refuse to make eye contact or say hello? Why do tempers flare on busy city streets?

More and more of the world’s population are moving to cities. As they swell in size our behaviour changes and not always for the better. It’s a familiar scene, a busy metro carriage with people pushing and shoving but never saying hello or even making eye contact.

Why do cities make us act this way?

To find out we speak to Social Psychologist Dr Elle Boag about what’s happening inside our heads.

We ask Marten Sims of the organisation Happy City Lab if buildings can make us rude?

We perform the ‘Lost Tourist’ test to find out just how rude London is.

Olivier Giraud tells us why Parisians never give up their seat to pregnant women on the metro.

Manhattan manners expert, Thomas Farley defends the city and explains the reason we often have to act the way we do.

Presenter: Mike Williams

Producer: Jordan Dunbar

(Photo: Man and woman arguing on street. Credit: DW Labs Incorporated/Shutterstock)

Why Do Crazes Take Off?2016091620160919 (WS)

What explains the success of the Hula-Hoop, Rubik\u2019s Cube and Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go has been the runaway success of the summer but why is it that some games, hobbies and activities become crazes while others do not? Is there a secret formula? Johanna Basford, the illustrator behind the current adult colouring book craze and Cheong Choon Ng, who invented the Rainbow Loom, explain how they managed to get their ideas off the ground and loved by millions.

We hear from psychologist Ben Michaelis that insecure people are more likely to engage with crazes than people who have a lot of self-confidence. Matthew Alt, co-founder of Alt Japan, a company which produces English versions of Japanese games, explains why so many childhood crazes of the last 30 years including Transformers, Power Rangers, Tamagotchi and Pokemon started in Japan.

Presenter Aasmah Mir also takes a trip down memory lane, trying out hula-hooping at a class in London after enthusiastically abandoning the fad 30 years earlier. Is she any better now? Hula-Hoop teacher and performer Anna Byrne explains why the craze is making a comeback.

But not all fads are harmless fun. Sometimes playground crazes can go wrong and have devastating consequences. Sabrina Lippell talks openly about the tragic death of her twelve-year-old son William Stanesby after he took part in the so-called ‘choking game’ that encourages participants to restrict their airways.

(Photo: A hand holds a phone showing a Pokémon character on screen. Credit:JoeyPhoto/Shutterstock)

Why Do Crazes Take Off?20160919

What explains the success of the Hula-Hoop, Rubik’s Cube and Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go has been the runaway success of the summer but why is it that some games, hobbies and activities become crazes while others do not? Is there a secret formula? Johanna Basford, the illustrator behind the current adult colouring book craze and Cheong Choon Ng, who invented the Rainbow Loom, explain how they managed to get their ideas off the ground and loved by millions.

We hear from psychologist Ben Michaelis that insecure people are more likely to engage with crazes than people who have a lot of self-confidence. Matthew Alt, co-founder of Alt Japan, a company which produces English versions of Japanese games, explains why so many childhood crazes of the last 30 years including Transformers, Power Rangers, Tamagotchi and Pokemon started in Japan.

Presenter Aasmah Mir also takes a trip down memory lane, trying out hula-hooping at a class in London after enthusiastically abandoning the fad 30 years earlier. Is she any better now? Hula-Hoop teacher and performer Anna Byrne explains why the craze is making a comeback.

But not all fads are harmless fun. Sometimes playground crazes can go wrong and have devastating consequences. Sabrina Lippell talks openly about the tragic death of her twelve-year-old son William Stanesby after he took part in the so-called ‘choking game’ that encourages participants to restrict their airways.

(Photo: A hand holds a phone showing a Pokémon character on screen. Credit:JoeyPhoto/Shutterstock)

Why Do Humans Need So Much Space?2015091120150912 (WS)
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Why do we have such a complicated relationship with the space we live in?

Some of us are content to surrender our personal space to serve on a submarine, while some of us struggle with claustrophobia. As we become more urban and the global population increases, we have to get used to having less space but some architects say we need more of it because it boosts our sense of wellbeing. Why do we have such a complicated relationship with the space we live in?

(Photo: Dense cityscape of office buildings in Hong Kong and China. Credit: Shutterstock)

Some of us are content to surrender our personal space to serve on a submarine, while some of us struggle with claustrophobia. As we become more urban and the global population increases, we have to get used to having less space but some architects say we need more of it because it boosts our sense of wellbeing. Why do we have such a complicated relationship with the space we live in?

(Photo: Dense cityscape of office buildings in Hong Kong and China. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Do Men Want Six Packs?2017032720170328 (WS)

Why do men all over the world crave these six bumps on their stomach?

Why do men crave these six bumps on their stomach? Why are they willing to risk their lives for this look? We take a journey to ancient Greece to discover the origins of the chiselled abdominals, learn from online stars on how hard it is to achieve one, hear from a man who bought one from a surgeon and how Instagram and the recession are playing a part in the ‘Six Pack’ story.

(Photo: Close up of a man's six pack. Credit: LDN Muscle/BBC)

Why do men crave these six bumps on their stomach? Why are they willing to risk their lives for this look? We take a journey to ancient Greece to discover the origins of the chiselled abdominals, learn from online stars on how hard it is to achieve one, hear from a man who bought one from a surgeon and how Instagram and the recession are playing a part in the ‘Six Pack’ story.

(Photo: Close up of a man's six pack. Credit: LDN Muscle/BBC)

Why Do People Hear Voices In Their Heads?2018010820180109 (WS)

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

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)

Meet Rachel Waddingham and meet the voices that inhabit Rachel’s head: there’s three year old Blue who just wants to play with other children, 11 year old Elfie who’s 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?

(Image: Rachel Waddingham, Credit: BBC)

Why Do People Sacrifice Their Lives?2015082820150829 (WS)
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Why do people give their lives for a nation? For a cause?

Why do people give their lives for a nation? For a cause?

As the world marks the centenary of the First World War, bereaved families reflect on the sacrifices made by their loved ones. What is the true nature of modern sacrifice?

Presented by Mike Williams
Produced by Ben Crighton

(Photo: Poppies pegged on a wall bearing the names of soldiers who lost their lives in World War One. Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/GettyImages)

As the world marks the centenary of the First World War, bereaved families reflect on the sacrifices made by their loved ones. What is the true nature of modern sacrifice?

Presented by Mike Williams

Produced by Ben Crighton

(Photo: Poppies pegged on a wall bearing the names of soldiers who lost their lives in World War One. Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/GettyImages)

Why Do People Take Risks?2015062620150628 (WS)
20150629 (WS)

Why do some people expose themselves to risks and why are we so bad at assessing them?

Some people actively embrace risk by jumping out of aeroplanes, scuba-diving or motor-racing. But we all face risks every day just by eating, drinking, walking and driving – simply going about our daily lives carries all sorts of unseen threats. And yet for some reason we often misperceive these risks. We are not very good at calculating things on which our lives may depend. Why is that? Risk-averse Mike Williams speaks to some risk-takers to find out.

(Photo credit: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images)

Why Do Pet Videos Go Viral?2016081920160822 (WS)

The strange success of pets on the internet. Why?

The Why Factor is about our pets on the internet. Those viral videos of our cats stalking us or the dogs saying I love you. Why have cats become celebrities and why do we love to watch and follow them on social media? Mike Williams meets the cat at the top of the viral video tree; the one and only Grumpy Cat with twelve million followers, her owners and business managers are just trying to keep up with all her fans. Assistant Professor Jessica Gall Myrick from Indiana University, conducted an online survey of some 7000 cat video watchers and found that people felt happier watching them and were less likely to feel anxious or sad. With all that happiness around, the creator of NyanCat – an animated cat flying through space with a rainbow trail and catchy tune to match, has a mind-boggling 133 million views last time Chris Torres checked. He tells The Why Factor why he thinks it has been such a viral sensation. We also talk to Jason Eppink, curator of a recent exhibition at the Museum of Moving Image in New York on ‘How Cats Took Over The Internet’. Then there is a serious side to all this cat, dog, chicken and goat watching online. Anh Xiao Mina – a writer and researcher has been looking at the growth of ‘cute cat digital activism’ – the theory that pet viral videos are teaching us important lessons about what we can say and do online and could, in the future, be used to promote new social movements.
Presented by Mike Williams
Produced by Nina Robinson

(IMAGE:Grumpy Cat at the BBC, Nina Robinson - BBC Copyright)

The Why Factor is about our pets on the internet. Those viral videos of our cats stalking us or the dogs saying I love you. Why have cats become celebrities and why do we love to watch and follow them on social media? Mike Williams meets the cat at the top of the viral video tree; the one and only Grumpy Cat with twelve million followers, her owners and business managers are just trying to keep up with all her fans. Assistant Professor Jessica Gall Myrick from Indiana University, conducted an online survey of some 7000 cat video watchers and found that people felt happier watching them and were less likely to feel anxious or sad. With all that happiness around, the creator of NyanCat – an animated cat flying through space with a rainbow trail and catchy tune to match, has a mind-boggling 133 million views last time Chris Torres checked. He tells The Why Factor why he thinks it has been such a viral sensation. We also talk to Jason Eppink, curator of a recent exhibition at the Museum of Moving Image in New York on ‘How Cats Took Over The Internet’. Then there is a serious side to all this cat, dog, chicken and goat watching online. Anh Xiao Mina – a writer and researcher has been looking at the growth of ‘cute cat digital activism’ – the theory that pet viral videos are teaching us important lessons about what we can say and do online and could, in the future, be used to promote new social movements.

Presented by Mike Williams

Produced by Nina Robinson

(IMAGE:Grumpy Cat at the BBC, Nina Robinson - BBC Copyright)

Why Do Some People Crave The Limelight?2017072420170725 (WS)

Why do some people crave the limelight and what does it do to our bodies?

We sweat; we feel sick and even shake when we’re faced with the limelight. Our bodies release stress hormones and begin fight or flight response. So why then do some people crave the limelight so badly?

Presenter Jordan Dunbar undergoes an experiment to find out what the limelight does to our bodies, to get a chemical answer.

We speak with an historian of Fame, Leo Braudy, to hear how Alexander The Great started it all and how he used the Ancient Greek version of twitter to let everyone know how ‘great’ he was.

We meet a Celebrity Psychologist, Dr Arthur Cassidy who reveals that attention is hardwired into our brains and how social media get us hooked as well as telling us why we want attention so badly.

Star of 52 reality television shows Lisa Appleton knows a thing or two about the limelight, she talks about the main reason behind her search for fame.

Rainbow Riots is a group of performers who highlight the injustices happening to the LGBT community around the world. They have come together from some of the most dangerous countries in the world to be gay. Kowa is a performer from Kampala who tells us why she’s willing to risk her life to bring attention to her struggle.

George Bamby is an infamous paparazzo, a celebrity photographer who controls the limelight and he tell us what the world behind the camera is like. You’ll never look at the celebrity magazines in the same way again.

We’ll find out the reasons behind the obsession with fame and the limelight around the world.

Music by Petter Wallenberg and Rainbow Riots

(Photo: Presenter Jordan Dunbar performing / Photo credit: Prague Fringe Festival )

Why Do Top Sportsmen And Women Choke?2015071720150719 (WS)
20150720 (WS)

Why do we lose the ability to do routine tasks under pressure?

The journalist, author and Olympian Matthew Syed blew it big time at the Sydney 2000 games. Despite a GB medal prospect in table tennis, he was thrashed by an opponent he had beaten many times before. He choked. Ever since, he has been keen to understand why sometimes the brain robs an individual of the ability to do routine tasks - in his case to hit a ping pong ball on the table.

You do not have to be a world class sportsman to choke. Think of that job interview you fluffed or that wildly attractive person at a party that left you unable to do what you do every day - speak coherently.

Matthew explores the neurological and psychological trajectory of a choke. People from the worlds of sport, business and entertainment all feature in this examination of when we fail to do what comes naturally to us.

(Photo: A man loses at a table tennis match. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Do We Behave So Oddly Inside 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 Behave So Oddly Inside Lifts/elevators?2012092820120929 (WS)
20121001 (WS)

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 Do We Have Tattoos?2012091420120915 (WS)
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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)

Mike Williams on where tattoos come from and what they say about us.

Why do we do we have tattoos? Join Mike Williams in this new series.

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.

Why Do We Draw?2015061220150614 (WS)
20150615 (WS)

What makes us draw, how do we get good at it and what do we reveal through our drawings?

Are some people simply more visual than others? And, what do we reveal through our drawings? Drawing is something we all do unselfconsciously as children before we learn to write. It is a form of expression that goes back 40,000 years and began on the walls of caves. But why do we draw? Is it to make our mark on the world, to decorate our surroundings, or is it a way of communicating with others when words fail us?

Lucy Ash talks to Stephen Wiltshire, world famous for his incredibly detailed pen and ink cityscapes; to Rebecca Chamberlain, a psychologist now at the University of Leuven in Belgium who is studying art school students to try and understand how people get better at drawing; to David Hockney renowned for his both his traditional draughtsmanship and his enthusiasm for new technology and to Lizzie Ellis, who comes from a remote community in central Australia and draws with a stick, telling stories through her traditional form of Aboriginal women's art. And at the London charity Kids Company, Arts manager Jebet Mengech encourages children to express themselves with pencils, crayons and felt tips using drawing to reveal problems in the children’s lives.

(Photo: A student in a life class at the Royal School of Drawing)

Why Do We Feel Heartbreak?2018090320180904 (WS)

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

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)

Why Do We Find Some Voices Irritating?2016090920160912 (WS)

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 Do We Find Some Voices Irritating?20160912

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 Do We Fly Flags?2015012420150125 (WS)

From identity symbols to signalling tools, why human societies are fascinated by flags

Mike Williams asks why do we fly flags? They have many uses, from identifying symbols to signalling tools. But why a piece of cloth? Because it moves in the breeze, and movement catches the eye. The first flags were used by warlords in China, as China wove silk.

Mike goes to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to find out about the many uses of flags in merchant fleets and the navy, and hears from the designer of the new South African flag that it was all done in such a rush that his sketch had to be faxed and coloured in at the other end, to get the approval of Nelson Mandela who happened to be in a meeting in another city. Mike also talks to a German artist who replaced the two Stars and Stripes on the Brooklyn Bridge with white versions, and to the Russian who planted a titanium Russian flag on the floor of the Arctic ocean, to claim it for his country.

Produced by Arlene Gregorius.

(Photo: Faithfuls with flags of different countries gather at a beach. Credit: Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images)

Why Do We Forget The Things We've Learned?2018091020180911 (WS)

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.

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)
20161219 (WS)

Why does driving bring out the worst in some people?

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

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

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)
20150906 (WS)
20150907 (WS)

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 Have Human Rights?20150906
Why Do We Have Human Rights?20150907

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 Have Tattoos?20120914
Why Do We Have Tattoos?20120915
Why Do We Have Tattoos?20120916
Why Do We Have Tattoos?20120917

Mike Williams on where tattoos come from and what they say about us.

Why do we do the things we do?

Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions. So much of what we do is assumed, it seems almost second nature. But where do those ideas, decisions and behaviours actually come from?

The series sets its own agenda and draws upon many but interconnected approaches: psychological, cultural, historical social anthropological, philosophical. It informs us about about the way we live now, about the human condition in the 21st Century.

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 Keep Open Secrets?20181015

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

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Why Do We Keep Open Secrets?2018101520181016 (WS)

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

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Why Do We Laugh?2012101920121020 (WS)
20121022 (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)

What is it that actually triggers our laughter, do all of us find the same things funny?

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? The programme also looks beyond comedy, at laughter in our everyday lives and the role it plays in the relationships between men and women.

And it hears some surprising and disturbing discoveries. Why, for instance, were those who carried out the massacre at Columbine laughing as they shot dead 13 people?

Why Do We Laugh?20121020
Why Do We Laugh?20121022

What is it that actually triggers our laughter, do all of us find the same things funny?

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?

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.

(Image: A boat on the sea, Credit: Lesley Curwen/BBC)

How our love affair with the boat can be a deep and passionate attachment

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)

Why Do We Love Dolls?2015092520150926 (WS)
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Despite all the new entertainments on offer, dolls endure. Why?

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)

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)

Why Do We Love Landscapes?2018061120180612 (WS)

Why do so many people love landscapes like the English Lake District?

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 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)

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.

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 \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)

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)

From shopping lists to to-do lists – why do we make lists and what do they say about us?

Why Do We Make Lists?20161225

From 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)

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 Cash?2015070320150705 (WS)
20150706 (WS)

We have all used cash but what exactly is it and do we still need it?

We all use cash - notes and coins - but with the increasing popularity of transacting by other methods, mobile phone, debit cards, do we still need cash? Some countries in northern Europe such as Sweden and Denmark are working towards a cashless society within the next 10 years. But what about those who are unable to open a bank account, the low waged, the homeless?

Although it is argued that getting rid of large amounts of cash would reduce both large and small scale crime, others argue that it is an inalienable right for a citizen to be anonymous, something that is impossible with a debit card or using mobile money which can be traced. Mike Williams asks is cash still king and if so why?

(Photo: Various world currency in a green money box. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why Do We Need Diaries?2015081420150815 (WS)
20150816 (WS)
20150817 (WS)

They hold our secrets, and preserve our memories, but why do we need diaries?

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)

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)

Why Do We Shake Hands?2012110220121103 (WS)
20121104 (WS)
20121105 (WS)

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)

Millions of us use this gesture but where does this everyday ritual come from?

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 Smoke?20121006
Why Do We Smoke?20121008

In this week's programme Mike Williams looks at why people start smoking.

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 Support Sports Clubs?2015101620151017 (WS)
20151018 (WS)
20151019 (WS)

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)

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 Travel?2015080720150809 (WS)
20150810 (WS)

Mike Williams asks why do we leave the comfort of our homes to go travel?

Mike Williams asks why do we travel? Why do we leave the comforts of our homes to go to other places?

Psychology has shown that travel - even just thinking about other countries - broadens our minds and makes us more creative. But we travel for many reasons, from acquiring memories, to seeing how other people live, even to build or re-invent our identities. And then there are those, like P. J. O’Rourke, who claim to hate travelling and prefer to stay home. Though it turns out he actually likes tourism, just not tourists.

Mike also talks to South African travel writer Sihle Kuhmalo, Stanford Travel bookshop senior buyer David Montero, and psychologist Corinne Usher.

Produced by Arlene Gregorius

Photo: An international traveller arrives at an airport. Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

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)

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 and 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)

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 and 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\u2019s survived for the three centuries. But what\u2019s 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)

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)
20120924 (WS)

Why do we do the things we do? This week, Mike Williams asks why we wear neckties.

Why do we do the things we do?

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 do the things we do? This week, Mike Williams asks why do we wear ties?

Why Do We Wear Ties?20120922
Why Do We Wear Ties?20120924

Why do we do the things we do? This week, Mike Williams asks why we wear neckties.

Why do we do the things we do?

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)

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)

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)
20151025 (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)

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 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)

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 Eye Contact Is Important2014061320140614 (WS)
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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)

Why Football Is The World's Game2018061820180619 (WS)

Why has football becomes the world\u2019s 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 Has Feminism Affected The Mother-son Bond?2018092420180925 (WS)

Why has feminism changed the relationship between a mother and her son?

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

Why Have Women Taken To Wellness?20181022

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far asks why women seek alternative ways to improve their health.

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Why Have Women Taken To Wellness?2018102220181023 (WS)

Nastaran Tavakoli-Far asks why women seek alternative ways to improve their health.

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

Why I\u2019m 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 I\u2019m 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 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)

Lee Kumutat asks why blind people must either be inspirational or deserving pity

Why I’m Not Just Blind2017031720170319 (WS)
20170320 (WS)

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)

Lee Kumutat asks why blind people must either be inspirational or deserving pity

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)

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 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)

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\u2019s 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)

Raising children is demanding, so why do we choose to raise other people’s children?

Why The Father-son Relationship Is Important2018091720180918 (WS)

Why the relationship between father and son can be so important.

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

Why We Need To Learn More About Pain20180212

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.

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)

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)

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)

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: National Pride2014062820140630 (WS)

Why are we so drawn to symbols of statehood, and how can leaders use that loyalty?

In this edition of The Why Factor Mike Williams explores national pride. Why are we so drawn to symbols of statehood, and how can leaders use that loyalty? Today, a flying flag, a rousing speech and an anthem - a national anthem.

Produced by Ben Crighton and Laura Gray

(Image of a military band playing brass instruments. Credit: Shutterstock)

World War One: Patriotism2014062720140628 (WS)
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The power of patriotism from WW1 to today and truths and myths of the modern nation state

Mike Williams presents a special extended edition of The Why Factor on patriotism. He asks what motivates people to serve their country and how this loyalty can be fostered, manufactured and manipulated. Mike investigates the power of patriotism from World War One to the present day – exploring flags and anthems, borders and boundaries, King and Country, God and Empire, and the truths and the myths of the modern nation state. What would you be willing to fight and die for?

Produced by Ben Crighton

(Image of a veteran soldier standing against a black background. Credit: Getty Images)

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)

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)

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)