Alix Spiegel

NPR correspondent Alix Spiegel works on the Science desk and covers psychology.

Arriving at NPR in 2003, much of Spiegel's reporting has been on emotion mental health. She has reported on everything from the psychological impact of killing another person, to the emotional devastation of Katrina, to psycho-therapeutic approaches to transgender children.

Over the course of her career in public radio, Spiegel has won awards including the George Foster Peabody Award, Livingston Award, and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. Spiegel's 2007 documentary revealing mental health issues and crime plaguing a Southern Mississippi FEMA trailer park housing Katrina victims was recognized with Scripps Howard National Journalism Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Her radio documentary 81 Words, about the removal of homosexuality from psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, is being turned into a film by HBO.

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Spiegel graduated from Oberlin College. She began her career in radio in 1995 as one of the founding producers of the public radio show This American Life. Spiegel left the show in 1999 to become a full time reporter. She has also written for The New Yorker magazine and The New York Times.

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2:17am

Mon September 1, 2014
Shots - Health News

Our Use Of Little Words Can, Uh, Reveal Hidden Interests

Originally published on Sun October 5, 2014 8:50 pm

Katherine Streeter for NPR

One Friday night, 30 men and 30 women gathered at a hotel restaurant in Washington, D.C. Their goal was love, or maybe sex, or maybe some combination of the two. They were there for speed dating.

The women sat at separate numbered tables while the men moved down the line, and for two solid hours they did a rotation, making small talk with people they did not know, one after another, in three-minute increments.

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3:07pm

Mon July 7, 2014
Shots - Health News

The Secret History Behind The Science Of Stress

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 2:47 pm

Camel marketed smoke breaks at work as time spent relaxing instead of stressing. Camel, 1964.
Stanford University

The modern idea of stress began on a rooftop in Canada, with a handful of rats freezing in the winter wind.

This was 1936 and by that point the owner of the rats, an endocrinologist named Hans Selye, had become expert at making rats suffer for science.

"He would subject them to extreme temperatures, make them go hungry for long periods, or make them exercise a lot," the medical historian Mark Jackson says. "Then what he would do is kill the rats and look at their organs."

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2:27am

Mon June 23, 2014
Shots - Health News

How A Woman's Plan To Kill Herself Helped Her Family Grieve

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 4:06 pm

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

This story is in no way an endorsement of suicide. It's a description of one woman's choice and what came of it.

Five years ago, after doctors told her that she had Alzheimer's disease that would eventually steal her ability to read, write and recognize people, Sandy Bem decided to kill herself.

Sandy was 65 years old, an unsentimental woman and strong willed. For her, a life without books and the ability to recognize the people she loved wasn't a life she wanted.

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2:22am

Mon April 14, 2014
Shots - Health News

Mind Over Milkshake: How Your Thoughts Fool Your Stomach

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 1:58 pm

Bianca Giaever for NPR

It was late, almost 9 at night, when Justin Holden pulled the icy pizza box from the refrigerator at the Brookville Supermarket in Washington, D.C.

He stood in front of the open door, scanning the nutrition facts label.

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5:30pm

Mon April 7, 2014
Shots - Health News

Play It Again And Again, Sam

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 7:57 am

Rick Blaine, the sentimental tough guy in Casablanca, pined for "As Time Goes By."
The Kobal Collection

2:55am

Wed April 2, 2014
Parallels

So You Think You're Smarter Than A CIA Agent

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 12:04 pm

A group of 3,000 ordinary citizens, armed with nothing more than an Internet connection, is often making better forecasts of global events than CIA analysts. Here, a man crosses the CIA logo at its headquarters in Langley, Va.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

The morning I met Elaine Rich, she was sitting at the kitchen table of her small town home in suburban Maryland trying to estimate refugee flows in Syria.

It wasn't the only question she was considering; there were others:

Will North Korea launch a new multistage missile before May 10, 2014?

Will Russian armed forces enter Kharkiv, Ukraine, by May 10? Rich's answers to these questions would eventually be evaluated by the intelligence community, but she didn't feel much pressure because this wasn't her full-time gig.

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3:43pm

Fri December 27, 2013
Shots - Health News

When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison The Present

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:08 am

Having a perfect memory can put a strain on relationships, because every slight is remembered.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

On Feb. 21, Alexandra Wolff ate steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner. Later that night, sitting in her room, she spent 20 minutes scanning pictures in InStyle magazine.

She remembers those things, just as she remembers that on Aug. 2 she stopped at Target and bought Raisin Bran; and on April 17 she wore a white button-down shirt; and on Oct. 2 she went to TGI Fridays and spoke to the hostess, who was wearing black leather flats with small bows on them.

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2:04am

Mon May 20, 2013
Shots - Health News

If Your Shrink Is A Bot, How Do You Respond?

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 4:19 pm

Ellie is a computer simulation designed to engage real people in meaningful conversation and take their measure. The computer system looks for subtle patterns in body language and vocal inflections that might be clues to underlying depression or other emotional distress.
YouTube

Her hair is brown and tied back into a professional-looking ponytail. She wears a blue shirt, tan sweater and delicate gold chain. It's the first time she has met the man sitting across from her, and she looks out at him, her eyes curious.

"So how are you doing today?" she asks cautiously, trying to build rapport.

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3:26pm

Mon April 29, 2013
Shots - Health News

Big Sibling's Big Influence: Some Behaviors Run In The Family

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 11:02 am

iStockphoto.com

Patricia East is a developmental psychologist who began her career working at an OB-GYN clinic in California. Thursday mornings at the clinic were reserved for pregnant teens, and when East arrived the waiting room would be packed with them, chair after chair of pregnant adolescents.

It was in this waiting room, East explains, that she discovered her life's work — an accidental discovery that emerged from the small talk that staff at the clinic had with their young clients as they walked them back for checkups.

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9:18am

Wed April 17, 2013
Shots - Health News

Boston Blasts Remind Us Of Fragility Of Life

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 4:33 pm

Jillian Blenis, 30, of Boston reacts while stopping at a makeshift memorial to marathon bombing victims Wednesday.
Julio Cortez AP

From the first explosion in Boston on Monday to the second, just 15 seconds elapsed. And in those 15 seconds, three people were mortally wounded, including an 8-year-old boy. The number of injured topped 100, and for those of us watching, it was a profound reminder of a reality we'd prefer to ignore.

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4:51pm

Mon April 8, 2013
Shots - Health News

Would Angry Teens Chill Out If They Saw More Happy Faces?

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 8:59 pm

Researchers say that aggressive people tend to interpret ambiguous faces as reflecting hostility.
iStockphoto.com

All day long we're surrounded by faces. We see them on the subway sitting two by two, pass them on the sidewalk as we make our way to work, then nod to them in the elevator.

But most of those faces don't tell us much about the emotional life of the person behind the face.

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2:41pm

Mon April 1, 2013
Shots - Health News

Mining Books To Map Emotions Through A Century

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:18 am

When anthropologists tallied the use of emotional words through a century of literature, they included many books without clear emotional content — technical manuals, for example, and automotive repair guides.
Steve Debenport iStockphotography

Were people happier in the 1950s than they are today? Or were they more frustrated, repressed and sad?

To find out, you'd have to compare the emotions of one generation to another. British anthropologists think they may have found the answer — embedded in literature.

Several years ago, more or less on a lark, a group of researchers from England used a computer program to analyze the emotional content of books from every year of the 20th century — close to a billion words in millions of books.

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4:10am

Mon March 11, 2013
Shots - Health News

New Voices For The Voiceless: Synthetic Speech Gets An Upgrade

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 12:23 pm

Samantha Grimaldo was born with a rare disorder, Perisylvian syndrome, and has never been able to speak.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Ever since she was a small child, Samantha Grimaldo has had to carry her voice with her.

Grimaldo was born with a rare disorder, Perisylvian syndrome, which means that though she's physically capable in many ways, she's never been able to speak. Instead, she's used a device to speak. She types in what she wants to say, and the device says those words out loud. Her mother, Ruane Grimaldo, says that when Samantha was very young, the voice she used came in a heavy gray box.

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3:32pm

Mon February 25, 2013
Shots - Health News

To Spot Kids Who Will Overcome Poverty, Look At Babies

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 5:25 am

For some kids who grow up in poverty, the bond developed with Mom is especially important in dealing with stress.
iStockphoto.com

Why do some children who grow up in poverty do well, while others struggle?

To understand more about this, a group of psychologists recently did a study.

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2:33am

Mon February 11, 2013
Shots - Health News

Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 8:37 am

Notice anything unusual about this lung scan? Harvard researchers found that 83 percent of radiologists didn't notice the gorilla in the top right portion of this image.
Trafton Drew and Jeremy Wolfe

This story begins with a group of people who are expert at looking: the professional searchers known as radiologists.

"If you watch radiologists do what they do, [you're] absolutely convinced that they are like superhuman," says Trafton Drew, an attention researcher at Harvard Medical School.

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