Invisibilia is about the unseen forces that control human behavior — things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and thoughts.


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Friday, July 1, 2016 Permalink

The New Norm

Kristen Uroda for NPR

Kristen Uroda for NPR

Social norms determine much of your behavior - how you dress, talk, eat and even what you feel. Alix Spiegel and new co-host Hanna Rosin examine two experiments that attempt to shift these norms.


This week, new Invisibilia co-host Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel talk to oil workers in the deep south who tried a social experiment to transform the entrenched macho culture of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. In the process of this shift, they massively improved the safety and productivity of the rig, and also transformed the notion of what a Southern oil man is like.

Our second story involves a grand experiment in shifting a social norm, this time of an entire nation. In the 1990's McDonald's decided to open the first ever McDonald's in Moscow, but were impeded by the social norms around smiling and customer service in Russia. In this story Alix follows the story of Yuri, one of the first McDonald's employees, as he comes to unlearn what his teachers in school taught him: that people who smile at strangers are idiots.

Bonus Content:

NPR's health blog, Shots, will be producing special bonus content that explores the theme of each Invisibilia episode. The links below will go live as each feature is published or sign up for our newsletter to get it all delivered to your inbox on Mondays!

This week, Shots explains how macho oil rig workers got in touch with their softer sides, and how that made the oil rig a safer place to be. You'll get to see Tommy Chreene on his farm in Kaplan, Louisiana. Co-host Hanna Rosin asks if social norms have changed enough so that boys are no longer afraid to cry. And Wendy Wolfson looks into how norms for sickness and health vary around the world. Do you put VapoRub on the soles of your children's feet when they have a cold?

Listen with friends! Host your own listening party using this guide from Generation Listen, including conversation starters to spark your discussion, snack ideas, a music playlist and more. Have fun!