This American Life

Built around the innovative vision of Ira Glass, this program documents and describes contemporary America. Using radio monologues, mini-documentaries, “found tape,” and unusual music, it is radio storytelling at its best.


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Sunday, January 11, 2015 Permalink

This American Life: Batman


Can other people's expectations of you alter what you can do physically? Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller of NPR's new radio show and podcast Invisibilia investigate that question – specifically, they look into something that sounds impossible: if people’s expectations can change whether a blind man can see.

Invisibilia’s first season of six episodes is running on hundreds of public radio stations. Check your local station’s website to see when they might be carrying it. The podcast is at, or wherever you get your podcasts.

NPR Science reporters Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller explain to Ira Glass how they smuggled a rat into NPR headquarters in Washington, and ran an unscientific version of a famous experiment first done by Psychology Professor Robert Rosenthal. It showed how people’s thoughts about rats could affect their behavior. Another scientist, Carol Dweck, explains that it’s true for people too: expectations affect students, children, soldiers, in measurable ways.


ACT 1: Batman Begins

Lulu tells the story of Daniel Kish, who’s blind, but can navigate the world by clicking with his tongue. This gives him so much information about what’s around him, he does all sorts of things most blind people don’t. Most famously, he rides a bike. We learn why he was raised so differently from the way most blind kids are brought up, and how the book The Making of Blind Men by Robert Scott changes everything for him.


ACT 2: The Dark Knight Rises

Daniel Kish says that through clicking, he forms mental pictures. He actually sees. A neuroscientist Lore Thaler explains how that might be possible. Daniel goes on a mission to teach other blind people to see the way he does.