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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3:16pm

Tue February 7, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

A Fresh Look At Antidepressants Finds Low Risk Of Youth Suicide

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 5:35 pm

In 2004, after an extensive review, the Food and Drug Administration issued a strong warning to doctors who prescribed antidepressants to teens and children.

Antidepressants, the FDA said, appeared to increase suicide among kids and teens. Doctors needed to be careful. The FDA even mandated that a "black-box warning," the strongest type, be placed on antidepressant packaging.

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12:01am

Mon January 23, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

When It Comes To Depression, Serotonin Isn't The Whole Story

Originally published on Fri February 3, 2012 1:13 pm

The antidepressant Prozac selectively targets the chemical serotonin.
Paul S. Howell Getty Images

When I was 17 years old, I got so depressed that what felt like an enormous black hole appeared in my chest. Everywhere I went, the black hole went, too.

So to address the black-hole issue, my parents took me to a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She did an evaluation and then told me this story:

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12:01am

Mon January 2, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 3:49 pm

U.S. soldiers at Long Binh base, northeast of Saigon, line up to give urine samples at a heroin detection center in June 1971, before departing for the U.S.
AP

It's a tradition as old as New Year's: making resolutions. We will not smoke, or sojourn with the bucket of mint chocolate chip. In fact, we will resist sweets generally, including the bowl of M &Ms that our co-worker has helpfully positioned on the aisle corner of his desk. There will be exercise, and the learning of a new language.

It is resolved.

So what does science know about translating our resolve into actual changes in behavior? The answer to this question brings us — strangely enough — to a story about heroin use in Vietnam.

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3:50pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Science

Taj Hotel Staff Were Mumbai's Unlikely Heroes

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:18 pm

Indian firefighters attempt to put out a fire as smoke billows out of the historic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, which was stormed by armed gunmen in November 2008.
Indranil Mukherjee AFP/Getty Images

On Nov. 26, 2008, terrorists simultaneously attacked about a dozen locations in Mumbai, India, including one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

For two nights and three days, the Taj was under siege, held by men with automatic weapons who took some people hostage, killed others and set fire to the famous dome of the hotel.

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1:21pm

Mon December 5, 2011
Humans

For Creative People, Cheating Comes More Easily

Originally published on Mon December 5, 2011 7:22 pm

New research suggests that people who are more creative are more likely to cheat.
iStockphoto.com

Five months after the implosion of Enron, Feb. 12, 2002, the company's chief executive, Ken Lay, finally stood in front of Congress and the world, and placed his hand on a Bible.

At that point everyone had questions for Lay. It was clear by then that Enron was the product of a spectacular ethical failure, that there had been massive cheating and lying. The real question was: How many people had been dishonest? Who was in on it?

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3:00pm

Fri November 25, 2011
Research News

Why We Give, Not Why You Think

Originally published on Fri November 25, 2011 5:16 pm

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

This time of year, pleas for donations are as plentiful as eggnog and door-buster sales. Americans give around $300 billion a year to charity. And as NPR's Alix Spiegel reports, psychologists have started to look more closely at when and why we're motivated to give.

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4:37am

Tue September 27, 2011
Science

How Psychology Solved A WWII Shipwreck Mystery

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 12:52 pm

A gun turret on the sunken Australian warship HMAS Sydney. All 645 people aboard the Sydney died.
AP

In November 1941, two ships crossed paths off the coast of Australia. One was the German raider HSK Kormoran. The other: an Australian warship called the HMAS Sydney. Guns were fired, the ships were damaged, and both sank to the bottom of the ocean.

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12:01am

Mon September 12, 2011
Your Health

For The Dying, A Chance To Rewrite Life

Originally published on Mon September 12, 2011 1:47 pm

Kate Frego pins the turban of her mother, Aida Essenburg. Before Essenburg died in July of this year, she sat down with a dignity therapist to record the history of her life in what became a 50-page document.
Courtesy of Kate Frego

For several decades, psychiatrists who work with the dying have been trying to come up with new psychotherapies that can help people cope with the reality of their death. One of these therapies asks the dying to tell the story of their life.

This end-of-life treatment, called dignity therapy, was created by a man named Harvey Chochinov. When Chochinov was a young psychiatrist working with the dying, he had a powerful experience with one of the patients he was trying to counsel — a man with an inoperable brain tumor.

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12:01am

Tue August 9, 2011
Environment

Why Cleaned Wastewater Stays Dirty In Our Minds

Brent Haddad studies water in a place where water is often in short supply: California.

Haddad is a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. About 14 years ago, he became very interested in the issue of water reuse.

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4:24pm

Wed July 6, 2011
Law

To Prevent False IDs, Police Lineups Get Revamped

Using revamped photo lineup procedures, a Dallas police officer shows a victim of a robbery a single photo of a suspect in an interview room at police headquarters in 2009. Dallas officially adopted lineup reforms two years ago.
LM Otero AP

In a small room at police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, a police officer and the eyewitness to a minor crime recently sat down together to consider six photographs in a photo lineup.

Eyewitness identifications like this happen every day in America, and on the surface, it is a straight-forward transaction. The witness looks at the pictures. The witness picks a person from the photos. Or the witness doesn't.

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12:01am

Mon June 20, 2011
Your Health

Why Seeing (The Unexpected) Is Often Not Believing

Union College psychology professor Chris Chabris and his students staged an outdoor fight to study inattentional blindness.
Matt Milless Union College

Two months ago, on a wooded path in upstate New York, a psychologist named Chris Chabris strapped a video camera to a 20-year-old man and told him to chase after a jogger making his way down the path.

For close to two years Chabris, who teaches at Union College, had been conducting this same experiment. He did the experiment at night, in the afternoon, with women, with men. All were told to run after the jogger and watch him.

The goal of all this was to answer a question: Is it possible to see something really, really obvious and not perceive it?

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2:24pm

Thu May 26, 2011
Health

Can A Test Really Tell Who's A Psychopath?

Robert Dixon Sr. holds a photograph of his son, Robert Dixon Jr. (far right), his son's mentor Bob Stuart, and himself (far left).
Lianne Milton for NPR

In November 2009, Robert Dixon took a test to determine whether he was a psychopath.

After 26 years in prison, he was due for a parole hearing. In California, before a "lifer" like Dixon appears before the parole board, a state psychologist must first evaluate whether he poses a risk of further violence if released. To do that, the psychologist administers a test — the PCL-R, or Psychopathy Checklist-Revised — designed to measure whether that inmate is a psychopath.

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