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This edition: Episode #105: "Force Majeure" & "Rosewater"

Episode Details

Original tape date: April 8, 2015.

First aired: June 19, 2015.

In episode #105 of Science Goes to the Movies, co-hosts Faith Salie and Dr. Heather Berlin discuss visceral fear as it relates to the Swedish film Force Majeure, joined by NPR Science Friday host Ira Flatow for a continued analysis as portrayed in Jon Stewart’s Rosewater.

Force Majeure follows a family’s emotional turmoil after a father fails to protect his wife and children in a potentially dangerous situation. This leads to a conversation about how fear and gender relate, and how a mother’s protective instinct toward children differs from that of a father. A discussion ensues about the impossibility of predicting how any person will react to a sudden fearful circumstance; what neurological processes are engaged in those moments; and the amount of leeway in the brain for analytical thinking during a dire circumstance. Salie and Berlin additionally explore scientific evidence for selfishness and cowardice.

Ira Flatow joins the hosts to discuss Rosewater, the true story of an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was detained and tortured on suspicion of being an American spy. He helps to explicate the differences between psychological and physical torture, the lasting effect of one versus the other, and the neurological circuitry involved. A new psychological field, studying the resilience of survivors of traumatic events, is explained, as well as how humor can empower in a threatening situation. Flatow also offers insights on how fear can interfere with a person’s ability to perceive what is otherwise undeniable.

Science Goes to the Movies is made possible by generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Guest List

Ira Flatow Host, NPR’s Science Friday

Web Extras

The Science of Being Scared

Dr. Heather Berlin breaks down the reaction in the brain to a frightening situation.

Does fear hinder memory?

Dr. Heather Berlin and Faith Salie discuss the effect of fear on perception and memory.

The neurology of blindfolding

Dr. Heather Berlin explains the neurological effects of having your sight denied.

Fear and Climate Change

Ira Flatow discusses how fear makes it hard to face the realities of climate change.
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