Over the past decade, podcasts have evolved from an intriguing digital phenomenon to one of the most important types of media. Determining the current number of podcasts can be tricky, but experts estimate that there could be anywhere between 1 and 2 million different shows—and tens of millions of episodes. While these span a wide array of topics, many of the most popular relate in some way to psychology.
Listeners love to learn how their own brains work—and how the tenets of human behavior impact everything from relationships to the work world and even dark concepts such as criminality. With so many psychology podcasts available, however, it can be difficult to know where to start when curating a list.
If you're on the hunt for a fun way to enrich your understanding of core psychological concepts, be sure to add these top podcasts to your downloads:
1. Hidden Brain
No list of psychology podcasts would be complete without Hidden Brain, which took the podcasting world by storm when it launched in 2015. Hosted by science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, this podcast is modeled after the host's similarly named book, which won an Edward R. Murrow Award.
Both the book and the podcast highlight how unconscious biases influence human behavior. This, in turn, has a huge impact on how we handle everyday decision-making, relationship issues, and major sources of stress.
While the Hidden Brain podcast began with NPR, it went independent in 2020. It's still distributed by NPR but produced by Hidden Brain Media. When he first announced his departure from NPR, Vedantam explained that "being an independent entity and being able to chart my own course will be valuable." Despite these changes, it remains as compelling as ever.
Highlighting the unseen forces that shape human behavior, this NPR podcast relies on a narrative approach to make complicated concepts more approachable. The latest brain science discoveries are woven into each story to help listeners "see new possibilities for how to think, behave and live."
While the show has changed hosts throughout the years, its emphasis on integrating research and storytelling remains as obvious as ever. In its current form, it is hosted by journalist and artist Kia Miakka Natisse as well as USA Knight Fellow and multi-media guru Yowei Shaw. Together, these hosts bring a fresh perspective to the podcast.
As a report from Vulture suggests, the goal of the revitalized podcast is to shift away from the "purely psychological and towards the more structural, societal, and sociological." Despite this, it remains an excellent resource for applying psychological insights to everyday phenomena.
If you prefer the previous "emphasis on the individual and the internal world," you can still dive into the many seasons and episodes involving former hosts Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin.
3. The Mental Illness Happy Hour
What happens when you combine comedy with an honest—and often sobering—look at some of today's most pressing mental health issues? The result is a wonderful podcast that makes listeners feel accepted, valued, and even downright powerful.
With The Mental Illness Happy Hour, host and comedian Paul Gilmartin emphasizes the often-complicated role of mental health concerns in the creative arts, where such struggles can be both inspiring and limiting. During his weekly episodes, he interviews a variety of noteworthy individuals, including comedians, of course, but also authors, filmmakers, musicians, and even magicians.
Every episode is special in its own way, as Gilmartin has the uncanny ability to draw groundbreaking insights from his guests. If there's any general takeaway, however, it's that people can thrive as they navigate the world with mental health concerns—especially if they seek help in the form of therapy.
Gilmartin expects that his podcast will "give people a place to connect, smile and feel the return of hope." While he cautions that his show is far from a doctor's office, it can function as a "waiting room that doesn’t suck."
4. The Psych Files
Boasting tens of millions of downloads, this production was the clear leader of the psychology podcasting niche for years. New episodes ceased in 2020, but The Psych Files still offers a wealth of relevant resources for newbies. Even veteran listeners may find that many episodes warrant a second try.
Whether you're familiar with The Psych Files or on the hunt for something new, you'll have no trouble keeping entertained with the well over 300 episodes currently available for streaming or download. This show is hosted by Michael A. Britt, Ph.D., who hopes to capture the attention of all those who express curiosity about human behavior.
While The Psych Files generally targets psychology students and graduates, all types of people can benefit from the insights delivered within this podcast's top episodes. Intriguing topics include:
- Professional passion
- Forensic psychology
- Aggressive cuteness
- Trauma recovery
5. Speaking of Psychology
Produced by the American Psychological Association, this neuroscience podcast examines today's most relevant research while also helping listeners apply these findings to their everyday lives. Hosted by reporter and editor Kim I. Mills, the show looks to the field's most respected individuals for insight on the psychological underpinnings of current news stories and other topics of interest.
Speaking of Psychology, listeners will enjoy learning about the power of the growth mindset, the surprising value of small talk, and the many ways in which disease can shape human behavior. Most episodes last for about half an hour—just long enough to provide a wealth of information but short enough to make for an enjoyable listen during daily commutes.
While this popular podcast's obvious focus is on economics, psychology plays an important role in every concept its host Stephen Dubner examines. After all, Dubner is notorious for his fascination with behavioral economics, which moves away from pure numbers to integrate social sciences.
Most episodes include at least a few psychological takeaways, but the following are especially notable:
- 5 Psychology Terms You're Probably Misusing
- How to Get Anyone to Do Anything
- How to Manage Your Goal Hierarchy
- How to Launch a Behavior-Change Revolution
7. The Abnormal Psychologist
Exploring the many facets of psychopathology, this podcast is hosted by professor and behavioral scientist Dr. Colby Taylor. Early episodes take a broad look at the concept of abnormal psychology, exploring the practice's history, as well as the importance of psychotherapy and the influence of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' fifth edition (DSM-V).
Later on, the podcast delves into specific disorders and other intriguing concepts. Many episodes are dedicated to common conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression. In its second season, the show looks at video games, imaginary friends, and several other interesting topics. All episodes are informed by thorough research but also draw on a wealth of clinical experiences.
8. Psychologists Off the Clock
What do psychologists discuss when they're not actively engaged in clinical work? On this podcast, they apply their perspective to self-care and relationship building, all while maintaining a welcoming, conversational tone. In over 200 episodes to date, they've discussed ideas such as microaggressions, imposter syndrome, and the good girl myth.
The concepts themselves are interesting, but what really sets this podcast apart is the expertise of its hosts: four clinical psychologists who clearly know what they're talking about. They bring a variety of experts on the show to provide further details on niche areas you might otherwise never examine.
9. Psychology After Dark
Why is it that so many people are drawn to the darkest aspects of the human condition? This quandary forms the basis of Psychology After Dark, in which two esteemed professionals examine both historical and current events based on the role of the human brain. The hosts hold "wildly different theoretical and practical orientations," but that's exactly what makes their discussions so compelling.
Every topic referenced in this podcast is downright fascinating, with episodes about the Fyre Festival and the War of the Worlds sparking the most interest. Be prepared to learn more than you ever wanted about cults and master criminals. The hosts love to receive ideas from listeners, so feel free to contact them with any requests.
If you’re interested in psychology or mental health issues, consider earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology or your master’s degree in organizational psychology from JWU Online. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].