I Second That Emotion
NPR's Invisibilia describes itself as "Interweaving narrative storytelling with scientific research, [focusing on] the invisible forces that control human behavior — ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions." But at a special Ask Me Another taping in Pittsburgh, PA, host Lulu Miller revealed the show's hidden agenda. "Sometimes we call it 'secret self-help," she told AMA host Ophira Eisenberg. "We try to look at stories and the science around it, [but] right at the end we give people some stuff that might help them live their lives."
Invisibilia is co-hosted by Miller along with Alix Spiegel, former reporters for RadioLab and This American Life, respectively. "This is our first game show," Spiegel said. "We're gonna crush."
"We're three women on radio," Eisenberg joked. "How are people going to tell us apart?" Miller recalled dismissing that criticism when Invisibilia debuted in January 2015. "[I thought,] 'These people are sexist and they don't know...,' but then my dad said, 'That was a great piece you did on the woman,' and I said, 'That was eighteen minutes of not your daughter.'"
Still, Invisibilia has been immensely successful, consistently ranking among the most popular podcasts on iTunes. One reason: the show's willingness to tackle the big questions. "As you're diving into the human psyche... do you end up [thinking] humans are amazing and there's so much joy out there?" Eisenberg asked. "Or are you like, 'we live in a dark and scary place.'" "I think it's dark and it's joyful," Spiegel said.
For their VIP game, Eisenberg quizzed the two hosts about what they know best — human emotions. We asked our audience various questions about their emotional decision making, and Spiegel and Miller guessed how they responded. Spoiler: it was much harder than the two anticipated.
On Spiegel's attempt to frighten Miller for an episode about fear
AS: I [brought in] a python, but she was not a part of consenting.
LM: It was terrifying. And then we had trouble editing, because like true fear, there was no noise.
AS: It was completely silent.
LL: Two weeks later I saw a root on the ground on a run and nearly sprained my ankle.
On next season's first episode
AS: We basically stalked all these people getting married at the courthouse, and we got them to tell us about the personalities of the people they just married. And we asked them how stable personality is. And then we looked at it in a different way.
OE: So you're breaking up marriages in the first episode.