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The Why Factor


Why do we do the things we do? Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions to inform us about the way we live in the 21st century. Broadcast and podcast every Friday from September 2012.

Why do we do the things we do? Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions to inform us about the way we live in the 21st century. Broadcast and podcast every Friday from September 2012.
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Why do we do the things we do? Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions to inform us about the way we live in the 21st century. Broadcast and podcast every Friday from September 2012.




Why the Father-Son Relationship is Important

Fathers can influence their sons long after the two have stopped living together. The father can act as the role model or, conversely, a cautionary tale. In this edition of the Why Factor, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far talks with fathers and sons about how the relationship has affected them profoundly. Image: Honduran Father and Son. Credit: Getty Images


Why do we forget the things we’ve learned?

Have you ever been captivated by a book, full of stories you never knew, revelled in that new knowledge …and then forgotten it all? If the answer is yes, take heart; you are not alone. Why is it we remember some facts easily, and others slip away? In this week’s Why Factor Sandra Kanthal asks why do we forget the things we’ve learned. Image: Brain Concept. Credit: BSIP / UIG via Getty Images


Why Do We Feel Heartbreak?

Heartbreak after love lost has been written about for generations. Who can forget the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet? Or how Rose lost Jack in Titanic? Some of our favourite songs were inspired by heartbreak and as most of us have felt heartbreak in one form or another, relating to their words comes easy. But what causes these feelings? Is it all a figment of our imagination prompted by our society and culture or is there more to it than that? Can we fall sick or even die from a...



Why would you go to the coldest place on Earth? A place mostly devoid of life, where there are rarely more than a few thousand other humans spread out across a landmass twice the size of Australia. A place whose sublime beauty is matched by its capacity to kill you, very fast. We are talking about Antarctica. A continent which belongs to no nation has no government and is run according to an international treaty signed nearly 60 years ago. Shabnam Grewal went there many years ago and knows...


Why Boredom Is Interesting

Boredom is a powerful emotion, one which many of us will go to lengths to avoid. Psychologists describe its purpose as trying to get us to do something else. Boredom can spur us on to do something more meaningful or tempt us into dangerous behaviours. In this edition of thy Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal talks with researchers who think boredom is anything but boring. Image: A bored woman behind a rainy window in a tram, (c) Getty Images.


Being at Sea

Lesley Curwen has sailed thousands of miles around Europe on her yacht and knows the strange joy of being out of sight of land. Talking to fellow sea-lovers - sailors, a marine biologist, an artist and a Captain of a merchant ship - she asks why we are drawn to go to sea and put ourselves at the mercy of wind and waves. Is it a yearning to be close to nature, a test of self-reliance or can science explain why our brains are attracted to the ocean? Photo: The sea. Copyright Shutterstock


Why Do We Love Boats?

Why do so many of us love boats? They are used as homes as well as for work and pleasure across the world. Lesley Curwen, a proud owner of a yacht, finds out how our love affair with the boat can be a deep, passionate attachment and how some vessels can take on the character of their owners. In some cultures boats are seen as living things and the best place to create family memories far from the busy, connected world of dry land. (Photo: A boat on the sea)


Female Friendships

Just like in the TV show Sex and the City, female friendships tend to be uniquely close – women talk often and share a lot. But this level of intimacy can make the relationships susceptible to serious and even terminal breakdown. As friendships increasingly take place through social media, Nastaran Tavakoli-Far looks at why new technology can be a mixed blessing for female friendship by exaggerating existing vulnerabilities yet enabling increased connectedness. She also learns why it’s a...


Male Friendships

From the Obama – Biden bromance to the transformative experience of the men’s group, in this programme presenter Nastaran Tavakoli-Far explores what men can get from their friendships with other men that is unique. With theories from Aristotle to the modern day, she looks at how long held notions of masculinity sit within redefined gender roles and can prevent men from getting close to other men. And also learns about the importance of music in making friends and why being able to show our...


School Reunions

Why do people go to their school reunion? Caz Graham goes to a 50th anniversary school reunion in the North of England where she meets people who are encountering friends who have not seen each other for years. She hears how the event prompts their memories of school days from the 1960s and also what they have done in the years since leaving school. Caz explores the strength of feelings that school day memories produce and finds out from experts why these enduring memories draw people back...


Us and Them

Dividing people into groups is part of our social experience. Be it through race, gender, nationality; we build our identities through groups we belong to. And these identities can be numerous and elastic. But, what makes us decide who is like us and who is the other? In this week’s Why Factor, Sandra Kanthal asks; why do we divide the world into us and them? (Image: Baseball caps, Credit: Sandra Kanthal/BBC)



How often do you think about other peoples’ opinion of you? In many parts of the world status is something we can change through education, occupation and wealth but what if you come from a culture where the status you are born with is inescapable? We speak to author Sujatha Gidla about growing up as one of India’s Untouchables: the outcasts of the country’s rigid Caste system. Lifestyle and fashion blogger Sasha Wilson shows us how high the status stakes are in the completive online world...



People have been fishing for thousands of years – it is one of the last hunter gatherer activities. But increasingly it is becoming more difficult, as fish stocks dwindle or regulation limits the number of fishes that can be caught. Caz Graham asks why do people continue to fish despite these difficulties. She goes out into the Solway Firth in the north of England, with a group of haaf net fishers who use a traditional form of salmon fishing that dates back over a thousand years. She hears...


Why Football is the World’s Game

Why has football becomes the world’s favourite team sport? Aasmah Mir asks why “soccer” has developed such a huge following. As the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, Aasmah talks to players and fans across the world about the game’s accessibility, simplicity and unpredictability. (Image: Children playing football on beach, Credit: Shutterstock)


Why Do We Love Landscapes?

What is it about a beautiful landscape that people like so much? Caz Graham explores the appeal of landscapes, starting with a visit to the English Lake District and the site of William Wordsworth’s poem, Daffodils. Caz meet local poet Harriet Fraser and her husband, photographer, Rob Fraser, to hear what it is about the lakes and mountains where they work that so inspires them and other artists. She meets high altitude mountaineer Alan Hinkes to find out why he is drawn to wild and...



Why do we believe complete strangers can guide us in improving every aspect of ourselves. Mary-Ann Ochota explores whether the self-help industry really changes peoples’ lives. Mary-Ann visits a self-improvement workshop, talks to the owner of an Indian finishing school and to two academics who spent a year in bitter competition as each attempted to outdo the other in self-improvement. (Image: Yes you can, Credit: Shutterstock)



Why do we have such a close and complex relationship with dogs? No matter whether you love or hate them, it’s undeniable they’ve built up a special relationship with us that most animals haven’t. On this episode of The Why Factor, we find out why dogs are so special. Mary-Ann Ochota delves into the emotion, science and history that sets them apart - be they friend, foe or food. (Image: Essex Search and Rescue, Credit: Gabriela Jones/BBC)



Although we don’t like thinking about it, most of us are resigned to the fact that we won’t escape death in the end. But there are people who have dedicated their entire lives to conquering death. This relatively new movement of so called ‘transhumanists’ believes that science is close to finding a cure for aging and that immortality may be just around the corner. Chloe Hadjimatheou asks why some people chase immortality. (Image: Theatre, Credit: Copyright ©2018 Alcor Life Extension...



Why do people marry themselves – and what even is self-marriage? The Why Factor meets the self-married, who argue if marriage is about committing to an individual - to love and cherish, in sickness and in health - who better to commit to… than yourself? Mary-Ann Ochota finds out why this emerging phenomenon is so popular amongst women in particular. And why self-marriage can be either a radical act of self-love, or the ultimate cosplay. And sometimes both. (Image: Grace Gelder, Credit: Amy...


Romance Fraud

Why do people fall for online romance frauds? With false online profiles, doctored photographs, and convincing background stories, online fraudsters target people who are looking for love and online relationships. Once they have hooked their victims, they set about stealing money from them. But what convinces people that their new relationship is so realistic that they become willing to hand over large amounts of money to someone who they may never meet. Shari Vahl explores why people fall...