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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 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...


Giving away Data

Why are we giving away our personal data so cheaply and with so little thought? Aasmah Mir asks if it is too late to secure our information. And if it is, whether we should charge for it. She talks to a law professor who believes everyone now has sensitive facts or preferences recorded on what he calls a “database of ruin”, a journalist whose details were revealed after she joined an infidelity website and an entrepreneur who is trying to help people make money by advising them on how to...


Carrying Guns

In the USA, those least likely to become victims of gun violence are the most likely to carry guns. So if they are not likely to become victims of crime, what are they really afraid of? We speak to people getting their gun licence to try and untangle what lies behind their anxieties and discover it’s about something much less tangible. Presenter: Aasmah Mir Producer: Phoebe Keane Photo: Maria Mathis with her gun on her ranch in Texas, USA, Credit: BBC)



We all fantasise from time to time – about landing our dream job, finding our perfect partner or moving into our ideal home. But some people go much further, creating new personas and elaborate fantasy worlds that become central to their lives. Nicola Kelly finds out why, spending time with cosplayers, delving into the virtual world of Second Life and visiting the nightclub where people explore their sexuality by dressing as unicorns and dancing to trance music. (Image: Human unicorns in...



Why do so many people decide to open a restaurant? Mary-Ann Ochota speaks to the people who have been through the joys and stresses of serving fine food around the globe, those who are just embarking on the journey, and those who are exploring new and modern ways to serve food. However, according to Restaurant Consultant Linda Lipsky, a majority of restaurants fail in their first year. So why do so many people still dream of opening a restaurant when the odds are stacked against them? Can...


Sibling Birth Order

Shivaani Kohok explores why so many people feel that the order in which we are born shapes our character and destiny. Whether you’re the eldest, the youngest or a middle child can make a difference to how we see ourselves and how we relate to others, according to psychologists. And some studies suggest that there economic and educational advantages to being the first or later born child – depending where in the world you live. Herself the eldest of three, Shivaani talks with other sisters...


Machines and Morals

Machines are merging into our lives in ever more intimate ways. They interact with our children and assist with medical decisions. Cars are learning to drive themselves, data on our likes and dislikes roam through the internet. Algorithms can determine who gets government assistance and help suggest our romantic partners. But machines learn from the instructions humans give them. So, how do we know that the technology we are creating is going to do the right thing? In this week’s Why...



Laziness, slothfulness, idleness and apathy are used as criticisms and insults against individuals, groups and sometimes whole countries. But why? The Greeks saw laziness as a virtue and something to be sought after whereas today we look down on being unproductive. Should we keep ourselves constantly busy or is laziness something we should feel less guilty about? Isn’t a little bit of downtime good for the soul? After all don’t good things come out of taking it easy? (Image: Lying on a...


Men Only

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at a men only club? Maybe you have even asked yourself why segregated groups still exist. According to sociologist Todd Migliaccio, society has historically been male dominated making men only clubs suited to the running of it. However, with the current drive towards gender equality and movements such as MeToo and Time’s Up, it begs the question; Why men only? Presented by Afua Hirsch Produced by Priscilla Ng’ethe (Photo: David...



They roamed our planet for millions of years before most of them were wiped out. So what’s our fascination with the dinosaur? And will our love affair with them endure? Not only is this reptile beast loved by children across the world but it also fires our imagination and has become part of our popular culture, as well hooking us into science. Mary–Ann Ochota talks to Professor Paul Barrett, Natural History Museum, London about the history of the dinosaur; Dr Laverne Antrobus on why kids...



Why do bullies do what they do? Shivaani Kohok explores the reasons for bullying behaviour. She talks to two bullies who explain why they do what they do – in one case, a young woman realised how the online comments she had posted about others who had previously bullied her were in fact another form of bullying behaviour. Shivaani talks to experts who provide insight into the different types of bullies including "victims" and "ringleaders". She investigates cyber-bullying, bullying in the...



Job interviews are stressful experiences and have mostly been proved by scientists to be ineffective at selecting the right candidates. So why has this means of selection survived so long and why is so much value placed on it? Catherine Carr explores the cultural and psychological bias that flaws them, how we might improve the experience both as interviewee and interviewer, and the extent to which technology might hold promise in making the process fairer. (Image: Someone at an interview,...


Why We Need To Learn More About Pain

Pain comes to us all at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s a short, sharp shock. Other times, it seems to cling to us. A person’s pain is a unique experience and describing what hurts is not a simple task. In this edition of the Why Factor on the BBC World Service, Sandra Kanthal asks why we need to understand more about pain and learns more about new ways being developed to manage and measure pain. (Photo: Pain level meter indicating maximum Credit: Shutterstock)



Curing phobias, managing pain, entertainment: hypnotism has a number of tangible benefits. But it can also carry significant risks for the most suggestible people. So why would anyone allow a stranger to access their mind? Nicola Kelly speaks to performers, dentists and therapists who use hypnotism in their work and discovers how the brain functions when in a trance. Through hypnosis, she faces her own fear of rats, hears from a patient who had his front tooth extracted without antistatic...