Shankar Vedantam

People who spend time with young children know firsthand the power of music.

It's easy entertainment.

And any teacher who works in early childhood will tell you that singing can yield amazing results. "If we didn't sing the cleanup song, I don't think anything would have gotten cleaned up," says Laura Cirelli, who worked as an assistant at a day care center in the late 2000s.

But there may be other ways — surprising ways — in which music plays a role in raising a human.

This week, we look at the language we use around race and religion, and what it says about the culture we live in.

Are you racist?

It's a question that makes most of us uncomfortable and defensive.

Harvard University psychologist Mahzarin Banaji says while most people don't feel they're racist, they likely carry unfavorable opinions about people of color — even if they are people of color themselves.

Banaji is one of the creators of the Implicit Association Test, a widely-used tool for measuring a person's implicit biases. She says it's important to acknowledge that the individual mind sits in society.

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano.

It may sound like the plot of a movie: police find a young man dead with stab wounds. Tests quickly show he'd had Ebola.

Officials realize the suspects in the case, men in a local gang, may have picked up and spread Ebola across the slum. These men are reluctant to quarantine themselves and some – including a man nicknamed "Time Bomb" – cannot even be found.

This scenario actually unfolded in the West African country of Liberia in 2015. And what followed was a truly unconventional effort by epidemiologists to stop a new Ebola outbreak.

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Have you ever had a bad day at school or work or an awful commute home and then taken out your bad mood on a colleague or even your spouse? I'm going to bet you have. How's that?

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So many studies have found that early childhood education makes a big difference in the lives of youngsters, we collectively consider it so important. Given that, you might expect that child care providers would be actively looking for teachers who are highly qualified. But new research shows something different. And Shankar Vedantam, NPR's social science correspondent, is here to tell us about it.

Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: What do you mean child care providers don't want the best teachers?

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So when you recycle paper or an empty bottle, do you get that warm little feeling because maybe you think, hey, I've done something right for the world? Well, maybe you shouldn't get that feeling because there's some new social science research out there that suggests recycling can have a downside. Why are you always bringing negative news?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Shankar Vedantam, NPR social science correspondent, here to rain on our recycling parade. Hi, Shankar.

VEDANTAM: Hi, Rachel.

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