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She Offered The Robber A Glass Of Wine, And That Flipped The Script

Manual Cinema/NPR
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

This week's Invisibilia podcast and show explore what happens when people flip the script, responding to situations in ways that are completely unexpected. We tend to respond to aggression with aggression, kindness with kindness. Usually that works just fine. But sometimes turning 180 degrees can change the world. Think Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.

In this Invisibilia excerpt on NPR's Morning Edition, we tell the tale of a mellow Washington, D.C., dinner party that was suddenly interrupted by a man with a gun. "Give me your money," the man said. Or he would start shooting.

The diners tried to persuade him to back off, but the situation was getting increasingly tense. Then a woman named Christina did something simple yet extraordinary. And that changed everything.

(Check out the video, above, that the performance collective Manual Cinema created for Invisibilia about the dinner-party robber and the unexpected outcome.)

In NPR's health blog, Shots, Invisibilia co-host Hanna Rosin explains what she found when she traveled to Denmark to check out a radical experiment in flipping the script. It involves the local police and dozens of young Muslims who were planning to run off to Syria and join ISIS.

We also asked psychologist Christopher J. Hopwood to explain the science behind what happened at the dinner party. Psychologists call it noncomplementarity — responding in an unexpected way to prompt a positive response. It's used in psychotherapy, and it also can work to make relationships better in your own life.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alix Spiegel has worked on NPR's Science Desk for 10 years covering psychology and human behavior, and has reported on everything from what it's like to kill another person, to the psychology behind our use of function words like "and", "I", and "so." She began her career in 1995 as one of the founding producers of the public radio program This American Life. While there, Spiegel produced her first psychology story, which ultimately led to her focus on human behavior. It was a piece called 81 Words, and it examined the history behind the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.