This is a podcast aimed at better understanding other people and better understanding ourselves. 

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I’m Zach Elwood. I talk to people from a wide range of professions and backgrounds about their views on behavior and psychology. Some episode compilations you might like:

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About me

I’m most known for my work on poker tells (aka, poker behavior). My first poker tells book, Reading Poker Tells, has been translated into eight languages. I’m also known for my work on political polarization (for example, my book Defusing American Anger). My independent research on deceptive online activity has been featured in NY Times, Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and more.

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Episode deep Dives

Deep dives include summaries, transcripts, source and resource links, and listening options.

How minor language choices can affect and manipulate us, with Liz Stokoe

This is a reshare of a talk I had in January 2022 with Liz Stokoe, who studies conversation analysis (CA) and who’s the author of the book “Talk: The Science of Conversation.” Stokoe studies how language choices can impact us and change our behavior, often without us being aware of that. Topics include: the more…

Why are lie detectors used if they don’t work?, with Leonard Saxe

A talk with psychologist Leonard Saxe, who is known for, amongst other things, his research into lie detectors (also known as polygraphs). Topics discussed include: why polygraphs and other forms of deception detection are unreliable; the use of polygraphs as a tool to extract information and confessions; the Richard Ames case, which involved a high-level…

Indicators a 2020 video showing racist harassment was staged

This episode examines a video from 2020 that seemed to show a black person being harassed by a racist white woman. The video was shared by the celebrity gossip personality Perez Hilton, and was then picked up by several low-quality news sites, like RawStory.com and DailyDot.com. But the video was staged; it was done as…

The strangeness of our existence and how that relates to existential psychology

This episode is a piece of mine about how an awareness of life’s strangeness might impact us, both positively and negatively, and how that might relate to existential psychology concepts. Topics include: how an awareness of life’s strangeness might be seen to be a core existential stressor (like the fear of death, or fear of…

Psychological aspects in running a restaurant and waiting tables, with Robin Dibble

A talk with Robin Dibble, an experienced Albuquerque-area restaurant professional who’s worked in every aspect of the business, from waiting tables, to cooking, to managing restaurants and night clubs. Topics include: psychological strategies servers use to get more tips; how menu design can affect what people order; reading customer satisfaction as a restaurant manager; the…

Two former congresspeople, a Democrat and a Republican, talk about toxic polarization

I talk to former members of the House of Representatives Luke Messer (Republican) and Elizabeth Esty (Democrat). We talk about: political polarization; their experiences being in congress during such a highly polarized period of time; their ideas for reducing toxic polarization, and more. Episode links:

Aphantasia, inner monologue, and the challenges of describing inner experience, with Russell Hurlburt

A talk with Russell Hurlburt, who’s researched inner experience for more than five decades. He is the author of 6 books and many articles on the topic of mental experience. Transcript is below. Topics discussed include: The challenges of describing and measuring inner experience; his contributions to improving how we measure and talk about inner…

How a bus driver predicts the behavior of drivers and passengers, with Brendan Bartholomew

I’ve been resharing some episodes from early in the podcast that were interesting but that didn’t get that many listens. I’ve had a couple longtime podcast listeners tell me this was one of their favorites. A transcript is below. This is a talk with Brendan Bartholomew, who’s a professional bus driver in San Francisco. We…

What’s the best strategy for reducing polarization: changing the system or culture?, with David Foster

A talk with David Foster, who writes about polarization and media at knowthesystem.org and is the author of “Moderates of the World Unite!: Reworking the Political Media Complex.” Topics discussed include: the optimal approach for reducing toxic political polarization (cultural change vs systemic changes); defining the word ‘moderate’ and examining some of the negative connotations…