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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.

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…

On social power, the oppressed/oppressor framework, and empathy, with Elizaveta Friesem

Elizaveta Friesem writes about media, communication, and social power (i.e., the concept of power that characterizes people and their relationships). I first interviewed her about media and polarization in 2021; we talked about her book Media Is Us: Understanding Communication and Moving Beyond Blame. Topics we discuss here include: Michel Foucault’s ideas about power (often…

What’s it like living without a belief in free will?, with physicist Daniel Whiteson

A talk with Daniel Whiteson, a professor of physics and astronomy about free will. Daniel is also the co-author of “We Have No Idea,” about the many unknowns remaining in physics, and the co-host of the podcast Daniel and Jorge Explain The Universe.  Our talk focuses on something I think isn’t often discussed: what are the…

The news is polarizing us. Can Tangle News help?

A talk with journalist Isaac Saul, founder of Tangle News (readtangle.com), which shares takes on current events from across the political spectrum and which I think is great, from a depolarization perspective. Here’s what Isaac said about why he started Tangle: “I started Tangle because I recognized that the news industry was broken. My work…