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Is paying so much attention to politics hurting us societally and emotionally?, with Chris Freiman

If you pay a lot of attention to politics, but doing so makes you miserable, this might be one you want to listen to. I talk with Christopher Freiman (Twitter @cafreiman), political philosopher and author of the book Why It’s OK to Ignore Politics. For many people, voting and paying attention to politics is a moral duty, a responsibility you have as a citizen of a democracy. But Freiman makes a strong case for why paying attention to politics is not a good use of our time, if our goal is to maximize the good we do in the world. And we talk about how our collective anger about politics makes us miserable and also drives us-versus-them polarization, which may be the root cause of our societal and governmental dysfunction.

Chris sometimes writes at 200proofliberals.blogspot.com and he teaches at William and Mary College.

Topics discussed:

  • Addressing common objects to political abstention, such as: it’s a privileged, entitled stance to ignore politics; that it’s dangerous to encourage people to not vote, and more.
  • How the act of voting, due to how unlikely your vote is to matter, may be perceived as a lost opportunity compared to doing other charitable acts.
  • How us-versus-them in-group-versus-out-group dynamics tend to give us distorted views of political issues and of our political opponents.
  • How effective altruism concepts encourage people to think more about maximizing their effect for the time or money they donate.
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How has polarization affected beliefs about U.S. election security?, with Jennifer Cohn

A talk with Jennifer Cohn (Twitter @jennycohn1), election integrity advocate, about American election security. Since 2016, Jennifer has been warning that our elections are insecure in many ways; you can read some of her writings on this topic on Medium. Her stance hasn’t changed but, after Biden won and Trump claimed that the election was rigged, it’s been understandably harder for her to get Democrats and liberal-leaning people and media interested in talking much about this problem.

I wanted to talk to Jennifer about how our politically polarized environment has changed things, how it’s affected her attempts to get attention for this problem, and how it’s changed her messaging. So there were some psychological aspects I was curious about, but I also just thought it’d be interesting to learn more about election security issues.

Topics discussed: 

  • How has Biden winning and Trump claiming the election was illegitimate affected our chances of improving election security?
  • What kinds of problems does she see with the election process? 
  • The difference between voter fraud (individuals voting) and more large-scale hacking/rigging attempts.
  • What were some signs of suspicious activity she saw in the 2016 election?
  • How do her concerns about election security differ from Trump and friends’ stated concerns? 
  • How credible were Trump and friends’ claims of election tampering? 
  • Is it possible to imagine an alternate reality where Trump won in 2020 and liberals/Democrats largely didn’t accept the election?

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Does blaming “media” help us avoid responsibility?, with Elizaveta Friesem

Elizaveta Friesem (www.elizavetafriesem.com) thinks and writes about media and our relationship to it. Her recently published book is Media Is Us and it examines the idea that media is not something “out there” but more something that is part of us, something that happens internally, similar to any other human communication. And perhaps this means that acting as if “media” (of whatever sort) is to blame for various problems we have is a simplistic way to view the world. And maybe it’s also a tempting way to see the world as it lets us humans off the hook for being responsible for what we believe and share.

Elizaveta opens her book with something we can all probably relate to: she shared an angry take on social media (in this case, about a Dove soap ad that was accused of being racist), but it turned out to be a bad take, based on something that was wrong and taken out of context. So we talk about that story, and how that phenomenon seems so common , with social media aiding so many people in over-reacting to bad or distorted or outright false information. We also talk about power dynamics in society, and how power is defined. And we talk about the power of empathy and understanding others. 

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Reading poker tells, with poker pro Dara O’Kearney

An interview with professional poker player Dara O’Kearney (twitter @daraokearney) on the subject of poker tells (poker behavioral patterns). Dara is also the co-host of The Chip Race, a very popular poker podcast. We talk about how important poker tells are versus strategy, about how Dara’s thoughts on poker tells have changed over time, and talk about some interesting poker hands where tells have played a role for us. (See the bottom of this post for more topics and resources.) Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • How some players (especially beginners) over-estimate the role of tells and some players underestimate them.
  • Some ways that poker players can get information from opponents, like insulting them or being nice to them.
  • How some well known players, like Phil Hellmuth, Andy Black, and Daniel Negreanu, use their celebrity and personalities to their advantage.
  • How early-hand tells, when the pot is small, are some of the most meaningful tells (with the big bet spots often not being as behaviorally interesting as many might think).
  • The complexity of poker, and how it’s a more complex game than chess.

Related resources:

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Why are American cops so violent? (pt 2), with police captain James Mitchell

Second interview of recently retired police captain James Mitchell (first episode link). We continue tackling the question: when we see an American cop doing something that seems clearly over-reactive and overly violent, what are the factors that influenced that cop to behave that way? In our first talk, our focus was on mental health and de-escalation. In this interview, we talk about a broader range of topics, including:

  • Role that our huge number of guns may play
  • Racism (past vs current, and systemic racism vs racism of individuals)
  • James’ experience with racist cops and how that manifested
  • How cops are seldom convicted by juries, and how that has trickle-down effects
  • Role of police unions
  • Role that living in the neighborhood a cop polices can play

Also discussed is how our polarization and animosity around police issues fits into our polarization on other topics. See the bottom of this post for other topics and resources. Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • How the language that people use to people talk about “racism” can muddy waters (e.g., conflating racism of individuals with systemic racism, or conflating effects of past racism with current systemic racism)
  • War on drugs
  • No-knock warrants and why they may sometimes be justified

Related resources:

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Why do so many people “want to watch the world burn”?, with Kevin Arceneaux

An interview with Kevin Arceneaux, a researcher on the “need for chaos” research project, which found that a surprising number of people (up to 40%) expressed antisocial views about society in either agreeing with or not rejecting statements like “When I think about our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking ‘just let them all burn’?” We talk about what that study entailed, and what the psychological and environmental factors could be that help explain this surprising find. 

See the bottom of this post for other topics and resources. Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • How the “need for chaos” was evident throughout the political spectrum and wasn’t correlated with any particular political ideology (although it was high in Trump supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters).
  • How modern society, in increasing isolation and loneliness, could be playing a role in amplifying antisocial views.
  • How the internet and social media give an easy outlet to people with this mindset, and give them an extraordinary amount of power.
  • How the “need for chaos” wasn’t directly tied to poverty or inequality.
  • Thoughts about how modern society, by giving us more free time and time to dwell on perceived slights and injustice and our thwarted desires for recognition, may contain the seeds of its own demise.

Related resources:

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What is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s tell?, with Jon Hoefling

In this episode, I interview Jon Michael Hoefling, a sports analyst and broadcaster, about a recent story that was making the rounds: a young man named Theo Ash, who has a popular TikTok where he analyzes football, had found a physical tell that Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had: how Roethlisberger positioned his foot before a play indicated with almost near certainty whether he would run or pass. Jon Hoefling had written a piece for Deadspin about this, and I invited him on to talk about this tell – about why it showed up, about how likely it was that other teams had noticed it, about what the practical way to take advantage of it would be – and about some other football and sports tells. I may also have on Theo Ash in another episode, as I’m curious to know how he noticed this and what other things he’s noticed.

See the bottom of this post for other topics and resources. Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • The role that analyzing video plays in football and how they may not be focusing that much on individuals
  • Some other football tells
  • The football tell in the movie Invincible
  • Some baseball tells
  • Andre Agassi’s claim that he had a super reliable read on Boris Becker
  • Cheating scandals in baseball, including sign stealing and pitchers using “sticky stuff”

Related resources:

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Can gender identity theory itself create more gender dysphoria?, with Carey Callahan

In this episode of the podcast, I interview Carey Callahan (Twitter) about gender dysphoria, gender identity theory, and transgender topics. Carey is a family therapist who writes about gender dysphoria topics, with an emphasis on healthcare; you can find her writing on Medium.com. For more about her, see the resources at the bottom of this post. In this interview, we discuss topics including:

  • Why it’s so hard to have well meaning discussions about transgender topics and why the emotion can be so high.
  • Disconnects and miscommunications that occur in these discussions that increase perceptions of malice or bigotry even when those aren’t present.
  • How the polarized and high-emotion dynamics on transgender issues are similar to other highly polarized and emotional dynamics on other hot button issues.
  • Common criticisms of gender identity theory.
  • The possibility that gender identity theory itself may be making people more likely to have gender dysphoric symptoms.

See the bottom of this post for other topics and resources. Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

  • Is it caring and supportive to avoid discussing whether transitioning is always the best answer for someone or is possible that’s just an avoidance of care and “the easy way out”?
  • How some people conflate the criticizing of gender identity theory wit disrespecting trans people, when those two things are not related (e.g., you can be trans and criticize gender identity theory).
  • The possibility of psychological and environmental factors in gender dysphoria and why it can be perceived as disrespectful to even discuss that, even though those are obviously factors for some people.
  • The role families with more conservative/traditional gender expectations may play in affecting how a child views their traits (e.g., viewing gender as something fairly binary when it’s not).
  • Carey’s recounting of her own story and what factors were present in her being gender dysphoric and deciding to transition.
  • Why it’s reasonable to object to gender identity theory on intellectual grounds, and why that doesn’t make you a bigot.

Related resources:

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How can we better connect with people?, with Ashley Pallathra & Ted Brodkin

In this episode of the podcast, I interview Ashley Pallathra (twitter) and Edward Brodkin (twitter), co-authors of Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections. Our modern world seems increasingly isolated, in how we separate ourselves from others, in how many of our communal activities and institutions have gone away, in how we are increasingly online. Also, in our increasingly politically polarized world, we also end up thinking more negatively of other people, which results in us being less charitable, less humane. In this interview, we talk about the obstacles we face in our attempts to form better connection with others, and how we might connect better.

Podcast links:

Topics discussed include:

  • Is the modern world growing increasingly isolated?
  • What are some inherent obstacles to us connecting well with each other?
  • How there can be an existential paradox within attempting to connect well with others: we have to both maintain our own self boundaries, and also focus on the other person, and this can create a bit of a conflict.
  • How other people’s emotional contagiousness can be one reason why connection can feel threatening.
  • How connecting well with others requires us to be generous of spirit, to be forgiving of others’ mis-steps and mistakes.
  • How there can be physical aspects of connection (being physically relaxed; having a physical feeling of connection) and other more intellectual, philosophical aspects of connection (thinking about how we are all humans; being generous and giving, etc.)
  • How our political polarization, the us vs them dynamic, can make us pessimistic about connecting with others.
  • How it’s important to focus on our desire to connect and taking small steps and not feeling like there’s any one right way to connect better.
  • How therapists may rely on being in touch with their patients’ moods to get a sense of emotionally important content.
  • How there is value to connecting well even to people we dislike, or think are horrible.

Related resources and links:

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Reading behavior & tells in video games: a talk with Apex Legends pro Nocturnal

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview Brandon Singer, aka Nocturnal (his Twitch, his Twitter) about reading opponent behavior in the video game Apex Legends. We discuss: getting reads of how experienced players are, how much predicting behavior plays a role, how much tilt and mental considerations play a role. We also talk about the financial aspects of being a pro gamer: what revenue streams are there, how hard is it these days to get sponsorships, and more.

Podcast links:

Related resources and links:

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Reading behavior in tennis, with Carlos Goffi

A talk with experienced tennis player and coach Carlos Goffi about the role that psychology and reading opponent behavior and mood can play in tennis. To learn more about Carlos, visit his site. He’s been coaching for more than 30 years, and has coached John McEnroe and John’s brother Patrick McEnroe, amongst many others. He’s maybe most well known for his best-selling tennis book Tournament Tough, which he co-authored with John McEnroe. During our talk about the role of reading behavior, we discuss Andre Agassi’s claim to have a very reliable tell on Boris Becker: that he could predict Becker’s serve direction based on how Becker’s tongue was sticking out.

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

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Factors in excessive police force, with police captain James Mitchell

A talk with James Mitchell, a retired police captain who worked in Prince George’s County, Maryland. We talk about the United States problem of police brutality and excessive use of force, with the goal of understanding some of the factors that can lead to unjustified and too aggressive police responses. Topics discussed include: what he would do if he were put in charge of a federal department charged with solving this issue; the wisdom of “abolish the police” and “defund the police”-type slogans and thoughts; George Floyd’s death and how Chauvin and his fellow cops handled that; how our mental health issues relate to police violence issues; how cops can escalate a situation whether they mean to or not, and more (below).

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include: