The illusions of memory and self, with Anne Wilson

A talk with social psychologist Anne Wilson ( about memory and how we define who we are. Topics discussed include: the nature of self; the nature of memory; the fallibility of our memories; the theory of temporal self appraisal (which is about how we experience ourselves as being close to or far away in time from different versions of ourselves); false memories; the role creative storytelling plays in constructing our views of self and the world; and political polarization. 

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My book Defusing American Anger is out

A short update about my book Defusing American Anger being released, and a few other small notes. You can get the book at

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The fear and loneliness of leaving one’s cult, with Calvin Wayman

A talk with Calvin Wayman (Twitter: @calwayman), who was raised in a fundamentalist Mormon cult, with four mothers and 44 siblings. This world was everything and everyone he’d known. At the age of 30, he left that world, and was as a result suddenly isolated from everything that had previously given his life meaning.

We talk about that experience with a focus on the existential feelings of isolation and loneliness that accompanied it. Topics discussed include: how he began to question his world; factors he sees as present that made him someone willing to question things; Plato’s allegory of the cave; The Matrix and our willingness to take the “red pill”; how his community and family reacted to his decision; the human desire for certainty; and more.

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Resources related to or mentioned in this episode:


On psychopaths and ‘dark empaths’, with dark traits expert Nadja Heym

A talk with Nadja Heym, a psychology researcher who specializes in dark traits, like psychopathy, narcissism, and sadism, and who has researched so-called “dark empaths”: people with dark traits who have a good amount of empathy. We delve into some nuance in the area of psychopathy.

Topics discussed include: How she defines psychopathic traits; The misuse of the term “psychopath” (and related misuse of other terms like “narcissist”); Can we say from a brain scan if a brain is “psychopathic”?; “Bad seed”-like concepts of how psychopaths arise; Can an environment (like a highly competitive job) make someone have more psychopathic traits?; What are “dark empaths”? 

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Resources related to or mentioned in our talk:


Does our anger at the “other side” help create the very things we’re angry about?

When trying to convince people of the problem of polarization and the necessity for depolarization endeavors, a common objection from politically passionate people goes, “But the other side is horrible, so polarization makes sense.” In this episode, I talk about what is probably the primary counterpoint to that objection: that us-vs-them anger, in a non-obvious way, can help create the very things we’re angry about. For this reason, if one wants to defeat extreme views on the other side (or on both sides), the way to achieve that goal is to take a depolarizing, anger-reducing, de-escalating approach. 

Transcript below.

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Resources mentioned or related:


This is the People Who Read People podcast, with me, Zach Elwood. This is a podcast about better understanding other people and better understanding ourselves. You can learn more about it at; there are also transcripts and links to related materials on that site.   

As I’m recording this today, there are a lot of birds chirping outside, so apologies for the bird noises. 

If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you probably know I sometimes tackle topics related to political polarization. And I’m currently working on a book on this topic, with the working title Defusing American Anger: Why We Hate Each Other And What We Can Do About It. 

When it comes to depolarization endeavors, I think it’s very important to try to overcome common objections. And one of the most common objections I hear is: “but the other side is so horrible, so it makes sense to be polarized.” Some people even think we need to be more polarized, to combat the obvious threat and danger of the other side. 

I have a number of counterpoints to that. One is to point out that people engaged in depolarization efforts aren’t trying to change anyone’s political beliefs, which I think is often what people think. And I think this gets into some of the ambiguity in the term ‘polarization’; because there is ideological polarization, which is about beliefs, and then there is affective polarization, also known as emotional polarization, also known as us-vs-them polarization, which is what I like to call it. 

So when people hear that I and others are working on “depolarization” they can think that we’re trying to change their beliefs, when what we’re really saying is: we are trying to reduce the anger. Or more accurately, we are trying to reduce the expressions of anger — the hateful insults and threats, the angry language — because we can see that those things are what drive our divides. One can have any range of political beliefs, even beliefs many would view as extreme, while seeing the wisdom of taking a depolarizing, de-escalating approach. 

But the main counterpoint I’d make to people who perceive one group as hugely bad and dangerous is this: our us-vs-them anger helps create the very things many of us are angry about. Our us-vs-them anger is not some side event going on while we fight over the issues; it is actually the main event. Because that immense anger can actually shift our beliefs, and make us more extreme in our beliefs, and make us less willing to negotiate. Put in more technical, academic terms: our emotional polarization can create ideological polarization. 

And research helps make this case. One of the most important studies on this, in my opinion, was one by James Druckman and his colleagues; that paper was titled Affective polarization, local contexts and public opinion in America. It showed how political animosity pre-covid was tied later to more polarized, extreme covid-related beliefs and behaviors. I’m going to read some excerpts from my depolarization book in a bit, and I mention Druckman’s work in there. 

One reason I wanted to create this episode was to create something that I could point people to. I wanted something I could share when people say “the other side is horrible so polarization makes sense.” And if you care about this cause, maybe you could share this episode with your audience, and explain why it’s important. Or maybe when you find someone making those objections, that polarization is okay, you could share this episode with them. 

Another reason I wanted to talk about this topic was to see if people knew about research related to this. I’ve actually been a bit surprised how hard it’s been to find work related to the idea that emotional polarization amplifies ideological polarization. To me, it’s such an important concept, because it helps make the case to politically passionate people why depolarization efforts are so important. So if anyone has thoughts on this topic, or knows of related resources, I’d greatly appreciate you reaching out via the contact form of my site 

Okay so next I’ll read a couple excerpts from my manuscript, and just please keep in mind this is from an early version of the book, so it is still pretty rough and unpolished. 

We tend to think that our stances and the other group’s stances are things that exist on their own, apart from us. We tend to perceive that the other side is, suddenly and out of the blue, becoming more extreme and more detached from reality. But understanding polarization dynamics lets us see how our dislike of the other side contributes to creating the very things we dislike. 

As social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, put it in a 2022 talk on the Braver Angels podcast: “Culture wars are different than real wars: the more you attack the other side, the more you strengthen it.”

There’s plenty of evidence that our stances on issues can be affected by our us-versus-them feelings. Our dislike of the other group, our fear of them and anger at them, can make us form more extreme and hardened positions on issues. And this is a hugely important point because it helps us see that our us-versus-them anger is often creating the very things we’re angry about. 

This gets back to the feedback loop involved in these dynamics. Our dislike of the other group makes us form more extreme positions, which increases the other side’s dislike and makes them form more extreme positions, which makes us dislike them more, and so on. 

A 2020 paper by James Druckman and colleagues was titled Affective polarization, local contexts and public opinion in America. In that work, they showed how people’s political animosity influenced later stances on covid. The more us-versus-them animosity people had, the more likely they were to have more extreme stances on how to respond to covid: either being for an extensive response to covid, or being for very little response. Importantly, that research showed that us-versus-them animosity came before the covid stances, showing that emotion influenced beliefs (and not the other way around). 

Via email correspondence, Druckman summarized his views on how our us-versus-them emotions can affect our political beliefs: 

Our theory is that as affective polarization increases for someone, they become more likely to align their beliefs with those of party elites. Party elites tend to be more ideologically polarized and thus the more affectively polarized people follow those cues, and that leads them to become more polarized on issues (as was the case with COVID-19 policies). 

In other work, we find this holds across various policy domains, support for political compromise, and norms. For example, those who are more affectively polarized are more likely to oppose checks and balances when their party holds power but then flip to support them when their party is in the opposition. It is similar to policies; they are more protective of their policy and thus become more extreme. 

End quote

So in short, we can see that political animosity, either directly or indirectly, is likely influencing our beliefs.. 

And we can see how this dynamic may be playing out for many issues we fight over. The more we dislike the other side, the more we’ll have an instinctual urge to align against the other side’s stance. 

And each group’s divisive rhetoric will play a role here. When liberals say things like, “Conservative stances on immigration are due to racism,” it’s understandable how it would be that conservatives might feel even more emotionally committed to their anti-immigration stances. Their dislike of liberals will manifest as more committed stances against immigration. 

When conservatives say things like “Liberals want to increase immigration because they want to destroy America” or “because they want to get more votes,” some liberals will feel various pressures to be more committed to pro-immigration stances. 

And we can see real-world evidence of this playing out for various stances. To take one example: A 2020 Pew Research survey showed that back in 2015, roughly 65% of Democrats agreed with the statement “immigrants strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.” In 2020, that number had risen to about 86%, a rise of about 20 percentage points. We can see this dramatic change in liberal-side views as being a direct result of perceptions that Trump and the GOP were being insulting and threatening to immigrants. We can understand it as liberal-side beliefs being shifted due to a growing perception of the other side’s moral badness. 

To be clear: this is not to say that having positive feelings about immigrants is an extreme belief. It’s just meant to be an example of how our us-vs-them emotions can shift our beliefs. And we can imagine how related beliefs could be shifted in ways that some would view as extreme: for example, we can imagine that dynamic being at play with an increasing number of Democrats saying they’d be for open borders policies or having no border control at all. On the other side, we could also imagine that emotional dynamic being at play for increasing support for a border wall. 

We define ourselves by what our in-group is like, but also by what a perceived out-group is like. We define ourselves partly by the ways in which we are not like a disliked outgroup. This helps explain why it can seem that we can become angrily polarized over anything, especially things that aren’t yet associated with one party or the other: all it takes is one group taking a stance on something, and the other group can have a reflexive instinct to criticize that stance and align against that stance. 

When we’re polarized, there’s a natural feedback cycle that causes things to keep getting worse. And this helps explain why we will naturally keep finding ourselves polarized over new issues, like covid. For my podcast, I interviewed Michael Macy, who with his colleagues worked on a paper titled Opinion cascades and the unpredictability of partisan polarization. In that work, they studied how we can polarize randomly on issues that aren’t yet tied to a political party. Similar to how in many complex systems, slightly different initial conditions can lead to vastly different results later on, early conditions, including early opinion-holders and influencers, can influence a political party to be aligned with one or another stance on an issue. These early choices have a cascading effect, meaning that, for some issues, the political parties could hold reversed positions if things had gone a bit differently. 

Research also shows how the more we view a stance on an issue in moral terms, the less willing we are to negotiate. One study that talks about this was from 2022 and was titled Moral Frames Are Persuasive and Moralize Attitudes; Nonmoral Frames Are Persuasive and De-Moralize Attitudes. That study found that quote “the use of moral frames can increase and entrench moral divides rather than bridge them.” end quote. This isn’t surprising: the more we see something as a moral disagreement, the less likely we are to want to budge on that issue. And the more we perceive the other political group as alien and monstrous and evil, as an entire group, the more of a moral framing all disagreements on issues will have, no matter the issue. So we become more gridlocked and unable to negotiate, and the resentment over that lack of negotiation grows and feeds back into our us-vs-them anger. 

Fathali M. Moghaddam is a psychologist and conflict researcher, and author of the book Mutual Radicalization: How Groups and Nations Drive Each Other to Extremes. In that book, he writes that mutual radicalization occurs when quote “two groups take increasingly extreme positions opposing one another, reacting against real or imagined threats, moving further and further apart in points of view, mobilizing their resources to launch attacks, and finally attempting to weaken and destroy each other.” end quote. Here’s another excerpt from his book on how entrenched and malleable us-versus-them feelings are: 

This work on mutual radicalization highlights a destructive process that can become self-perpetuating, self-contained, and independent from ideology and other characteristics of groups. Irrespective of whether the groups and nations involved are capitalist or communist, Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or some other religion, or what their ethnic or gender mix and other characteristics are, once they become entangled in mutual radicalization they can be sucked into a spiraling and ever more destructive process. 

Although individually those entrapped in this process might include highly insightful individuals who can recognize that the collective is going down the wrong path, the sheer force of mutual radicalization often overrides their objections and pushes them along to conform, obey, and speed toward a destructive end. In mutual radicalization collective pressures override individual intelligence.

End quote.

We often fight over which political group has grown more extreme. People on both sides will try to make the case for why one side or the other has grown more extreme in the recent past. But the fact is that there is no one measure of extremity or radicalization. As extreme polarization grows, each group will adjust their stances in big ways on some issues and not so much on other issues. All this complexity means that it’s possible for each group to form narratives about the other side’s growing extremity and have points to back those claims up. 

If you’re someone who thinks that dangerous people with extreme beliefs are hurting America—whether you see that as an issue on both sides, or almost entirely on one side—the way you defeat those people and ideas may be, counter-intuitively, by reducing our collective us-versus-them anger. Because it’s our collective anger that gives power to the most polarized people and views. 

For my podcast, I interviewed conflict resolution expert Guy Burgess, and one thing he said was, “The idea is to see yourself as others see you. Once you do that, then you get a sense of what makes others so mad at you and willing to fight so hard. And you can then start asking questions about, well, do I really need to do those things? Or maybe if we did it this way, I wouldn’t provoke so much opposition but I’d still get the things that I really care about.” end quote.

And again, this is not to say we shouldn’t have passionate stances about things that are important to us: we’re talking about the unreasonable levels of animosity we can have and express towards our fellow citizens. That animosity is the problem.  

Us-versus-them polarization is a powerful, self-reinforcing dynamic: a kind of self-sustaining perpetual anger machine. Like a nuclear reaction or a hurricane forming in warm waters, once set in motion, all the elements are there for the process to ramp up and spiral out of control. 

In Robert Talisse’s book Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe To The Other Side, he writes about the indirect dysfunction caused by us-vs-them polarization. One less obvious problem is that the more polarized and angry we grow, the less able we become to work even with people who used to be or could be our political allies. We can see this dynamic playing out with people in both parties becoming more antagonistic and argumentative with each other. The most polarized people are focused on purity and ridding their side of the impure and the not properly polarized. We can see it playing out, for example, in many progressive-leaning organizations that have become dysfunctional due to internal divisions and fights, something written about in a 2022 Intercept article titled How Meltdowns Brought Progressive Groups to a Standstill. The angrier we become, the more intolerant we become of dissent, and the more we harshly judge even people who are largely politically aligned with us. In this way, more us-vs-them anger makes people less likely to achieve the normal political goals of persuading people and forming large coalitions. It results in a general maddening and meanness, across the board. 

And just a note here that if you’re interested in these topics, I highly recommend Robert Talisse’s book Sustaining Democracy. It’s the best book aimed at American depolarization I’ve yet read. 

Let me skip to another related excerpt from the book

In a polarized society, people in both groups often have blind spots for seeing how their side is contributing. When the other side seems so egregiously wrong, the bad behaviors of people on our side can seem minor by comparison. Either that, or we genuinely don’t see how our group contributes. 

Reading this, you’ve likely had some thoughts like, “I’ll concede that there are a few people on my side who add to our divides, but clearly, the other side is much, much worse, so thinking about how my side contributes strikes me as a bit pointless, and maybe even dangerous.”

When asked to examine how the left might be adding to our divides, some liberals will object that this is making a false equivalency or that it’s a “both sides” argument. They’re saying it’s wrong to speak as if the two groups contribute similarly. But this can be seen as a defensive reaction to avoid the real issue. Acknowledging the flaws of your group is not making a false equivalency or a “both sides” argument: you can see how your group has issues while thinking the other group is worse—even much worse.  

People who study polarization understand that in every polarized nation, both groups in conflict almost always play a significant role in amplifying the divides. 

Even in the case of Nazi Germany, a situation where most people would perceive one group as much worse than the other group (to put it lightly), there was significant violence and aggression from the far left at that time that contributed to the nation’s collective us-versus-them narratives and anger.

The following is from a piece about post-World War I Germany from

Against this background, Germany had to create a new government and try to reinstitute law and order. But the ministers and politicians of the newly established Weimar Republic had formidable enemies: their own people. The new republic saw pitched battles between increasingly polarized left and right-wing groups. The early government was seized by left-wing revolutionaries, and communist uprisings roiled the streets.

In response, private armies called Freikorps fought back. These groups were funded by former officers of the German army, which was now under severe restrictions in terms of both size and scope because of the Treaty of Versailles. The paramilitary groups came and went as political crises erupted. They were staffed by a vast group of discontented men, from former soldiers who were indignant at Germany’s surrender to young men who were angry at being unemployed. Eventually, as many as 1.5 million German men would join a Freikorps group. They represented a growing tide of nationalism and right-wing extremism that would erupt into political chaos and eventually lead to the rise of the Nazi Party.

The new government lacked authority, so it leaned on the Freikorps to fight its battles. The country was plagued with wave after wave of violence, both from workers’ groups on the left and increasingly combative right-wing groups who resented what they saw as Germany’s complete abdication to the international community’s demands after the war. And the Freikorps and other paramilitary groups were in the middle of the often bloody fray—legitimized and bolstered by a government so weak it gave them free rein to terrorize whom they pleased. [end quote]

(And as a quick note here, to be completely clear: this example I chose is not meant to compare current American political groups with those in WW2 Germany.) 

This example was chosen to make the case that, ven in situations where most people would judge one side to be much worse than the other, both groups will almost always have played a role in amplifying the divides. Some will perceive this point as akin to victim-blaming or making excuses for an aggressive group’s attacks, but it’s not. It’s simply recognizing how human conflicts almost always work. It’s recognizing how the roots of our us-versus-them anger form and grow. 

The 2006 book The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, written by C. Terry Warner and The Arbinger Institute, examines the hidden emotional forces that can help drive conflicts. It explains how, in conflicts—whether a marital fight or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—people on both sides can contribute, sometimes without even realizing it. That’s because when a conflict begins, we stop seeing the opposing side’s humanity and increasingly see them as objects. Even if we believe we’re simply trying to achieve correct and rational goals, if our “hearts are at war” with the people on the other side, those negative emotions change how we speak and behave. And soon, that animosity plays a bigger role than the issues we initially were arguing over. This starts a cycle where our negative emotions induce equivalent negative emotions on the other side. To quote from The Anatomy of Peace: “We begin provoking in others the very things we say we hate.”

Okay, that’s the end of me reading excerpts from my work-in-progress book, which is currently titled Defusing American Anger

Again, if you like what I’m doing with this work, you can sign up for a premium membership to my podcast at, and that will also get you a free copy of my book when it’s ready. Aside from that, I’d highly appreciate you sharing this podcast with others. Consider sending this specific episode to people who you think might appreciate learning more about polarization dynamics and why depolarization is an important goal.  


Reading situations and opponents in racecar driving, with Andy Lally

A talk with racecar driver Andy Lally, who specializes in endurance GT (sportcar) racing. Topics we talk about include: What’s the breakdown in skill versus chance in an average race? What are the considerations when trying to pass other drivers, or trying to prevent drivers from passing? Where’s the boundary between acceptable behavior versus behavior that people would consider too-aggressive and dangerous? What are some spots where Andy was proud of his decisions? What it’s like being a vegan in an industry where that’s pretty rare?

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Related resources:


Facial expressions and their connection to personality, with Herman Ilgen

A talk with Herman Ilgen, who’s been a negotiator for more than 30 years and who is the founder of the Institute for Nonverbal Strategy Analysis (INSA). Ilgen has researched how facial expression patterns may be connected to personality traits. His paper was titled “Personal Nonverbal Repertoires in facial displays and their relation to individual differences in social and emotional styles.” Topics discussed include: what led him to do that work; what the findings were; how one might make practical use of the findings; and various thoughts on nonverbal behavior and on negotiation strategies.

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More resources related to this talk:


Us-vs-them anger in a small town, with Rebecca Schillenback

Credit Casey Martin, Ithaca Voice

In the small town of Caroline in central New York state, there seems to be a war going on. A large sign in the town reads, “There’s a war in the valley, time to pick a side.” The divide is over proposed zoning laws. Rebecca Schillenback is a resident who wrote a letter to the local paper objecting to the war-like us-vs-them rhetoric she sees her neighbors using. I talk to Rebecca about: the nature of this divide and the roots of the emotions; how it relates to our national us-vs-them divides; and her Quaker faith and its role in her attempt to reduce anger. 

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Some resources related to our talk:


Improving sexual satisfaction in long-term relationships, with Jessica Maxwell

A talk with psychologist Jessica Maxwell ( about her research on sexual relationships. We talk about “growth” versus “destiny” views about sex: in other words, whether someone sees sexual satisfaction as something one must work on, or if one sees it as largely an issue of destiny–something that’s either present or it’s not. Other topics include: the role of media in affecting our views on sex; how boredom and lack of novelty can hurt sexual satisfaction; performance-related anxiety; how porn might be affecting people’s ideas of sex; thoughts on scheduled date nights versus more spontaneous attempts at romance; sleeping in separate bedrooms. 

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Resources mentioned in this talk:


The role of nonverbal behavior in competitive situations, with Philip Furley

A talk with Philip Furley, who has done a lot of research on behavior and psychology in sports. A transcript is below. Topics discussed include: how an athlete’s body language can influence teammates, opponents, and even judges; behaviors and strategies of penalty kickers and goalkeepers in soccer; some specific behaviors from the recent World Cup; collective displays of team unity (like the “Haka”); the difficulties of finding behavioral patterns in sports; thoughts on making practical use of Furley’s research findings.

Podcast links:

Some resources mentioned in our talk, or related to it:


Welcome to the People Who Read People podcast, with me, Zach Elwood. This is a podcast about understanding people better. To learn more about it, go to 

In this episode, I talk to Philip Furley, who’s done a wide range of interesting sports psychology-related research. He’s done so much interesting research related to the role of nonverbal behavior in sports, it was honestly hard to decide which topics to focus on and which questions to ask. Here are some of the topics we talk about. 

  • We talk about positive and negative body language in sports and what effects that can have on one’s teammates
  • We talk about celebratory body language and how that can influence the perceptions of other people, including judges
  • We talk about some behaviors and strategies of penalty kickers and goalkeepers in soccer
  • We talk about some specific behaviors from the recent World Cup games
  • We talk about the challenges in finding general behavioral patterns in sports. 
  • We talk about anxiety and the role it can play in sports 

And along the way, Furley and I talk about various ways someone might make practical use of his research findings

I want to give a big thank you to Alan Crawley, who I’ve previously interviewed on this podcast and who goes by the online handle Sin Verba. It was Alan’s idea for me to ask Furley for an interview, and Alan also came up with most of the questions you’ll hear me ask, because he’s much more familiar with Furley’s work than I am, and also because he’s a lot more familiar with the game of soccer. So thank you for all that, Alan. If you’re interested in learning more about nonverbal behavior, I highly recommend checking out that talk I did with Alan; it was one of the more popular episodes of mine lately. And if you’re interested in sports-related psychology specifically, just a note that I’ve done quite a few sports-related and game-related episodes in the past. 

Okay here’s the talk with Philip Furley…

Hi, Philip. Thanks for coming on.

Philip: Hi, thanks for having me.

Zach: So maybe we could start with talking about your interests a bit. What is it that’s driven the various kinds of research you’ve done in the sports field and elsewhere?

Philip: Yeah. Okay, I didn’t really get into the stuff we’re gonna be talking about till a bit later in my scientific career. I started off my PhD in 2009. That was more on cognitive topics like how you can control your attention in various sports settings. And then in Germany, after you finish your PhD, if you want to become a professor you have to do something called the Habilitation. And there I got very interested the social psychology of sports, and that’s when I started to research into this nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication, body language stuff. What I noticed is a lot of people talk about that in applied settings; sport commentators. But then when I had a look and reviewed the literature, not that much research had been actually done in the field of sports. I mean, it was a very mainstream topic in general psychology, but within the field of sport not that much research had been done, which was a good starting point for me to get started in this field of research.

Zach: One of your areas of research has been the body language of players, sports team players, and how that can affect their teammates or opponent players, for example, by communicating confidence or lack of confidence. Can you summarise? I know that’s probably a big ask, but can you summarise your views about the role of body language plays in sports?

Philip: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It’s hard to quantify it. There are several things we were interested in our research; first of all, the first thing is how body language is affected by various situations in sports like for example the current score line, how it is going at the moment for the team, for the player, and if other people can recognize this just based on the body language. And then in turn, how this again might affect other players, opponents, spectators, and then again in the long run, how that might again come back to affect sports performance. These were sort of the questions that we were looking into. And we’ve got some answers to these questions, but what we find very clearly is that nonverbal behavior, the body language, the facial expressions, they are very much affected by various things that are going on in sports.

One thing we had a look in a lot of different situations… So, players change their body language if they’re currently doing well, if they’re leading, or if they’re currently trailing. This is something that we’ve always found in all the experiments we’ve done. We’ve had to look at that in soccer, in tennis, in table tennis, in handball and all sorts of different contexts. And this is something that we can clearly show. The body language is affected by how it’s going so if you are not doing so well, this shows in your body language, and if you’re doing well, this also shows again in your body language. And people– observers– who are not especially trained in drawing inferences from nonverbal behavior body language can make accurate inferences. If you show them brief video recordings or photos, they can say, “Okay, this guy is leading, this guy’s trailing,” and also by how much they are trailing. Someone finds quite a contingency between the nonverbal behavior and the current scoreline. In further experiments, we could also show that this can have an effect on other players. For example, if you put athletes in hypothetical scenario and tell them to look at this player and how likely they are gonna play well or play poorly against this player, then they are a lot more confident playing against somebody whose body language is from images where they’re currently trailing, as opposed to where they’re currently leading. To give you one example of a line of research we’ve been doing…

Zach: To take a specific example, in one of your studies on baseball, you discovered the importance of holding your head high. Could you talk a little bit about that specific finding?

Philip: Yeah, this was an experiment we did with actors. They use the so-called point light technique there that we just put markers on joints of people and then we manipulated the body language they were doing. This was a follow up experiment from the research that I’d been talking about before. And then if we manipulate the body language to resemble the body language of a trailing athlete, that sort of looks a bit more submissive as opposed to dominant, then you could clearly tell that the observers form very different impressions. So if you showed these point light images to observers, also to athletes, then they had a negative image of the athlete that was sort of looking downwards, that was sort of collapsed, didn’t have a lot of body tension. And they were also a lot more confident to be interacting with this athlete. For example if it was a pitcher, then they were a lot more confident that they would be able to hit the ball to hit a good strike at the baseball.

Zach: One thing I’ve wondered is how would you implement this in a real-world setting. So let’s say you were a basketball coach, let’s say, and your team had been losing for a while in the game, if you could give advice to the team, would you suggest that they change their body language? And how would you suggest they do it? Would you suggest maybe they just avoid expressing negative or losing appearing emotions or gestures? Or would you suggest they maybe fake some nonverbal confidence and things like this?

Philip: Yeah, exactly. It’s not an easy question to answer and one doesn’t want to encourage unnatural and bit freaky gestures and body language. What you do find in a lot of our research is that the body language is sort of automatically affected by what’s going on. And you can get sort of into a downward circle that it’s going poorly, and this shows in your body language. And then this might affect your teammates and boost the confidence of your opponents. This is something that we can simulate in the experimental research that we’ve been doing. And of course, applied work, wants to look how you can interfere in a way with this negative cycle. So being aware of what’s going on is of course a first important step. And then I think it’s important to sort of… If you notice that things are going poorly and you’re losing tension and this shows in your expressions, then it’s maybe important to take a deep breath, step back and refocus; maybe use some positive self-talk to get out of this vicious circle if you want [that you sort of say, okay.] Kind of a fresh start, gather yourself, and then maybe take a deep breath and try to get into a more positive posture. Because for knows, there are all these feedback loops. It’s not a one-way street so that only that their situation affects your nonverbal behavior, but also the other way round. There’s feedback from your body and if you sort of intervene here and try to adopt an upright posture, chin up, and gaze up, then I think you can have positive influences on your body language. But it’s not that trivial. This is something that you do have to probably work on, that you do have to train. You have to notice when something like that is occurring, and then try to sort of break out of this and get re-refocused.

Zach: Right, like you were saying some people would think, “Oh, I’m going to fake having really positive body language or whatever,” and I think what you’re pointing to, it would be strange to fake that. It would come across as artificial so that they’d be avoiding the obvious… You know, it’s almost like taking the advice of having a positive mindset and that will naturally leak out to your body language, I would think so.

Philip: No, exactly. And simplistic messages like that is something that I don’t go for. I know this is something difficult that’s on my mind, my goal as a scientist is trying to understand what’s going on and then giving some helpful advice that might actually help. So we’ve also looked into the question whether you can distinguish between post expressions, post body language, exaggerated body language, and body language that’s actually affected by circumstances in sports. And people are very good at detecting these differences, which would speak against sort of just trying to fake it and act too dominant, too confident.

Zach: Right, that makes sense. Do you have a sense of how big an effect we’re talking? I think that’d be a lot of people’s question. You know, it’s probably like in the scheme of things. It’s a smaller percentage, but still that can be significant. Because in a lot of games, you are talking about a very close game. So I’m curious, do you have a sense of, you know, the difference between a team with very bad beaten body language who really lets it show, versus a team that’s more cognizant of these things? Do you have a rough guess of how big of a percentage it would matter?

Philip: Yeah. I’m not gonna give you a percentage, I don’t think I can sort of answer that with the methods that we have in science. I mean, you see all these messages that a lot of the stuff that’s communicated is most of it nonverbal. I’m not really sure how they came up with these percentages, so I can’t really speak to a percentage. As you were was saying, I think it’s very important. It’s one of these many variables that has an influence. And they’re not isolated, they belong to the whole toolbox. And I think this is one that hasn’t been addressed enough by research, and that applied coaches and sports psychologists can do a lot with. So they’re considered very important, but sort of in combination with different things. You have to get into the right state, this is likely gonna affect your body language and nonverbal behavior in a positive way. And if you notice that if you’re in a good state but your body language can still be improved, this is something else you can work on. This is another thing that you should pay attention to.

Zach: Apart from the nonverbal, have you done any research or seen any research about the role of verbal encouragements or how people talk to each other? Has that been part of your work?

Philip: Not really so much of my research. Recently, we were asked to contribute a chapter on communication and a big part of that was nonverbal communication. And yes, obviously what people say to you, what coaches say to one has a big impact. It also matters how they state things in a calm, not-too-agitative way. These are things that have been studied, but not so much by me and my students.

Zach: You had done some research on surfing and how surfers’ body language can influence observers and judges. Could you give a talk a little bit about what you found with that research?

Philip: Yeah, this was more of an applied question, not so much the basic research I had been talking about before. I’m very interested in in the sport of surfing, I got into surfing myself when I was going to school in San Diego. I’m not very good at surfing but I started to follow it quite actively. the contests’ broadcasted out here in Germany via the internet, and so I’ve been following it quite a bit as a spectator. And one question that arose there was that it’s always one to three surfaces who are competing against each other. And then the two best waves they serve are scored by a judging panel, and then they get points for the waves. What then often happens is that a surfer gets a first good wave, and the other surfer has already two good waves so he needs another score to beat the other surfer to progress in the heat. This is kind of the format that exists. And then they’ve got a limited amount of time that they have to get the two best waves in a heat. And then the scenario actually always occurs that one surfer needs a certain score to beat the other surfer. What you then often see is that the time runs out so the surfers take off on a wave, and then at the end of the wave they show some very interesting nonverbal behavior in the surfing situation– they call them claims– they show some victorious nonverbal behavior like punching and doing fist pumps and this kind of stuff, and they do that towards the judging panel. And something that they always said in this commentary is that these nonverbal celebrations affected the judging panel. That they didn’t really judge the performance, but how they thought they did.

This was a question that I thought we could answer very well with some methods that we’ve been using. So we had a whole lot of video material from surfing contests, and then we could do have this video material judged. We could judge the actual performance and then we could see how much the judging was affected if you showed this additional victorious nonverbal behavior at the end. And we got quite clear answers. We even did a good experimental setup and we could clearly show that both lay people when judging the performance of surfers, they judged more favorably if the surfer celebrated their performance with a certain nonverbal [unintelligible 00:18:08]. But it was quite interesting that also experienced surf judges judged about half a point– which is quite a lot in surfing– better than all these victorious nonverbal behaviors after the wave, in comparison to just seeing that performance without the nonverbal behavior at the end.

Zach: Yeah, that seems pretty huge. And getting back to their question of is it a good strategy to deceptively do these things, it would seem in this case that it would be a good strategy with the caveat, of course, like the other things we were talking about where at a certain point if you’re known for somebody that’s always behaving triumphantly, everybody will know that about you so it would get out that you were often doing that. But it seems like in the context of a specific event, there wouldn’t be much reason to not try to act more confidently and triumphantly after your…

Philip: Yeah. No, I agree sort of up to a point, exactly. Because in these videos, the surfers actually did do something well that they thought they should celebrate. And then the comparison was showing this or not showing this. So the message would be if you do well, I think it’s beneficial to show this. But if you’re doing poorly, I think judges will notice and spectators would pick up on that and you might get a bit of a weird reputation.

Zach: Right, you’re a phony. Yeah, you’re just a faker. You got to use it within reason, basically. You have to use it judgmentally where like, ‘You could have actually been proud of that.’

Philip: Exactly, that’s what I would say. That’s a good way of summing it up. So if you’ve done something good, it helps. It can help to show that to people around you who are watching, but within limits. If you’ve done sort of okay or not so well, it wouldn’t be advisable to try to fake it.

Zach: Yeah, then you just get viral videos of yourself doing very bad performances and celebrating. Right?

Philip: And could end careers, I think. [laughs]

Zach: What about when it comes to some of the similar kind of displays that some teams do? For example, the New Zealand Rugby team does the haka, and there’s other teams that do collective exhibitions of unity; hugging themselves, chanting before a match and things like this. Have you done research on how those things affect or intimidate rivals or affect performance?

Philip: Yeah, not directly. I mean, some research touches into that. I think the haka is a very good example. It’s very impressive and it’s something that’s grown culturally in the natives of New Zealand. Things like that have a long tradition in all sorts of cultures with two effects, with two intentions. First of all, to psych one up oneself, to sort of get the team ready. It’s a pre-performance ritual that gets you pumped up, ready to perform, ready to fight in these matches. On the other hand, it has the effect to try to intimidate scare the opponent. And if it’s something that’s grown with these cultures with the All Blacks in New Zealand, it really is very impressive and I’ve got no doubt that it has intended effects and that it does help the team. But again, I don’t think it’s enough to say, “Okay, New Zealand does that, we should start this as a team ourselves.” It has to be authentic, it has to be believable, it has to suit the team that’s showing it. And there’s all kinds of research showing that pre-performance routines can increase arousal, can increase performance. So I think teams are well advised to try to train something like that to, to engage in things like that. And if it’s something like the haka, it’s likely that it could also have the effect of scaring the opponent, intimidating the opponent, lowering their confidence. And we’ve done some research, or there has been some research that has shown that the way that for example, tennis plays into the court does affect confidence levels of the opponent if they come in very confidently. Also from my own sporting experience, I can remember looking at some teams, looking at some plays and thinking, “Oh god, how am I supposed to beat them?”

Zach: [chuckles] What do you think the intimidation– because it seems like there can be a few different routes of intimidation there. I mean, one of them is just feeling like, “Oh, the other team gets along better. They’re tighter knit.” And that can be intimidating. Do you think that this kind of social perception that they’re closer and have more in common, is that part of the intimidation?

Philip: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting point. I would believe so. There’s some very interesting research; I always wanted to try to sort of do something in sports with that that actually shows that things like having rituals where teams move together, that this increases team cohesion. That if they do engage in something like the haka, moving very synchronously, this in fact does lead to a bigger belonging to the team. Sort of less ‘me’ and less ‘I’ in team.

Zach: Like brainwashing. Kind of like group cohesion, actually. Yeah.

Philip: Yeah. I think it’s quite likely. I don’t think it’s been been shown but I think it’s a very feasible hypothesis that this would increase team cohesion. Again, if people actually feel that sort of, ‘I’m really proud of this team, I’ll do everything to help this team,’ I’m pretty sure opponents will notice that as teams that are very close together, functioning very well as a team. Opponents are bound to observe that.

Zach: So, you’ve gotten a good amount of attention for your football-related work, aka soccer-related work. Maybe you could give a summary of the most important work as you see that you’ve done the area of football.

Philip: Football, of course, is something that’s very big in Germany. Often the actual sport isn’t what I’m so interested in, but sort of using it to test theories in psychology. We’ve done a lot of research on football penalties, but mainly because this is a very good situation I find to study body language, study nonverbal behavior. First of all, it’s quite static. Environments are very controlled environments; two players playing against each other, but you can monitor both the goalkeeper and the penalty taker very closely. You can see what’s their facial expressions, the body language, and it’s got a very clear outcome. It’s a very easy-to-study environment, much easier than studying 11 on 11 soccer. So this is one of the reasons we’ve done so much research here. So we’ve looked at several things, so maybe I’ll stick with work on nonverbal behavior that we’ve done on body language. Here, in combined work with some other European scientists, we were able to identify one kind of nonverbal behavior that’s clearly related with being not so successful that shows that you’re anxious. And this is something that we’ve called ‘hastening and hiding’ behavior. You can see that quite often in situations where a lot of pressure is on the performer, and they show behavior of sort of trying to get out of this situation as quickly as possible. In the soccer penalty kick situation, you can see first of all before very important shots like in penalty shootouts when you have to score in order to keep your your team in the shootout, you find that you can monitor this hasting and hiding behavior. This usually shows in the penalty taker. When he’s placed the ball on the spot, he turns his back towards the goalkeeper and walks back and then turns around again. So he turns his back towards the goalkeeper, which we say he’s sort of hiding a bit in front of the goalkeeper, and then the hastening comes. That when the referee blows the whistle– so there’s always a signal in the penalty situation– then the player sees that a bit like starting shot in 100-meter dash, and they immediately initiate the run-up. And both of these behaviors-

Zach: So that’s hastening, as opposed to taking their time with the shot.

Philip: Exactly. Then sort of waiting a bit, looking at the goalkeeper… And you can find that both turning this back and initiating a run up immediately when the referee blows the whistle, this is associated with poor performance. We’ve also done more research that this creates negative impressions in observers, in goalkeepers, and has various ways of negatively affecting the performance. But maybe this hastening and hiding, we haven’t only looked at that in the penalty kick situations. We can find quite a few sporting situations like free throws in basketball, performance in darts has always been in these self-paced situations. This hastening usually leads to more negative performance. These are the two behaviors that you could show across a whole bunch of penalty takers, that this seems to be a general pattern that is negatively associated with performance. Often, you find that players show individual things that distinguish only within that player between when they’re performing successfully, as opposed to performing better. So we don’t find very many general behaviors that always are associated with negative performance. It’s something that’s quite individual, so it makes more sense studying that within a person. This is something that we are doing at the moment because we have been successful finding a facial expression of success, finding a body posture of success, or body posture of failure. This is something that seems to be quite individual and something that we couldn’t find. So in science, you’re always looking for these general laws, but this seems to be something that’s quite individual.

Zach: Yeah, I guess it gets into, you know, these things are often so much more complex. Like, there’s multiple ways to be anxious, there’s an anxiety that can cause you to rush something and then there’s the anxiety that can cause you to prolong something. There’s different ways it can play out.

Philip: Completely. This is something that was a bit frustrating at the beginning because that’s something that we were looking for. But just as you were saying, there are these well-known videos, at least in Europe with Zinedine Zidane actually throwing up before important penalty but then scoring an amazing penalty. Which is clearly a sign that he was feeling very anxious but he still could pull it together and perform well. So it’s not as easy as I would like to have it sometimes, that you can find, “Okay, this kind of behavior is going to lead to that.” That’s something that we haven’t found.

Zach:Yeah, that’s actually something I was talking about with Alan Crowley who helped me write these questions who researched some of these questions and was more familiar with your work. We were talking about some athletes, some high performers of any of area of sports or otherwise will be more likely to be very calm under pressure, but then there’s some people that the anxiety is what drives them to perform well. So the spectrum, like you said, it’s not easy to pinpoint like, what mental state will lead to what success or failure. But I’m curious, do you have a sense? Because I would guess that the people that are more unnaturally calm under pressure would be more likely to be overrepresented in high-performing sports, or athletes. But I’m curious, do you think that bears out? Or do you think there’s just as many people in sports who are successful that are anxious and driven by the anxiety?

Philip: Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think it would be very similar to the normal population. At least this is something that one hears from applied sports psychologists that a lot of very high perfomers, they sort of dreaded very much important performances coming up. But they can still do very well in these situations. They do feel the nerves, they do feel this arousal anxiety, but can somehow keep it together. And some people in some situations can’t. I don’t think it’s something that elite athletes would be different to the normal population. Obviously, the ones that are the absolute best, they are at the absolute top because they succeed in the situations when it matters the most. But it’s hard to pinpoint by ‘that is the case’.

Zach: So when it comes to the hastening and hiding behaviors of, let’s say, penalty kickers, I’m curious, would that be a situation where you would advise avoiding those behaviors? Or is it maybe another case of where you know, those people are anxious so they’re probably going to have the outcomes of anxiety no matter how they pretend to perform?

Philip: Yeah. I mean, those are things that you also see a lot less now. The first person who actually spoke about that was Norwegian sports psychologist Geir Jordet who we’ve also done some research together with, we sort of followed up on his work. He also works with several national teams and since this has been published about 10 years ago, it’s become a lot less than you can see that in the top penalty shootout. So people seem to become aware of that and this is something that they train, that they try to avoid that this is something that is not beneficial to performance. So it makes sense to try to build that into your pre-shot routines, don’t show this behavior so you can control these things, and like that, you sort of have things you can focus your attention on when you’re in a very stressful situation that you can’t control and that have been shown to be negatively linked to performance.

Zach: So would that mean in the case of hastening, would that mean that players are no longer rushing as much and they’re taking their time more than they did before? And is that helping their performance?

Philip: Yes, this is something that you do see that people in these high-pressure situations, they do work on routines, that they’ve got a planned concept in their mind that they focus their attention on. And the good thing about that is that it focuses their limited attentional capacity on something that they can control. Put the ball down, face the goalkeeper, take five step back backwards, referee blows the whistle, take three deep breaths, and then strike the ball in a certain corner. These are things you can control as the positive aspect that you don’t sort of focus on what might happen when I miss the shot, on various ruminations, and it also helps to control these aspects of your nonverbal behavior. So it’s likely to have beneficial effects in these situations.

Zach: When it comes to goalkeepers, one paper suggested that staying in the middle is the optimum strategy, another article suggested that goalkeepers should distract shooters, and I think you suggested that waiting longer to react may be helpful. In your opinion, when it comes to goalkeeper strategies, do you have opinions on that area?

Philip: Yeah. Those are all strategies that have been published in good journals. I mean, that’s always what happens. Experiments, they focus on one or two variables, and then maybe lead to a recommendation that doesn’t take all the variables in play into account during an actual match. Staying in the middle, that’s, I think, a study of [Michael Bailey] a couple of years ago that shows that in the soccer penalty situation, goalkeepers show something like action bias. Because not acting in a situation like that would be something that is socially not wanted, so they tend to always jump into one corner. And that’s why penalty takers can exploit this by shooting in the middle, and you can increase your chances by waiting in the middle. So this can be a strategy that is helpful in some situations. It should certainly be part of the goalkeepers’ repertoire. You should not always dive, but sometimes also stand in the middle. I think that would be good advice. Then there’s a lot of other research. For example, we did some research that shows that drawing attention from the penalty taker towards yourself by waving your arms or doing some kind of behavior draws attention towards you. And then there are studies that show that when attention is fixed onto the goalkeeper, then the aiming behavior, the shots are also tended to be placed a little bit closer to the goalkeeper. So strategy where you draw attention of the penalty taker. Then it makes sense to wait a bit longer because it’s not so likely that a very accurate penalty is gonna happen right next to the goal posts, then you can increase your chances by waiting a bit longer and then trying to save the penalty like that. There’s also other research that was done that was initiated by Rich Masters who’s now in New Zealand, that could show goalkeepers can also stand a bit off centre, sort of they can move themselves a tiny bit off centre, so that it’s hardly perceivable by the penalty taker. And then they can’t really say that the goalkeeper’s off centre, but they implicit notice something. And yeah, statistically significant they shoot more towards the corner with more place, and then the goalkeeper exploiting that and the diving to that corner can be a good strategy.

Zach: That’s interesting.

Philip: So there are all these indications from research which goalkeepers can try to exploit in their behaviour. One important thing that one has to look at and we’ve also done some research in this area is that there’s two different strategies penalty takers usually take. The goalkeeper-dependent one, looking what the goalkeeper is doing and then shoot to another corner. Or the goalkeeper-independent one, sort of pre-determining where you’re going to shoot and strike the ball as hard as you can. And if you hit it properly, then the chances of the goalkeeper are not so good. So the goalkeeper has to try to identify which strategy the penalty taker is likely to take. First of all by studying this penalty taker, which is his preferred strategy? And then their behavioral cues that indicate which strategies he’s going to take. For example, run up speed, his run. If he runs up a bit slowly, then it’s more likely he’s going to do the keeper-dependent strategy. I mean, this is all something that goes very fast. But these are little bits of information that can sort of help to increase the chances of saving a penalty kick. So if you see that penalty taker is gonna take a keeper-dependent strategy, then it’s advisable to wait as long as possibly, get him nervous so the goalkeeper’s not deciding, and then trying to react to that. These are pieces of information that you can use and if you know a penalty taker usually takes a keeper-independent strategy, then you can try to do this off-centre technique. Stand a bit away from the middle, and then research shows he’s more likely to shoot to the open corner and then jump as hard as you can to the other corner. Like that, you might be able to increase your chances a bit.

Zach: Yeah. Regarding that, I wanted to read a quote from apparently the only goalkeeper that stopped a penalty from Messi during the World Cup. Actually, I’m not sure how you pronounce his name. Szczęsny, maybe. He said, “Now, I can say that I knew where Messi would shoot. But at the time, I wasn’t so sure. Leo looks at the keeper on some penalties and hits hard on others. I knew that if he was going to hit hard, it would be more to my left. I saw that he was not stopping so I went, I sensed, I defended.” End quote. So he had studied Messi and discovered a bit of a pattern there. But that was just interesting for being related to what you were saying about studying when you can, if you think there’s a pattern there.

Philip: Yeah, and I think that’s a nice anecdote, sort of speaking to that. I think you can find individual cues within a player that would point to likely behaviors he’s going to adopt. Like the one that the Polish goalkeeper recognized in penalties run up. And I think it makes sense studying videos of individual players and then trying to determine patterns in what they’re likely going to do. This makes a lot more sense than having a general strategy over all players. I think these nonverbal cues are much more likely tells if you study individual players. There’s also this nice story that I talk sometimes about when I’m lecturing on this to my students. I think it’s in the biography of Andre Agassi who said he found a tell in the serve of Boris Becker who usually pointed his tongue out before he served the ball. If he pointed the tongue out straight, then the serve was much more likely to go straight. Then when he pointed the tongue out sort of an angle, then he would more serve to the outside. And I think that’s also quite a nice example of how individual players study the mimics, the nonverbal behavior of opponents and can find patterns. But for years, researchers have found very little patterns that always point to a behavioral outcome following a certain number of verbal behavior.

Zach: Yeah, it’s complicated. I’ll throw in there too that I did a previous episode, I interviewed tennis coach Carlos Garfia and we talked a bit about that Andre Agassi-Boris Becker tell. I’ll just throw that in there. But yeah, it’s difficult because there’s so much variety and a lot of cases the practical approach is just to play the most very optimal approach, because all the factors that can kind of break down and you’re left with just, “Well, I should just do the best strategy for this moment, regardless of what the other person is doing or what I think.”

Philip: Yeah.

Zach: So there was a recent controversy over Argentina goalkeeper Martinez during the World Cup. What’s your opinion about– if you know about it– what’s your opinion about his verbal and nonverbal methods of distracting Netherlands and France’s penalty shooters.

Philip: He got a lot of bad press about it and players certainly liked him less. On the other hand, the main goal is to be successful, he was very successful. But this is something that I don’t like to see. It’s borderline unfair what he did, I think. He used behavior that was at the limits of what’s allowed.

Zach: What was he doing?

Philip: Well, he was trying to distract the penalty takers every chance he got. I mean, he did what I was talking about before. Sort of getting the attention of the penalty takers, trying to bring them out of their routines, and very vivid behavior that…

Zach: Was it offensive behavior, or was it…

Philip: It wasn’t actually offensive behavior. It wasn’t showing gestures that are actually offensive, not allowed, that have to be sanctioned. But it was the whole time at the border of what is allowed. Also, of course, when they received the award he was also behaving badly. In general, he performed extraordinarily well, but he’ll only be remembered for this bad behavior that he showed there. It would have been nicer to win without that, I would say.

Zach: It reminds me. In poker, there’s what they call angle shooting, which is a term for things that are not technically illegal in the game but are perceived as immoral by a good number of people and outside the realm of proper game. It sounds like it was in this kind of grey area of, “Yeah, sure. It’s allowed and you might do okay with it,” but people are going to frown on you and look down on you a bit.

Philip: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That’s what it was. It was not gentleman-like behavior. And this is something that, obviously, sport is very competitive also at the highest level, but you don’t want people wining like that. I also don’t think that was the reason they won, but it was sort of a negative… I don’t know the English word. It had a negative connotation attached to it.

Zach: So in one of your 2016 study, you found that when the nonverbal behavior of the referee is perceived by viewers as less confident when they decide a foul, for example, players were more likely to argue with the referee in contrast with when he called a clear foul when is his body language is more confident. That would seem to say, maybe it would make sense to teach referees to have some confidence in their calls, but like we’ve been talking about, that could backfire because if you do that on a clearly wrong or close call, you might lose respect from people. Do you have thoughts on the practical benefits of that research?

Philip: Yeah. There was several experiments we did in this paper. The first we wanted to check, we thought referees would be a good group to do research on because they actually get trained in this facet of nonverbal communication. They get seminars and nonverbal behavior experts come to them trying to teach them to communicate their decisions in a confident manner. Part of this research was looking into, “Okay, how successful is this coaching?” And then what we did there is we recorded or we took television recordings of referees, and we knew of course the situations that they were communicating and so we could distinguish situations that were absolutely clear, so we tested that and situations that were not so clear. And what we did then, we had people rate the body language of the coaches. And there we found quite clear patterns that when they were communicating ambiguous decisions, difficult situations, the body language was less confident. Sort of speaking in the direction that we do have this automatic tendency when we are not so sure about something, that this shows in our facial expressions and this shows in our body language. This is something that people are equipped with and this comes with the evolution of people. We do communicate how we feeling inside even if you don’t want to. This was the instance of that in this first line of research.

What we then did is recreated a hypothetical scenario, again, then showed different videos of referees who’d just given a yellow card or red card or given a penalty. And then told players, “Okay, this was a 50/50 situation, how likely would you be to contest the call of the referee?” There, you could clearly see if a referee on one of these videos was communicating an ambiguous situation but the people in our study of course didn’t know, they were a lot more likely to argue, to debate with the referee; showing that, okay, we do have this natural tendency of showing how we are feeling inside and this can have negative consequences on the playing field so the referee might be more likely to lose control of the game. Again, I don’t think there are quick fixes for that, I think it’s interesting to understand that, and I do think that referees are well advised to work on this and I’m sure they do. And yeah, but does have to find ways of then interacting with the players even if you are not sure in this situation, by trying to communicate it in a confident manner, but also being authentic and then trying to create understanding in the players– maybe telling them, talking to them why you decided like that. Being human too. I mean, people come with this tendency that they do show that in their body language.

Zach: It gets back to the theme we’ve been talking about a few times where it’s like, you can use some of this knowledge to your benefit in various ways, but you also have to be aware that using it badly will have repercussions for you.

Philip: Yes. Yes. Exactly, because humans aren’t perfect. I mean, referees are getting assistance now from technology, which I think is a good idea. That you can’t see everything that’s going on the pitch, and then if you have methods of reinsuring yourself as a video assistant referee and things like that, that’s beneficial. That will help the referee and they won’t be so often in situations where they made a call that might have been wrong but then they can correct it later. This is likely to cause less friction on the playing field.

Zach: Would you like to talk about any other important work that you’ve done in sports behavior, or do you think we’ve covered a good amount of it there?

Philip: Yeah, I think we’ve talked about very interesting work. I can maybe talk a bit more about ongoing work that we are also doing. We also trying to use a lot of technology now to automatically trace facial behavior during sports competitions and trying to find contingencies between that, and working on automated ways of detecting certain behavioral patterns like posture during game situations. This is something that’s interesting that’s also a lot of fun, but we are still quite at the beginning of that. Also here, for example, I think you mentioned that you also have a poker background. Is that correct?

Zach: Yeah, I used to play for a living and I’m most well known for my books on poker tells and poker behavior. Yeah.

Philip: Exactly. We’ve also played around with that, for example. I mean, there’s so much interesting material you can use in this research. We fuse these facial emotion recognitions on thousands of images from poker players for example when they’ve got a strong hand and when they’ve got a weak hand. I haven’t found any contingencies there that there might be something that’s associated over the players when they are bluffing, in comparison to when they have a good hand from this facial recognition software. This is something that we’ve looked into. We’ve also tried to find facial patterns, for example if a penalty taker scores a penalty or misses a penalty. Also there, we haven’t found much.

Zach: How can people keep up with what you’re doing now?

Philip: I always try to publish the book that I’m doing. That’s always slow, scientific publishing always takes quite a bit of time. I upload all my studies on ResearchGate, at least if the journalists don’t get rid of the articles again due to copyright things. But people can also always send me an email if they’re interested in the research and I can send them copies of the papers.

Zach: If you do ever want any help on the poker-related research, I’ve written some critiques of past poker studies and I’ve also helped people who have done poker behaviour-related studies. So just throwing that out there if you ever just want some help on anything, let me know.

Philip: Yeah, that’d be actually really interesting because as I was saying at the moment was more playing around. We’ve got interested students who wanted to do that and it’s quite easy to get some of the footage. Yeah, I’d be very interested and I’m always looking for interesting avenues for new research.

Zach: Yeah, and one more. I’ve always been surprised that there aren’t more studies involving in poker, because it’s such an interesting and very formal environment to study some very specific behaviors. I think one of the reasons is it’s hard to set up the game and to do your own setup of a game is difficult, it has a few factors there. But yeah, I think it’s a great opportunity for studying very specific situations.

Philip: Yeah, especially the nonverbal behaviour. [chuckles] This is something of course that you link very much with poker. But I find great is that nowadays you’ve got all this video footage. And if you set that up… Well, it’s actually all there and we’ve got tools for analyzing facial behavior, we’ve got tools for analyzing body language. And it’s just interesting to gain a more systematic understanding. At the moment I’m quite confident that you don’t have these universal tells or something. But you can find interesting patterns within an individual depending on the situation.

Zach: I will say– do not want to get too much off on a tangent– but I will say the big challenge with using the footage that’s out there is that one of the most important places to find poker tells is when someone has made a significant bet. And in televised poker footage, the usual editing or directing approach is to cut away from the person who has just bet. So that’s one of the most frustrating things for me as someone who’s made videos. They always cut away at the most interesting part when you want to study the person who’s just made a significant bet, you know? Anyway, it’s not to get off on a tangent, but…

Philip: No, no, that’s good.

Zach: There can be challenges there. I actually said that in my Poker Tells video course because I use a lot of televised footage in that. And I say, “It’s frustrating because I would have a lot of things to show you here, but I can’t because they always cut away from the players.” Anyway, this has been great, Phillip. Thanks for coming on and I really appreciate you taking the time.

Philip: Yeah, thank you very much. It was a lot of fun. And yeah, very good questions.

Zach: That was sports psychology researcher Philip Furley.

This has been the People Who Read People podcast with me, Zach Elwood. You can learn more about this podcast at If you enjoyed this episode, just a note that I’ve done quite a few sports-related and game-related episodes. I’ve done talks on reading behavior in American football, in tennis, in mixed martial arts, and a couple episodes on poker tells. 

Thanks again to Alan Crawley, also known as Sin Verba, for his research and help with this episode. 

If you enjoy this podcast, go to my website for some ideas on how you can show your support. There’s an option to subscribe to an ad-free version. Please consider sharing episodes with people you know; that’s one of the most appreciated things you can do fo rme, just sharing episodes you like. 

Ok thanks for listening.


Why are we so gullible?, with Brian Dunning

A talk with Brian Dunning, who you might call a professional skeptic. He has been doing the Skeptoid podcast since 2006, and is the creator of multiple books and video projects aimed at promoting critical thinking and skepticism. We talk about the reasons why we’re so often drawn to pseudoscience, bullshit, and no/low-evidence ideas in general. I also ask him what he thinks about a range of things, including chiropractic work, acupuncture, UFOs, eye movement desensitization therapy (EMDT), the placebo effect, and more. 

Listen to the episode:

Here are some resources related to or mentioned in this talk:

Related podcast episodes of mine:


How big a problem are hate crimes in the U.S.?, with Wilfred Reilly

Wilfred Reilly is a political scientist, Kentucky State University professor, and author of the 2019 book Hate Crime Hoax. I wanted to talk to Reilly about the nature of hate crimes in America. One reason I wanted to discuss this is because our perceptions of hate crimes, and racism more generally, are a factor in our us-versus-them polarization, and so examining nuance in this area can be helpful for depolarization purposes. Transcript below.

Topics discussed include: how hate crimes are tracked; why it can be hard to get a clear picture of hate crime numbers; the logic of ‘hate crime’ as a legal designation; irresponsible media coverage of racism-related issues; the motivations of people who fake hate crimes; distorted perceptions of American hate crimes and racism; how distorted perceptions can amplify polarization; and what it’s like working on these topics while teaching at a historically black college. 

Podcast platform links:

Resources related to or mentioned in our talk:


Zachary Elwood: Welcome to the People Who Read People podcast, with me, Zach Elwood. This is a podcast aimed at better understanding others, and better understanding ourselves. You can learn more about it at, and you can subscribe to the podcast there, too. 

On today’s episode, I’ll be talking to Wilfred Reilly, a political scientist who’s the author of a book called Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. In that book, he examines many instances of hate crime hoaxes, with a focus on, as he sees it, the liberal leaning media’s irresponsible coverage of these things. He sees the media coverage as helping create divisive, untrue narratives, and as contributing to support for the far right. 

I’ll read the first paragraph of his book, as it gives a sense of his views and of why he’s passionate about this topic: 

Authors of books that lean right are often accused of “hating” someone, or everyone. To the contrary! I am a proud Black man, and this book is both a pro-American and a profoundly pro-Black work of social science. I write it with the intention of lancing a boil. One major issue poisoning relations between whites and people of color (POC) in America today, and to a lesser extent relations between the two sexes and our nation’s social classes, is an ongoing epidemic of patently false claims of oppression. Making outrageous claims of oppression—”Baseball is racist”; “The math SAT is culturally biased!”—is arguably the main thing the modern activist Left does, and the backlash against such patently absurd contentions is largely responsible for the rise of the even more god-awful alt-right. End quote

A little later in the book he writes: Bigotry does exist. But that fact is no justification for false claims of oppressive violence, which are rife: complete hoaxes make up a sizable percentage of all widely reported hate crimes. 

I’ll read another few sentences from a 2019 article in Commentary magazine he wrote: 

Our nation is not racked with hate crimes. When people in positions of power or visibility say that it is, they should be rebuked for it. […] It’s difficult to think of a more compelling task for American scholars than to point out the dangerous lies behind this invented crisis.  

If you’re politically liberal, there’s a good chance you’ll disagree with some of what Reilly has to say. But I think this is an important topic and I hope you’ll listen to this episode. I was reading Reilly’s work as research for my depolarization book, because, when it comes to depolarization work, trying to correct our distorted perceptions is a big part of that work. And Reilly is correct that many of us do have some very distorted perceptions about the state of this country, and about “the other side.” And he’s right that the media is often irresponsible in their coverage of race-related topics. That’s something I’m currently writing about in my depolarization book, and it’s something I’ve tackled in past episodes: for example, see the episode titled “Are a majority of Americans actually racist?” One can believe all of that while still believing racism and hate crimes exist and are problems: Reilly’s work is attempting to show that it’s not as big a problem as some people believe it is, and arguing that it’s important that journalists and the media take a more nuanced and responsible approach to these topics. 

I’d also say: even if you wholeheartedly disagree with a lot that Reilly says, hearing his points will help you better understand conservative points of view, and that alone is worthwhile and depolarizing. Hearing Reilly’s points will help you understand why many conservatives perceive liberals as being hysterical and divisive on issues of race, and you can understand that perspective even while disagreeing with it. When hearing the points Reilly makes, some liberals will have an instinctive reaction in thinking that such views are due to malicious motives of some sort and I think this is related to some basic polarization dynamics: we have an instinctive urge to get upset and judge people harshly when they say things that don’t align with narratives that are sacred to us or our group. But I think it’s important to attempt to see the rational and well meaning concerns that are driving people’s beliefs on these issues. When we see their perspective, we better understand their frustration and anger, and we can better engage with their ideas. 

I’ll give a specific example of hate-crime-focused news coverage I noticed that struck me as very bad and irresponsible. A 2021 CNN article was titled As attacks against Asian Americans spike, advocates call for action to protect communities. That article discussed four incidents and, from a quick read of the headline and the article, you’d probably get the impression that these incidents were linked to bigotry in some way. But after doing some research on the incidents in that article, I found that none of those incidents were known to be linked to bigotry or anti-Asian sentiment. Here are some of the stories it included: 

  • A Thai man was pushed down by a young man in San Francisco. The police later said that they didn’t believe the attack was racially motivated; they thought the young man was having some sort of mental episode. 
  • A 64-year-old Asian woman was robbed in San Francisco. This seemed to be a typical robbery; at least from what I could find, there was no evidence it was related to race. 
  • In New York City, a Filipino man was slashed across the face after objecting to the man pushing his bag. The offender was never caught, and there’s no evidence the attack was racially motivated. 
  • A 91-year-old Asian man was pushed to the ground by a man who had also been caught pushing down several other elderly people. He had psychiatric problems, and was charged with elder abuse. 

People of all races are randomly attacked in big cities on a regular basis, some of it due to mental illness and some of it due to crime, and it’s possible that some of the attacks categorized as anti-Asian hate crimes are not any different than some of those kinds of attacks. It’s also possible that the more attention is drawn to hate crimes, the more the media and citizens are likely to filter things through that lens. For example, people may hear about a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and then, if they experience or witness non-hate-related violence, they may be more likely to perceive it and report it as a hate crime. So there can seem to be a lot of nuance and feedback cycles in these areas. 

I could give many more examples of this kind of thing, and Reilly includes many examples in his Hate Crime Hoax book. Hopefully you can see why these kinds of media behaviors strike people as irresponsible and divisive. Hopefully you can see why people like Reilly can see it as an important endeavor to try to bring more nuance to these areas. The left talks a lot about fear mongering by the Right, but it’s possible for people to perceive a lot of fear mongering from liberal-leaning media also. 

One reason I think this is such an important topic for depolarization purposes is that, for many liberals, they will name race-related violence as one of the things that make them so concerned about Trump and conservatives. People are very scared, and fear for their safety and other people’s safety, and they blame Trump and conservatives for that. For example, they see a link between the rhetoric of conservatives and the mass killings done by far right extremists, like the 2022 Buffalo New York shooting where 10 black people were killed, or the shooting in El Paso, Texas where 23 people were killed. Or they are afraid of various forms of lesser bigotry-caused violence, like people being attacked randomly in the street. And this fear and anger can be hard to get past. It can be an obstacle to people seeing the value of depolarization work. And so, for the purposes of depolarization, I think it’s important to examine that fear and ask: how much is that fear really justified? Because in this area, as in many areas, there’s a lot of nuance, and many distorted perceptions. And so reducing fear and examining nuance is one of the ways we aid depolarization. 

A little bit more about Wilfred Reilly: he teaches at Kentucky State University, which is a historically black college; towards the end of the podcast I talk to him about what kind of reaction he gets for his work at his school. He’s also the author of the book Taboo, in which he argues that certain race, gender, and class issues can no longer be discussed in mainstream American society. One interesting detail about Reilly I’ll read from Wikipedia: 

On April 21, 2016, Reilly participated in a regionally televised debate against alt-right personality Jared Taylor. Reilly argued for the social value of diversity, contending that it makes life “more interesting, civilized, and fun,” and using published research to point out that mono-racial societies (like Bosnia and Somalia) are often no more peaceful or less conflicted than multi-racial societies, due to the greater prevalence of tribal in-fighting within them.

Reilly did that debate as part of demonstrating his philosophy of debating ideas openly, and not trying to shut down debate. 

Reilly is active on Twitter, too, if you want to keep up with him there. 

Just a heads up before we start: this podcast has some ads. If you want to subscribe and get an ad-free version of this podcast, and get a few other features like collaborating on upcoming episodes, getting a free copy of my depolarization book, and more, you can learn more about that by going to Aside from any benefits, you’ll be supporting me in making this podcast better, and in promoting it, so if you’ve thought my work on this podcast has been interesting or important and you’ve enjoyed all the free content I’ve put out, maybe you’d consider signing up. 

Okay here’s the talk with Wilfred Reilly…

Zachary Elwood: Okay, here’s the talk with Wilfred Reilly. Hi, Will, thanks for coming on the show.

Wilfred Reilly: Glad to be here.

Zach: Maybe we can start with one of the things I’ve experienced in trying to research the hate crime topic for my depolarization book. I’ve just had a problem trying to even understand how hate crime statistics and reports are compiled, and you just see such a range of different stats and interpretations of the stats used by people from across the political spectrum. Some people say they’re under counted, some people say they’re over counted, and it just seems really hard to get to the bottom of what’s going on there. Maybe you can talk a little bit about, for somebody who wonders how do we get accurate data about those statistics, what would you say to people seeking that information?

Wilfred: Well, I’d say that’s a problem with crime stats in general. As you probably know, there are two primary data pools when it comes to American crime data. There’s the FBI itself, which is, if I recall the initialism correctly, the UCR. But that’s a database where police departments, especially in large cities, report the number of crimes and number of felony crimes and so on that occur in their area to a central storing house that’s run by the Federales. There are a lot of problems with this, though. The first is that cities definitely try to play games with this data. I mean, as we’ve seen murder increase recently, we’ve seen very large cities like Chicago just sort of be behind the ball with their FBI data for a particular year. But a bigger issue is just that the majority of crimes aren’t reported. It’s important to keep this in mind. And this isn’t really something where my political position, which is kind of center right, comes into play at all. It’s just a reality. If you’re talking about sexual assaults or rapes, for example, there are a decent number of false accusations but there’s also the reality that only one accusation in three or whatever it is– a feminist scholar would probably have a better grasp on that– is reported at all. The FBI stats are one of the tools you can use when you look into crime data.

The better data warehouse is what’s called the BJS, the Bureau of Justice Statistics annual reports. And that, really, I think is some of the better social science out there. What they do is take pretty well-trained, usually same-race interviewers, and have them reach out and contact about 160,000 people and just ask about their experience with crime. Worded not like, “Did someone try to kill you?” but, “Were you in a situation where X, Y, and Z happened this year?” It’s introduced upfront as the goal of this is to reduce crime in the USA, the response rate is in the ’90s across all racial groups, but kind of getting to the point what the BJS annually finds is that there are about twice as many crimes as those that are officially reported to the PDs and then to the FBI. And you can play a lot of games with this data. For example, we’ve seen the claim that Black men are 6% of the country but make up 60% of the violent crime. That’s essentially just bullshit. That comes from a one-year UCR figure where a lot of big cities reported and a lot of smaller cities in poor, White communities frankly didn’t. So for one point, I believe it was 60.4% of the reported violent crimes in that database had a Black perp. But if you expand out to the BJS and you look at the total number from that enormous sample of 160 or whatever thousand, they can calculate the actual crime rate throughout the United States. I mean, you’re never going to get a better survey sample than that. And if you actually look at all of the violent crimes that occurred or likely occurred in a typical year, that number is going to be something like 10 million. When I broke down that data for one of my books, the Black crime rate was two to 2.5 times the White crime rate, but there was no one ethnic group that made up a giant majority of criminals or anything like that. So you can dig into these multiple data resources and on either side of this debate, you can cite to something that looks very professional and say, “This is the crime data.”

And there’s a lot more of this in social science than people like to admit. There’s an entire book called The Attitudinal Model that just makes the point that if you’re a judge, a professor, what they call a solo leader, there are generally going to be sources on your side. And that’s how a lot of these debates continue for decades. But in the hate crimes space, all of the same problems arise first of all. A large number of crimes are not reported. I’d call that the first problem with crime data, much crime is not reported. Second, as I famously said in the book, a number of the reports are fake or at least they’re overstatements. This is also a problem with data in a number of cases, men reporting domestic violence and this kind of thing. So you have these two problems upfront. But in terms of what you do to get the data, it’s the same as any other crime data compilation. I mean, a lower order local police department will gain knowledge of a case involving, say, a Black guy and a White guy involved in a violent brawl that has the potential characteristics of a hate crime, they’ll investigate that and they’ll decide whether to press hate crime charges. And if a hate crime is reported at that level, it is passed on– without further verification, by the way. But it is passed on to the FBI, to the central governmental database as this is a situation where a hate crime has occurred. So, criminal data collection at the simplest level, unless you’re doing very high-end BJS stuff, is just the police arresting a guy, charging him with a particular crime, and as the case moves forward, sending that up to the Feebies as an example of crime X or a robbery. That is how you get that data.

Zach: Yeah, it seems like for this and for so much of the things we talked about, there’s just so much ambiguity in the data itself, which lends itself to people making a wide range of arguments as you say. Yeah. Maybe we can talk a little bit about the factors that make some of this data ambiguous. And one thing that comes to mind is just the nature of categorising something as a hate crime. Have you seen a lot of that vary in different regions or different police departments, like what even constitutes a hate crime and how do we define that?

Wilfred: Absolutely. One of my first articles on this, this wasn’t quite an academic journal piece but it ran in Quizlet about 10 pages long, but I actually looked at this remarkable surge that they’ve had in hate crimes in the city of Seattle in Washington. And the way this was presented in the media is hate crime is out of control, there’s something going on out there maybe, diverse gentrifiers of all backgrounds are being attacked by working class locals. There was a lot of discussion of this. What had actually happened is that the city had hired someone in a position that I think you can honestly call hate crimes commissar. And they had put a great deal of focus into sort of clarifying this is a hate crime, and if you encounter any situation with these characteristics, we want at least an initial hate crime prosecution. I forget the exact numbers but there had been hundreds of hate crimes reported in this one city as versus the entire state of Florida, for example, I had about a third as many. I’m actually pulling up the article right now. So when I looked into these hate crimes, what I found was very much not gangs of Klansmen roving around beating up Black dudes, or even Black guys New Panthers or something like that attacking Whites or attacking Jews. Most of the hate crime perpetrators were just crazy homeless people. I’m not going to use the racial words, but if some bum frankly was like– hopefully that’s not an offensive term– but was like, “Get out of the road, you bleep bleep whatever,” that might be in that one city pursued as a hate offence. So when you looked at the data set for the hate crime defendants, 25% of them were drug or alcohol addicts, 40% of them– again, that could be off by a bit, but were quote-unquote “living unhoused, they’ve gone beyond homeless as a PC term out there. So they were taking this so seriously, that they were arresting crazy people for any incident where a racial slur was used during a fight outdoors, for example.

Zach: Small note here. It’s been a recent tendency for some people on the left to act as if mental problems won’t influence someone to say racist things, as if we can morally judge mentally ill people who say racist or sexist things. But this is quite clearly wrong, and not just wrong, but a wrongness that exacerbates the stigma of mental illness and mental episodes. I examine this topic in a couple of past episodes. In one incident, a clearly mentally ill woman in California said some bigoted things and was caught on video and that video went viral. In my interview with Rob Tarzwell about his emergency room psychiatric work, he said that this woman was almost certainly suffering from mental illness and said that that can cause someone to say all sorts of antisocial things, things set to shock, saying taboo things and things like that. For that incident in California, there was actually a protest that people held because of that woman’s behaviour, which we can see is related to some of the same hysteria that Reilly is referring to in this episode. Okay, back to the talk.

Wilfred: And then there were other states that have a much more Matthew Shepard-James Byrd let’s-be-serious-about-this approach to hate crime. So again, we’re getting into these core problems with criminal data. I mean, number one is just, do people report? In Black or poor White communities, are people going to the cops like that? Number two is if they do report if you’re looking at domestics or a number of other areas, are they lying? Now, obviously, you want to take the victim very seriously at first but we found that in the hate crime space. And then number three, I guess would be how hard is the police department trying. How broadly are they casting their net? And generally, when you see hundreds of hate offences– on a college campus, they’re called Bias Incident Reports, BIRs– when you see hundreds of big cars within, you know, Oberlin, you kind of start wondering is there really that much hate there? Or are you just taking everything possible to create jobs for the office on point? So yes, the policing approach also dramatically affects the numbers. If I can say one more thing there about how we got the hoaxes, that itself is also pretty contested. There are people, and I’m actually not one of these guys who’s very critical of everyone that disagrees with him, but there are people like Barry Levin that are solid social scientists. They will argue that there are very few hate crime hoaxes. And they’re not lying. But what they’re doing is using this very technical definition where a claim is made and it goes to the feds– the police, then it goes to the feds. And then it turns out that the exact person who claimed they were attacked is revealed conclusively to have been a liar and the feds and the police, as I understand, both update their databases.

So when you go through that, like step 1, 2, 3, yeah, sure, there aren’t very many such cases. What I found for hate crime hoax is that there are a massive number of cases where the following pattern occurs, which is that an incident is reported nationally or internationally as an act of hate. For example, there’s a news found on a college campus. And then it turns out absolutely conclusively, I didn’t put maybe cases in the book, that there was no hate there at all. That one of several things could have happened, the original victim could have just made this up as a sort of prank or to gain attention. Two, someone else could have made this up as a prank or to gain attention. Or three, nothing happened at all. For example, a construction site left a GI rope hanging over a tree. I mean, you can have that debate. Like, is [00:22:09 unintelligible] is that a narrative collapsed? Does that fit my broad definition of a hoax and so on? But what we can say conclusively, and I didn’t count that as a hoax, but what we can say conclusively is that it didn’t happen. Anyway, step three in my book, the collapse also has to be documented in a national or regional news media source. I could have doubled the list if I’d go on with college kids contacting me and saying, “Hey, we all know this didn’t happen. This was the Pikes, the fraternity playing a prank.” But when you get into a hate crime, it’s just reported to the police, reported to the feds. And a hate crime hoax, if you’re using a narrow definition, is reported to the police, reported to the feds, proven to be a hoax by the person who initially made the claim, and then admitted as that by the police and by the feds. If you just look at the broader level of absolutely collapsed and usually the original victim did it, there were hundreds of these within a pretty narrow window.

Zach: Yeah, and what you were saying with the places reporting being more likely to report hate crimes and it just seems like there’s so many factors involved in that too. For example, when Trump was elected, it seems like more people were going to filter things through the lens of racism, for example, homeless people saying racial slurs or something in the past that might have passed without comment. Or we would say oh, they have some problems and now people would be more likely to view that as a serious threat that needed to be handled. So, just in that sense. And the ambiguity also of, say, somebody attacks their wife’s lover and yells a racial slur in the process. Is that qualified? Would people categorize that as a hate crime? I think many people would say that’s just a crime with a side of bigotry or something, but some people might disagree and classify that as a hate crime. Is that part of it too? Does a racial slur being present… Would some people categorize that as a hate crime?

Wilfred: Yeah, that was one of the specific issues that came up in Seattle. For me if I had to think about this– and I don’t really think the idea of hate crimes makes all that much sense. I mean, I have the standard kind of just over-the-Republican-line male view, which is that there aren’t that many crimes of love. If you beat someone up because you think lawyers are shysters, you don’t like poor Whites or you don’t like dentists or Democrats or whatever, that’s not a hate crime at all. If you beat someone up because they’re White, regardless of income, or because they’re Black, then that’s a hate crime. I don’t really see that is being worse than the first set of attacks that are political, for example, or that might involve sexual violence against women. But yeah, if you’re going to have the category at all, I guess the most logical cut off would be a crime primarily motivated by hate. Not where someone’s race played a tertiary role, but where you’re attacking the person because they’re Black. But yeah, you can expand on all of this. A legal statute would say something like considerable role for race orientation etc, and you could take that as you wish. That’s up to you, or that’s up to the decision maker who’s making that call. So yeah, we see wildly variant numbers when it comes to the range of potential hate offences that are actually treated in practice as hate crimes. I think it’s fair to say that.

The other point you made, which is almost funny, is about a big orange Julius Caesar Donald Trump. During the Trump administration, there was a frantic attempt to link Trump to rises in racial tension. Which actually rose at least there sharply under Mr. Obama when he started coming out and saying, “My son would look like Trayvon. You can think that Obama was a better more coherent president, although I don’t necessarily, but you can’t really say he improved race relations. But there was a real focus on Trump being the guy at fault. One of the worst pieces of social science I’ve ever seen, at least in terms of how the media presented it, was a study that was invariably presented as hate crimes increased 206% after Trump rallies. This ran in the Washington Post. The idea was that counties that had had a Trump rally had seen this massive surge of 200% in these violent incidents, Blacks and Whites fighting, and that’s what Trump was, he brought that kind of evil. And when I actually looked at the methods for this, and the author’s themselves aren’t even necessarily at fault, but what they had found was that counties that hosted Trump rallies saw a 2% increase in hate crime and counties that didn’t saw a 1% increase in hate crime. And since two is 200% of one, the press was able to spin this into there’s a 200% surge wherever that that orange bastard goes, if that makes sense. So, you saw a lot of things like that.

There was another claim, I think this is 2017 in the second year Trump was in power, hate crimes increased by more than a thousand. But when I and other researchers started looking at that, I still haven’t broken this down county by county to see if this explains the entire change, but what became apparent pretty rapidly is that as police departments and the feds started formalising their their violence numbers in response to BLM and in response to a government inquest, that particular year you also saw a thousand more police departments report hate crimes in the first place. So again, tell me if I need to clarify any of this, but there was an increase of a thousand hate crimes. There was also an increase of a thousand reporting departments. So, each department would have had to report one hate crime to explain the entire increase. I personally offhand would say Trump was probably correlated with a 2% increase in racial tensions or something like that, but there’s a big difference between saying that kind of minor negative and saying what people actually did. Like, “He almost brought us a race war,” and this kind of just complete nonsense.

Zach: Getting back to that hate crime as a designation, I’ve even seen progressive philosophy or writing about why the hate crime designation is not a good one for reasons of, you know, people who are more poor and have more disadvantages are more likely to be charged with hate crime designations. For example, like the example you brought up of homeless people who have mental issues who are more likely to say things like that, or just poor people in general who may be more prone to those kinds of things for lack of education and things like that and so they’re more likely to have more adverse judicial punishments and things like this. And getting back to the idea of… It’s not clear to me that the hate crime definition should exist, it seems like a very debatable argument. I just wanted to throw that in there.

Wilfred: Yeah, I’d agree with that. One of the things that was really surprising when I looked at who commits hate crimes– and this data is easily available online. I mean, if you just Google USA hate crimes 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, you get an FBI publication containing either online or hardcopy breakdowns of all of those years. So there’s nothing that you or I are saying here that’s contested. But when I looked started looking at who commits hate crimes, I suppose I’d been bamboozled a little bit by the media even after my research on interracial crime and Black Lives Matter, and I expected it to be mostly kind of trench coat White guys and maybe fraternity through gamer demographic. That’s not at all the case, actually. The two groups most likely to offend in the hate crime space were Blacks and then I think Samoans, Pacific Islanders. Blacks were very heavily over represented. We make up about 12% of the country, we make up well over 20% of the hate criminals, usually 25-plus. So there are a lot of hate crimes against Blacks in the limited sense that there are a lot of hate crimes at all. I mean, there were fewer than 7000 hate crimes in a typical year. Again, if you go through those BJS index reports, there are about 20 million serious crimes of violent and serious property crimes in a typical year. So hate crime is not a massive arena of crime, we get along fairly well. But of the hate crimes that do occur, there quite a few against Blacks, sometimes almost 2000 in a year. But it’s worth remembering that they’re also almost a thousand against Whites, there were 700 in the most recent year on record, and they’re about 1200 against Jews. So the attacks on the two Caucasian populations are generally about as common as frequent as the attacks on the Black community, and then you get both Whites and Blacks attacking gays and so on down the line.

For hate crime to make sense, if you’re really trying to crack down on that old devil of White supremacy or something like that, you would have to be pursuing mostly Klansmen and people in that space. In fact, yeah, if you’re a young Black guy and you’re involved in a racial conflict with a Latin gay, or you’re offended by a gay guy in your neighborhood– not that that’s an acceptable excuse but you launch an attack there– you are very likely also going to get the hate crime enhancement. I would say that virtually any criminal law is going to disadvantage poor people. Because poor people are younger, broker, they have worse lawyers, and they’re more likely to be criminals. So this again is the kind of help that we often see from the left. I mean, I grew up in a working class community where it’s this stupid shit like, “Let’s take the cops off the streets because they’re sometimes abusive.” Well, yeah, but if you take the cops off the streets, then the neighbourhoods are run by gangbangers. Similarly, if you enhance the penalties for certain crimes, selling certain varieties of drug and hate crime and so on, you might reel in some serious pushers or the occasional White guy who comes to those areas to do violence. But you’re also taking a whole bunch of young poor men and throwing them in jail for a really long period of time. I mean, a hate crime enhancement can make a misdemeanor fight into a serious felony.

Zach: Right. When I mentioned the progressive arguments I’d seen against the hate crime designation, that was part of the two with how disadvantaged racial minorities are also. Getting into the ambiguity caused by the purposeful hoaxes, what did you see as the main emotions and goals for the people that had done these pretty blatant hoaxes like the ones on college campuses that you talked about a lot? What did you see? How did you make sense of those cases and why people were doing that?

Wilfred: Well, one of the most notable things about what you just said is that if you go to a reputable website that looks at this, like– I think my own datasets even better but again there are multiple datasets containing hundreds of these– what you’ll find is that on the first 10 or 12 pages of the site, more than a third of the cases– and I found a slightly higher figure myself– take place on a collegiate campus; a college, university, dormitory, prep school, that kind of thing. So that in and of itself is telling when we get into motivation. Overall, I think there are two basic categories of motivation for something like this. One is just the ordinary mundane reasons that ‘MFs commit crimes’. It’s the phrase that came into my mind. But insurance money, that kind of thing. I mean, in Chicago, the famous Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge case where a guy burnt down this after-hours bisexual nightclub that was really popular and wrote these slurs like fag throughout the building, he did that simply to collect a check. Owing people money in the nightlife business in Chicago is not always a good idea, he wanted to get an insurance payout, okay. But what we more often see in the college campus cases is– although I don’t know if this guy was tied into anyone negative, he just wanted money– but in the college campus cases, I think what you’re seeing is the power of victimization that we’ve given to people and especially to these kids. So in a lot of these cases where something happened, I’m thinking of the UChicago hoax where a graduate student named Derek Caquelin claimed that an entire hacker group which he called the UChicago Electronic Army was sort of chasing him around campus threatening him every time he logged onto his machine with anal rape and abuse because it was campus activism, the goal of that was very specific. As I recall, they wanted a Chicano Student Centre. There were editorials and a collegiate but still widely read paper about this. There often were parades through campus, you know, hate has no home here.

So I think that because we’ve created this idea where it’s good to be a victim, you know, we want the bi-part perspective to be a big part of this meeting and this kind of college stuff, it’s very encouraging to try to speed forward and debate by providing quote-unquote some evidence of what Oberlin view is really like. And we’ve seen large-scale examples of this. Like the University of Missouri, about four or five years back there were all these student protests going on. And people were claiming these crazy things; the president hit one of the protesters with a car probably for racial reasons, there was a swastika written in human shit on the wall of one of the bathrooms… Although that one actually is the most debatably possible of them. But just on and on down the line, there were five or six of these crazy claims that Ku Klux Klan had been spotted on campus in full warrior fig. The specific purpose there was a series of demands as Missouri approached its 150th anniversary or something of that nature. So the college campus cases are almost always “Look at me and look at what this place is really like, and then let’s build a Black center.”

Zach: One motivating thing there for the hoaxes and just in general the hoaxes kind of tied to the victimization thing, I guess, it seems like there can be a belief that if someone’s a true believer that we live in a brutally racist society, then it becomes more acceptable in someone’s mind to draw attention to that by faking it. It’s like if you really believe that it’s true, then more and more options become available to you in the service of making that known even if you have to fake, if that makes sense.

Wilfred: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much exactly correct. One of the things I found to be notable writing about college pretty often for the past couple of years, I’ve worked with people in The College Fix and I don’t know if I’ve submitted an article there, but I’ve written about The 1619 Project, my next book’s about education, it’s a pretty serious book. So down the line, conservatives often tend to think that the people in the campus world are just kind of shrieking, hyperbolic, narcissistic liars. You think of your most emotionally abusive lover is a much younger person, they’re just making this up for gain. That’s true for some people. But I also think that a lot of people truly believe this stuff. I mean, you’ve been reading Ibram Kendi since the eighth grade if you attend any well ranked school in the USA.

Zach: A small note here. I think this is a very important point that Reilly makes. In my depolarization book I’m working on, one of the things I focus on is how polarization makes many of us suspect that people on the other side are being deceptive about their beliefs, that they’re not being genuine. Because we become less and less able to understand the other side, they become more and more alien and weird and creepy to us, and so we become more likely to basically think they couldn’t possibly believe these things. So therefore, we’re more likely to call people liars and deceivers and cynical manipulators. And that in turn makes the other side more angry, who are then more likely to do similar things to us and so on. So I believe that unless we’re quite sure someone is lying, we should take people at their word and try to act as if they really do believe what they’re saying they believe. Okay, back to the talk.

Wilfred: So I think that when I’ve talked to people in these situations, a starting assumption is well, of course, there must be some subsurface violence here at Yale. You know, the campus is named after a slave master, people will say. The problem with that, of course, is that in fact there almost never is. The American upper middle class is one of the most successfully integrated groups of people in the world. Interracial crime for both Blacks and Whites is a tiny percent of crime. We commit more of it, by the way, it’s 70% or 80% Black on White. But in an enormously rare thing, the person most likely to kill you is your wife. So going through a normal life, you’re not going to encounter any of this stuff. A great phrase I heard once talking about one of my cases is it must be tempting to create some. I mean, you’ve talked all the time about these revolutionary crises, of course, they don’t exist. Well, what are you going to do about that? Are you just going to admit that you’re a well-adjusted upper-class Black woman from Cleveland and go major in business? Well, not always. What you frequently see is a couple people that probably test pretty high on dark triad making something happen. And then you see the rest of the campus almost joyously falling in line behind that. Like, “Yes, this still occasionally happens, my degree wasn’t a total waste of money,” and now we get to fight it together. You know, our beautiful POC and our White allies and our strong leadership community. But again, the reality, when a very high profile hate incident occurs on our campus, I would say there’s virtually no chance in many cases that it is real. This is very different from like, I could have a serious conversation about what percentage of actual hate crimes or ass kickings outside country bars are real. I think that there’d be some real points made from the other side there. But when you look at these incidents involving prep school and college students, I mean, Covington Catholic, although that wasn’t exactly a crime, but Yasmin Seweid and the torn hijab, people following a Black student at Bowling Green and tossing rocks, all of the nooses, there have been dozens found over the past decade. You know, [key ???] in college with the death threats, Wisconsin Parkside with the signposts with the names of all the Black students, Drake University, Duke University, Goucher College, literally none of that turned out to be real. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence taken from a mischosen selection of schools. I think that there’s not a great deal of racial violence at top 1000 colleges, and essentially, you’ve got a moral people making it up.

Zach: In your book, you talked about your views that overly pessimistic liberal side ideas about race and racism are holding Black people back and you talk about the kids at your college and those views holding them back. Can you talk a little bit about how you see that happening and maybe why progressive people should care about that?

Wilfred: We hear a lot about QAnon, or have recently, and I’m using that as a general term for these wild beliefs on the right. Yeah, I’m on the right but I don’t believe Venezuelan voting machines stole the fucking election, excuse the language, all this crazy stuff. But I’ve noticed as I do research that there’s just as much BlueAnon. And a couple of academics on my side of the aisle were able to actually get that term into a few dictionaries this past year. But just crazy beliefs that are very widely shared among left-wingers and particularly minorities that are really damaging to a friendly national conversation. Just to give one example, and I’ll say this in one sentence so I might be misrepresenting the data a tiny bit, but the average liberal believes that about 10,000 unarmed Black men are killed annually by cops. This comes out of a very well done large end study from skeptic research center that dropped seven or nine months ago by now. But what they found is that among people who identified not even as leftist but just as very liberal, ordinary strong liberals, I think it was 27% of them believe that the number of unarmed brothers that are killed annually by police– no, it’s 38%– believe that the number of unarmed brothers that are killed annually by police is about a thousand. Another 15% believe that the number of unarmed Black men killed annually by police is about 10,000. And then you’ve got eight or 9% that believe it’s substantially more than that. If you average those figures together, you’d have to have a range of between five and 10,000, the individuals that are unarmed that are Black, the average lefty thinks are killed by cops. This continued, by the way, for just standard liberals, which is like everyone over to the center, the center-left people. In that category, 26.6% of people thought the annual toll was about a thousand. 7% thought it was about 10,000 and 7% thought it was more than that. To put this in context, in the year in question if you’re talking about like 2020-2021 where they’re getting the data, the total number of unarmed Black people shot by the police was 17. So it’s these wild misstatements of the level of danger in society. And I will note that for a specific group, which is upper middle-class liberals, especially women, this goes well beyond racial issues. 41% of liberals and leftist think that if you get COVID, you’re just going to be hospitalized. To put this in proper form, your risk of being taken into the hospital as an inpatient is 50-plus percent. That’s 41% of them.

Zach: A note here. I’m pretty sure Reilly is referring here to a 2021 Gallup survey that found that 41% of Democrats believe that unvaccinated people had a 50% chance of being hospitalized if they got COVID, which, of course, is extremely distorted. The chance of being hospitalized is significantly less than 1%. Back to the talk.

Wilfred: And this just goes on and on. 60% of very liberals, I don’t want to confuse them with liberals, think that Russia directly hacked the 2016 election. You can talk about Trump’s election denial, and I don’t I have no brief for that at all, but you’ve got to remember Hillary Clinton also said the election was illegitimate in a primetime speech, and 60% of her followers believe her. But anyway, what do attitudes like this, especially the racial attitudes, do? They have the effect that you would predict. If you’re just looking at this logically, if you’re looking at that belief in 10,000 killed every year or some of these beliefs about the evils of Whites, many people that are very mainstream on the left… A Professor Crump comes to mind, a lot of the staff of The Root comes to mind. He doesn’t have serious writing that I won’t throw Ibram Kendi in there but some of the things he said, Whites are aliens, come pretty close. A lot of people in the mainstream absolutely accepted left believe things that are crazier than anyone on the right, except actual alt-rightists believe. And this is just sort of ignored. A total double standard is just accepted. But what effect does that have? For example, I’ve asked large classes of students in what are normally feeder fields like political science, would you become a cop or a prosecutor? I mean, you’d enter just a bit below the detective level or you’d get a free path through law school. 95% of people will say no, because this is an oppressive system. And these are kids I love by the way. That this is an oppressive system that’s holding us down, that’s killing 10,000 of us every year. So belief in this kind of nonsense which has been spread very, very widely by the mainstream left is extremely problematic.

Zach: When you correct some of people’s distorted views on some of these statistics, do you see some changes in in beliefs just from that? Or do you feel like the emotions and the narratives in other ways are so constructed from other things that even correcting some of the core statistics is not enough to change people’s feelings?

Wilfred: Well, I think that when I really get in there, especially with young men, and start spitting facts… One of the things I’ll do is pull up the Washington Post database of police shootings, and we’re talking about policing, and say, “Look, Blacks are a little overrepresented. We make up 14% of the population, we make up 23% of the shooting victims in year X” You can view that gap as due to racism if you want to, I view it as due to higher crime rates quite bluntly. I mean, we’ve already explored the Black crime rate is twice the White crime rate. But even if that’s true… I mean, you’re in Kentucky, you have a whole bunch of Appalachian friends. 70% or 80% of the people that are killed by police are White or Hispanic Caucasians, you can’t deny that. And people will be like, “Yeah, yeah.” And then you’ll say, “Name one,” and no one ever can. So I think when you make these hard-bodied points like 80% of the people shot by the cops aren’t Black, there’s not a lot of denial. I mean, people will defend themselves. They’ll say, “Well, maybe those cases are slightly different.” And actually if you look at the data, that’s arguably true. But people will then start moving toward a more centrist normal position. Yeah. There are also, by the way, just crazy beliefs on the left that are very difficult to change. Like 26% of brothers or Black men believe that AIDS was created in a lab to kill Black people. I’ve never been able to make anyone change that belief. Again, we talk a lot about crazy beliefs on the right. I’ve found crazy belief to be far more entrenched on the left, but it is far more socially accepted. If you said something that’s at that Marjorie Taylor Greene level that’s equivalent to the stuff that I hear all the time about how the first Jews were Black and so on, if you said the world is 6000 years old, you’re going to be laughed off the stage. If, on the other hand, you recommend Hebrews to Negroes on a prominent social platform as a bunch of people dead after the Kyrie Irving issue, nothing will happen. Anyway, extremism is a problem. But I think that extremism in this racial space helped along by these public like racial meltdowns like, “But what about Trayvon Martin? What about Michael Brown? What about Jacob Blake? What about Amy Cooper?” It causes some siloing and it makes it harder to talk to people. Yeah.

Zach: It seems like we started out talking about the amount of data and the ambiguity in the data, just the fact that there are so much data to choose from lends itself to people being able to create whatever narratives they want, right? Like, in a country of 330 million people with a 300-year history, you can pick and choose all sorts of things to make a narrative about. You can make a positive narrative, you can make all sorts of negative narratives. Do you see that as… That’s part of the core problem, I feel like, when it comes to polarisation dynamics in general is just how easy it is for us to pick and choose the things to form whatever narrative we want.

Wilfred: Yeah, I think cherry-picking is a problem, obviously. Yeah, I think so. But I think there are different levels to this. It is true that there are many negative episodes of American history to put it mildly. And if you’re Black or native, that could lead you to a greater level of hostility toward the country that wouldn’t be common for Whites. Even there, I don’t necessarily think that makes sense. The United States of America basically engaged in slavery and in semi-genocidal war when those were universal human practices. That doesn’t excuse them, but also at a certain level, ultimate morality is probably not real. That’s one of the basic arguments of modern philosophy, you discuss that in the church house. But if you’re talking about the behavior of nations and in particular era of time, you can predict how all nations in that era of time would behave. The great Indian tribes, Mexico, our European rivals, the African coastal states, all behaved as we did in this period. So I think that the basic fact that the USA engaged in conquest when everyone did, the right of conquest wasn’t repealed as law. That was the international rule until 1954. I mean, Haile Selassie had some things to say about that and so on. That doesn’t really cause me any great moral pain.

But nonetheless, you can definitely come up with a negative of American history where you apply modern morality to things that really did happen and say, “Well, that’s bad.” I don’t really know what to do about that, I think that’s a problem in diverse societies. What you really have to do there is sit down and talk and work out what the narrative is going to be going forward. Who writes the history books? But I think the issue with a lot of this is that what we’re talking about that’s causing hostility on the left, and for that matter in the alt right, is storylines that aren’t real at all. The idea that the majority of people believe that between 1,000 and 10,000 unarmed Black men are killed every year by police is a huge cause of racial tensions. But it’s just not true. The total number of people killed every year by the police is a bit under a thousand. Of those, about 250 will be Black, of those, about 17 will be unarmed, of those, about eight will be unarmed and shot by White cops. That’s the real issue. So I definitely think it’s hard to get through siloing and get everyone to the table but I think that the prevalence of bullshit in our society makes that more difficult. Many people believe things that just are not true. And this is true on the right as well. Apparently there’s a widespread belief that immigrants have a higher crime rate than American groups like Southern Whites or Blacks, and that’s not true at all. So I think that a first step would be to try to use media and academia to say things that are essentially correct. And you can pick a narrative from among the correct things, but that gives you considerably less range to go crazy than the ability to pick a narrative from any set of real or made-up facts ever would have.

Zach: One thing I was curious about was your teaching at Kentucky State University, which is a historically Black college, and I was just curious what kind of reaction responses does your work get in that environment.

Wilfred: Well, I’m asked that constantly and I think people have an image of kind of Peter Boghossian at Portland where people are throwing explosives at the door and so on. No. Actually, I haven’t had that reaction. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m seen as a cool guy. I consider myself kind of nerdy but I’ll go to the gym, play basketball, run laps. I golf a bit. I get along with my colleagues, my colleagues are genuinely pretty nice. I don’t know if it’s because there’s a broader range of thought that’s acceptable in successful Black institutions. Again, Kentucky State is a state university. Again, top couple hundred college, pretty good educational value, good college. But almost all of the leadership team is Black. The most recent president, Chris Brown, the guy who hired me into my executive role focusing on teaching, that was a strong Black man, his replacement as president has been. So if you’ve got an executive council that’s entirely Black guys who are probably worth in the low seven figures, it’s a little harder to blame the White man for things. So the fact that two or three of the Black guys in the room will be Republicans or Libertarians, that’s not really taken as bizarre at all. The people that are most frenzied about this kind of thing in my experience are purple-haired Antifa White girls. And I think there’s a lot there. Do many of those people come from families that they view as guilty of historical sin? Is there a sense of youthful rebellion? Probably. And you don’t get any of that with a 55-year-old Jamaican-American college president.

So, I haven’t seen a lot of issues maybe because I’m socially normal, which is not universal among academics, maybe because I’m in a Black school so I’m considered like a somewhat heterodox Black executive, as versus being a White standout in a White institution that’s far left. But I think another thing is also just that most people aren’t that crazy. When we talk about higher education, we tend to talk about a few bespoke schools that no one really attends like Brown University and the Claremont Colleges, these are great schools. But I mean, small student bodies even relative to Northern Kentucky, generally coastal locations. And I’m pretty sure that if you went to the Claremont Colleges and you’re a moderate Republican, you’d have a lot of issues. But it’s worth remembering that there’s a whole heartland of these institutions. Like all of the historically Black colleges, there are I think 137, I don’t want to get that figure wrong. But I mean, all of the A&Ms like Texas A&M, Florida A&M, the agricultural and mechanicals which are designed to teach the country’s best engineers, very STEM focus, all the military academies going beyond West Point to the Citadel and so on, all the community colleges, I mean, that’s where a lot of bright young people that don’t want to put up with full campus drama end up making a solid 60 a year go into the conferences. So I think if you’re in any of those settings, you’re probably experiencing a lot less of the craziness than you’d be experiencing at… What’s the joking school in Animal House?

Zach: I can’t remember.

Wilfred: Let’s call it Mary Shelley university. If you go to Mary Shelley University and teach in the humanities, it’s like anything else. It’s like joining the Marines, you’re going to be surrounded by a bunch of aggressive male bros. If you go into that environment as a conservative, you should really reconsider what a social fit that’s going to be for you. But going into certainly the coaching side of academia, but more specifically going into academia itself in any of the five categories of colleges I just gave, I don’t necessarily think that’s going to have the same level of intense pressure. Someone might ask you as part of a 200-page application to write a six-sentence diversity statement. That’s about the level that we’re talking about here.

Zach: All right, this has been great. Well, thanks for coming on. I appreciate your time.

Wilfred: Sure. Thanks for having me.

Zach: That was Wilfred Reilly, author of the book Hate Crime Hoax and the book Taboo. If you want some links to resources discussed in this podcast, including Wilfred’s books, you can check out the entry for this episode at my site This has been the People Who Read People podcast, with me, Zach Elwood. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, I hope you’ll check out some of the other political polarization-related episodes in the back catalog. You can find a link to all the politics-related episodes on my site

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