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Reading behavior in tennis, with Carlos Goffi

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

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

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Talking about police violence with a liberal police captain (part 1)

First of two talks with James Mitchell, a retired police captain who worked in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and who happens to be politically liberal. We talk about excessive force by police in the United States, with the goal of understanding some of the factors that can lead to unjustified and too-aggressive police responses. (Here’s part 2.)

Topics discussed include: what he would do if he were put in charge of a federal department given the task of solving this issue; the wisdom of “abolish the police” and “defund the police”-type slogans and beliefs; George Floyd’s death and how Chauvin and his fellow cops handled that situation; how our mental health issues relate to police violence issues; how cops can escalate a situation whether they mean to or not, and more (below).

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

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Understanding and coping with anxiety, with editor of The Atlantic Scott Stossel

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview Scott Stossel (@sstossel on Twitter), who is the national editor of the magazine The Atlantic, and the author of the book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. That book is a history of humanity’s understanding and treatment of anxiety, and also a personal history in which Scott recounts honestly and openly his own struggles with extreme, debilitating anxiety and phobias from a young age. I talk to Scott about what he’s learned in his research and in his personal life about the factors behind anxiety and how we might, as much as we are able to, overcome it. Along the way, I also talk a bit about my own struggles with anxiety.

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

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Psych and environmental factors in schizophrenia, with Nathan Filer

Note: there is an interview transcript towards the bottom of this page. 

An interview with Nathan Filer (Twitter @nathanfiler), author of the non-fiction book The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia and the fiction book The Shock of the Fall. Both of these books deal with topics of psychosis and, as Nathan refers to it in The Heartland, “so-called schizophrenia.” In The Heartland, Nathan examines the idea that “mad” people may be more similar to us than most of us believe, that perhaps madness is an understandable human response to dealing with various stresses and anxieties. (A transcript is below.)

Nathan and I talk about psychological and environmental factors that can be present in schizophrenia, about the understandable pushback there can be to examining these areas (whether from parents or from sufferers), about the uncertainty around these topics, and about the power of language and the names we give things. I also talk a bit about the mental issues I struggled with as a young man, which included severe anxiety, depression, and involved me dropping out of college mid-semester.

Podcast links:

Other topics discussed include:

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Interview with an 8-year-old

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview an 8-year-old about such topics as: how she knows other kids want to be her friend; how she knows adults are upset with her; tricks she uses to watch more TV; the etiquette around Infection Tag (one of her favorite games); and her thoughts on various supernatural beings, including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

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Patient-led research into long-haul COVID-19, with Gina Assaf

This episode of the podcast is a December 2020 interview with Gina Assaf (Gina’s Twitter, and her Covid research Twitter) about her patient-led research on “long haul” Covid, which refers to long term Covid-19 effects that persist longer than is typically recognized as normal. Such long-term covid effects can include exhaustion and cognitive impairment (sometimes called “brain fog”). Assaf is not a professional medical researcher; her background is in web/app design and technology consultancy. But she was motivated to initiate this research due to her own covid experiences and frustration with the lack of information about her, and other sufferers’, experiences. I ask Assaf about the benefits and challenges of such “patient led” research, and interesting findings her team has made. One topic of interest is the similarity between long haul covid and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, ME) symptoms, especially because one theory of CFS is that it can be started by a viral infection. Episode links:


Topics discussed and relevant links include:

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Why hasn’t big data & data crowdsourcing disrupted healthcare?, with Jamie Heywood

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I interview Jamie Heywood (his Wikipedia page), about the benefits and challenges of conducting medical/health research using crowdsourcing of real-world, patient-reported data directly from the public. Heywood got his start on this career path when his brother was diagnosed with ALS; Jamie wanted to do everything he could do to maximize Stephen’s chance of survival. Jamie started ALS TDI to research and test treatments for ALS. Later, Jamie was co-founder and CEO of PatientsLikeMe, a platform for collecting real-world medical data directly from patients and giving them a network to share learnings about their conditions and treatments. He also is co-founder of biotech company AOBiome.

In this interview, Heywood discusses the strengths and challenges of big-data approaches to collecting medical data from the public, why such tactics haven’t been as revolutionary or mainstream as the potential suggests, and thoughts on healthcare challenges we face in general. Episode links:


Topics discussed include:

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Reading online dating profiles/pics, with Scott

This is the second of two interviews I did about online dating. This is an interview with an acquaintance, Scott, about his experiences with online dating. We focus on the indicators/tells he relies on when looking at people’s online dating profiles/pics to determine if they might be a good match. Scott is a straight man in his 30s who lives in Portland and works in advertising, and we talk a bit about how his advertising skills affect his own profile strategies. We also talk about Episode links:

Some topics and research discussed:

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Reading online dating profile indicators/tells, with Celia

First of two interviews I did about online dating. This is an interview with an acquaintance, Celia, about her experiences with online dating. We focus on the indicators/tells she uses when looking at online dating profiles/pics to determine if someone might be a good match for her. Episode links:

Some topics and research discussed:

  • Are there certain types of photos (like guys holding fish) that influence her to contact or not contact someone?
  • Are there certain written bio description approaches that are turn-offs?
  • What makes a guy’s photos “murder-y” and why is that a problem?
  • Discussion on how much info about yourself is too much in a dating profile (Celia discusses putting ‘vegan’ in her profile and the pros and cons of that)
  • 2007 study by Michael Norton et al showing that the more you learn about a person before meeting them, the more you’ll dislike them (familiarity breeds contempt).
  • 2013 study by Dan Jurafsky et al showing that the main indicator of a successful heterosexual date is the woman talking about herself.
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How does not believing in free will affect one’s life?, with physicist Daniel Whiteson

A talk with Daniel Whiteson, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. He’s the co-author of “We Have No Idea,” about the unknown mysteries remaining in physics, and a co-host of the podcast Daniel and Jorge Explain The Universe.

I talk to Whiteson about free will. We talk a little bit about why we both think free will is unlikely to exist, but our main focus is on more psychological and emotional aspects: What are the results in our own lives of not believing in free will? What potential effects does lack of belief in free will have for people in general? Because the idea that free will doesn’t exist can make people anxious or sad, the idea that we are basically just automatons, the idea that our conscious experience of the world is like watching a movie we have no real control over.

A transcript is below.

Episode links:

There are many resources on free will out there, but here are a few that were either discussed in this episode or that I’ve found interesting:

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On aphantasia (the lack of mental imagery), with Zach Elwood

I learned a few years ago that I have aphantasia, which is, to quote from Wikipedia: “characterized by an inability to voluntarily visualize mental imagery.” Before learning about this, I’d never believed people had actual visual mental images when they imagined things. Honestly, it’s still hard for me to imagine such a thing being possible. In June 2020, I was on Vikasan Pillai’s podcast The Untypical Podcast to talk about what it’s like to have aphantasia. I rebroadcast this episode for my own podcast. Here are episode links:

Here’s the link to Visakan’s original interview on Spotify. And here’s Pillai’s Twitter.

Topics we discuss and related resources:

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The role of insults in political and cultural conflicts, with Dr. Karina Korostelina

A talk with Dr. Karina Korostelina, a social psychologist, about her work studying political insults. Korostelina is the author of Political Insults: How Offenses Escalate Conflicts. She’s a professor at George Mason University, and Director of the Program on Prevention of Mass Violence and the Program on History, Memory, and Conflict at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution there.

Transcript is below.

Episode links:

Topics discussed include: