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This is a podcast aimed at better understanding other people and better understanding ourselves. It’s hosted by me, Zachary Elwood. I talk to people from a wide variety of fields, from jury consultants to interrogation experts to relationship researchers to door-to-door salesmen to restaurant managers.

I sometimes tackle political polarization-related topics because I see extreme polarization as the biggest problem facing the world. To avoid worst-case scenarios, we need more people thinking about the core psychological tendencies that drive our divides. See all my politics-related episodes.

Apart from this podcast, I’m known for my poker tells work. I’ve also done some writing on political and cultural topics. I’m on Twitter. I make no money on this podcast. If you want to show your appreciation, please leave me a rating on iTunes, or gift me some money on Patreon.

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Episodes

This section displays episode summaries. To see some popular episodes or see all episodes in a single list, keep scrolling down.

Lie detection using facial muscle monitoring and machine learning, with Dino Levy

A talk with Dino Levy about his team’s lie detection research, which used monitoring of facial muscles and machine learning to detect lies at an impressively high 73% success rate. Their paper was titled “Lie to my face: An electromyography approach to the study of deceptive behavior.” Topics discussed include: The setup of the study,…

How many Americans actually support political violence?, with Thomas Zeitzoff

A talk with political scientist Thomas Zeitzoff (www.zeitzoff.com), who has studied political conflicts. We talk about survey results that seem to show an increase in Americans’ willingness to think political violence is justified, and how that relates to our fears about future violent conflicts and “civil war” scenarios in America. Other topics discussed include: the…

The scientific study of poker tells, with Brandon Sheils

Brandon Sheils (twitter: @brandonsheils) is a professional poker player and poker coach who recently did a scientific study of poker behavior (aka “poker tells) as part of his seeking a Masters degree in Psychology at the University of Nottingham. Brandon also has a poker-focused YouTube channel. Topics discussed in our talk include: the challenges of…

On how being distant/remote makes it easier to kill (and do other things), with Abe Rutchick

Abe Rutchick (rutchick.com, twitter: @aberutchick) talks about his psychology research that showed that killing is easier at a distance, how the experiment was designed, and about antisocial behavior in general being more likely when at a distance. A transcript is below. Other topics discussed: how his killing-at-a-distance research relates to our behaviors online; research he…

On U.S. polarization and being a black conservative, with John Wood Jr. (of Braver Angels)

A talk with John Wood Jr. (twitter: @johnrwoodjr), who’s an ambassador with the depolarization group Braver Angels (braverangels.org) and who ran for Congress as a Republican in 2014 against Maxine Waters. Topics discussed include: American polarization and how it’s increased since the 1950s; what drew John to conservative politics; what the labels “liberal” and “conservative”…

The awe and the horror of existence, with existential-humanistic psychologist Kirk Schneider

An interview of psychologist Kirk Schneider (kirkjschneider.com). We talk about existential psychology and the power of being able to better understand and recognize the core anxieties we all have about existence, such as our fear of death, meaninglessness, isolation, and freedom. A transcript is below. Other things we talk about: the awe and mystery of…

Conversation analysis and persuasive language, with Liz Stokoe

A talk with Elizabeth Stokoe (twitter: @lizstokoe), who researches and writes about conversation analysis, and who is the author of the book ‘Talk: The Science of Conversation.’ This is my second talk about CA (see my talk with Saul Albert). Transcript included, below. Topics include: What are some of the most useful things Stokoe has…

How many Trump supporters really believe the election was rigged?, with Tom Pepinsky

A talk with political scientist Thomas Pepinsky (tompepinsky.com) about how many Trump supporters really, actually believe the 2020 election was illegitimate or rigged, and what might America be like if Trump had succeeded in overturning the election. (Transcript included, below.) Other topics discussed include: What can we deduce from U.S. surveys that show high distrust…

Inherent aspects of social media that amplify divides and bad thinking

A reading of a piece I wrote called ‘How social media divides us.’ I recommend the written piece over the podcast version. Much of the mainstream focus on how social media may be amplifying our divides has been on product features (e.g., content recommendation algorithms, or reaction emoji choices). This piece examines the idea that…