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This is a podcast aimed at better understanding other people, and better understanding ourselves. 

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I’m Zach Elwood, a former professional poker player and the author of some well known books on poker tells. I’ve also written a book aimed at reducing toxic polarization in America. For my podcast, I talk to people from a wide range of backgrounds and professions about how they read and predict behavior, and use psychology. Some episode compilations:

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About me

I’m most known for my work on poker tells (aka, poker behavior). My first poker tells book, Reading Poker Tells, has been translated into eight languages. I’m also known for my work on political polarization (for example, my book Defusing American Anger). My independent research on deceptive online activity has been featured in NY Times, Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and more.

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If you enjoy this podcast, please share it with others, and/or write me a review on Apple Podcasts. If you want to support my work, get a premium podcast subscription, or sign up for my depolarization-aimed Substack newsletter. Other ways to show appreciation: subscribe to this podcast on YouTube or Apple or Spotify (or wherever). You can also sign up below to get updates. 

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Episode deep Dives

Deep dives include summaries, transcripts, source and resource links, and listening options.

Reading dog and cat behavior, with Daniel Mills

Animal behavior researcher Daniel Mills talks about various aspects of the human-pet relationship, with a focus on his research. Transcript below. Topics include: dogs’ abilities to read human emotions and how they do that; the effects of pets on our mental health; animals’ ability to perceive images on a TV screen; the differences between the…

On the art of listening and the challenges of being an introvert, with Joel Berman

Joel Berman is a practitioner of Compassionate Listening (compassionatelistening.org). Joel has travelled to the Middle East and talked with Israelis and Palestinians about their experiences and grievances. Topics discussed: Joel’s experiences in the Middle East; what the Compassionate Listening methodology entails; the bravery required for conflict resolution work; and both of our experiences being introverts…

Door-to-door sales tricks and strategies

A talk with two people with door-to-door sales experience: Conrad Smith and Dave Mock. We talk about the tricks and strategies they used to close sales, and the psychological factors in why those strategies work. Topics discussed: verbal and physical sales scripts some companies use, and why they work; the use of ambiguous language in…

Can recognizing and reducing bias in news help with polarization?, with Vanessa Otero

Vanessa Otero is the creator of a popular and well respected media bias chart that ranks the bias of many news outlets, and she’s the founder of Ad Fontes Media. Topics discussed include: the process her team uses to determine media bias; recognizing that everyone is biased and that the best we can do is…

Why is criticism of Israel sometimes called antisemitic?, with Yakov Hirsch

A talk with Yakov Hirsch, who thinks that some Jewish people have exaggerated ideas about the amount of antisemitism in the world, and overly pessimistic ideas about the nature of antisemitism. This can make some Jewish people see disagreement, criticism, and conflict too often through the lens of antisemitism. Hirsch ties this into the Israel/Palestine…

Is our craving for certainty our biggest weakness?, with Maria Konnikova

Maria Konnikova is the best-selling author of the books The Biggest Bluff, The Confidence Game, and Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Topics we talk about include: the human desire for certainty and story/narrative, and our discomfort with ambiguity and uncertainty; how she decided to get into poker and write The Biggest Bluff; why…

Understanding an orchestra conductor’s gestures, with Ming Luke

A talk with orchestra conductor Ming Luke (mingluke.com). Topics discussed include: what a conductor’s body language and gestures can communicate to the orchestra; how small differences in gestures can sometimes result in significant musical differences; the difference in conducting styles that can exist between conductors; the role conductors play and the benefits they bring; the…

Bullshit behavior experts, with Dr. Jack Brown

This episode is about what I refer to as “behavior bullshit.” There are many self-proclaimed behavior experts spreading bad, misleading, and irresponsible concepts about human behavior, and some of these people are quite popular. This episode focuses on Jack Brown (Twitter: @drgjackbrown), one of the more egregious offenders amongst behavior bullshitters. Other topics discussed include:…

Understanding MAGA anger, with ex-Trump voter Rich Logis

For the purposes of depolarization, it’s important to understand the us-vs-them narratives that surround us. This is a talk with Rich Logis (perfectourunion.us), who describes his journey as going “from ultra-MAGA to Never-Trump.” Rich was a vocal pro-Trump activist, who’d written many political op-eds and had his own political podcast, and who switched to being…