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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.

Examining strategies of some common scams, with Martina Dove

A talk with Martina Dove (martinadove.com), author of the book The Psychology of Fraud, Persuasion and Scam Techniques, about some common scams you and people you know might encounter (phishing scams, “pig butchering” scams, romance scams, wrong-number-text scams, and more). We discuss how these scams work, and some strategies for avoiding them.  Episode links: Some…

The spectrum of narcissism: from healthy self enhancement to toxic narcissism, with Craig Malkin

Craig Malkin (drcraigmalkin.com) is the author of the popular book Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists, in which he describes the spectrum of narcissism: how it can be healthy to have positive illusions about one’s self and one’s life, as long as those illusions don’t become pathologically unhealthy and toxic. Transcript…

Resolving conflict in our relationships, with marriage counselor Bill Doherty

A talk with Bill Doherty, a relationship therapist (thedohertyapproach.com) and the co-founder of Braver Angels, a political depolarization-aimed group (braverangels.org). A transcript is below. Topics discussed include: Bill’s approach to couples counseling; thoughts on dealing with the common situation where one partner is much more interested in healing the relationship than the other; the importance…

Understanding the behavior of people under anesthesia, with Ashita Goel

A talk with anesthesiologist Ashita Goel about her work. Topics include: the sometimes strange behaviors of people under anesthesia; the hypnotic and “truth serum”-like effects of anesthesia; factors in determining drug dosage; the various states one can put people into; why anesthesiologists often seem outgoing and fun; the viral video of the man who woke…

Psychological factors in conspiracy theory beliefs, with Mikey Biddlestone

A talk with psychology researcher Mikey Biddlestone (Twitter: @biddlepsych), who specializes in studying conspiracy theory beliefs, about some psychological factors that can make beliefs in conspiracy theories more likely. We talk about “just world” beliefs (beliefs that the world is largely just and fair) and how those might relate to conspiracy-minded thinking. Other topics discussed:…

Understanding the behavior of autistic people, with Barry Prizant

A talk with Barry Prizant (barryprizant.com), author of the influential book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, and co-host of the Uniquely Human podcast (www.uniquelyhuman.com). The focus of our talk is on understanding the experiences and behaviors of autistic people. Topics discussed include: understanding the underlying causes behind the sometimes seemingly inexplicable behaviors…

How does anxious body language affect a job interview?, with Simonne Mastrella

A talk with Simonne Mastrella, author of the research paper Acting Anxious: The Impact of Candidates’ Anxious Nonverbal Behavior on Interview Performance Ratings. Topics discussed include: the design of the study; her findings; whether results differed by gender or by the nature of the job; how perceptions of anxiety and “warmth” are related; and the…

What do we owe to our fellow citizens (even when we think they’re very wrong)?, with Robert Talisse

A talk with political theorist Robert Talisse, (Twitter: @RobertTalisse) author of the book Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe To The Other Side. His book is one of the best I’ve read about both American polarization and about the challenges of democracy: I highly recommend it. A transcript of this talk is included below. Topics we…

Analyzing behaviors in aviation security, with Philip Baum

Aviation security professional Philip Baum (www.avsec.com) talks about analyzing behavior for aviation security and risk assessment purposes, and for security purposes in general. Transcript below. Topics discussed include: looking for deviations from the baseline behaviors normal in an environment; successes of behavioral analysis for security purposes; what can make some of this work controversial; thoughts…