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Do you want to understand people better? The things they do, the things they say? People-reading skills can help us in our work, our personal lives, and in many everyday situations.

I’m Zach Elwood. On this podcast I talk to people from a wide range of fields about how they read behavior and use psychology in their work. Popular episodes include: interrogation techniques, poker tells, relationship tells, spotting fake online reviews, and analyzing statements for hidden meaning, to name a few. There are more than 80 episodes.

I also sometimes tackle political polarization-related topics, with a focus on the psychology behind that. See all my politics-related episodes.

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Episode deep Dives

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

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…

Artificial intelligence & the nature of consciousness, with Hod Lipson

Hod Lipson (hodlipson.com) is a roboticist who works in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital manufacturing. I talk to Hod about the nature of self-awareness. Topics discussed include: how close we are to self-conscious machines; what he views as likely building strategies that will yield self-aware machines; what it takes for something to be…

Does video surveillance decrease crime?, with Eric Piza

A talk with crime researcher Eric Piza (site: ericpiza.net, twitter: @pizaeric) about how the ability to record people’s actions (e.g., video surveillance, personal cameras) has affected people’s willingness to commit crimes. Topics discussed include: what research tells us about video surveillance and crime reduction; what factors make the presence of video surveillance more likely to…

Rittenhouse verdict reactions and political polarization

In this episode, I give some thoughts on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict and how some of the anger and emotion around that is caused by political us-vs-them polarization. If you’re someone who has a lot of emotion and anger about the verdict, and you’re someone who wants America to heal, I think you should give…

Conversation analysis and ethnomethodology, with Saul Albert

In this episode of the People Who Read People podcast, I talk to sociology researcher Saul Albert (twitter @saul, website: saulalbert.net) about conversation analysis: the scientific analysis of how humans talk to each other. Topics discussed include: what conversation analysis (CA) is and how it’s done; some interesting CA findings described in Elizabeth Stokoe’s book…