People Who Read People: A Behavior and Psychology Podcast

By Zachary Elwood

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 May 16, 2020


This is a podcast aimed at better understanding other people, and better understanding ourselves. For more info and for how to subscribe, see On this podcast the host, Zach Elwood, talks to people from a wide range of fields about how they analyze and interpret human behavior in their work. The show also sometimes focuses on understanding political polarization. Popular episodes include: indicators of healthy/unhealthy relationships, analyzing statements for hidden meaning, reading poker tells, indicators of fake online reviews, and interrogation techniques (to name a few). The host's main claim to fame is his poker tells work. His first book, Reading Poker Tells, has been translated into 8 languages. His research on deceptive online activity has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and more.

Episode Date
Why are we so gullible?, with Brian Dunning

A talk with Brian Dunning, who you might call a professional skeptic. He has been doing the Skeptoid podcast since 2006, and is the creator of multiple books and video projects aimed at promoting critical thinking and skepticism. We talk about the reasons why we're so often drawn to pseudoscience, bullshit, and no/low-evidence ideas in general. I also get his takes on assorted ideas, such as chiropractic work, acupuncture, UFOs, eye movement desensitization therapy, the placebo effect, and more. 

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Jan 23, 2023
How big a problem are hate crimes in the U.S.?, with Wilfred Reilly

Wilfred Reilly is a political scientist, professor, and author of the 2019 book Hate Crime Hoax. Topics discussed include: how hate crimes are tracked; why it can be hard to get a clear picture of hate crime numbers; the logic of 'hate crime' as a legal designation; irresponsible media coverage of racism-related issues; the motivations of people who fake hate crimes; distorted perceptions of American hate crimes and racism; how distorted perceptions can amplify polarization; and what it's like working on these topics while teaching at a historically black college. 

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Jan 18, 2023
About this podcast: why I do it and why I think it's important

This episode is all about the People Who Read People podcast. Topics discussed: the origins and goals of this podcast; my approach to deciding on who to interview and what questions to ask; why I focus on polarization-related topics and why I think that work is important; details on audience numbers and financial stuff.

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Dec 10, 2022
Examining American antisemitism, with James Kirchick

A talk with journalist James Kirchick about the origins of various types of American antisemitism. Topics discussed include: controversial statements made by Kanye West and Whoopi Goldberg; Donald Trump; Israel; George Soros; Louis Farrakhan; Black Hebrew Israelites; the term "globalist", and more. 

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Dec 10, 2022
Is liberal bias impeding U.S. depolarization and conflict resolution efforts?, with Guy Burgess

A talk with conflict resolution specialist Guy Burgess, who, along with his wife Heidi Burgess, run the project Guy and Heidi wrote a paper in 2022 titled "Applying conflict resolution insights to the hyper‐polarized, society‐wide conflicts threatening liberal democracies." I talk with Guy about: how conflict resolution principles might be applied to U.S. polarization problems; the importance of addressing liberal-side contributions to polarization; the common objections people can have to seeing polarization as a problem that both sides must tackle; how some in the conflict resolution space may be hindered from helping by their own liberal bias and polarization; the Burgesses' ideas for what society must do to reduce polarization to more healthy levels, and more.

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Nov 20, 2022
The art of recruiting, with Blake Mobley

A talk with Blake Mobley about the business of recruiting: matching job seekers with companies that are hiring. Blake is the co-founder and managing director of recruiting company Keeper Recruiting, which specializes in biotech. Topics discussed include: what the process of recruiting is like; how Keeper goes about learning pertinent details about job seekers; the metrics by which recruiting companies are judged to be successful; the different "core motivators" people can have in their lives and how that relates to recruiting; personality tests; and Blake’s earlier career in the intelligence community and how he sees that relating to his recruiting work. 

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Nov 18, 2022
Dealing with anxiety and mental health issues as a college student

I was interviewed on Mahima Samraik's podcast Breaking The Facts about my struggles with anxiety and mental issues as a young man, which led to me dropping out of college in the middle of my second year of college. We talk about what that experience was like; recommendations for people dealing with similar problems; and the obstacles that can get in the way of getting help. 

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Nov 10, 2022
Understanding madness, with Richard Bentall

A talk with psychologist Richard Bentall, author of the well known book Madness Explained, which examines the psychological causes of the symptoms associated with psychosis, schizophrenia, mania, and other mental issues. Topics we talk about include: the experiences and mental struggles that can lead to psychosis and other mental illness; how theories of mental illness have changed over time; pushback and criticism of psychology-focused explanations of mental illness; aspects of madness that most of us experience at some point; the role of feelings of isolation in madness; and the difference between beliefs and delusions. 

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Nov 04, 2022
Reading tells in football, with Larry Hart

A talk with Larry Hart, a football coach at the University of Houston, and the author of the book The Recruit's Playbook. Topics discussed include: common behavioral patterns (tells) that are used to get an edge on opponents and teams; reading the signals that opponent coaches give to players; reading formation patterns; the importance of reviewing game tape; predicting how athletes will perform when one is recruiting them; and more.  

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Oct 29, 2022
The challenges and rewards of studying nonverbal behavior, with Alan Crawley

A talk with nonverbal behavior expert Alan Crawley, also known by his online handle Sin Verba ( Topics discussed include: why he became interested in behavior; the challenges of studying behavior; the practical benefits of studying behavior (including connecting better with others); irresponsible "behavior experts" who share bad information; and how to spot bad behavior information. 

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Oct 15, 2022
How do we react when our sense of meaning is threatened?, with Steven Heine

A talk with Steven Heine about how we react to our sense of meaning being threatened. What happens when our mental frameworks of how the world works don’t hold up and things seem chaotic? What happens when our sense of what’s existentially meaningful in our lives is threatened? Topics discussed: Heine et al’s Meaning Maintenance Model; existential crises, including mid-life crises and adolescent angst; how polarization might be related to threats to meaning; positive aspects to our worldviews suddenly changing; and more. 

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Oct 10, 2022
Is the entire world becoming more polarized?, with Andrew O'Donohue

A talk with Andrew O'Donohue, co-author of Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization. Andrew has studied how societal conflicts play out in many countries, and the harm those conflicts inflict. Topics discussed include: why it is that political polarization is so common a state for humans; how polarization has played out in various countries; countries that can serve as comparisons for America in terms of polarization; the psychological drivers of polarization; the impact of social media and modern life on polarization, and more . 

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Oct 01, 2022
Are eye movement patterns linked to personality traits?, with Sabrina Hoppe

A talk with Sabrina Hoppe about a 2018 study that showed how eye movements are correlated with personality. That paper was named 'Eye movements during everyday behavior predict personality traits.' We talk about how the study was set up, what the results were, how strong the correlations found were, reasons for why such patterns might exist, possible applications, and more. 

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Sep 21, 2022
Is body language actually useful for detecting lies?, with Tim Levine

A talk with communication researcher Tim Levine about nonverbal behavior and deception detection. Tim's stance is that there's no evidence that nonverbal behavior is useful for detecting deception. He's the author of Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception. His work was featured in Malcom Gladwell's book Talking to Strangers.

Topics discussed include: what the research says about nonverbal behaviors; why it's so hard to get reliable indicators of deception; common nonverbal behavior myths and bullshit; why we expect others to tell us the truth; why we tend to tell the truth; Paul Ekman's work, including micro-expressions and "truth wizards"; reading behavior in interrogations; the differences between analyzing verbal content and nonverbal behavior; the TV show Lie to Me; poker tells; and more. 

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Aug 30, 2022
Reading "drug-seeking" behaviors, with Dr. Casey Grover

A talk with Dr. Casey Grover, addiction specialist and host of the podcast Addiction in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care, about how doctors attempt to determine if a patient is trying to get a drug prescription under false pretenses (e.g., claiming to be in pain to get opioids). Topics discussed: why "drug-seeking behavior" is not a good phrase; what some classic drug-seeking behaviors are and also why they're not very reliable; steps doctors take if they think someone might have a use disorder; America's drug problems, and more. 

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Aug 17, 2022
Predicting psychosis and schizophrenia using language patterns, with Neguine Rezaii

This is a reshare of a 2020 talk with psychology researcher Neguine Rezaii. She and her research team used machine learning to find language patterns used by teenagers who were at risk of schizophrenia that were correlated with later schizophrenia diagnosis. The two language patterns found in the subjects' speech were 1) a low semantic density (i.e., low degree of meaning), and 2) speech related to sound or voices. 

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Aug 09, 2022
Reading and predicting jury behavior, with Christina Marinakis (reshare from 2018)

A reshare of a 2018 talk with jury specialist Christina Marinakis about how she makes use of human psychology and human behavior in her jury consultancy work. Topics discussed: jury selection procedures; what jury consultants do; the relative importance of jury selection compared to the strength of the case; clues to potential jurors' beliefs and future behaviors from their body language, verbal answers, clothes, and more. 

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Jul 21, 2022
How to spot fake online reviews, with Olu Popoola (reshare from 2019)

A reshare of a 2019 talk with forensic linguistic researcher Olu Popoola where we discuss indicators that online reviews are fake or genuine. We talk about his work analyzing indicators of deception, and talk about some research he did on Amazon book reviews. If you've ever read an online review and wondered "This seems fake, but how do I really know?", I think you'd enjoy this one. 

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Jul 06, 2022
Group psychology, polarization, and persuasion, with Matthew Hornsey

A talk with psychology researcher Matthew Hornsey about political polarization and the psychology behind it. Other topics discussed include: why people can believe such different (and unreasonable) ideas; persuasive tactics; the importance of people criticizing their own group; why groups mainly listen to in-group members and ignore the same ideas from out-group members. 

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Jun 11, 2022
Analyzing written and verbal statements for hidden meaning, with Mark McClish (reshare from 2018)

A rebroadcast of one of my most popular episodes: a talk from 2018 with Mark McClish, who's an expert in analyzing spoken and written statements for hidden meaning, and who's been a US Marshal and law enforcement trainer. He's the author of the books I Know You Are Lying and Don't Be Deceived. 

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May 22, 2022
Behavioral indicators of healthy and unhealthy relationships, with Brandi Fink (reshare from 2019)

As part of an effort to share some of the best and most popular early episodes of my podcast, this is a rebroadcast of a 2019 episode where I interviewed psychology and relationship researcher Brandi Fink. We talk about behavioral patterns that indicate either healthy or unhealthy relationships, talk about analyzing video footage of interpersonal interactions, cultural differences in relationship dynamics, and more. 

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May 08, 2022
Psychological effects of social media content moderation policies, with Bill Ottman

A talk with Bill Ottman, co-founder and CEO of the social media platform Minds, which is known for its minimal content moderation approach. Ottman and others (including Daryl Davis, a black man known for singlehandedly deradicalizing white supremacists) recently wrote a paper titled "The Censorship Effect," which examined how strict censorship/banning policies may actually increase antisocial, radicalized views. We talk about the psychology behind how increased censorship policies may increase grievances and anger, about Elon Musk buying Twitter and what it means, about the complexity of the problems we face, and about strategies they've used on the Minds platform. 

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May 01, 2022
Are a majority of Americans actually racist?, with Leonie Huddy

A talk with political scientist Leonie Huddy on the topic of research on American racism and prejudice.  I was interested in discussing framings like this one from a 2012 USA Today article: "U.S. majority have prejudice against blacks" and ask her if such confident framings were justified based on the research, or if they were over-stated and irresponsible. Topics discussed: the ambiguity that can be present when attempting to study prejudice, especially for studies that seek to measure it rather indirectly; how worst-case and pessimistic framings and interpretations of studies and surveys can add to us-versus-them political animosity. 

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Apr 19, 2022
Cryptocurrency, problem gambling, and addiction, with Paul Delfabbro

A talk with psychology and addiction behavior researcher Paul Delfabbro about cryptocurrency, problem gambling, and addiction. Delfabbro has worked on several papers related to cryptocurrency, including a paper titled "The psychology of cryptocurrency trading: Risk and protective factors" and one titled "Cryptocurrency trading, gambling, and problem gambling." Also discussed: the role of social media in amplifying addictions, day trading, and video game addiction. 

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Apr 10, 2022
Why do people believe the U.S. election was stolen?, with Peter Wood

An examination of the reasons why people believe the 2020 election was "rigged," stolen, or otherwise illegitimate. This includes a talk with Peter Wood, a sociologist and political thinker and writer, who strongly believes that the 2020 election was stolen. Other topics discussed: election distrust by liberals (in 2016, for example), and how election distrust and chaos is a common endpoint for very polarized democratic nations. 

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Mar 17, 2022
Detecting lies via facial muscles and machine learning, with Dino Levy

A talk with Dino Levy about his research team's research, which used monitoring of facial muscles and machine learning to detect lies at an impressive 73% success rate. Their paper was titled "Lie to my face: An electromyography approach to the study of deceptive behavior." We talk about the results, the possible explanations, comparisons to polygraph lie detection, and applications of this research and lie detection technology in general. 

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Mar 16, 2022
How many Americans actually support political violence?, with Thomas Zeitzoff

A talk with political scientist Thomas Zeitzoff, who has studied political conflicts. We talk about survey results that show an increase in Americans' willingness to support political violence, and how that relates to our fears over future violent conflicts and "civil war" scenarios in America. Other topics discussed include: the psychology of polarization; the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the role of social media in that; the effects of social media on society in general. 

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Mar 05, 2022
Studying poker tells scientifically, with Brandon Sheils

Brandon Sheils is a professional poker player who recently did a scientific study of poker tells as part of getting a Masters degree in Psychology. Topics discussed: the challenges of studying poker behavior; how he structured his study; what the results were; AI and machine learning potential for studying behavior; some times he's used behavior to make a poker decision. 

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Feb 16, 2022
On how distance makes it easier to kill (and do other things), with Abe Rutchick

Abe Rutchick 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. We talk about his research related to how people attribute moral responsibility when it comes to harm inflicted by autonomous self-driving vehicles. And we talk about some studies he worked on that involved poker.  

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Feb 09, 2022
On American polarization and being a black conservative, with John Wood Jr.

John Wood Jr. is a leader and ambassador of the depolarization group Braver Angels. He ran for Congress in 2014 as a Republican against Maxine Waters. Topics discussed include: the history of American polarization; us-vs-them behaviors of leaders on both political sides; what drew him to conservative politics; how traditional conservatism differs from the Trump brand of conservatism; what it's like being black and conservative; black American political thought; GOP efforts to make voting harder. 

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Feb 03, 2022
The awe and the horror of existence, with existential psychologist Kirk Schneider

A talk with Kirk Schneider, an existential-humanistic psychologist and therapist, and the author of many books, including Existential-Humanistic Therapy, Awakening to Awe, The Polarized Mind, and more. We talk about: how existential psychology is about facing the givens of life (e.g., fear of death, isolation, meaninglessness, freedom) and why that can be so helpful to people; how our society tends to avoid talking about these deep questions and stresses; the psychology that drives extreme polarization and narcissism; and more. 

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Jan 28, 2022
Using conversation analysis to make your language more persuasive, with Elizabeth Stokoe

A talk with Liz Stokoe, a conversation analysis (CA) researcher and the author of "Talk: The Science of Conversation." This is my second episode focused on CA. Topics discussed include: What are some of the most useful learnings from CA, in Liz's view? Does the common perception that men and women talk differently have much scientific support? How do the "turns we take" help define us in others' eyes? Why is the "most communication is non-verbal" concept wrong and yet so popular? What do people get wrong with their focus on "rapport"?  What can CA teach us about political polarization dynamics and how to persuade others or avoid angering others?  

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Jan 15, 2022
How many Trump supporters really believe the election was rigged?, with Tom Pepinsky

A talk with political scientist Thomas Pepinsky, who has studied, amongst other things, beliefs that elections aren't legitimate. Topics discussed include: How much can we deduce from U.S. surveys that show high distrust in election legitimacy (from both conservatives and liberals)? To what extent do Trump supporters really believe the 2020 elections were rigged? If Trump had succeeded in overturning the 2020 election, what would life in the U.S. be like? 

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Jan 06, 2022
Inherent aspects of social media that amplify divides and bad thinking

This is a piece that I, Zach Elwood, wrote about the ways in which social media (and internet communication more broadly) may be amplifying us-versus-them polarization and extreme thinking.  Much of the mainstream coverage of how social media may be amplifying divides and making people unhappy is on product-specific features and algorithms. But what if there are inherent aspects of internet communication that amplify animosity and bad thinking, no matter the format or structure of the tool? What if "the medium is the message" in some way? This piece examines the psychological processes by which social media may be deranging us and talks about strategies for reducing unhelpful group-versus-group animosity. 

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Dec 28, 2021
Artificial intelligence and the nature of consciousness, with Hod Lipson

A talk with roboticist and artificial intelligence researcher Hod Lipson. Topics include: how close we are to self-aware machines; research strategies that will likely yield self-aware machines; what it takes for something to be self-aware; the risks of AI; how such research can help us better understand human minds and behavior.  

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Dec 21, 2021
Does video surveillance decrease crime?, with Eric Piza

A talk with criminologist Eric Piza about how video has affected crime rates. Topics discussed include: what the research shows about video surveillance and crime reduction; what factors make camera presence more likely to be effective; the effectiveness of police body cams; some practical ideas for how one might discourage crime at one's property; and the role of America's huge number of guns on violence by police. 

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Dec 04, 2021
Rittenhouse verdict reactions and political polarization

Host Zachary Elwood examines liberal reactions about the Rittenhouse verdict and how some of the more extreme and pessimistic reactions may be seen as being caused by political us-vs-them polarization. 

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Nov 22, 2021
Conversation analysis and ethnomethodology, with Saul Albert

A talk with social scientist Saul Albert ( about conversation analysis — the scientific analysis of talking — and the wider field of ethnomethodology. Topics discussed: what conversation analysis (CA) is and how it's done; some of the interesting findings in CA; Saul's own research; the complexity and difficulty of communication; the role of silence in conversation; transcription/notation methods used; and more.   

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Nov 12, 2021
Tracking people over land, aka "sign cutting," with Rob Speiden

An interview of Rob Speiden, an expert in sign cutting, which is the tracking of humans or animals over the ground using clues of physical disturbance. Rob's site is at Topics discussed include: common methods of tracking; how tracking is used in search and rescue scenarios; debunking some misconceptions about what's possible with tracking; the importance of being fully aware and open to all sensory input; and interesting stories from his career. 

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Oct 28, 2021
What does research say about how social media affects polarization?, with Emily Kubin

A talk with Emily Kubin, who recently, with her co-researcher Christian Von Sikorski, did a comprehensive review of 121 studies on social media effects on political polarization. We talk about her research, why polarization is a problem, the different types of polarization (affective vs ideological), our psychology tendency to become us-versus-them in our thinking, her own opinions on what social media is doing to us, and the mechanisms by which social media may be amplifying polarization. 

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Oct 14, 2021
Understanding behavior and psychology as a professional musician, with Ben Tyler (aka Small Skies)

An interview with Ben Tyler, a professional musician and musical educator based in Portland, Oregon, about reading and understanding people in the musical world. Topics include: reading fellow band members' gestures and eye contact in jazz and other musical performances; being able to tell when audiences are having a good time or not; how practicing improvisation can make us more flexible; and the social aspects of the musical world. Ben's personal musical project is called Small Skies. 

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Oct 03, 2021
Nostalgia and our attraction to the past, with Jannine Lasaleta

A talk with Jannine Lasaleta, who has researched the psychological effects of nostalgia, including how nostalgic feelings make people more loose and uncaring with money.  We talk about the connection between our desire for nostalgia and our desire to engage in old-fashioned or ancient or "authentic" activities . We talk about how our attraction for these things might be connected to our search for meaning, our desire to have a consistent and stable sense of self, and our attempt to fend off existential anxieties related to meaninglessness and isolation. 

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Sep 16, 2021
Is paying excessive attention to politics hurting us?, with Chris Freiman

If you're someone who pays a lot of attention to politics, but feels that doing so makes you miserable, this may be an important listen. What if someone were to tell you that paying attention to politics is not a morally correct way to spend your time and energy? Political philosopher Chris Freiman is the author of Why It's OK to Ignore Politics. He makes a case that paying a lot of attention to politics is often a waste of time, and may even be immoral compared to other ways you could be spending your time and energy. We talk about how our collective focus on and anger about politics may be contributing to society's us-versus-them animosity and polarization (which may be the root cause of our dysfunction). 

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Sep 08, 2021
How has polarization affected beliefs about election security?, with Jennifer Cohn

Jennifer Cohn is an attorney and election integrity advocate. Since 2016 she has been drawing attention to problems with U.S. election security and was frustrated during the Trump admin years to see the GOP block efforts to improve security. Now that GOP has become the party of "the election is illegitimate", things have swung the other way and it is Democrats who seem unwilling to acknowledge flaws that many on that side were willing to talk about up until recently. We talk about how politics and polarization can impact attempts to solve election security problems, and she gives insights on the problems she sees with elections. 

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Aug 31, 2021
Does blaming "media" help us avoid personal responsibility?, with Elizaveta Friesem

Elizaveta Friesem thinks and writes about media and how we relate to it. Her recent book is called "Media Is Us" and it examines the idea that media is not something "out there" but more something that is part of us, something that happens internally, similar to any other human communication. And perhaps this means that acting as if "media" of various sorts is to blame for various problems is a simplistic way to view the world. We talk about the need for personal responsibility for how we consume media, power dynamics in society, the power of empathy and understanding others, and more. 

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Aug 18, 2021
Reading poker tells, with Dara O'Kearney

An interview with professional poker player Dara O'Kearney about poker tells (behavioral patterns in poker). We talk about how useful tells are compared to strategy, what are some of the tells he's used, how his opinion about tells has changed over time. We also discuss poker more generally, including its complexity, game theory optimal topics, how running long distance may have helped him with poker, and more. 

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Aug 11, 2021
What are the factors in American police violence? (pt 2), with police captain James Mitchell

The second of two interviews with James Mitchell, a recently retired police captain who worked in Prince George's County, Maryland. We attempt to understand the factors behind the problem of American cops having a high rate of shootings and other forms of excessive force. Factors discussed include: the role of guns, racism, the fact that juries seldom convict cops, police unions, and cops living in the communities they police.  (In the first interview, other factors, like mental health and approach/de-escalation strategies, were discussed.)

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Aug 07, 2021
Why do so many people want to watch the world burn?, with Kevin Arceneaux

An interview with Kevin Arceneaux, a researcher on the “need for chaos” research project, which found that a surprising number of people, around 40% of those polled, seem to have antisocial views about society in that they either agreed with or did not disagree with statements like “When I think about our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking 'just let them all burn'?” We talk about what the study entailed, and what the factors could be that help explain this surprising find. 

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Jul 28, 2021
What is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's tell?, with Jon Hoefling

A talk with sports analyst and broadcaster Jon Michael Hoefling, who writes for Deadspin. We discuss a recent story about Steelers quarterback Roethlisberger and an apparent tell he has, where his foot position indicates whether he'll run or pass. We also discuss some other tells in football and sports in general, including the story about Andre Agassi having a read on Boris Becker, and some tells in baseball. 

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Jul 25, 2021
Can gender identity theory itself create gender dysphoria?, with Carey Callahan

An interview with Carey Callahan, a therapist who writes about gender dysphoria and transgender issues, with a focus on medical and healthcare aspects. Topics include: why well meaning attempts at discussing transgender topics can inspire so much anger; how polarization on this topic relates to polarization in other areas; controversy around how many obstacles there should be for someone who wants to transition; criticisms of gender identity theory; the idea that gender identity theory itself may be amplifying dysphoric symptoms; the role of environmental factors in gender dysphoria.

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Jul 17, 2021
How might we better connect with people?, with Ted Brodkin and Ashley Pallathra

How might we connect better with each other? An interview with Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin, co-authors of Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections. We talk about the obstacles we face in our attempts to form better connection with others.  

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Jul 14, 2021
Reading tells in the video game Apex Legends, with Brandon Singer, aka Nocturnal

An interview with professional gamer Nocturnal (OhNocturnal on Twitch), about reading opponent behavior in Apex Legends. We also talk about the financial aspects of being a pro video gamer. 

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Jun 26, 2021
Reading opponent tells in tennis, with Carlos Goffi

An interview about the role of psychology and understanding behavior in tennis, with experienced tennis player and coach Carlos Goffi. Goffi has coached tennis for more than 30 years, has coached John McEnroe, and is the author of the well known tennis book Tournament Tough.  We talk about reading opponents' physical tells and their mood, about psychological strategizing, and about the impact of personal life factors on a player's ability to compete. We also talk about Andre Agassi's claim that he had a very reliable tell on Boris Becker. 

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Jun 04, 2021
Why are American cops so violent? (pt 1), with police captain James Mitchell

First of two interviews with James Mitchell, a retired police captain who worked in Prince George's County, Maryland. We talk about the U.S. problem of excessive police violence, with the goal of understanding some of the factors that can lead to unjustified and too aggressive police responses. Issues include: George Floyd's death and how the cops handled that; how mental health issues relate to police response issues; how cops can escalate a situation whether they mean to or not, and more.  In the second interview, other factors are discussed, such as the role of guns, and racism. 

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Apr 19, 2021
Living with anxiety, with Scott Stossel, national editor of The Atlantic

I interview Scott Stossel, 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. I talk to Scott about what he's learned in his research and personal life about the factors behind anxiety and how we might, as much as we are able to, overcome it. I (host Zach Elwood) also talk about my own struggles with anxiety, which have taken a different form from Scott's. 

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Apr 14, 2021
Psychological and environmental factors in psychosis and schizophrenia, with Nathan Filer

An interview with Nathan Filer, author of the non-fiction book 'The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia' and the fiction book 'The Shock of the Fall'. We talk about environmental, experiential factors in schizophrenia, about the understandable pushback there can be to examining these areas, about the uncertainty around these topics, and about the power of language and the namings we give things. I also talk about the mental issues I struggled with as a young man.  

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Mar 27, 2021
I talk to an 8-year-old kid

In this episode, I interview an 8-year-old. We talk 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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Feb 25, 2021
Gina Assaf, who has "long haul" covid, discusses her research on it

An interview with Gina Assaf about her patient-led research on "long haul" Covid, which refers to long term Covid-19 effects. Assaf is not a professional medical researcher; 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', experience. We talk about the benefits and challenges of such "patient led" research, and interesting findings her team has made. One topic discussed is the similarity between long haul covid and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, ME) symptoms.  

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Feb 23, 2021
Why hasn't crowdsourcing of medical data from public disrupted healthcare?, with Jamie Heywood

An interview with Jamie Heywood, who got into the medical research field when his brother was diagnosed with ALS and Jamie wanted to do everything he could do to save him. Jamie started an ALS research institute, and later was co-founder and CEO of PatientsLikeMe, an organization for collecting real-world medical data directly from patients. He discusses the strengths and challenges in collecting real-world patient-reported data, why such tactics haven't been as disruptive and revolutionary as their potential suggests, and thoughts on the problems we face in medical research and healthcare solutions in general.

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Feb 05, 2021
Reading online dating profiles (part 2), with Scott

Second of two episodes about online dating. This is a conversation about online dating with Scott, a straight man in his 30s who lives in Portland, Oregon. We talk about the reads/indicators he gets from online dating profiles and pictures that let him know if someone might be a good potential match. 

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Jan 26, 2021
Reading online dating profiles (part 1), with Celia

First of two episodes about online dating. This is a conversation about online dating with Celia, a straight woman in her 30s who lives in Portland, Oregon. We talk about the reads/indicators she gets from online dating profiles and pictures that let her know if someone might be a good potential match. 

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Jan 20, 2021
How does a disbelief in free will affect one's life?, with physicist Daniel Whiteson

The idea that humans don't have free will, that we don't have any control of our lives, can be a scary or depressing one for some people. This is a talk with Daniel Whiteson, physics professor of UC Irvine, about why he thinks free will is unlikely, and about the psychological and emotional impacts that can be associated with believing or not believing in free will. For more about this podcast, see 

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Jan 09, 2021
How does aphantasia (lack of mental imagery) impact one's life?, with Zach Elwood

An interview of host Zachary Elwood about his own aphantasia, which is defined as an inability to visualize images mentally. This is a rebroadcast of an interview from The Untypical Podcast, hosted by Visakan Pillai.  Topics discuss include: aphantasia and what it's like, aphantasia effects on life and creativity, the nature of thought and memory, psychedelic drugs, visualizing in dreams, and more. For more about this podcast, see 

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Dec 10, 2020
How do insults and hurt feelings affect political conflicts?, with Karina Korostelina

An interview with Karina Korostelina, a social psychologist and the author of Political Insults: How Offenses Escalate Conflict. We discuss her work creating categories for insults, the role insults play in political conflict, why groups and group leaders use insults, and the role of the internet in amplifying opportunities for insults and insult perception. For more about this podcast, see 

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Nov 25, 2020
Why does democracy fall apart and authoritarianism rise?, with Thomas Carothers

An interview with Thomas Carothers, an expert on foreign policy, democracy, and political polarization. He is co-author/editor of the book Democracies Divided, a summary of the national situations of several extremely polarized countries, including the U.S., Turkey, India, Poland, Kenya, and Brazil. I ask Carothers about what he views as the root psychological and social causes of extreme polarization, the erosion of democracy, and the rise of authoritarian leaders. For more about this podcast, see 

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Nov 13, 2020
Questioning how much social media plays a role in political polarization, with Levi Boxell

A talk with Levi Boxell about his research showing that older Americans, who use social media less than younger Americans, have become more antagonistic towards the opposite political party than younger people. We also discuss his research studying how political polarization has changed over time in other countries. We discuss what factors may contribute to polarization, and whether it's still possible that social media could be a major factor. He also discusses his research on news outlet bias being present in the types of politician images are chosen. 

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Nov 11, 2020
Are some political party stances due to randomness and chance?, with Michael Macy

An interview with Dr. Michael Macy of Cornell University, who has done research on "opinion cascades," showing that some political party stances on specific issues may be rather arbitrary, the result of initial conditions and how early influencers staked out political positions. This means that some stances that are strongly associated with a certain political party could just as easily be associated more with the opposite political party. 

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Nov 06, 2020
How does Facebook increase political polarization and animosity?, with Jaime Settle

A talk with Dr. Jaime Settle, a political scientist who has studied how social media may be increasing political animosity and division. She is the author of Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America, which describes her research showing how Facebook seems to increase people's animosity towards members of the opposite political party. Topics: political polarization, psychological effects social media has on us, internet communication in general. 

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Oct 22, 2020
Examining causes of polarization in the U.S. and other countries, with Jennifer McCoy

Jennifer McCoy, a specialist on political polarization and election processes, talks about problematic political polarization in the United States: how it compares to other countries that have seen extreme polarization and democracy degradation; the causes and dynamics of extreme polarization; the negative results of this process; and what might be done to help prevent worst-case outcomes in very polarized countries. 

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Oct 09, 2020
Do violent protests and riots cause people to vote more conservatively?, with Omar Wasow

An interview with Dr. Omar Wasow, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton, and author of a paper entitled "Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting," in which he found that civil rights-related violent activity in the United States in the 1960s shifted public opinion and voting more conservative/Republican. Topics discussed include: how violence in the streets can affect voting; what lessons there are for today's racial justice activists; negative responses to the ideas in his paper; thoughts on current political climate and how protests may affect things. 

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Sep 17, 2020
Understanding violent protester behavior: an interview with a Portland antifa/BLM protester

An interview with a self-described anti-fascist who has frequently taken part in the more militant and unlawful aspects of the BLM-focused protests and riots that have occurred in Portland, Oregon in the wake of George Floyd's death. This person has also taken part in physical confrontations with alt-right pro-Trump groups, like the Proud Boys. They talk about the motivations behind and goals for these protests, why violent protest is justified, and the logic behind confronting groups like the Proud Boys. For more about this podcast, see 

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Sep 02, 2020
Did Cambridge Analytica exaggerate their abilities and not actually do anything impressive?, with Dave Karpf

Political scientist David Karpf talks about Cambridge Analytica, and about how their perception by many as masters of advanced digital influence (as portrayed in, for example, the documentary The Great Hack) is inaccurate and exaggerated. Dr. Karpf talks about the effects of political ads, about the role of social media and the internet in politics, and what he sees as the real problems we're facing as a modern society. He also talks about the time he made a tweet comparing Bret Stephens to a bedbug and crazy things ensued. 

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Aug 22, 2020
Evaluating psych patients in the ER, and discussion of personality disorders, with Rob Tarzwell

Dr. Rob Tarzwell talks about his experiences being a psychiatric doctor in Canadian ER (emergency room) settings, and the challenges of evaluating and diagnosing patients. Topics include: strategies for distinguishing psych disorders from other conditions; the nature of self and consciousness and how that relates to psych issues; and the impact and meaningfulness of the language used to describe mental issues. We discuss some specific examples of people behaving in offensive ways and the factors that can be behind that. And we talk about 'personality disorders' and what those are. 

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Aug 09, 2020
Is some offensive behavior due to psychological conditions?, with Timothy Jay

A talk with psychologist and expert on cursing Dr. Timothy Jay about some lesser known factors that can be present when people use offensive language, with a focus on the modern phenomenon of videos widely shared on social media showing people saying or doing offensive things. We discuss factors that may influence offensive behavior, including Tourette's Syndrome, brain disorders like Alzheimers, substance abuse, mental illness, and personality disorders. Dr. Jay is the author of the books Why We Curse, Cursing in America, and We Did What?. 

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Aug 02, 2020
Can you predict schizophrenia by studying the language of teenagers?, with Neguine Rezaii

An interview with psychology researcher Dr. Neguine Rezaii about her work using machine learning to predict conversion in teenagers from prodromal symptoms to psychotic episodes. The two language patterns found in the subjects' speech were 1) a low semantic density (i.e., low meaning), and 2) speech related to sound or voices. Topics: psychology, schizophrenia, machine learning, language, psychosis. 

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Jul 17, 2020
Can you see what people are thinking with a scan of their brain?, with Marcel Just

An interview with Dr. Marcel Just about his research using fMRI brain imaging to identify brain activity associated with specific thoughts: for example, identifying that a subject is thinking about an apple, or about death. Dr. Just and his team have been twice featured on the show 60 Minutes. Topics: brain imaging, fMRI, neuroscience, psychology. 

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Jun 06, 2020
Indicators that English text is written by a native Russian speaker, with Brian Baer

A talk with Dr. Brian Baer, a skilled translator, about indicators in an English language text that the author may be native-Russian. Also discussed are Russia's attempts at online disinformation and deception. Dr. Baer also talks about the nature of language in general, and his work as a translator. Topics: Russia, disinformation, fake news, language, translation. 

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May 29, 2020
Interpreting brain imaging, with Rob Tarzwell

A talk with Dr. Rob Tarzwell about his research using SPECT neuroimaging to find indicators of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This work was voted by Discover Magazine as one of the top 20 science stories of 2015. Also discussed is Tarzwell's research on finding neuroimage indicators of the effects of talk therapy. Topics: brain imaging, neuroscience, psychology, PTSD, therapy. 

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May 20, 2020
Reading behavior in Rock Paper Scissors, with Jason Simmons, aka Master Roshambollah

A talk with Jason Simmons (aka Master Roshambollah), an experienced Rock Paper Scissors player. Simmons discusses how serious RPS players try to read and influence the behavior of their opponents. Topics: Rock Paper Scissors (RPS), games, strategy, behavior, tells, manipulation. 

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Mar 25, 2020
Driving a San Francisco city bus, with Brendan Bartholomew

A talk with Brendan Bartholomew, a San Francisco bus driver and writer. Brendan talks about how understanding human behavior plays an important role in his duties as a city bus driver. Topics: bus driving, transportation, understanding and predicting passenger and driver behaviors. 

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Mar 20, 2020
What does skin conductance (aka GSR aka EDA) tell us?, with Christopher Moyer

A talk with Dr. Christopher Moyer, PhD, about measuring skin conductance, also called electrodermal activity (EDA) and galvanic skin response (GSR): what it is, what it's thought to measure, and how it's been used in psychology research, including his own research. Dr. Moyer is a counseling psychologist who has published research on the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy and the neurological effects of meditation. Topics: electrodermal activity, galvanic skin response (GSR), psychological research, massage therapy, meditation, lie detectors. 

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Dec 28, 2019
Behavior in social deduction game Secret Hitler, with Polina Vorozheykina

A talk with Polina Vorozheykina, a software engineer based in Portland who is skilled at social deduction games like Secret Hitler, Werewolf/Mafia, Resistance, and Avalon. We do a quick review of the rules of the game Secret Hitler, and Polina talks about common behaviors/tells that give away information. 

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Nov 01, 2019
Indicators of fake Amazon reviews, with Olu Popoola

A talk with Olu Popoola, who is a forensic linguistic analyst, deception researcher, and fraud investigator. We talk about the science of using "coherence relations" (i.e., how the phrases and sentences in a text relate to each other and form a coherent structure) to detect indicators of deception. We spend most of the time talking about Popoola's work on finding indicators of deceptive Amazon book reviews, including his analysis of reviews for Hillary Clinton's recent book. 

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Aug 04, 2019
Prison life and behavior, with Benjamin Moots

A talk with Benjamin Moots, who served 15 years in prison for second degree murder, mostly in maximum security settings. Topics include: his story of what led to his murder conviction, descriptions of prison life, prison slang, sexual and physical assault dynamics, how prison encourages aggression, how poker games work in prison, and more. 

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Aug 02, 2019
Reading indicators of good and bad relationships, with Brandi Fink

A talk with Dr. Brandi Fink, a psychology researcher who has done work analyzing the interpersonal dynamics of couples and families, including couples and families having physical abuse and drug/alcohol abuse issues. We talk about: the reasons why researchers and therapists attempt quantification of interpersonal behavior; how some analysis/coding systems work; the challenges in coding behavior; common physical and verbal patterns that can point to interpersonal problems; brain scan research on the effects of alcohol; and more. 

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Jun 01, 2019
Reading customers in door-to-door sales, with Conrad Smith and Dave Mock

A talk about how understanding psychology and behavior can play a role in successful door-to-door sales. Host Zach Elwood interviews two experienced door-to-door salespeople: Conrad Smith, who was a top salesman for a well-known home security system company, and David Mock, who did door-to-door sales for a large, well-known home remodeling company. 

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May 15, 2019
Restaurant and service industry psychology, with Robin Dibble

A talk with Robin Dibble, an experienced service industry professional who has worked all sides of the restaurant business, from waiting tables, to cooking, to managing restaurants and nightclubs. Topics: the role of psychology and perception-manipulation in the restaurant and service industries. 

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Apr 20, 2019
Psychology and behavior in MMA and jiu-jitsu, with Robert Drysdale

A talk with Robert Drysdale, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts expert and world champion, on the roles psychology and predicting opponent behavior can play in professional fighting. Topics: the role of psychology, mental preparation, and action-anticipation in MMA and jiu-jitsu. 

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Mar 18, 2019
Reading opponent behavior in the sport of fencing, with Seth Baldwin

A talk with Seth Baldwin about the sport of fencing and the roles that psychology and predicting opponent behavior can play in the sport. Baldwin is an experienced fencer who, at the peak of his game, got 3rd at the 2004 U.S. National Championships. 

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Mar 09, 2019
Social engineering, with Jenny Radcliffe

A talk with Jenny Radcliffe, an expert in social engineering: the manipulation of people to gain access to information or materials. Radcliffe talks about her work infiltrating companies as a paid security consultant, and discusses some of the psychological and behavioral aspects of that work. Radcliffe has her own podcast about psychology and security: The Human Factor. Her website is 

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Jan 10, 2019
Interrogation techniques, with David Zulawski

A talk with David Zulawski, an expert in interrogation/interview techniques. Zulawski is co-owner of Wicklander Zulawski and Associates (, a firm specializing in interview and interrogation consulting and education. Zulawksi is co-author, with Wicklander, of the respected and widely-used book "Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation." We talk about interrogation techniques, with a focus on psychological and behavioral aspects. 

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Dec 14, 2018
Jury selection strategies, with Christina Marinakis

A talk with Dr. Christina Marinakis, J.D., Psy.D., jury selection and voir dire expert. Marinakis is the Director of Jury Research at Litigation Insights, a large trial consultancy firm. Dr. Marinakis answers questions about: how the jury selection process works; strategies used to expose potential juror bias; and how psychology, stereotyping, and human behavior can play a role in that work. 

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Sep 24, 2018
Analyzing written and verbal statements, with Mark McClish

An interview of Mark McClish, an expert in analyzing written and verbal statements. McClish is a former U.S. Marshal and law enforcement trainer on interview and interrogation techniques. He's the author of two books on Statement Analysis®: "I Know You Are Lying," and "Don't Be Deceived." Topics discussed in this episode include: common deceptive patterns, why people find it difficult to straightforwardly lie, and discussion of some criminal cases, including the Chris Watts case, Steven Avery, OJ Simpson, and more. 

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Sep 07, 2018
Reading the audience when doing standup comedy, with Alex Falcone

An interview with Portland, Oregon-based comedian Alex Falcone about the role of understanding and using human psychology and behavior in stand-up comedy. 

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Aug 21, 2018