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The Michael Shermer Show

Michael Shermer engages leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time. Watch or listen to past episodes here or on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Google Podcasts.


Rob Ashton — Silent Influence and the Science of Writing, Reading, and Communicating

Shermer and Ashton discuss: what it’s like advising Google and Buckingham Palace on how to communicate • what makes writing appealing and effective • how to write better emails and social media posts • why the messages we write often backfire • why emails so often make us angry • How has written communication changed in the last five years? • What makes Donald Trump such a powerful communicator that he can seemingly hypnotize tens of millions of people and dictate entire news cycles with a single statement? • when you should stop writing and pick up the phone to talk instead • How much information is too much?

Rob Ashton is a writer, editor, and a former research scientist (a molecular biology researcher who helped develop the first tests for HIV). For the last six years, he’s been on a quest to discover the science of how the words we read and write affect what we think and do. His experience includes 24 years advising some of the biggest names in commerce, such as Google, as well as working with national governments, charities and even the Royal Household at Buckingham Palace, all in an effort to help their people communicate more effectively in writing. He calls writing ‘the invisible medium’. And he believes much of the misunderstanding in the world stems from our increasing reliance on our keyboards and phone screens to ‘talk’ to each other. But he says it’s always frustrated him that so much of the communication advice on the web and pushed by consultants is based on a mixture of pseudoscience, hearsay and wishful thinking. Read more at:

Rob Ashton’s Free Online Courses on Communication

For more content, please visit the Silent Influence Course sign-up page.

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This episode was released on August 9, 2022.

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