Skeptics » The Michael Shermer Show » Rob Ashton – Silent Influence and the Science of Writing, Reading and Communicating


The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers on the most important issues of our time.

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Episode #291

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

Shermer and Ashton discuss: what it’s like to advise Google and Buckingham Palace on communication • what makes writing attractive 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 millions of people and dictate entire news cycles with a single statement? • When to stop writing and pick up the phone instead • How much information is too much?

Rob Ashton is a writer, editor, and former researcher (a molecular biologist who helped develop the first HIV tests). For the past six years he has been searching for the science of how the words we read and write influence how we think and act. His experience spans 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 employees communicate more effectively in writing. He calls writing “the invisible medium”. And he believes that much of the misunderstanding in the world is because we’re increasingly relying 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 online and from consultants is based on a mixture of pseudoscience, hearsay and wishful thinking. Read more at:

Rob Ashton’s Free Online Courses in Communication

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This episode was released on August 9, 2022.


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