Paranormal & Conspiracy Tales / Psychology of Influence

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Date Host George Noory
Guests Dan Cummins, Jon Levy

Dan Cummins enjoyed a 20-year career as a comic that has included five comedy albums, and several Comedy Central specials before becoming a podcaster with four different shows, including Scared to Death about the paranormal. In the first half, he discussed cases of the unexplained, as well as conspiracies. While he doesn't find most conspiracy theories especially credible, the JFK assassination is one that he believes has merit. Kennedy, he noted, not only criticized the CIA but wanted to disband the organization. He also sought to pull out of Vietnam and was at odds with the military-industrial complex. The CIA was skilled at political assassinations of foreign leaders, and may have been behind JFK's murder, Cummins suggested. Conversely, he didn't find compelling evidence for 'New World Order' conspiracies about the Denver airport. For instance, there were non-sinister explanations behind the odd blue horse sculpture there.

Regarding fascinating cases of the paranormal, he detailed how the killer of a Filipino woman named Teresita in Chicago in 1977 was revealed through an acquaintance's trance state. During the trance, the acquaintance claimed to be Teresita, and correctly gave the name of her killer, whom police eventually apprehended. Cummins recounted the strange case of Ernie Rivers, a young boy in New Jersey, whose poltergeist activity was witnessed by various family members, neighbors, investigators, and even documented by police officers, who described objects moving on their own accord across the room. He also talked about the mysterious disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich from Australia in 1978 after he claimed to see UFOs.

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Jon Levy is a behavioral scientist best known for his work in influence, human connection, and decision-making. He specializes in applying the latest research to marketing, sales, consumer engagement, and culture. In the latter half, he delved into the psychology of influence and how we can create meaningful connections with others in our lives. Defining influence as having an impact on a person or an outcome, he differentiated it from power or forcing someone to do something. Levy shared how he conducted dinner gatherings among strangers from all walks of life, and then asked them to guess what each other's occupations were. What he learned was that we all want to have great friendships, but many of us feel isolated from one another.

Studies have shown that those with stronger social bonds tend to have greater longevity, he cited. Levy reported that trust is the most important factor in a relationship, and that trust is composed of three elements-- competence, honesty or integrity, and benevolence. However, those factors can be weighted differently. For instance, people tend to value benevolence above honesty, and honesty above competence. Further, he found that the adage that opposites attract isn't typically accurate and that people bond more with those who share similarities, even something like having the same name initials. For more, check out Jon's 2018 Ted Talk on what makes us influential.

News segment guests: Christian Wilde, Kevin Randle

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