About the Author

Imagine how we could change the world

I was raised by parents who believed each of us can make a difference. Both of my parents ran for Congress (dad in 1976 and mom in 1992 and 1994), and both set a high bar for public service and personal sacrifice. I’ve devoted my career to studying how we think, feel, and communicate with an eye toward changing our worst habits and boosting our best. As a professor at the University of Washington and now Penn State, I’ve tried to give my students the skills and courage they need to make a difference in whatever career they choose to pursue.

The novels I’ve written tell the story of how our creative impulses can free us (Dungeon Party), as well as how our best intentions can lead us down the wrong paths (Gray Matters). Though I never let ideas get in the way of these books, both build on deeper ideas I’ve explored about small group behavior (Group in Society) and how we deliberate–or more often fail at doing so (Political Communication and Deliberation).

My nonfiction has revealed the hidden civic power of the jury system (Jury and Democracy) and proposed an election reform (By Popular Demand) that has since been implemented in law and performed quite well (Hope for Democracy). I’m now exploring ways new ways to improve government (Legislature by Lot) and how governments interact with citizens online (via what I call, tongue pressed against cheek, a “democracy machine“).

John Gastil, April 2020

Lucretia the poodle, ever hopeful

If you would like John to appear on your podcast, do a guest post at your blog, visit, or just chat, drop him a line.
Fiction inquiries: jgastil1@gmail.com
Nonfiction inquiries: jgastil@psu.edu.