The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

The Believing Brain From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths The Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer s comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born formed reinforced challenged changed and extinguished In this work synthes

  • Title: The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
  • Author: Michael Shermer
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 215
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • The Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer s comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world s best known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans formThe Believing Brain is bestselling author Michael Shermer s comprehensive and provocative theory on how beliefs are born, formed, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished.In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world s best known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.

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    One thought on “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

    1. Shaun

      I decided to buy this book after watching a short Ted Talk featuring Michael Shermer in which he discussed the origins of belief. A natural born skeptic with two science based degrees who often finds herself wanting to believe (a huge X-files fan), I am fascinated by how people come to hold certain beliefs that on the surface appear flawed or irrational. So that said, this book appealed to me on many levels.On a personal level, I have a special interest in religious belief. Raised a Christian, I [...]

    2. Robert Fischer

      Here's the tl;dr review: If you're looking for the ways that we tend to trick ourselves and how to deal with that reality, see Predictably Irrational or The Power of Habit. Shermer's book is definitely not the book for that.Now the full review:I was really excited about this book. I was hoping that it would update and extend Consciousness Explained with contemporary neuroscience about belief. That was, after all, exactly how the book billed itself through the marketing coverage and through the f [...]

    3. Christine

      At first I was afraid this was just another atheist rant (like the disappointing God Delusion by Dawkins). Fortunately, it shaped up to be much more interesting than that. yes, it preaches to the choir, and unless you are an absolute skeptic about everything, you will find yourself offended at some point when reading this. I am pretty skeptical myself, but there were a couple of passages that got to me in an unpleasant way anyway. What really won me over? Sheerer spends a few pages bashing Depak [...]

    4. Amir

      یکی از کتابهایی که خوندنش باعث می شه پرده های زیادی از جلو چشم آدمی کنار زده بشه و حداقل می تونه باعث شه با نگاهی انتقادی تر و عمیق تر به وقایع نگاه کنیم.موضوع:به طور کلی این کتاب در مورد عقاید و باور های آدمی هست و توضیح می ده این اعتقاد و باور از موضوعات الهی گرفته تا تئوری های ت [...]

    5. Caroline

      One of the most exciting books I have ever read. The author is a science historian, and writes monthly articles for The Scientific American. What I am going to describe here sounds cold and formal, but the book is written with spirit and vigour, with lots of the author's personal experiences and views included. It pulsates with amazing ideas - and I really relished every word. Basically, it showed that on the upside we humans are amazing thinking animals, capable of using logic and conducting ex [...]

    6. David

      This is an excellent, comprehensive examination of the things we believe, and why. It is a very well-written, well-organized book with a unifying theme: we form our beliefs, and then we rationalize them with explanations. We initially formulate our beliefs through two processes: patternicity and agenticity. Patternicity allows us to form all sorts of weird beliefs, including the whole gamut of superstitions. For example, if something bad happens when a black cat crosses your path, and at a later [...]

    7. Ellen

      This book bills itself as "why people believe weird things," but it's really more of "why you shouldn't believe weird things." It should be noted that I don't actually believe in any of the things discussed in the book (God, heaven, hell, and other religious things; UFOs and alien abductions; conspiracy theories, esp. 9/11 conspiracy theories), so the arguments against were tedious at best, and I gained no insight into why other people do believe them.Shermer's tone comes across as defensive (an [...]

    8. Terence M

      Audio book - 2:30 hours approx. from 13:35 hours total - Read by Michael Shermer 2 stars (provisional)I have read previous works by Michael Shermer, but these days I have to listen to audio books to satisfy my "reading" needs. Generally, authors do not make good narrators and Shermer is no exception. His delivery is stilted and where he thinks he has written something amusing, he uses a strange vocal characterisation which does not sound funny, but does sound most annoying.Some time in the futur [...]

    9. Darwin8u

      I have to admit at the beginning that I have a significantly pro-skeptic bias. I love skeptics, so it is hard for me not to like the book. An interesting book that belongs on my shelf between my books on psychology and science (The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions) and my books on agnosticism, skepticism, neo-atheism and the evolution of relig [...]

    10. Tanja Berg

      I have been following Michael Shermer's column in "Scientific American" for years. It's the first thing in the magazine that I read. This book definitely did not dissapoint. Shermer starts off with anecdotes and then goes into the very specific. Oft repeated throughout the book is that belief comes first, rationalization of the beliefs afterward. First we decide to believe, then the evidence collected tends to support what we believe. This is regardless if the subject is religion, paranormal, UF [...]

    11. Heather Denkmire

      There were a few books in this book and I only enjoyed one of them. Unfortunately for me, most of the content was repeat information from things I've read/heard before. The first sections dealing with the biology of the brain were interesting.So much of the book (a book in itself) was spent refuting things that don't exist (UFOs, ghosts, god, 9/11 conspiracies, etc.) it was tiresome. I know they don't, I don't need it explained why. This continued on for a long, long time. I almost gave up on th [...]

    12. Stephanie

      I really liked this book and I agreed with most everything in it, and that made me rather uncomfortable just because of what the book is about. Michael Shermer covered a wide range of topics that interest me, from politics to psychology to religion, and i believed every word of what he argued. But I don't think it's that he convinced me, i think it's that i already held those beliefs going into it, and as the book proclaims repeatedly, i as a human being pay special attention to arguments that s [...]

    13. Socraticgadfly

      This review should prove that I don't always "high-side" my reviewing stars. In fact, let me be blunt — now that I've read one Shermer book, I have no more desire to read further writings of his than I do of Sam Harris, and for somewhat similar reasons. In Shermer's case, here's why.Here's derivative and blind spots intersecting -- Shermer briefly, but briefly talks about Kahneman's and Tversky's study in behavioral economics (without also citing Dan Ariely, among others). One will learn much [...]

    14. Bill

      In this book, Shermer argues that humans form beliefs from genetic predispositions and social experiences. We then selectively filter data and experience to support those pre-existing beliefs. We see "patterns" of meaning in our experience, and we tend to project "agenticity" when causal factors are not known. I respect Shermer for admitting up front that he is subject to the same process, in which emotion trumps reason in matters of belief. So, I read with great interest how he attempts in this [...]

    15. Louise

      Up until page 140 this is a 5 star book. These are the pages where the author describes belief as stemming from what he calls patternicity and agenticity. Our minds have evolved to spot patterns. Agenticity is the story we overlay on the patterns. The patterns may be random, yet, if they explain a something very good (a ritual before placing a bet correlates with a few wins) or negative (unlucky clothing or actions) we may ascribe significance to them and they become beliefs. We often have the b [...]

    16. Kim Wombles

      Taken from kwomblescounteringIt took me awhile to find this photo (see the link above) in my stream of thousands of photos because it's more than a month old. I've been reading Michael Shermer's latest book The Believing Brain for over a month now to review it for here and Science 2.0. I spent more than a month with Baron-Cohen's The Science of Evil. I try to be thorough and careful in my reading of books I review; I don't want to gloss over it and throw out a review that is, well, a throw-away. [...]

    17. Diana

      I really enjoyed this book as it offers evidenced based reasons for why we humans are programmed to believe in external agents (when the evidence proves such things are internal in the brain) and why we find patterns where there are none. I find knowing such things comforting and I think I got a little dopamine reward when Shermer confirmed that we experience these things because we share the same brain biology (something I've argued often with regard to religion and other common belief systems) [...]

    18. Bettie☯

      The Believing Brainpub 2011autumn 2011non-fictionpsychologyfraudiosciences The Springfield Files in One Minute*Trust No One - The Truth Is Out There.*The whole idea that there are corps of CRYING scientists proving this and that for the further enlightement of mankind only to have said mankind endorse tarot, ouija, seance, ju-ju etc etc made for funitudinal skit-time in our household. We want a Hug a Scientist Day - when do we want it, NOW!So much of Shermer's work is recycled - the subject matt [...]

    19. Richard Palmer

      I was hoping that this book would explain the biology and evolution of what makes us believe things. It does do that, but does not stick to that theme. Shermer digresses often and spends a good deal of time debunking beliefs in extraterrestrial visits, ESP, and a lot of pseudoscience. His discussions on religion were thought provoking, and I appreciated that. However, instead of coming back to the idea of why the human race believes things, he concludes with a long discussion of the history of s [...]

    20. Richard McDonough

      He knows his science and his brain as mind thesis has always been a view I have held, which, as we all know, makes him brilliant. But Shermer also describes for me the true believer in the Eric Hoffer sense. He insists on science when we talk of god but embraces the teat of libertarian capitalism because it warms him, I guess. He offers no evidence for his view in this sphere, so I guess he has a belief and the dopamine hit he gets from that cold capitalist teat works for him. Not a bad book, ra [...]

    21. Kiril Todorov

      The sad thing about this book is that the people that really need to read it, will never go around the possibility they might be wrong, and will probably never open it.

    22. Juan Manuel

      “Imagine que usted es un homínido que está caminando por una sabana africana hace tres millones de años. Escucha un crujido en la hierba. ¿Es acaso el viento o un peligroso depredador? De su respuesta puede depender la vida o la muerte.”Aquel que asume que el crujido de la hierba es causado por el viento se lleva muchas veces la desagradable fortuna de ser devorado por un depredador; en cambio, quien cree que el crujido se debe a un depredador y se aleja, puede siempre salvarse de ser de [...]

    23. Menglong Youk

      "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and God to Politics and Conspiracies, How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths" is a book written by Michael Shermer on how our brain believes in anything at all and what sharps our belief system.Every human is a decendence of a creature who mastered the pattern recognition. This ability helps us escape from predictor, predicting weather (by looking at the stars) thus improving our agriculture, etc.For example, imagine you are a creature in African [...]

    24. Book

      The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies by Michael Shermer "The Believing Brain" is a fantastic and ambitious book that explains the nature of beliefs. Mr. Shermer provides his theory of belief and with great expertise and skill provides compelling arguments and practical examples in explaining how the process of belief works. He applies his theory to a wide range of types of beliefs and does so with mastery. This excellent 400 page-book is composed of the followin [...]

    25. Anush Hariharan

      An exhaustive work of literature on the working of skepticism. Assiduously researched and written with astonishing erudition and elegance. This may bore those with little patience, but can guide you to make informed decisions when confronted with choices, if interpreted properly.

    26. Dan

      I was probably the most excited about this book before cracking it's cover The premise is alluring and it is very timely (it seems that we are having a media renaissance in the recognition of human limitations of rationality) yet, once opened, the book just falls into too many traps to be exciting to me.Perhaps the largest flaw for me was that the work is 'too current' - insofar as much of the book seems to be just a parroting of factoids that have been floating around in many other places recen [...]

    27. David

      U.S. President Lyndon Johnson once formed an alliance with a erstwhile political enemy. When someone asked him why, Johnson remarked that he would rather have the enemy inside the tent urinating out than outside the tent urinating in. So it is with Shermer. His thesis, that the human brain through the process of natural selection has evolved to see patterns, even when none exists, gives him a platform from which he may assault the many, many popular beliefs with which he disagrees. It is enjoyab [...]

    28. Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside)

      Based on the title, I was expecting a lot more, you know, brain science. Instead I got a good overview of logical fallacies, some interesting anecdotes about people who believed in various interesting things, coverage of popular conspiracy theories, and a very out-of-place political diatribe.I've read better books by Michael Shermer. In fact, I liked all his books better than this one. That's not to say this is a poorly written book. It was simply not what I was expecting. I was hoping to learn [...]

    29. Мартин Касабов

      Според статистиките, живеем в свят, в който повече хора вярват в Бог, чудеса, Рай, ангели, душа, Ад, дявол, отколкото в Дарвиновата теория на еволюцията, която трябва да стои в съседство с призраци, креационизъм, НЛО, астрология, вещици и прераждане. Има си причина в училищата д [...]

    30. Phan

      If you have read Shermer's book or topics such as: scientific skepticism, cosmology, neuroscience, cognitive biases a large part of this one certainly feels familiar. However, compared to other books of the same author, The Believing Brain is much better at coding ideas into smoothy proses. (I sucked up every words in certain parts) One big, central concept Shermer presents here is of "Believe dependant realism": we believe and then reason follows. Shermer's term has a clear connection to "Model [...]

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