The Believing Brain

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


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Synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist and science historian 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. Using sensory data that flow in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning, forming beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop. In "The Believing Brain, "Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. And ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not our beliefs match reality.

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  • Paperback | 385 pages
  • 137.16 x 208.28 x 27.94mm | 340.19g
  • St Martin's Press
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations, black & white line drawings, figures
  • 1250008808
  • 9781250008800
  • 86,599

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"Michael Shermer has long been one of the world's deepest thinkers when it comes to explaining where our beliefs come from, and he brings it all together in this important, engaging, and ambitious book. Shermer knows all the science, he tells great stories, he is funny, and he is" fearless," delving into hot-button topics like 9-11 Truthers, life after death, capitalism, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and the existence of God. This is an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of the beliefs that shape our lives."—Paul Bloom, author of" How Pleasure Works"""The Believing Brain" is a tour de force integrating neuroscience and the social sciences to explain how irrational beliefs are formed and reinforced, while leaving us confident our ideas are valid. This is a must read for everyone who wonders why religious and political beliefs are so rigid and polarized—or why the other side is always wrong, but somehow doesn't see it."—Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, Caltech physicist an

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About Founding Publisher Michael Shermer

MICHAEL SHERMER is the author of "Why People Believe Weird Things," "The Science of Good and Evil," and eight other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of "Skeptic "magazine, the editor of, a monthly columnist for "Scientific American," and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Southern California.

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