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

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Synopsis

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 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.

 

About Michael Shermer

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Michael Shermer is the author of The Believing Brain, Why People Believe Weird Things, The Science of Good and Evil, The Mind Of The Market, Why Darwin Matters, Science Friction, How We Believe and other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, the editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Southern California.
 
Published May 24, 2011 by Times Books. 401 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jul 31 2011
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Weeks as Bestseller

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Believing Brain

Kirkus Reviews

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Shermer seeks to answer the question of why “so many people believe in what most scientists would consider to be the unbelievable?” While admitting that scientists often believe in unproven hypotheses—e.g., the origin of our universe and what might have preceded the Big Bang—the author holds firm...

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Publishers Weekly

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As the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, and a columnist for Scientific American, Shermer is perhaps the country's best-known skeptic.

Mar 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Believing Brain: From Gho...

The Wall Street Journal

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Ronald Bailey reviews Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and
Gods to Politics and Conspiracies--How We Construst Beliefs and Reinforce ...

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The Wall Street Journal

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"The Believing Brain" perhaps inevitably turns to religion, but a sign of Mr. Shermer's all-purpose skepticism is his consigning of the chapter "Belief in God," along with "Belief in Aliens," to a section called "Belief in Things Unseen."

Jul 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Believing Brain: From Gho...

New York Journal of Books

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In fact, it illustrates Dr Shermer’s theme perfectly—albeit unintentionally—by showing how scientific findings can be cherry-picked to build arguments around a belief that is already entrenched in the author’s mind.Having presented the case that we form beliefs on the basis of unconscious, often ...

May 24 2011 | Read Full Review of The Believing Brain: From Gho...

Las Vegas Weekly

Shermer spends little time discussing how we construct beliefs about Topic X and lots of time discussing Topic X itself.

Jul 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Believing Brain: From Gho...

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