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The Believing Brain

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

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 14, 2011 – 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. His position is as clear as it is simple: "When I call myself a skeptic I simply mean that I take a scientific approach to the evaluation of claims." But now Shermer is interested not only in why people have irrational beliefs, but "why people believe at all." Our brains, he says, have evolved to find meaningful patterns around us. But why do people believe they see patterns whether "evidence" of angels, conspiracy theories, or UFOs where none exist? Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Shermer considers not only supernatural beliefs but political and economic ones as well. He demonstrates how our brains selectively assess data in an attempt to confirm the conclusions we've already reached. Informative and difficult to put down, this book adds a compelling and comprehensive case to the growing number of arguments about the importance of scientific reasoning, marred only by Shermer's repeated citing of his own works and public appearances. B&w illus.

Customer Reviews

The Believing Brain

I believe that I believe that this book offers a a profound insight into the nature of belief.
Shortly after beginning the book your entire mind map may catch on fire along with your sense of being a separate self.
If you are secure and happy in your conceptual overlay........don't read this book!
If you are brave enough to bring everything you think you believe out into the light.........perhaps the edgeless reality will manifest in the synaptic interface that you used to call "Me".

Hats off

This book gave me the clarity i was looking for when i was struggling with the nonsense of religion. Thank sir

Easy to understand with great info!

Shermer does it again with this well thought out and insightful look into the science of belief. After spending much of the book laying out the framework for a psychology of belief and informing the reader of how the mind works, Shermer ends by giving a history of cosmology which many readers will find interesting. He shows how some of the world's preeminent scientists have fallen prey to common logical fallacies and biases that were not well understood until the last century.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about why they think the way they do and how to recognize your own biases in order to make you a better person.

The Believing Brain
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Psychology
  • Published: May 24, 2011
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings