The Believing Brain
From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies--how We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as TruthsBook - 2011
Draws on three decades of research to outline a provocative theory about how humans form beliefs about the world, tracing the ways in which the brain finds patterns in sensory data that are then reinforced with meaning, in a report that explains how the author's findings apply to politics, economics and religion. 50,000 first printing.
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.
Draws on three decades of research to outline a provocative theory about how humans form beliefs about the world, tracing the ways in which the brain finds patterns in sensory data that are then reinforced with meaning.
Shermer demonstrates how our brains selectively assess data in an attempt to confirm the conclusions (beliefs) we've already reached. Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, he considers not only supernatural beliefs but political and economic ones as well.