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Supersense: From Superstition to Religion - The Brain Science of Belief

Bruce Hood

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, Popular science

A fascinating and engaging examination of why we believe in the supernatural.

Why is it that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister's Questions? That John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points? And that President-elect Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary, and continued the tradition the day of every following primary?

Superstitious habits are common. Do you ever cross your fingers, knock on wood, avoid walking under ladders, or step around black cats? Sentimental value often supersedes material worth. If someone offered to replace your childhood teddy bear or wedding ring with a brand new, exact replica, would you do it? How about 20 for trying on a jumper owned by Fred West?

Where do such feelings come from and why do most of us have them? Humans are born with brains designed to make sense of the world and that need for an explanation can lead to beliefs that go beyond reason. To be true they would have to be supernatural. With scientific education we learn that such beliefs are irrational but at an intuitive level they can be resistant to reason or lie dormant in otherwise sensible adults.

It now seems unlikely that any effort to get rid of supernatural beliefs or superstitious behaviours will be completely successful. This is not all bad news - such beliefs are a useful glue that binds us together as a society.

Combining brilliant insight with witty example Hood weaves a page-turning account of our 'supersense' that navigates a path through brain science, child development, popular culture, mental illness and the paranormal. After reading SuperSense, you will realize why you are not as reasonable as you might like to think - and why that might be no bad thing.

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Praise for Supersense: From Superstition to Religion - The Brain Science of Belief

  • An intriguing look at a feature of the human mind that is subtle in its operation but profound in its consequences. - Steven Pinker

  • A fascinating cornucopia of weird and strange stories and incidents that combine to present both a physiological and psychological case for the human instinct to need to believe. I would thoroughly recommend this book. - Stephen Woolley producer of How To Lose Friends and Alienate People.

  • SuperSense is a terrifically fun read. - Marc Hauser, Harvard College Professor, author of Moral Minds.

  • Reading SuperSense is like having lunch with your favourite professor - the conversation spans religion, biology, psychology, philosophy, and early childhood development. One thing is for sure, you'll never see the world in the same way again. - Ori Brafman, New York Times bestselling author of Sway.

  • SuperSense is sensational. The book is that rare combination of scientifically powerful yet accessible to the non-expert. A delightfully witty and thought-provoking look at what makes us human. - Susan A. Gelman, Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

  • Marvelous ... chock full of real-world examples reinforced by experimental research, Hood builds a theoretical model to explain how the mind comes to sense that there is something beyond the natural world, something supernatural .... This book is an important contribution to the psychological literature that is revealing the actuality of our very irrational human nature. - Science

  • A fun and thought-provoking read ... you will find something here to challenge the way you see yourself and others. - BBC Focus magazine

  • A fascinating and readable book, and one of the best books on the subject of why everyone sometimes believes weird things. - Fortean Times

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