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The Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs Paperback – Bargain Price, June 29, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A handful of recent books disparaging religion by atheists such as Richard Dawkins have largely put the blame on culture for humanity’s widespread unscientific beliefs. Yet what if the greatest influence on our supernatural convictions is the built-in wiring of our brains? Hood is an internationally renowned neuroscientist who has developed a revolutionary new theory to explain why, in the face of dubious evidence, humans so readily put their faith in supernatural forces. Dubbed supersense, Hood’s theory traces religious inclinations to how the brain processes information: a hardwired tool kit for making sense of the world that begins in childhood. In 10 engaging and informative chapters with titles like “Could You Wear a Killer’s Cardigan?” and “Would You Let Your Wife Sleep with Robert Redford?” Hood lays out the evidence for the mind’s penchant for seeing patterns in disconnected events and cultivating sacred values that bind humans together. Hood’s treatise provides a much-needed counterbalance to hard-core skeptics by arguing that supersense, while not exactly grounded in rationality, ultimately gives our lives meaning. --Carl Hays --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


In an account chock full of real-world examples reinforced by experimental research, Hood’s marvelous book is an important contribution to the psychological literature that is revealing the actuality of our very irrational human nature. (Science )

[A] fascinating, timely and important book. . . . Hood’s presentation of the science behind our supersense is crystal clear and utterly engaging. (New Scientist )

An intriguing look at a feature of the human mind that is subtle in its operation but profound in its consequences. (Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought )

Reading SuperSense is like having lunch with your favorite 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 )

In recent years, there has been a lot written about religion, superstition, and faith, but there has never been a book like this. . . SuperSense is a joy to read--beautifully written, deeply clever and funny, replete with brilliant insights and observations. (Paul BloomProfessor, Department of Psychology, Yale University Author of "Descartes' Baby: How the science of child development explains what makes us human" )

Dr. Hood, a world-class scholar in the field of cognitive science, explains the many weird and wonderful ways that we humans naturally view the world as ruled by supernatural phenomena. Bruce Hood’s SuperSense is sensational. (Susan A. GelmanSusan A. GelmanSusan A. Gelman, author of The Essential Child )

Read this beautifully written book, and you will lose some childhood innocence about how the world works. But, it will leave you wiser about yourself, and what it is to be human. (Guy Claxton, author of Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less )

Magical thinking is a defining feature of the human mind – the source of all that is sublime and absurd about our species. In this timely exploration of the psychology of irrational belief Bruce Hood pulls off the rare feat of being both authoritative and wonderfully entertaining. Brilliant. (Paul Broks, author of Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology )

A compelling account of how beliefs in the supernatural world spring from the natural way our minds make sense of our experiences. (Daniel M. Wegner, Harvard Professor of Psychology, author of The Illusion of Conscious Will )

If we understood our own irrationality, and why so many people believe in ghosts, spirits, and invisible powers, then we might be able to improve the way we think. With quirkily fun examples and fascinating experiments Bruce Hood explains why we can’t always escape our Supersense. (Dr. Susan Blackmore, author of Conversations on Consciousness )

Supersense is a terrifically fun read. But it is much more: though we may forever believe in ghosts, goblins and the beneficent deities, with a dose of skeptical scientific realism, a la Hood, there is hope that sanity will prevail. (Marc Hauser, Harvard College Professor, author of Moral Minds )

“...a fun and illuminating book.” (Newsweek )

“Hood’s treatise provides a much-needed counterbalance to hardcore skeptics by arguing that supersense, while not exactly grounded in rationality, ultimately gives our lives meaning.” (Booklist )

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (June 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061452653
  • ASIN: B0058M8GSI
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,004,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce the Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol. He undertook his Ph.D. at Cambridge University followed by appointments at University College London, MIT and a faculty professor at Harvard. He has been awarded an Alfred Sloan Fellowship in neuroscience, the Young Investigator Award from the International Society of Infancy Researchers, the Robert Fantz memorial award and recently voted to Fellowship status by the society of American Psychological Science. "SuperSense: From Superstition to Religion- the Brain Science of Belief" is his first book written for a general audience.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tim K on June 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I started reading Hood's book after picking up Jesse Bering's, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life. Bering also deals with supernatural beliefs and how these are naturally formed by our minds. Having read Bering, and seeing good reviews about Hood's book, I picked it up.

First, the positives: Hood does a fantastic job of explaining how people from childhood to adulthood form supernatural beliefs, both religious and secular. As Hood explains, these come from our 'mind design.' Without it, our species would not have survived. Going over many examples and citing research, Hood makes a compelling case that supernatural reasoning and beliefs are not going to go away anytime soon, and that some are even beneficial. I particularly enjoyed his discussions on the developing mind.

Now, the negative. Having been written by a psychologist, I expected much more discussion about specific brain areas associated with these types of beliefs and how these change over time. Maybe it's due to the intended audience, but I still expected a bit more brain-talk.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It's well-written and holds your attention. I found myself turning the page to see what interesting little fact Hood would reveal.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 18, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to think that whoever gave this book a 1 star review must be a very angry religious person who is upset that religion got lumped in with other superstitions... Calling Bruce Hood unscientific is like calling the Williams sisters nonathletic... It's very odd and reactionary.

Anyhow, it's a good book, and a fun read for anyone interested in superstitions, and yes, sorry 1-star-giver, that includes religion.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tinker on September 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author covers the subject and studies that have been done on this in an interesting way some books can be rather dry when it comes to brain studies. There will be further studies for sure but this is an interesting look at what might be the reason people are so caught up in supernatural beliefs.
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The idea of "essentialism" is a brilliant new way to look at the basis of superstitious thinking. A great book! If you are looking for a book to really understand how superstition works from a cognitive standpoint, it's a great place to start.
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