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SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 7, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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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


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

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061452645
  • ASIN: B002VPE7GK
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,994,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Bruce M. Hood's SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable is the kind of book that is excellent for those after a thorough overview on superstitious belief or an enjoyable dip into issues and ideas like creationism, essentialism, dualism, intuitive reasoning and its limitations and so forth - and yet not feel as if they're slogging through a academic tome (there's just too much personality for it to be that dry... which may be the only criticism that I could raise if you expected this to be a book of just straight facts and references).

"This book is not meant to make you feel foolish or to encourage you to abandon your supersense [which, as Hood defines it, are naturally occurring irrational beliefs that are a by-product of human development]. Many facets of our behaviour and beliefs have no rational basis. Think of everything that makes us human, and you soon realize that there is much that calls into question our ability to be rational. Love, jealousy, humor and obsession, for instance, are all present in all of us, and even though we know that our beliefs and actions stemming from them can be unbalanced, we would still not want to lose our capacity to experience them. The same can be said for the supersense. So embrace it, learn where it comes from, and understand why it refuses to go away. Oh, and if you are a skeptic reading this book, thanks for getting this far". [page 36].

That last part is appears to be more addressed to readers who suit what Dr Caroline Watt (co-author of '
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Format: Hardcover
SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

I read a lot of popular evolutionary psychology, anthropology, history, and related books by people like Steven Pinker, Geoffrey Miller, Matt Ridley, Bryan Sykes, Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins. If you're into these authors too, then this book is for you.

Hood's overview of the research behind our natural inclination towards superstition is well-written and easy to digest. He starts by pointing out that even the most intellectual among us has to contend with irrational fears and mystical beliefs -- the example being how most of his students will refuse to wear a sweater he tells them was once worn by a serial killer.

What I really liked about this book was Hood's position that we will never remove superstition from our lives, that it's just as much of a hard-wired instinct as language or pattern recognition. He takes a much more moderate stand on religion that Dawkins, who believes raising a kid with supernatural beliefs is intellectually abusive. Instead, Hood is one of those scientists who accepts that the best we can do is to better understand our irrational impulses and thereby improve the way we deal with them.

If you're a human nature geek like me, then put this book on your summer reading list. It's conversational and witty, with just enough new information to make it all worthwhile.

Hood is also a pretty accessible guy. I made a comment on his blog at [...] , and he got right back to me.

So here's your review, Bruce, as promised!
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Format: Hardcover
"I can believe anything provided it is incredible." - Oscar Wilde

I have always been fascinated by the things that people believe especially when faced with rational explanations that make belief an exercise in the suspension of disbelief. When I am feeling particularly smarmy about the fact that I am a skeptical and rational creature who thinks critically, I remind myself that as I sit down to write anything of import, I always pull out my *lucky* fountain pen.

I ordered this book long before it was available because I enjoyed reading Bruce Hood's blog and was thrilled when it was finally published. The book was well worth the wait - it is a great read that makes a serious subject very approachable.

There is all manner of research showing how we believe including some fairly interesting research by NIMH, and while some would argue that learning the mechanism is the first step towards abolishing belief, I think that there is something to be said for having our lucky pens.

Bruce's book presents us with the whys, wherefores and need for beliefs that would on the surface appear to contradict the serious need for critical thinking.

I didn't agree with everything... but I am going to give it a place of honor on my favorite bookshelf between "Breaking the Spell" and "Why People Believe Weird Things".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood

"SuperSense" is the engaging, fascinating book about the origins of supernatural beliefs, why they are so common, and why they may be so difficult to get rid of. It's a popular science book that is a lot to fun to read and ultimately enlightening. Dr. Bruce Hood uses modern psychology, cognitive neuroscience and an entertaining prose to entertain the masses in this wonderful and at times enthralling read. This 320-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. What Secret Do John McEnroe and David Beckham Share?, 2. Could You Wear a Killer's Cardigan?, 3. Who Created Creationism?, 4. Blooming, Bussing Babies, 5. Mind Reading, 6. Freak Accidents, 7. Would You Willingly Receive a Heart Transplant from a Murderer?, 8. Why Do Traveling Salesman Sleep with Teddy Bears?, 9. The Biology of Belief, and 10. Would You Let Your Wife Sleep with Robert Redford?

1. Fascinating topic in the hands of a master storyteller.
2. Great popular science book that is a treat to read while educational at the same time. The author does a wonderful job of intermixing sound science with an interesting narrative, and a bit of humor too for good measure.
3. Thought-provoking questions and answers based on sound science.
4. Neuroscience and psychology made fun.
5. Supersense defined. Religion, paranormal activity, and wishful thinking; the three points on a continuum of supernatural thinking.
6. So many great examples and some bordering on the bizarre but always interesting. Hood "exposes a wide range of human beliefs and behavior that go beyond traditional notions of the supernatural".
7. Great quotes abound, "Supernatural beliefs are a product of natural thinking".
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