Belief: What it Means to Believe and why Our Convictions are So Compelling

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Prometheus Books, 2018 - PSYCHOLOGY - 638 pages
An expert on the psychology of belief examines how our thoughts and feelings, actions and reactions, respond not to the world as it actually is but to the world as we believeit to be.

This book explores the psychology of belief - how beliefs are formed, how they are influenced both by internal factors, such as perception, memory, reason, emotion, and prior beliefs, as well as external factors, such as experience, identification with a group, social pressure, and manipulation. It also reveals how vulnerable beliefs are to error, and how they can be held with great confidence even when factually false.

The author, a social psychologist who specializes in the psychology of belief, elucidates how the brain and nervous system function to create the perceptions, memories, and emotions that shape belief. He explains how and why distorted perceptions, false memories, and inappropriate emotional reactions that sometimes lead us to embrace false beliefs are natural products of mental functioning. He also shows why it is so difficult to change our beliefs when they collide with contradictions.

Covering a wide range -- from self-perception and the perceived validity of everyday experience to paranormal, religious, and even fatal beliefs--the book demonstrates how crucial beliefs are to molding our experience and why they have such a powerful hold on our behavior.
 

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Contents

Foreword by Ray Hyman
9
THE POWER OF BELIEF
15
THE BELIEF ENGINE
43
PHRT BELIEFSIHBILITY AND CHANGE
149
Beliefs about Ourselves
251
Not Quite in Our Right Minds
281
Belief and WellBeing
307
Belief and Healing
329
The God Engine
407
Things That Go Bump in the Night
439
Chapter 18 Illusory Experience
459
A Caboodle of Strange Beliefs
487
WETTING BELIEF
519
A Firewall to Folly
521
Notes
535
Index
609

Folk Remedies and Alternative Medicine
351
Magic and Superstition
383

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About the author (2018)

James E. Alcock, PhD, is professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and the author of many books, book chapters, and articles on social psychology and the psychology of belief, most recently An Introduction to Social Psychology (with Stan Sadava). He is also a registered clinical psychologist who works in private practice. He is on the executive council of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and on the editorial board of Skeptical Inquirer. His previous work includes a special research project on parapsychology for the National Academy of Sciences.

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