SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable
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SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  434 ratings  ·  72 reviews
The majority of the world's population is religious or believes in supernatural phenomena. In the United States, nine out of every ten adults believe in God, and a recent Gallup poll found that about three out of four Americans believe in some form of telepathy, déjà vu, ghosts, or past lives. Where does such supernatural thinking come from? Are we indoctrinated by our par...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by HarperOne (first published 2009)
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Like many of you who are reading this, I can't throw books away. Even thinking about it makes me uncomfortable, so there is no way I could possibly hold a book over a garbage can and just let it drop. Ugh.

I don't know why this should be, to be honest. I mean, they're just books, right? Paper and ink that anyone can buy. And not even special books - first edition, autor-signed, given to me by my beloved grandmother on her deathbed. I would be hard-pressed to throw away even bad books. Mein Kampf,...more
My sister and I sort of looked at this together -- a sceptical atheist about to do a medical degree and a religious humanities graduate would not, you might think, agree at all when it comes to a book about supernatural feelings, thoughts and beliefs. (Before we go further, I'll add that I am the humanities graduate, for those who don't know me.) You'd think I'd be more resistant to the conclusions of the book, and that she'd be much happier to go along with it.

As it is, we both found the ideas...more
OK, so this is a solid book by a neuroscientist on why we believe things that have no rational or logical pattern behind them. It starts with a cardigan, then Hood tells people that a mass murderer wore the cardigan. All of the sudden, people are skeeved out; they feel the material is contaminated with evil. What does this mean? Why does this happen?

Hood explains the physical science and the relative ridiculousness of such beliefs. He is an expert in children, so he spends a lot of time there. H...more
Will Byrnes
What is it about people that we are so suggestible when it comes to magical interpretations of the world around us? Hood offers answers in this enlightening analysis of how it is that we buy into such obvious silliness, and why we are unlikely to ever evolve into a purely rational species.

Sorry, I did not really write a full review of this, but I found a wealth of passages in the book that I found interesting.

P xiv
Humans are naturally inclined towards supernatural beliefs. Many highly educated a...more
Joel Justiss
Hood, a cognitive neuroscientist, pulls together common experience and neuroscience to paint an enlightening picture of how and why we tend to hold supernatural ideas. He explains how children develop theories about how the world works, and shows that adults retain and use those intuitions along with rational thought.

One form of intuitive thinking is the concept that things have non-physical properties that make them unique. For example, objects owned by a celebrity are valued because of that as...more
John Pombrio
I could never understand why normal, educated folks like myself could possibly believe in such strange things like ghosts, good luck charms, ESP, an afterlife, and a host of other supernatural events. For the first time EVER, I finally found someone who could explain such things in a reasonable, well thought out and at times, humorous way. And it is the most obvious of reasons, one that is right under our noses (literally!), a look at the world through a child's eyes and mind.
I enjoyed the book...more
It's pretty easy to spot books that are stitched together from lectures and talks. They tend to be amorphous and directionless, and this one is no exception. It wouldn't be so bad except I've heard similar lectures and talks, so this was like a bad dream where I'm back in college, but I haven't studied. Plus, I'm not wearing pants.
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 compos...more
I was not much impressed by this one. The author understands and does a good job of explaining the cognitive mechanisms that cause humans to develop religious beliefs and other superstitions, but he makes the whole book foolish by claiming that these irrational beliefs are somehow necessary to human culture and society. As he puts it, "These beliefs and sacred values are essential in binding us together as a society because they help us to see ourselves connected to each other at a deeper level....more
Meaghan McQuade
Frankly, this book pissed me off! Scientists seem to forget that science is simply one form of knowledge and that it is merely a lens for reality. Evolutionary theories are certainly valid, but you have to remember that these are made post hoc and cannot be tested in the same way that other scientific theories can. This book does bring up some interesting points about why we are inclined to believe in the supernatural, however, it is important to keep in mind that before gravity was scientifical...more
This book was absolutely phenomenal. Steven Pinker says, "An intriguing look at a feature of the human mind that is subtle in its operation but profound in its consequences."

Some may know that my Minor in college at U.C. Davis was Psychology, and I recall several of the experiments referred to in this book, but in Supersense, many events receive clarity like never before. The book delves into not only our human beliefs, but WHY we believe the way we do. And you don't need a college education to...more
A fantastic read for everyone.. even those who do not believe in having super sense. I would recommend to re-analyze your beliefs and read this book. Hood introduces the topic by asking whether people would wear a cardigan if it belonged to a killer? Throughout the book, real-life examples are provided which creates a feeling of relatedness for the reader. He does discuss behaviourism and the role reinforcement and punishment plays on superstitious behavior, however, completely misunderstands th...more
Compared to some of the books of the same genre, which often seem to unravel into an angry rant against God/gods, this book is rational and scientific. Professor Hood's tone is gentle, endearing, and witty. He exposes and explains the evolutionary reasons for human superstition and religion, without any moral judgement, but with a lot of sense! I can't recommend highly enough to skeptics and believers alike.
J.F. Penn
I like this book a lot because it understands that we don't have to be
a) religious or
b) atheists
Many of us, like myself, consider ourselves spiritual - but don't adhere to a specific religion. This book remains on my active Kindle list as I want to re-read and make notes. Recommended for those thinking about faith and who might sit on the margins themselves.
It was interesting to be reading this right after Unbelievable, as they both address theories of the mind. But while the author of Unbelievable has more of an open mind, Bruce Hood seems to be set in what he believes, and not all that interested in exploring the benefits of what he calls the "supersense", i.e. supernatural thinking.

His expertise is in children and so he spends a lot of time going over theories of what kids believe, and why. The book grows repetitive and I felt myself skimming a...more
Jul 29, 2009 Marfita rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone - should be required reading
Recommended to Marfita by: Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist
Shelves: religion-atheism
This was an eminently readable book about a fascinating topic. Hood posits that supernatural thinking (which covers a wide range of beliefs from religion to the feeling that someone is looking at you) is one of the bag of tricks in all human brains that came to us thanks to evolution. Is it possible to be free from it? Probably not, and this Supersense has its use in creating a sense of community in people, in sorting, in categorizing. Religion, it seems, is just a bonus. I read a review about t...more
Al Bità
This is a fascinating account of brain science, written for the masses. It is concerned with examining the cognitive development of human beings, and through the use of numerous studies, suggests that we all necessarily have what the author calls a 'supersense' which naturally produces a sense of the 'supernatural' that even the most intellectual of us is unable to avoid. Hood argues that this is why even the most rational and sceptical among us still retain superstitious beliefs and practices (...more
Todd Martin
In “SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable”, Bruce Hood examines the human propensity to believe in things that don’t exist. These include things like psychic phenomenon and commercial claims to religious beliefs and the afterlife. Hood considers these beliefs to be natural products of the way the mind functions when we are children. Children are predisposed to supernatural explanations of the world. These beliefs may be retained as we develop into adults or be reinforced by culture, res...more
full disclosure: I am acquainted with Dr. Hood and members of his lab. SuperSense is written in a breezy, accessible style which could perhaps have used a bit more editing, but which I found very entertaining and a joy to read. Separately, I love the sections on the nature of our supersense and on cognitive development. There's no good pop science treatment of cognitive development that I'm aware of, and I think Bruce did a great job of summarizing a lot of the research in a very diverse and div...more
This came in store, I skimmed the back cover and thought it sounded interesting so here we go again spending even more money on books.

This book looks at the belief in the supernatural (religious and/or secular) and delves a little into why we as rational people still choose/want/need to believe in something that clearly isn't rational (don't become outraged - your belief cannot be measured or seen and it doesn't follow any of nature's laws, thus you can't rationalise it's existence, that's why i...more
One thing I love about the library is that it's liberated me from that feeling of fiscal responsibility to finish a book I just paid for. I didn't finish reading this book.

I felt like this was a book where somebody kept talking about the trick instead of doing the trick. "Now, then i will prove why we believe in super sense. See, I will soon be proving why super sense is natural. Very soon you will be wowed and amazing by why we all have super sense." Okay, buddy, I get it! Just tell us what th...more
This book is a bit of a surprise. When I first saw it on the shelves I ignored because the cover made me think it was trying to support supernatural beliefs. (OK... you shouldn't judge by the cover... but who can honestly say they don't?)

Then I saw it advertised as a daily deal on the Kindle for 99p, gave the description a read and thought it was a debunking of supernatural beliefs. So I bought it. I'll admit, I was looking forward to a smug time of having what I considered to be my "Rational" s...more
Far too subjective a book for what should have been objective. If you're interested in this subject there's far better and more varied information for free online. I found this book extremely disrespectful. He repeatedly tells the reader how stupid various beliefs are, especially religion, and he doesn't actually say much. Some of the facts are interesting but they are just proving the same point over and over and it was in no way necessary to shoot down people for believing what they do in orde...more
I really enjoyed this book. It's a book where you read a chapter, set it aside, and think about what you learned, promoting comprehension. The author's main thesis, which he comes back to fruitlessly, is that humans are inherently born with this supernatural sense. Lots of interesting psychological experiments on children, some of which I may have to try on my cousin's infant when I see him. (but definitely nothing like these:

My one complaint is that som...more
Jill Edmondson
I think I'm the wrong reader for this book. I bought it quite randomly (sale table!) and was piqued by the general idea. However, it really focuses on babies and how they learn to think/believe, and how the brain develops. I'm not overly interested in paediatric brain development. Nonetheless, some of the tests, experiments and research he discusses are rather interesting.
Steve Strong
In the first few chapters he sets up an very intriguing question of ways we all think about feeling that "there's something more". How or what labels vary. It really got me thinking, in fact enough to finish the book. After the initial hypothesis, the rest of the book seemed like a long inexhaustible list of folk myth and medical hear-say, but were linked just enough to keep me rethinking the original concept. Not sure I could recommend the whole book, but the first few chapters are worth it.

Chris Mawbey
I don't normally read a lot of non-fiction but bought this book for two reasons. Firstly, I'm interested in psychology and the supernatural. Secondly, I thought it might prove to be a bit of useful research into the motives and thought processes of some of the characters I create.
Whilst it helped to some extent with research, and did give me some ideas, it was as a general read about psychology that I enjoyed the book most.
I found that it went some way towards answering a number of questions I h...more
This book is very similar to Michael Shermer's books Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain. However, while Shermer does have a degree in psychology, he tends to be more focused on the debunking rather than explaining WHY people actually do believe weird things (though The Believing Brain does actually use a good bit of psychology). Bruce Hood focuses a lot more on the psychology of belief, which I find very interesting. I think anyone that enjoys Michael Shermer's books will en...more
I wanted to read this book because although I consider myself to be a rational person, I'm unaccountably superstitious about weird things. I did gain insight into why people have such a tendancy toward fanciful explanations for things we don't understand, and a predisposition to see patterns where there really aren't any. In the end, am I now cured? Uh, no. But I do understand myself (and others) better for having read this.

"We are inclined from the start to think that there are unseen patterns,...more
Ed Smiley
The "Supersense" referred to is in essence the intuitive and naive categorizations, rudimentary taxonomies, and perceptual/physical models that, although, insufficiently rational, underlie much of our thinking.

The author explores this in a variety of ways, the "ick" factor, ethics, superstition, supernatural belief, religion love, and social adhesion. Although in a sense a rationalist skeptic, his approach is a "soft" skepticism, in that he views the supersense and the rational as dual modalitie...more
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I was born in Toronto, Canada, and my middle name is MacFarlane. This a legacy of my Scottish heritage on my father's side. My mother is Australian and has the very unusual first name of Loyale. I used to believe for many years that she had two sisters called Hope and Faith, but that was just my fertile imagination. Why Toronto I hear you ask. My father was a journalist and plied his art on variou...more
More about Bruce M. Hood...
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