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The Science of Superstition

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  974 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
In The Science of Superstition, cognitive psychologist Bruce Hood examines the ways in which humans understand the supernatural, revealing what makes us believe in the unbelievable.

*Previously published as SuperSense.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Feb 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, psychology
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,
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
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neuroscience
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
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cbriii
I’ve always enjoyed vigorous debate with those who don’t share my particular spiritual point of view. While none of the people I’ve had good conversations with have fit into the most extreme fundamentalist brackets, I have noticed that more evangelical Christians seem to enjoy a kind of thinking that is circular at best. I try not to just write these people off out of hand. Their experiences are unknown to me and there may be very good and rational explanations for their unshakable faith.

Well, i
John Pombrio
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
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.
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
Joshua Buhs
Jan 18, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Nonsense on stilts.

This is a book by a skeptic, though he moderates the skeptical philosophy somewhat. He argues that beliefs in what he calls the supernatural--though it's not at all clear what this term means--are inherent to the human condition. Science can help us progress, but we cannot completely eradicate these vestiges, and they might even provide a (Darwinian) adaptive role in the species survival.

So, he hates on supernaturalism, mostly, but admits its here to stay.

In itself, these idea
What a very interesting book on superstition. This book is about the natural "sense" we have that attributes supernatural elements to our lives despite all of our scientific advances. It comes from our incredible ability, our "supersense", in recognizing patterns and inferring cause and effect. We are so good at it that we attribute cause to an effect even when it doesn't really exist. This supersense is also what allows us to have more cohesive relationships, but we have to be careful, too, tha ...more
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
J.F. Penn
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Vijayakumar Belur
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The theory that our Brain is designed to believe in supersense is believable.
April Li
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Came to the library for homework and not surprisingly ended up spending half the day on the first appealing book I found. The writer is not the most logically strong explainer but he still delivered really interesting findings. Main takeaways so far: 1. Our brain is born to make sense of things even when there is no sense to be made. 2. When two things happen in sequence, we automatically believe the first one causes the second, which, in many cases of course, is wrong. 3. We think that when we ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book covered a lot of research supporting the idea that our brains are built in such a way as to make us susceptible to a whole range of supernatural beliefs. However, Hood often filters ambiguous data through the lens of his theory, without exploring very plausible alternative accounts of the data. This is not to say his interpretations are incorrect, but given that his target audience was people who were likely to be sceptical of his arguments, an extra 10 or 15 pages devoted to a deeper ...more
richard mueller
General interest book

Decided to read simply because of my thirst for general , sometimes , useless information. Unfortunately i was unable to really get involved with this book. Started reading a few times and put down. Wish i could explain why but it just couldn't hold my interest long enough to read straight thru. Not a bad book, but glad i didn't pay retail for it. You may feel entirely different. One of those.
Feb 06, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because my sister checked it out from the library one week, and seeing a book titled "The Science of Superstition", I expected nothing less than science, sort of like a Discovery-channel type of thing, in this case a look into superstitions. What I got instead was highly opinionated philosophy presented in a very condescending, matter-of-fact attitude. I did not read the entire book, I'll admit, but I read from a few different chapters. The author's attitude rubbed me the w ...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
Elizabeth Rose
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The Science of Superstition is a compelling read that lays out a convincing argument that superstition is rooted in the intuitive reasoning process of infants and thus, systemic to the human mind. Hood opens with the position that magical thinking cannot be entirely eradicated from anyone no matter how advanced technology gets or how much logic appears to hold sway over one's decision making. Nearly all people, no matter how rational they think they are, will always harbor illogical beliefs, eve ...more
M.G. Mason
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read many books on the supernatural – typically from a debunking perspective or a process of psychological evolution. Books like Paranormality by Richard Wiseman really get to the nub of supernatural belief how rituals and religions can develop from human creativity and self-awareness as a result of our intellectual evolution. Few deal with the wider implications in looking purely at why we believe.

Few go to the depth of looking at questions that many of us don’t want to answer, or maybe
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: red
Subtitle: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable. Bruce Hood tries to explain why people believe things that seem so obviously (to others) untrue. He doesn't, really, but he brings up a lot of good, and relevant, points.

The crux of Hood's answer to the question of "why would they believe that!?!?" is, "their brains are made that way". I'm not giving him enough credit with that summary, because he does spend a great deal of time looking at what is known (much of it discovered in only the last ten yea
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
Virginia Rand
The information is mostly interesting, but it could have done with a much more brutal editor. He waffles quite a lot, and when you're rehashing things that a lot of people have already said, finding a new way to say it can be very important.
Sehar  Moughal
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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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
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“We can all talk to the dead. It’s getting them to talk back that’s the hard part.”2” 7 likes
“The problem with open minds is that everything falls out—including our reason.” 3 likes
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