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Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  4,571 ratings  ·  272 reviews
Professor Richard Wiseman is clear about one thing: paranormal phenomena don't exist. But in the same way that the science of space travel transforms our everyday lives, so research into telepathy, fortune-telling and out-of-body experiences produces remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and beliefs. Paranormality embarks on a wild ghost chase into this new scienc ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Macmillan (first published 2010)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  4,571 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this book I'd seen a fair few reviews of it on Amazon claiming it was an arrogant, biased view of the unexplained. I'm happy to say that such accounts couldn't be further from the truth!

Of course, Richard Wiseman is well-known for his sceptical views amongst those interested in the supernatural, so the sceptical slant of the book shouldn't surprise anyone. However, I found the book's content to be deeply interesting and very well researched and justified. The book also has a refr
Chad Kettner
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Richard Wiseman's book, Paranormality, skillfully unravels the superstitious mind and explains how and why we tend all sorts of weird things. He focuses on fortune telling, out of body experiences, psychic power, talking with the dead, ghost hunting, mind control, and prophecy. Wiseman uses real cases and experiments as well as tests and recorded investigations to explain the claims of supernatural experiences - in a way that doesn't make somebody feel stupid for believing something strange in t ...more
Amanda Patterson
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I started reading this book in February, was interrupted for months, and finished it a short while ago.
If you want to believe in the supernatural and are not prepared to be open minded when offered evidence that clearly shows charlatans for what they are, don't read it.
However, if you want a well-constructed book that cuts through the hype of psychics & clairvoyants, read Richard Wiseman's Paranormaility.
He will show you the simple explanations behind seemingly extraordinary events. He also ex
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-culture
Also find this review at my blog 'Preludes'

Things are very rarely what they seem.

Whatever your opinions on the paranormal - be it ghosts, portents or spoon-bending - it's clear that there is a lot more at work than the simple telling of fantastical stories. Even if you believe in the supernatural, it's unlikely that you are liable to designate every medium as the genuine article, or every ghost as a genuine echo of a life long passed. The internet and TV are brimming with shows on things that g

Absolutely fantastic! Undoubtedly a book I will often be quoting in the future. It's a shame it's not required reading in high schools.
Angie Boyter
Jun 11, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
My June Amazon Prime Free Lending Library selection.
Recommended to me by the president of the National Capital Area Skeptics Society.
Very disappointed. I do not understand the high scores for this book.
I confess I aborted the read about a quarter of the way through.
It started off well, with an entertaining style and some built-in features that could only be put into an eBook, such as links to websites interviews and pictures that move. However,there were odd typographical peculiarities in the bo
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Could be re titled ‘Egotism. Why I know everything’ by Richard Wiseman.

In a gleefully condescending tone Professor Wiseman sets out from the standpoint that if something cannot be explained and understood by himself and his scientist chums then it didn’t happen, or doesn’t exist.

Some of the of the paranormal experiences he doesn’t disprove adequately. For example the case of the tennis shoe. In which a patient at a hospital reports that during an out of body experience she sees a tennis shoe on
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In haste because of my continued epic battle with the Deadline of Doom . . .

This is an excellent book which has unfortunately been published by idiots: I cannot begin to enumerate the straightforward production errors, up to and including the obvious misspelling in the chapter title "Prophesy" (and repeated throughout the chapter). I gather the book appeared in a UK edition a year later from a "proper" publisher, Pan Macmillan, and I do wish I'd had access to that version instead.

Even with all t
Emilia Barnes
An interesting look at the neuroscience of why our brains or other people can trick us sometimes into believing in the paranormal.

This is light and told with humour, which make it an excellent read for a journey or before bed. It's engaging and even if you know something about the tricks often used in, say, palm reading or fortune telling, you'll still find out lots you didn't know.

I'd be interested in chasing up some of these studies, since this scientific field is expanding and developing at
Lindsay Stares
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-on-kindle
Premise: In this delightful volume, professor and skeptic Wiseman walks us through the science behind many seemingly paranormal experiences, and even explains how you can fake the paranormal yourself!

I don't buy many books for my Kindle for more than three dollars, but I happily made an exception for this one. The big US publishers passed on Wiseman's enjoyable work, reportedly “some suggesting that I re-write it to suggest that ghosts were real and psychic powers actually existed!” So Wiseman,
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I always found it hard to reconcile having a parent who, on the one hand was highly rational and intelligent and who on the other hand occasionally confided certain experiences she had had which led her to infer that she was sensitive to the paranormal. Too sensible to call herself a medium or dabble in spiritualism; her strong Christian faith proved a bulwark against that, even though as a parent who had lost her first son in harrowing circumstances when he was just 14 she must have been sorely ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there by Professor Richard Wiseman

"Paranormality" is an interesting book about supernatural science. Professor Wiseman in an entertaining and engaging manner takes us on a fun journey of debunking popular paranormal phenomena. This 342-page book is composed of the following seven chapters: 1. Fortune-telling, 2. Out-of-body experiences, Mind over matter, 4. Talking with the dead, Intermission, 5. Ghost Hunting, 6. Mind control, and 7. Prophesy.

Domenico Conza
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
“Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there” by Richard Wiseman is an easy and enjoyable read that cover a range of topics including telekinesis, prophecy, ghosts, fortune-telling or talking to the dead, and out-of-body experiences. I liked that Wiseman wrote this book in a way that it doesn’t ruin your love for the unexplained but instead presents you with evidence, the history, and scientific explanations that even the most inexperienced skeptic could understand and learn why this phenomena’s ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
An excellent book and a must read for anyone interested in psychic phenomena or human psychology. Its a relatively quick read which looks at various aspects of the paranormal such as fortune telling, ghosts etc. Each area is backed up with video links (via Q codes) & instructions for how to recreate the experience for yourself or to demonstrate them to friends and family. I've long been fascinated by the rubber hand experiment (I had it demonstrated to me years ago) and what it reveals about the ...more
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is brilliant! Its explains how some psychic's fool you into believing their 'readings' and explains how the people experience out of body experiences, why you dream about certain things, how people really move objects with their 'mind, explains the reality of communicating with non existent spirits, psychology of suggestion, how people 'mind control', and gives great tips on how to pretend to be psychic too. Although, due to my own experiences that with some people that can't be explai ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: paranormal
3½ - nudging a 4
Quick, easy and enjoyable read. Thought I might be grappling with complex theories but not at all ............Professor Wiseman writes clearly and in an easily understandable way.
He does a very convincing debunk on ghosts, psychics, Ouija boards, table turning, out of body experiences etc.
Don't think I'll be watching any more repeats of Most Haunted now I've read this!
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Professor Wiseman takes a task of providing rational explanations of phenomena like out of body experiences, clairvoyance or ghosts.

Throughout the book he keeps the tone light hearted, tongue in cheek, while making a strong case against supernatural origins of mentioned phenomena.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a nice, entertaining read with a lot of information and value. Recommended!
Vikas Datta
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marvellous debunking of various supernatural phenomena, with wit and candour, and a paean to the strange, still not fully understood workings of that spectacular, unparalleled machine - the human brain!
The Lazy Reader
"The ability to find patterns plays a crucial role in your everyday life because you are constantly required to spot genuine instances of cause and effect. Most of the time this skill serves us well and allows us to figure our how the world works. However, once in a while it goes into overdrive and causes us to see what isn't there."

Humorous, playful, enlightening. Richard Wiseman exposes the charlatans that deal in the paranormal, but he does it with charm, wit and a healthy dose of scientif
M.G. Mason
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are many books on the paranormal, horoscopes, mediums, NDEs, OBEs, haunted houses and other such areas that make us think that there is something going on in the world that science cannot explain. On the other side there are many citing scientific evidence that it is, really, just a load of old rubbish (which most of my readers will know is my view).

Most of us, though fairly rational most of the time, will have some element of the metaphysical to which we cling. It might be religion or bel
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I try really hard to remain diplomatic when it comes to my skepticism of both religion and new age mysticism. This is mostly because those who believe are allowed to announce and discuss their belief systems ad nauseam (even when they may themselves be unaware they are even doing it); however, the second an atheist calls bullshit, we are accused of being “militant” and “just as dogmatic as anyone else.”

I will save my thoughts on organized religion for another day. This book in particular actuall
Brittany Harley
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There by Professor Richard Wiseman addresses the world of paranormal occurrences and begins to debunk supernatural myths that have been believed for years. One of the phenomenons that Professor Wiseman addresses is lucid dreaming. While this is one of the things in the paranormal category that scientists and psychologist tend to say falls out of scientific explanation Wiseman instead claims that the first lucid dream was recorded in the 1970s by Keith Herne. ...more
سلطان الشريف
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have read his other book titled : “59 seconds: think a little, change a lot”, I liked it more than this one. I liked how the author presented his idea in his books, he has a unique style for representing his ideas💡. Also I like the structure of this book, it contains interesting topics regarding the truth behind the supernatural and explains how and why these things happen. The book covers several topics such as Fortune-telling, Out-of-body experiences, Mind over matter, Talking with the dead, ...more
Yudhi Hamzah
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this book does not explains why impossible things happens. instead, it explains why people believe the impossible on the first place. from optical illusion to a simply a pure chance, the author explains why we, the smartest and most logical species ever known, sometimes seeing something that isn't there.

if you are the kind of people that believes in ghost and supernatural stuffs, don't worry, there's nothing wrong with your brain. in fact, even the most atheist scientist on earth, once in a whil
I had a somewhat difficult time finishing this book.

I liked and agreed with what the author was saying, and I definitely wouldn't call the writing "dense." But... I don't know what I was expecting, more neuroscience? Less anecdote?

Some interesting things I did learn:

One of the best ways to confuse people in a "magic" show is to demonstrate a "trick" multiple times, with slight variations. Each variation rules out a method of doing the trick... what the audience doesn't stop to consider is that e
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Ahh, love this. I’m really interested in the brain and why people believe things that they do.

He looks at, and takes apart the psychology, of psychics, cold reading, magic, ghosts and ‘psychic powers’.

What’s brilliant isn’t that these things aren’t true, it how the human brain makes stuff true, by selective memory and how despite the human brain being fantastic, evolutionarily speaking, it’s still remarkably easy to fool.

I like to think of myself as being difficult to fool, but I suspect, given
Ryan Manns
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Got this for a birthday gift from a friend. Excellent read. Would recommend it to anyone. It's shocking to see just how gullible the human mind really is despite it's amazing ability to be reason on such a high level. ...more
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2011
Completely debunks all paranormal 'activity' and very funny with it ...more
3.5 stars. Pop psychology at its most palatable. See my full review: ...more
Chun Chen Chung
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book. Richard Wiseman provides scientific explanations to many supernatural occurrence in a clear, concise, witty and humorous manner.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
Professor Richard Wiseman started his working life as a professional magician, and was one of the youngest members of The Magic Circle. He then obtained a degree in psychology from University College London and a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.

Richard currently holds Britain’s only Professorship in

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