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10 Apr 2018

Understanding Belief

James E Alcock. Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling. Prometheus Books (3 April 2018)
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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 specialises 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 moulding our experience and why they have such a powerful hold on our behaviour.