We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
The Believing Brain Audiobook

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

Regular Price:$17.47
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Publisher's Summary

In this, his magnum opus, the world’s best known skeptic and critical thinker, Dr. Michael Shermer—founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and perennial monthly columnist (“Skeptic”) for Scientific American—presents his comprehensive theory on how beliefs are born, formed, nourished, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished. This book synthesizes Dr. Shermer’s 30 years of research to answer the question of how and why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives, from our suspicions and superstitions to our politics, economics, and social beliefs.

In this book Dr. Shermer is interested in more than just why people believe weird things, or why people believe this or that claim, but in why people believe anything at all. His thesis is straightforward: We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs, we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.

Dr. Shermer also explains the neuroscience behind our beliefs. The brain is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. These meaningful patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them—and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation. Dr. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths and to insure that we are always right.

©2011 Michael Shermer (P)2011 Michael Shermer

What the Critics Say

“The physicist Richard Feynman once said that the easiest person to fool is yourself, and as a result he argued that as a scientist one has to be especially careful to try and find out not only what is right about one's theories, but what might also be wrong with them. If we all followed this maxim of skepticism in everyday life, the world would probably be a better place. But we don't. In this book Michael Shermer lucidly describes why and how we are hard wired to 'want to believe'. With a narrative that gently flows from the personal to the profound, Shermer shares what he has learned after spending a lifetime pondering the relationship between beliefs and reality, and how to be prepared to tell the difference between the two.” (Lawrence M. Krauss, Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, author of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science)

The Believing Brain is a tour de force integrating neuroscience and the social sciences to explain how irrational beliefs are formed and reinforced, while leaving us confident our ideas are valid. This is a must read for everyone who wonders why religious and political beliefs are so rigid and polarized—or why the other side is always wrong, but somehow doesn't see it.” (Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, author of The Drunkard’s Walk and The Grand Design with Stephen Hawking)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1025 )
5 star
 (431)
4 star
 (361)
3 star
 (163)
2 star
 (48)
1 star
 (22)
Overall
4.1 (770 )
5 star
 (340)
4 star
 (261)
3 star
 (122)
2 star
 (37)
1 star
 (10)
Story
4.0 (778 )
5 star
 (302)
4 star
 (261)
3 star
 (148)
2 star
 (52)
1 star
 (15)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Douglas C. Bates Boston, MA 04-13-12
    Douglas C. Bates Boston, MA 04-13-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    426
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    334
    47
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    104
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Starts Strong, Then Wanders"

    The Believing Brain starts strong, delivering on its title promise about why people believe such strange things. Then the author begins to wander. By mid-way the book starts becoming a recap of material from other books.

    The section on politics particularly wanders. For an extended section it's about the author's own political beliefs, and subtly why those beliefs are rational, implying others' beliefs are not.

    From there the book goes on to discuss cognitive biases, the history of science, and the scientific method. All of these topics are much better covered in other books specific to those subjects.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Grant NANTUCKET, MA, United States 08-24-11
    Grant NANTUCKET, MA, United States 08-24-11 Member Since 2009

    caffeinated

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1394
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    181
    109
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    302
    10
    Overall
    "Really, really interesting stuff."

    I was skeptical of this book at first. Then I really got into it. And found myself nodding along as I listened. Perhaps I was merely subdued by my innate confirmation bias... ;-) Good stuff.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Johnny Davis 07-29-11 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Hello... this is kermit the frog here."

    Good book but the Narrator sounds to much like Kermit the frog. Extremely distracting. I will be watching out for books read by him.

    12 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew LeClaire, IA, United States 03-08-13
    Matthew LeClaire, IA, United States 03-08-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dr. Shermer is a skeptic's hero!"
    Would you listen to The Believing Brain again? Why?

    Yes, I probably will. There's a lot of information to grasp, and listening to a second time will help me recall the information in discussions on these topics.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Non-fiction, no characters.


    What does Michael Shermer bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A lot of science history is presented (maye a little too much, to be honest).


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I enjoyed the part on religion, which is my big personal point of interest.


    Any additional comments?

    Dr. Shermer does an excellent job of cutting through the noise and laying out the argument for skepticism. I really enjoyed this book, but here are my few thoughts as to what prevented it from getting five stars:

    1. I tend to be more liberal than Dr. Shermer, so his section on politics ruffled my feathers a bit. He didn't work overly hard to present an unbiased view, instead laying out a basic arguement for civil liberarianism. It was still a good section, but I found myself wanting to argue with some of the things that were written there.

    2. Dr. Shermer does the *funniest* voices sometimes when he is quoting people, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't realize it. Even when quoting someone he really respects, he does this funny mock impersonation that sounds like he is making fun of them. I actually really enjoyed that, so it didn't ding my rating at all.

    3. The book ran a little unneccessarily long at points, especially at the end. I feel like Dr. Shermer could've said everything he wanted to say in half the words, but then some editor came and prodded him into making it longer to maximize profits. I think this book could've almost succeeded better in the micro book format used by Sam Harris.

    Overall, still well worth the read! I intend to get more books by Dr. Shermer soon.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan 05-12-17
    Alan 05-12-17 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Changes your way of thinking about the world"
    If you could sum up The Believing Brain in three words, what would they be?

    Shermer does a great job of mixing scientific studies and real life examples to get his point across


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Made me question the way I look at world


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt 03-22-17
    Matt 03-22-17 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Average"

    This book leads you to believe that you will dive deep into the brian, how it acts and how you learn. But in reality it teaches you crazy things that people once believed and why they believed it.
    "Science is the way to understanding life," is the moral of this book. If you already know that this book may be a waste of your attention.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Loren 11-08-16

    Christopher Loren

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Excellent resource for the spiritually curious"

    Michael Shermer has done the metaphysical Community worldwide a great service by offering this detailed book on Superstition brain science critical thinking and the various pitfalls of dualistic belief

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josef B. 09-27-16
    Josef B. 09-27-16 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Insightful and informative"

    Michael Shermer provides a detailed look at why the brain believes and how we rationalize those beliefs. He articulates the evolutionary causes and provides a compelling argument for why religious beliefs, conspiracy theories, alien encounters, and any percieved paranormal or supernatural event are likely the ramifications of our brain's superior pattern processing ability, cognitive biases, and its lack of error detection. Thumbs Up!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    scott may here 09-23-16
    scott may here 09-23-16

    just me

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Kinda slow"

    If you believe or enjoy the paranormal like I do. You will be disappointed. The author gives random facts about the paranormal and pompously pokes fun of you if your a believer. I have an open mind or I think I do, so some of the info was fine, I think it's his delivery that troubled me. I laughed out loud several time during the book, a good thing. But in general.....the book was boring.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Khaled J. Abu Elsamid 06-06-16 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "bummer mc. buzz kill...."

    so insightful that it makes this world a little less magical... I'm at a loss...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.