Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Richard Wiseman

Paranormality cover  

People believe in a great variety of spooky things that aren't true. Richard Wiseman focuses on why paranormal beliefs have such a hold on our imaginations, and asks what they can teach us about the way our minds work.

The book covers fortune telling, out of body experiences, mind over matter, seances, ghost hunting, psychics and prophecy. It's delivered in bite-sized chapters and written in an informal and accessible style. Professor Wiseman is an absolute sceptic, but he approaches each aspect of the paranormal with a great deal of curiosity. He's eager to pick apart why we're so easily fooled in certain ways, and to figure out why some beliefs are so persistent in the face of compelling evidence that they are false.

When it comes to fortune telling the author looks at the way we remember things selectively. We tend to hear whatever we find the most flattering, and filter out the rest. And when we hear a number of conflicting statements we are inclined to latch on to the accurate ones and forget the others. There's a handy guide to making vague statements and broadening out guesses so you can perform your own sham psychic readings.

This is a book full of charlatans. There's a brief history of spiritualism and the deceit of its founders, as well as a few people who claimed their tricks were the result of something more than practice and cunning sleight of hand. But the author concedes that paranormal experiences aren't always the result of an intent to mislead. People are inclined to believe the impossible due to everything from the tiny movements we make when we're thinking about things, to visual afterimages, or even a failure of experimental techniques.

The book ends with a handful of "superhero" tricks you can use to impress people with, using the principles discussed in the book. They're rather like party pieces, and that sums up the tone of this work quite well. It's entertaining and light, and it covers a wide range of paranormal phenomena in short, sensationalist anecdotes with plenty of pictures. Sleights of Mind covers similar ground in greater depth. Paranormality is highly readable and interesting, but it's an introductory version for readers new to neuroscience.

3rd May 2011

Book Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Books


If you like this, try:

Hallucinations cover    

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
The neurologist Oliver Sacks examines the varied reasons why people may sense things that aren't there.

Mistification cover    

Mistification by Kaaron Warren
His magic is real. But how long can Marvo the Magician keep everyone fooled with his illusions?

Sleights of Mind cover    

Sleights of Mind by Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde with Sandra Blakeslee
This book explores the things magicians can teach neuroscientists about the way our minds work.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

Source: own copy
Read more about Richard Wiseman