Supersense: A Review (of sorts)

Supersense US cover

Supersense: U.S. Cover

 

“Reading SuperSense is like having lunch with your favorite professor—the conversation spans religion, biology, psychology, philosophy, and early childhood development. One thing is for sure, you’ll never see the world in the same way again.” ~ Ori Brafman, New York Times bestselling author of Sway

I have a confession to make: I actually feel a little intimidated about writing a review of Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable, the book written by one of my favorite bloggers, Bruce M. Hood. Obviously, I should explain.

I finished reading Bruce’s book a couple of months ago. My first inclination was, “Wow, that was even better than I thought that it would be.” My second inclination was that I should post a review of  the book on my blog. My third inclination was, “I’m not worthy.”

I found Supersense to be one of those books that crosses many lines: Well-written and entertaining, the book’s premise is intellectual. It appeals to a very broad spectrum of people, and it’s a great read. That in mind, when I tried to write a review, I kept feeling that I just wasn’t doing the book justice. Don’t ask me why I felt this way; it’s irrational, I know.

Hence, my usual reaction to such situations kicked in: I procrastinated until I finally became embarrassed enough in the delay that I did something about it.

A Little Background

Bruce is the Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol. His CV is mightily impressive: research fellow at Cambridge University and University College London, a visiting scientist at MIT , and a faculty professor at Harvard. But with the publication of Supersense, Bruce’s media recognition has grown exponentially. His book tour has taken him to several countries, and he has appeared on numerous radio shows, as well as on the BBC, and he has delivered several lectures on the concept of Supersense.

Let me regress here. I came upon Bruce M. Hood’s blog almost a year ago. I was immediately hooked. The posts ranged from mummified sea monsters to ideas about phrenology (studying bumps on the head), cremation and ashes, goat gonads, sitings of Jesus on a Cheetoh, and my personal favorite, saucy codpiece. It’s a wild and wonderful world at Bruce’s blog.

Would You Wear A Killer’s Cardigan?

Supersense UK cover
Supersense: UK Cover

As defined by the author, an individual’s supersense is the inclination or sense that supernatural experiences may be real, even though they are not supported by facts or substantiated by reliable evidence (paraphrased from page x in the book). Essentially, Bruce contends that as humans, we are born with this hard-wiring to try to make sense of the world in which we live, even if it means having beliefs that aren’t exactly explainable, or being superstitious, or seeing patterns. 

For example: Do you knock on wood? Have you ever thrown salt over your shoulder? Do you have a lucky suit or a certain pair of shoes that you wear to job interviews? Have you ever felt as if someone is staring at you? Supersense.

In addition to fleshing out the definition of supersense and how it “shapes our intuitions and superstitions and is essential to the way we learn to understand the world and in binding us together as a society,” the book elaborates on this premise through numerous relatable incidents such as those mentioned previously.

Bruce explores why some people would wear the cardigan (sweater for Americans) belonging to a killer while others would not, why an individual needing an organ transplant might reject an organ donated by a killer, why athletes have rituals that they repeat before beginning any game, and why the concept of security blankets and other attachment objects are so pervasive in society.

The Science and the Psychology

Of course, Supersense is foremost an exposition of a scientific premise that humans are born with this heightened, or super sense, and the author cites several studies of babies and children to support this thesis. The scholarship works companionably with the author’s use of observations and anecdotes.

Among many of the book’s reviews from authors, researchers, journals, and magazines, I read a wonderful review of Bruce’s book in Psychology Today. Written by Dave Sobel, this review delves a bit more into the child development aspects of the book in a way that I could not do justice. Sobel discusses the author’s work with Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology a Yale University. Together, the men created a “copy machine,” a machine that could supposedly make an exact duplicate of an object, when in fact, the machine was a mere magic trick.

What was interesting about this “machine,” was how children reacted to it: As Sobel explains,

“Hood and Bloom found that children were willing to accept duplicates of many kinds of familiar objects, except one specific kind—attachment objects like their security blanket or a special stuffed animal (actually, they almost never would allow these objects to be duplicated in the first place). Children recognize that an object’s experience is as critical to its identity as its physical appearance.”

“Hood’s marvelous book is an important contribution to the psychological literature that is revealing the actuality of our very irrational human nature.” ~ From Review in Science

Essentially, Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable is appealing to both the layperson and the professional. Bruce’s use of first person makes the writing extremely approachable, and his balance of humor and scientific observation work together well in keeping his audience engaged. Ultimately, the book challenges the reader to think about why it is we humans rationalize the irrational, believe in the unbelievable, and avoid walking under ladders after breaking mirrors on Friday the 13th.

You can purchase your copy of Supersense at most bookstores, or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several other sources. Something to keep in mind: This book would be the perfect gift for the skeptical reader in your life.

More later. Peace.

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Here We Go Again

What Makes Liberals Anti-American?

Virginia Is Just Plain Screwed

I’m confused. Which part of Virginia is communist, and which part is anti-American, and which part is the real Virginia? Do I live in the communist part or the anti-American part or the real part? Remember when Senator John McCain’s brother Joe said that Northern Virginia was “communist country”? And then recently, Nancy Totempole said that outside of Virginia, in the real part, we would be willing to accept John McCain’s message. But then Sarah Palin implied that if we weren’t from small towns, then we were somehow anti or un-American.

I’m so confused. Someone needs to tell me so that I can immediately begin to act in the proper way. Or maybe I’ll just act like an anti-American communist so that I’ll have the whole thing covered. I guess, in light of all of the slanderous accusations that are being tossed around, I probably fall into all of the negative categories anyway since I’m a feminist (ooh, bad word), liberal, left-wing Democrat, which means that I’m obviously an unpatriotic, un-American, anti-American, socialist, communist, wrong-thinking baaaaaad person.

Maybe it’s because I watched “Aladdin,” which as Michele Bachmann pointed out, is full of heresy and all of that good stuff.

News From North Carolina

The Associated Press reports that 63-year-old Republican Representative Robin Hayes of North Carolina told a crowd at a Republican rally,  “Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.” Hayes later claimed not to recall making the statement and said that “it came out the wrong way.”

Is he related to Jesse Helms?

And What’s Up With Florida?

When Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida) was asked before what his thoughts were on Obama, Martinez described him personally as “a great guy,” but politically too far left for his tastes. Martinez, who is half-Cuban, has also said that  he believes that “we should be in a post-racial environment” and has openly disagreed with McCain campaign manager Rick Davis for saying that Senator Obama has “played the race card, and that he (Obama) played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong” (see this link for article http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/08/mel_martinez_race_card_not_pla.php ).

What a difference a little prodding from the right can make. On Saturday, October 18 at a gathering of Florida’s top Republican leaders, Martinez compared Obama’s economic tax plans to those in Castro’s Cuba: “It didn’t work so good down there. That’s socialism, that’s communism, that’s not what Americanism is about” (OrlandoSentinel.com). Martinez is echoing the latest battle cry from McCain’s camp: At her rally in New Mexico on Sunday, the governator responded to questions as to whether or not Obama’s tax plan is socialist by saying,

“There are socialist principles to that, yes. Taking more from a small business or small business owners or from a hard working family and then redistributing that money according to a politician’s priorities . . . There are hints of socialism in there and that’s why I don’t fault or discredit Joe the Plumber for bringing that up asking if that is socialism.”

Well if the knowledgeable Joe the Plumber says so, then it must be so.

Speaking of That Dead Horse You Won’t Let Go of Governor Palin . . .

I will if you will, otherwise I might have to begin to delve into Senator McCain’s six degrees of separation from real live domestic terrorists in the anti-Castro front, the Omega 7, who were responsible for a number of bombings and killings in the 1970s (whisper . . . and Joe Lieberman, that guy who is always standing behind McCain, has promised to get them pardons) . . .

And then there is G. Gordon Liddy, my favorite psycho. Please, I could write a page on him alone. Let’s make a deal. The first mention of Jeremiah Wright, and I’ll go there. Okay?

And Just When You Thought He Was Done

By Kent Roberts

Let’s give props where props are due: A big hand to W. for staying in character right until the end. I knew that he had it in him. Gitmo Bay? Doing the right thing? Pshaw. Why on earth would he want to go and do something like that and spoil his record, especially when President Buchanan is pulling so hard for him right now. If W. just continues on this path, surely his legacy as the country’s worst president in history is a fait accompli, and Buchanan can breathe a sigh of relief. Doing something positive about the cesspool that is Guantanamo Bay would only show a spark of humanity and the end of eight long years that have proven that even a walking, talking imbecile of a human being can graduate from Yale if his daddy knows enough people.

But graduating from Yale doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be worthy to hold the office of president, any more than being governor of an oil rich state qualifies you to be vice president, no matter how much you want to pretend that the Constitution gives you capabilities exceeding those which the Founding Fathers saw fit to bestow upon that position. But hey, you can take your Todders, and your newly-outfitted and styled kids home (thank you taxpayers; that’s called sharing the wealth), to Alaska with your flute and live in your illegally-built home once all of this is over and see just how fondly your citizenry embraces you.

But enough of that Sturm and Drang. It’s late, and I grow weary.

More later. Peace.