Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there

Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there
Richard Wiseman, 2011

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, in conjunction with his UK publisher, released it himself.

This is a fantastic book, which I devoured in pretty much one sitting. It's fun to read, it's funny, and it's educational. What more could you ask?

Wiseman examines seven main subjects: Fortune-telling, Out-of-body experiences, Mind over Matter (Telekinesis), Communication with the dead, Ghosts, Mind Control (hypnosis/brainwashing), and Prophesy (Dreams/Premonitions). For each, he gives an easy to follow history of the study of the phenomenon, followed by any current scientific findings.

A lot of the book delves into the specific ways that our brain tricks us into thinking or feeling certain things. It touches on everything from studies showing how likely people are to misremember details or only remember correct information (useful for card-readers to exploit, or for people to claim they dreamed about an event beforehand) to recent developments in easily provoking a disassociation between mind and body in the lab, and how that explains out-of-body experiences. I'd heard of many of these experiments before, but still loved reading this.

The book is also full of simple experiments you can try on yourself or your friends, whether it's how to give a cold reading like a professional “psychic”, how to appear to bend spoons, or how to protect yourself from brainwashing. Also: how to hypnotize a chicken. No, really.

This is a great book for a beginning skeptic: it's accessible and fun, and it showcases some fabulous history about people trying to get to the truth, whatever it might be. Bravo!

5 Stars – An Awesome Book

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