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"Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable" by Bruce M. Hood

An excellent thesis taking on the supernaturalistic occurrences that eeriely govern our daily lives.

What an amazing book. And that's coming from someone who has been secretly anal about certain behaviors for quite some time. Never could one imagine how all of us humans succumb to a specific ritual as a "safe zone" with the reality we often face (i.e. "if everything feels like it's not going your way, put your hands together and pray").

The first chapters, including the Prologue, already make you think. If a house, where murder once took place still stood up, would you choose to live in it at a super cheap price? Author Hood knows the answer would be "no." Then, we would draw up the fact that the spirit of the killer, dead or alive, would be lurking and would haunt us in our sleep. Or would they? Another feat was the hobby of collecting (something I partake in). If the item was autographed, forged or not, many of us would run to the bank to try and obtain it, making it authentic. This interests me because this is exactly what I'm seeing, and feel, admittedly so. I collect video games—now just RPGs—and if I can't find a condition to my liking, or if it's a pirated copy, I won't buy it. However, for an expensive item, such as Nintendo World Championships, or in my case EarthBound, then purchasing a reproduction is okay. Since I don't personally own the previously said games, would it be any different from the authentic copy? This is what Hood is trying to argue.

As for our superstitious beliefs, or supersense, Hood discusses how it all started during our childhoods. There's no question how we expect Santa Claus to visit our homes to drop off some gifts for us, if we've been nice. If we've been bad, we fear we may not get anything, propelling us to behave and act in a way believing 'someone' is watching our every move. The author also discusses religion and how we come to believe in a deity from up above. My favorite was when he discussed about the likelihood of an afterlife. Although it would make existentialists smile endlessly, we'd like life to continue forever. Because death and taxes are certain in life, the main question is what happens after death. Many believe in heaven—a utopian place where everything is perfect, yet stable, and everyone gets along together in unison. Hood admits that talking about dying one day to his kids is a very uncomfortable topic, as opposed to explaining where babies come from. What I also liked was testing the reader's mind at how one produces a supersense. An example would be showing an illustration of the coco de mer nut, which looks like a bare human butt with the tail bone. Would you still eat it?

The middle chapters is where Hood begins to dig deep why humans are under belief over "something out there" causes, or has caused, something to happen. Lydia Fairchild is a perfect example, as to why she "absorbed" her twin at birth. She was "absorbed" by Karen Keegan, who was slated to be a chimera—not the creature, but genetically two people. This story, which I was unaware of at that time, caused a ruckus having detected her DNA sample and questioning the possession of her kids (at least she got back together with her partner, whom she separated with before all this chaos occurred). Another story was a girl who had a heart transplant, receiving a healthy heart from a boy who was killed. The girl lived, eventually found out who the killer was and authorities caught the killer. The third is a story about Armin Meiwes from Germany and his strong beliefs in cannibalism. (Do I have to spill the story? It's really disgusting, possibly the only part of the book where I felt nauseous.) If you have a weak stomach, mark my word and trust me that Armin's story is incredibly gross. Sharing the story would make me lose my appetite fast, and I'm sure the same will go for you. All you need to know is that munching on another human, which he did and unbelievably captured on video tape, has made him into a better human than he was previously, like being able to speak better English (the victim he ate spoke good English). So what exactly did Armin really do and how did he do it? Find out for yourself....at your own risk.

The most fascinating thing I've read happens to be the Capgras Syndrome. Here what Hood says:

"This disorder [Capgras Syndrome] is a delusional state in which the sufferer typically believes that family members have been abducted and replaced with identical replicates. Thankfully, the disorder is very rare; only a handful of cases have been reported in the literature. The delusion is associated with paranoia and can be very dangerous. Sufferers have ben known to kill 'imposters.'" (Hood, ed 2009, p.218)

Author Finckenauer said it best:

"...for understandable reasons, the eyes of the world's security forces are presently focused on fighting terrorism, more people die and more lives are ruined every year from mob-related violence, from narcotics, and from the systematic exploitation of vulnerable women and children than al-Qaeda could ever dream of." (Finckenauer, 2007 ed. p. x)

How creepy is that? There was mention that a man had to cover all the items that reflect, namely mirrors, because his wife suffers from Capgras. He finds that whenever she sees the reflection, she thinks it's another woman—not her—who looks like her about to rob her blind and take her husband. And if that isn't terrifyingly strange, this should:

"The problem in Capgras syndrome is that this emotional tag is missing from the process, and so the sufferer cannot feel that these are the same people, pets, and things that he and or she used to experience before the illness. The only logical answer must be that these are not the same people, pets, or things. Rather, they must be identical copies. It's the only way for the Capgras patient to make sense of the experience. This leads to the paranoid delusion that there is a conspiracy to replace things in the world." (Hood, ed 2009, p.219)

I remember when websites like Twitter had a huge trend about doppelgängers, and if by-golly our identical copies can replace us after death, it would be really creepy. However, wouldn't that give us a better distinction that we will 'live' forever? Personally speaking, I'm a huge introvert, and do I, by any chance after death, get replaced by my exact clone, who would be more social and outgoing and vice versa? Of course it's a rare disorder, but it sure is a crazy phenomenon.

Toward the end of book, you get the sensation of how we know someone is staring at us. And who hasn't had this feeling that someone is glaring through your bones? Things, and one mentioned previously, is how we develop a supersense. Hood argues that it's reality and coincidence; even though someone was killed in a house, it's just another house. A jacket previously worn by a serial killer is just another jacket (Hood mentions atheists also have supersense). Sure, I get a feeling that I'm being stared at, especially when I'm in no mood to dress modestly when I walk outside to get the mail. I do like when a girl, who finds a romantic interest in me, stares at me but I often don't sense it sometimes (maybe that's why she now plays hard to get, when I recognize her staring?). When I look the part, staring does feel expected because I'm fully and neatly dressed. When I underdress, that's when the sensation of someone giving me weird looks does become apparent. How? I have no explanation, to which I would just say, "I just know."

Over this last chapter, Hood states another example in developing a sudden thought when we judge something that doesn't look and seem quite right. He mentions the Ameriquest commercials, where the slogan of the situation ends with Don't judge too quickly. We won't. apparently. Click here to watch all of them (he referred to the man with his daughter and her friends, as the example, as you will see). Reminds me of the hilarious, comedic misunderstands from the hit TV sitcom Three's Company—one of my favorites.

However, there are things where I still have doubts about a supersense. Whenever my right palm itches, I know money is on the way. Before I know it, I receive an order on one of my items listed in my online store; I then receive my payment eventually. Whenever my ears would burn, someone is talking about me. I would always hope it's my left ear since it's an indication that someone is saying nice things about me, as opposed to my right ear, hence the saying "Left for Love, Right for Spite." Lastly, growing up, my parents practiced, and currently practice, Feng Shui: the art of Chinese superstition (as do I, actually). By arranging our couches the right way, we would experience increase in wealth. Usually in my room, if I hang up a double-happiness symbol, I'll be able to find the girl of my dreams, who will likely be my life partner.

The most recent phenomenon would probably be the number 143/43. Since February/March of 2009, this number, and various items shaped into a heart, is what launched my belief that Mystery Girl is out there—a girl whose heart I captured and is telepathically sending me reminders of how much she loves me (I had a web page dedicated to it but took it down). As I went through life, I thought it was Alisa, Mary, Ashley or Jardine, but neither one was. Was I over thinking it? Maybe. Even to this very day, this secret phenomenon still gets me every time. When I check the time, it's usually like 4:43PM or 11:43; when I read a book and re-check what page I'm on, I somehow stumble on page 43 or 143. Have I found Mystery Girl? Not lately, but I do get that sense. So overall, I can understand what Hood is stating with this book.

From religion, science and psychology, it's a book chocked full of mind-sticking information leaving one to logically think and question our subtle behaviors and why we act in such a way, in order to comply with our human values. A violation in human values and people would perceive that person, or those people, as disgusting (a perfect reason why most Americans get squeamish when we learn, befriend and/or know someone who doesn't believe in God or isn't religious). The trendy thing today is older women dating, having flings and/or getting married to, younger men. I'm sure other men my age always fantasized about that professor giving us seductive looks and 'punishing' us when staying after class. Women my age would think that's gross. It works the same when older men date younger women as well. If that doesn't stir you up, a dark-skinned person marrying his/her light-skinned partner would (remember Heidi Klum and Seal?). So yes, like my real-life Mystery Girl example, we overthink things sometimes. (The fact that it does lead to the happening of the said sensation really ties one up as to where we stand about our supersense. The burning ears and itchy hands are perfect examples, since they always happen to me, so it's hard to say for me, but good to know.)

Even if you are religious, keep an open mind and pick this book up. Although it will not convert you, it will give you a clearer sense as to why we all believe there are various "somethings" that linger, cause or haunt the best of us, influence the outcomes of our lives and why some things are valuable while others are not. The writing is very gentle and friendly, but it's stuffed with a ton of information so rereading will be put in place.

Recommended very highly!





  • Informative take behind the forces in what causes superstitious beliefs.
  • Two words: teddy bears.
  • That cannabalism story will guarantee discomfort (we're certain someone out there leaked the video footage online).
  • A book worthy of producing its own documentary on the subject.
  • None.
100% (A+)
Fan Rating
Title Supersense

Why We Believe In The Unbelievable
Author(s) Bruce M. Hood (www brucemhood com)
Description The majority of the world's population is religious or believes in supernatural phenomena. In the United States, nine out of every ten adults believe in God, and a recent Gallup poll found that about three out of four Americans believe in some form of telepathy, déjà vu, ghosts, or past lives. Where does such supernatural thinking come from? Are we indoctrinated by our parents, churches, and media, or do such beliefs originate somewhere else? In SuperSense, award-winning cognitive scientist Bruce M. Hood reveals the science behind our beliefs in the supernatural.

Superstitions are common. Many of us cross our fingers, knock on wood, step around black cats, and avoid walking under ladders. John McEnroe refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points. Wade Boggs insisted on eating a chicken dinner before every Boston Red Sox game. President Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary and continued the tradition on every subsequent election day.

Supernatural thinking includes loftier beliefs as well, such as the sentimental value we place on photos of loved ones, weddings rings, and teddy bears. It also includes spiritual beliefs and the hope for an afterlife. But in this modern, scientific age, why do we hold on to these behaviors and beliefs?

It turns out that beliefs in things beyond what is rational or natural is common to humans and appears very early in childhood. In fact, according to Hood, this "super sense" is something we're born with to develop and is essential to the way we learn to understand the world. We couldn't live without it!

Our minds are designed from the very start to think there are unseen patterns, forces, and essences inhabiting the world, and it is unlikely that any effort to get rid of supernatural beliefs, or the superstitious behaviors that accompany them, will be successful. These common beliefs and sacred values are essential in binding us together as a society because they help is to see ourselves connected to each other at a deeper level.

Today we divide the world into natural and supernatural. We use our five senses to understand the natural world, but our senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing do not account for our sense of the supernatural. In SuperSense, cognitive psychologist Bruce Hood examines the ways in which humans understand the supernatural, revealing a deeper look into what makes us believe in the unbelievable.
Dedication "I dedicate this book to my girls"
ISBN 978-0-06-145264-2
Book Dimensions Width: 6.38″ (6 3/8″)
Height: 9.38″ (9 3/8″)
Depth: 1.13″ (1 1/8″)
Page Count 324
Contents Prologue, ten (10) chapters, Epilogue, Acknowledgements, Source Notes, Index
Book Design Sharon VanLoozenoord
Jacket Design www.levanfisherdesign.com
Author Photograph Jason Ingram
Published April 09, 2009
Publisher HarperOne: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers (www.harperone.com)
Copyright © 2009 by Bruce M. Hood
Printed in United States of America
Book Format Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audible (Unabridged)
Quoted Reviews "There has been a lot written about religion, superstition, and faith, but there has never been a book like this.... SuperSense is a joy to read, deeply clever and funny, replete with brilliant insights and observations." — Paul Bloom, professor of psychology, Yale University and author of Descartes' Baby

"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, author of Sway

"Magical thinking is a defining feature of the human mind—the source of all that is sublime and absurd about our species. In this timely exploration of the psychology of irrational belief, Bruce Hood pulls off the rare feat of being both authoritative and wonderfully entertaining. Brilliant." — Paul Broks, author of Into the Silent Land

"SuperSense is a terrifically fun read. But it is much more; though we may forever believe in ghosts, goblins, and beneficent deities, with a dose of skeptical realism, à la Hood, there is hope that sanity will prevail." — Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, Harvard University and author of Moral Minds
Best Seller's List --
Other A paperback edition of this book is titled The Science of Superstition.

Bruce M. Hood is chair of the Cognitive Development Center in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol. He was a research fellow at Cambridge and has been a visiting scientist at MIT and professor at Harvard. Hood has received many awards for his work in child development and cognitive neuroscience. Visit the author online at www brucemhood com.
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
1. Belief and doubt.
2. Supernatural.
3. Psychology and religion.
4. Psychology, Religious.
I. Title.
CIP Number ???
LC Control Number 2008015038
LC Call Number BF773.H66  2008
DDC Call Number 153.4—dc22


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