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NEW AND NOTABLE

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BELIEF: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling. James E. Alcock. This book, by noted psychology professor (and CSI Executive Council member) James Alcock, explores the psychology of belief—how beliefs are formed, how they are influenced by both internal factors, such as perception, memory, reason, emotion, and prior beliefs, as well as external factors, such as experience, identification with a group, social pressure, and manipulation. The book is organized into five parts: The Power of Belief, The Belief Engine, Believing, Knowing Ourselves, Belief in a World Beyond, plus a final chapter “A Firewall to Folly.” As Alcock says in his intro, “Our heads are chock-a-block with beliefs.” They lead us to our great achievements. But faulty beliefs, arising from misapprehensions, misperceptions, misunderstandings, and misconceptions, “lead to inappropriate, maladaptive, and sometimes fatal actions.” This is where virtually everything we examine in SI starts, and Alcock is a congenial and well-informed guide to our understanding. Prometheus Books, 2018, 638 pp., $28.

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Progressophobia: Why Things Are Better Than You Think They Are STEVEN PIKER Percival Lowell and the Canals of Mars The Curious Question of Ghost Taxonomy and much more!