Author:Canfield, Christine
Position:Book review

Michael McGuire (author); BELIEVING; Prometheus Books (Nonfiction: Science) 19.95 ISBN: 9781616148294

Byline: Christine Canfield

Why do humans hold beliefs that defy the facts? It's all brain biology.

It all began with a woman who believed she was not her parents' biological child. All evidence pointed to her being their child, and her belief did not alter her feelings toward them or interactions with them. In all other areas of life she was rational and healthy, yet even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, she could not shake this belief. Twenty years of training and experience as a psychiatrist provided no solutions for how to help her resolve this issue, so Michael McGuire set out to learn more about the biological processes of the brain to see if they offered insights that psychological and historical analyses of belief systems did not.

McGuire is professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles and coauthor of God's Brain (with Lionel Tiger) and Darwinian Psychiatry (with A. Troisi). He spent seventeen years studying vervet monkeys on St. Kitts to see if he could link biological processes to the way we create and maintain beliefs. It has long been observed that the human mind tends to be attracted to, and to more easily remember, evidence that supports an already held belief and to dismiss contrary evidence. McGuire connects this tendency to the dopamine reward system of the brain. When people feel they are right, dopamine is increased in the brain, causing them to feel pleasure. This response...

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