Misbelief: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things (Hardcover)
The renowned social scientist, professor, and bestselling author of Predictably Irrational delivers his most urgent and compelling book—an eye-opening exploration of the human side of the misinformation crisis—examining what drives otherwise rational people to adopt deeply irrational beliefs.
Misinformation affects all of us on a daily basis—from social media to larger political challenges, from casual conversations in supermarkets, to even our closest relationships. While we recognize the dangers that misinformation poses, the problem is complex—far beyond what policing social media alone can achieve—and too often our limited solutions are shaped by partisan politics and individual interpretations of truth.
In Misbelief, preeminent social scientist Dan Ariely argues that to understand the irrational appeal of misinformation, we must first understand the behavior of “misbelief”—the psychological and social journey that leads people to mistrust accepted truths, entertain alternative facts, and even embrace full-blown conspiracy theories. Misinformation, it turns out, appeals to something innate in all of us—on the right and the left—and it is only by understanding this psychology that we can blunt its effects. Grounded in years of study as well as Ariely’s own experience as a target of disinformation, Misbelief is an eye-opening and comprehensive analysis of the psychological drivers that cause otherwise rational people to adopt deeply irrational beliefs. Utilizing the latest research, Ariely reveals the key elements—emotional, cognitive, personality, and social—that drive people down the funnel of false information and mistrust, showing how under the right circumstances, anyone can become a misbeliever.
Yet Ariely also offers hope. Even as advanced artificial intelligence has become capable of generating convincing fake news stories at an unprecedented scale, he shows that awareness of these forces fueling misbelief make us, as individuals and as a society, more resilient to its allure. Combating misbelief requires a strategy rooted not in conflict, but in empathy. The sooner we recognize that misbelief is above all else a human problem, the sooner we can become the solution ourselves.
Dan Ariely is the bestselling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. He is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. He lives in North Carolina with his family.
“In this thoughtful, moving, and well-written book, Dan Ariely narrates his personal and professional journey to understand the world of misbelievers and conspiracy theories, and offers insights and tips that will hopefully help all of us protect our fragile social fabric from being torn apart by disinformation and distrust.” — Yuval Harari, bestselling author of Sapiens
“Once again Dan Ariely writes in a way that gets us to think and reflect about our human nature. In Misbelief, he helps us understand the nature of our opinions, how they’re formed, and how the forces of misinformation can distort them. This is an important book for those who want to understand themselves and the increasingly complex world around us.” — Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global
“For most of us it is tempting to think that people misbelieve things because they are uneducated, unintelligent, or misinformed. But as one of the world’s leading scientists studying beliefs, Dan Ariely, convincingly demonstrates in this important book—and as he discovered firsthand in being wrongly accused of leading a nefarious conspiracy!—misbelief is a process to which any of us can fall prey. More important, he offers science-based suggestions on what we can do about the polarization and breakdown in trust that comes with misbelief.” — Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational
“Combining remarkable personal stories and scientific data, Dan walks us through a fascinating journey into the minds of those who choose to believe untruths. Misbelief provides a highly valuable perspective that serves to help navigate and discern our modern world view.” — Jesse L. Martin, actor and star of NBC’s The Irrational
"A rigorous but also deeply compassionate book: Ariely’s goal isn’t to condemn people who fall for misinformation, but to show the reader how easy it is to believe the irrational. The book asks us to foreground empathy to reexamine some of our own beliefs." — Booklist