On My Mind

Sergio Della Sala. Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and the Brain. John Wiley, 1999.
Della Sala has assembled a multinational team to produce a series of largely sceptical pieces, examining a range of popular beliefs about the mind and brain. While chiefly aimed at students and fellow professionals, most of the contributions will be accessible to the lay reader. They include studies of topics familiar to Magonia readers such as near death experiences, hypnosis, false memories, and the paranormal, including a piece on conjurers' methods by Randi. Though I sometimes wonder whether the willingness of many sceptics to take everything Randi says at face value is not itself a form of credulity!

Other topics such as the role of the placebo (did you know that you can get the nasty side affects from placebos?), tracing the origin of the idea that  'we only use 10% of our brain', a critique of the myth of the right hemisphere of the brain, will be of less familiarity. I would recommend the various articles on different brain stimulation machines and techniques, and on the role of advertising, for some prime examples of pseudoscience. While some of the topics have indeed been well covered elsewhere, the chief value in this book probably lies in the assemblage of critical material on a variety of topics together. – Peter Rogerson. Magonia 69, December 1999.

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