New York Times bestselling author Dan Ariely
What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things
This book is dedicated to the misbelievers who helped me understand their worldview and, in the process, better understand the world we all share.
Many of them started out as personal antagonists but became my anthropological guides. A few, in a strange way, became sort of something not exactly like friends.
My deep thanks for your time and efforts.
In the early Covid days, I had the misfortune to experience first-hand how it feels to be brutally attacked by people who believed that Covid was a plot designed to destroy humanity. One of the results of this experience was my fascination with the process by which people adopt beliefs that are patently untrue about other individuals, the news, and institutions. This book is partly a description of the people and experiences I encountered along my journey. But mostly it’s an explanation of the psychological machine that takes people and changes them in ways that seem difficult to understand. A psychological machine I call “the funnel of misbelief.”
The funnel of misbelief is not a simple machine, and it includes multiple elements including stress, confirmation bias, a need for somebody or something to blame, and motivated reasoning. The funnel of misbelief is not indifferent to personality differences, and some people are more likely to go down the funnel of misbelief than others. Oddly, the personality characteristics that are more likely to make people go down the funnel of misbelief, are not necessarily bad ones, and they include intuitive reasoning, trust in their own opinions, and creativity. And of course, the funnel of misbelief is also influenced to a large degree by social elements, both in person and online. I also learned that the farther down the funnel people fall, the more difficult it is for them to escape.
In the last few years, we have all had people close to us who have been touched by the funnel of misbelief to some degree or another and understanding this process is important to all of us. But, the hope of this book is to go beyond describing what is going on around us, and provide some helpful tools for how we can each deal with the complex world of information that we are constantly bombarded with, and the complex and sometimes painful social world that comes with it. Good luck to all of us as we navigate this new era in our human journey.
Yuval Noah Harari
Bestselling author of Sapiens
"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."
Founder & CEO, Thrive Global
"Once again Dan Ariely writes in a way that gets us to think and reflect about our human nature. In Misbelief, Ariely 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."
Publisher Skeptic magazine and author of Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational
"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 first hand in being wrongly accused of leading a nefarious conspiracy!), Misbelief is a process to which any of us can fall prey. More importantly, he offers science-based suggestions on what we can do about the polarization and breakdown in trust that comes with Misbelief."
Co-author, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending
"A fascinating tour of the (frighteningly) many ways in which our minds can lead us to misbelieve."
Professor, Columbia Business School
"Dan Ariely does to false beliefs what he did to rationality - breaks it down, explains it, and builds it back up in a way that suddenly makes sense."
Professor Emeritus, Stern School of Business, NYU
"The global economy is experiencing multiple types of fundamental challenges and threats. From trade wars to cold and hot wars to inflation to climate change and productivity slowdown. In Misbelief Dan Ariely identifies another important challenge, which is the increased intensity in false beliefs across the globe, the decrease in trust, and, consequently, the difficulties of societies to work together toward a common goal. Although complex and somewhat depressing, the perspective Ariely shares sheds an important light on this crucial challenge for modern society. A must read for anybody trying to understand the world we live in."
Professor, Harvard University
"In an era marked by misinformation this illuminating book, 'Misbelief,' is a must-read for both sides of our divided world. Ariely explores the profound impact of misguided beliefs with compelling research, personal anecdotes, and amusing stories. He convincingly shows how Misbelief shapes decisions, distorts perceptions, and alters interactions, prompting readers to confront their own biases and reflect on the dangers of unquestioned assumptions."