1st Edition

Science, Pseudo-science, Non-sense, and Critical Thinking Why the Differences Matter

By Gershon Ben-Shakhar, Marianna Barr Copyright 2019
    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    Science, Pseudo-science, Non-sense, and Critical Thinking shines an unforgiving light on popular and lucrative ‘miraculous’ practices that promise to offer answers during times of trouble. Throughout the book, the authors unfold the fallacies underlying these practices, as well as consumers’ need and desire to believe in them.

    Adopting a scientific approach, the book critically evaluates research into cold-reading practices, such as those that claim to be able to communicate with the afterlife or posess supernatural powers, before considering a range of pseudo-sciences including graphology and polygraph interrogation, exposing the pretensions of these practices in a clear and logical fashion. The book seeks to encourage critical thinking throughout, asking whether there is any scientific evidence to support these practitioners’ abilities to supply us with reliable answers, and discussing the various factors that comprise the psychological mechanism of belief.

    Written in a fluent and accessible style, Science, Pseudo-science, Non-sense, and Critical Thinking is aimed at interested professionals and the public at large.





    Chapter One

    You Have Great Unfulfilled Potential: Cold (Psychic) Reading

    What is Cold Reading?

    Tarot Cards

    Cold Reading and Psychological Science

    How does it Work?

    Why does it Work?

    How Much Does it Cost?



    Chapter Two

    "They Love you and you know that": Astrology

    An Overview of Astrology

    Astrology and Science



    Chapter Three

    Show me your handwriting and I’ll tell you who you are: Graphology

    Science and Pseudo-Science

    History of Graphology

    The Use of Graphology

    Is Handwriting Truly a Mirror of our Personality?

    The Validity of Graphology



    Chapter Four

    Pinocchio’s Nose: The Truth behind the Lie-Detector

    Oops, an Innocent Man has been condemned to Life Imprisonment

    Lying, Honesty and the Desire to Tell them Apart

    The Truth will out: A Brief History of the Polygraph

    The Relevant/Irrelevant Question Test (R/I)

    The Control (Comparison) Question Test (CQT)

    The Direct Lie Test (DLT)

    The Concealed Information Test (CIT)

    The CQT versus the CIT – where is the Scientific Basis?

    Accuracy of the CQT versus the CIT

    The Use of the Polygraph in Screening and Classification Processes

    The Use of the Integrity Test as an Alternative to the CQT




    Chapter Five

    "Since Man Cannot Live without Miracles, he will Provide Himself with Miracles of his Own Making": The belief in Practices based on Cold Reading, Mysticism, and Pseudo-Science

    The Need to Believe

    Abuse of the need to believe

    Popular Beliefs

    Bias in Human Judgment

    The Clients’ Belief

    The Burden of Doubt and Incertitude

    The Need to Remove Personal Responsibility

    The Influence of the Barnum Effect

    Bias for Positive Evidence

    Social and Cultural Influences (Conformity)

    Shifting the Burden of Proof

    The Practitioners’ Belief

    The Confirmation Bias

    Illusory Validity


    A Final Word


    Gershon Ben-Shakhar is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a leading expert in the psychophysiological detection of deception.

     Marianna Barr studied English and Comparative Literature. She has written and translated poetry as well as translated numerous theoretical books, essays, and short stories.

    "In our post-modern era in which the distinction between truth and fiction is increasingly blurred and practices offering quick solutions are more popular than ever, Science, Pseudo-science, Non-sense, and Critical Thinking is a must read. In accessible and often humorous language, Barr and Ben-Shakhar debunk practices based on mysticism and pseudoscience, offer illuminating insights into our beliefs, and demonstrate the promise of critical thinking. Reading this book was sheer pleasure. I will recommend it to all my students because critical thinking is important not just for science, it is important for our everyday life." - Ram Frost, Professor of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel