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Your Deceptive Mind: Part 2, The Neuroscience of Belie

By Frank Simons

This video presentation will cover why people believe what they do.

Humans are emotional creatures, and this has a powerful effect on our reasoning. In this presentation, you will learn about the neurological organization of the brain and how it relates to the ways you rationalize beliefs and are influenced by basic human desires and emotions. Additionally, you will learn what drives the human desire for belief and for the specific things you believe in. The hope is that by understanding what motivates humans, you will be able to transcend or at least mitigate the influence of those motivations.

Our brains are belief machines. We are motivated to believe, especially those things that we want to believe. The default mode of human psychology is to arrive at beliefs for largely emotional reasons and then to employ our reason—more to justify those beliefs than to modify or arrive at those beliefs in the first place. Therefore, in many ways, we are slaves to our own emotions if we let ourselves be. It is helpful to try to understand this interaction between belief, motivation, and reason in the context of microanatomy—or understanding the way our brains are organized.

The most recently evolved parts of our brain, specifically the frontal lobe portion of the neocortex, hierarchically can modify and control the earlier evolved, more primitive, parts of our brain. The brain stem is the area associated with the most primitive functions. In addition to the most basic functions, such as breathing and maintaining balance while we walk, much of our cognition takes place in our subconscious, or in the more primitive parts of our brain, which are also where our emotions are housed. Emotions make quick decisions for us that are mostly adaptive, evolved strategies, including fear, lust, hunger, anxiety, disgust, happiness, and sadness. The idea is that emotions provide a direct behavioral motivation so that we don’t have to calculate the risks of encountering a predator versus fleeing, for example. We simply experience the emotion of fear, and then we act upon that emotion. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs posits that we have, in addition to the basic emotions, a set of higher psychological needs: the desire to be safe, to be loved, to have self-esteem, and to experience self-actualization.

The course is presented by Steven Novella, MD, an academic neurologist with the Yale School of Medicine. He is host and producer of the award-winning podcast, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. Additionally, he writes a regular column for Skeptical Inquirer. He maintains a personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, covering news and issues in neuroscience, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr Novella is also the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a group medical and health blog.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Your Deceptive Mind: Part 2, “The Neuroscience of Belief”

Thu, Jul 5, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejón Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted


044 415 156 1950


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