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.