Check out my latest book!  Out on Sept 19th, but you can pre-order it starting today!

July 19, 2023 BY Dan Ariely

Check out my latest book!  Out on September 19th, but you can pre-order it starting today!


MISBELIEF: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things.

During the darkest early days of the pandemic, I was demonized by online misbelievers who falsely accused me of being a mastermind behind universal mask mandates and the chief engineer of the “Covid-19 fraud.”  Attempts to explain my position to my attackers only escalated their vehement declarations. The experience, as disturbing and devastating as it was, inspired me to dig into the innate origins of these people’s unfounded and immovable convictions.

More generally, in recent years, we have more frequently been confronted with the outlandish conspiracy-laden misbeliefs of those around us. Even close family and friends may freely spout misinformation that gives us pause. Under the right circumstances, anyone can become a misbeliever.

In this book, I analyze the psychological machinery that changes beliefs to such an extent that people no longer trust media, institutions, and health systems. The four main elements of this psychological machinery are:

  • Pressure, stress, and resentment over perceived mistreatment are key emotional factors—and at the center of many misbelievers’ journeys that began during the pandemic.
  • Our rational capacities can be used in highly irrational ways to form and confirm beliefs. We think we are information machines that objectively take in information, record it, analyze it, and come to logical conclusions. But nothing could be farther from the truth. We have evolved a complex, sometimes sophisticated, sometimes flawed, and sometimes downright faulty set of shortcuts for processing the often-overwhelming world we live in.
  • Many of the mechanisms that draw people into the funnel of misbelief are common human characteristics. Yet not all human beings are equally susceptible. Our individual differences— our personalities—play a role. Why are some people more susceptible than others? Individual differences and certain personality traits such as patternicity, the tendency to trust one’s intuitions, certain decision-making biases, and narcissism add to the picture.
  • Social forces are at work at every stage of a misbeliever’s progression. Even the slightest degree of ostracism by family and friends can loom large in the consciousness of someone who is taking their first steps into misbelief, pushing them more forcefully into the funnel. The sense of being welcomed, acknowledged, heard, respected, and praised by fellow misbelievers creates a powerful pull of belonging. Social forces accelerate misbelief, driving people to embrace more extreme positions in order to prove loyalty and gain status. Fear of social rejection or ostracism make it very hard for them to change their beliefs once again.

Even in a time when artificial intelligence can generate convincing fake news that feeds misbelief, there is hope. There are many things we can do to mitigate the problem, and there are many more things we don’t know what to do about—yet. What is certain is that the strategies to help combat misbelief will have to be rooted not in conflict, but in understanding and empathy. The sooner we recognize that this is above all else a human problem, the sooner we can become the solution to misbelief.

If you are interested in this topic, and I think that you should be, order the book here:  https://misbeliefbook.com