Richard Wiseman - Paranormality

July 11, 2011

Host: Karen Stollznow

Richard Wiseman is Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England. Richard began his career as a professional magician before pursuing a career in psychology, and developing a reputation for research into luck, deception, the paranormal, humor, and the science of self-help.

Richard is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Skeptical Inquirer consulting editor. He is the author of many books, including The Luck Factor, Quirkology and 59 Seconds.

In this interview with Karen Stollznow, Richard talks about his latest book, Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There. Instead of examining paranormal phenomena, he discusses why it's more worthwhile to investigate the insights paranormal phenomena tell us about our brains, behavior and beliefs. Richard explains why we're "wired for weird", demonstrates how skeptics can perform "miracles", and reveals the real secrets of the supernatural.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Related Episodes

Michael Shermer - The Believing Brain
June 6, 2011

Comments from the CFI Forums

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A pretty good episode IMO. Prof. Wiseman sounds like a fun guy, he seems to really enjoy his research and describing it to the public. I’m familiar with him though his book “Quirkology” that came out a few years ago, I’ll have to check out the new one. It was interesting to hear him say nobody is 100% rational and that essentially, anomolies exist in the mind, not in the objective universe. His position is unique; Professor of public understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, He’s the only one of them!

Posted on Jul 11, 2011 at 8:18pm by mid atlantic Comment #1

After sitting down with my b/f and watching a bit of the History Channel series, Ancient Aliens (sadly, 20+ minutes I’ll never get back), I’m eager to listen to this podcast. I’d like to keep an open mind about things, but listening to Giorgio Tsoukalos and colleagues talk about aliens building the pyramids, inspiring Einstein and Tesla, and appearing in the skies before natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami, I hope that whatever Richard Wiseman has to say, it will help me better understand why pseudo scientists believe the things they believe.

Posted on Jul 17, 2011 at 8:17am by T. Ruth Comment #2

After sitting down with my b/f and watching a bit of the History Channel series, Ancient Aliens (sadly, 20+ minutes I’ll never get back), I’m eager to listen to this podcast. I’d like to keep an open mind about things, but listening to Giorgio Tsoukalos and colleagues talk about aliens building the pyramids, inspiring Einstein and Tesla, and appearing in the skies before natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami, I hope that whatever Richard Wiseman has to say, it will help me better understand why pseudo scientists believe the things they believe.

I know, that show is so aggravating.

Posted on Jul 18, 2011 at 6:52am by mid atlantic Comment #3

After sitting down with my b/f and watching a bit of the History Channel series, Ancient Aliens (sadly, 20+ minutes I’ll never get back), I’m eager to listen to this podcast. I’d like to keep an open mind about things, but listening to Giorgio Tsoukalos and colleagues talk about aliens building the pyramids, inspiring Einstein and Tesla, and appearing in the skies before natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami, I hope that whatever Richard Wiseman has to say, it will help me better understand why pseudo scientists believe the things they believe.

As much as their leaps in logic break my brain, I still love the idea so much, that I’m willing to sit through an episode once in a while — I just think of it as being in the same vein as bad science fiction.  Honestly, if they were to rely entirely on verifiable/reasonable evidence for ancient aliens, they wouldn’t have much of a show. :-)

Posted on Jul 24, 2011 at 6:49pm by lolwut Comment #4

Does anyone with an IQ above the boiling point in Centigrades really watch the ‘History’ Channel, a.k.a. Happy Holidays with Hitler?
Anyway, have just read ‘Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There’, and it is a brilliant introduction to why we are so gullible. And also a reasoned primer for skepticism.
Together with Thomson’s ‘why we believe in god(s)’ and Stenger’s books, there is really a more scientific foundation for atheism than found elsewhere: Namely the psychological reason for our innate hang for the supernatural.
They show how, to advance as species, we need to shed our superstitions of all varieties, and embrace real knowledge, i.e. science. That this will happen any time soon, with the vested interest so many have in keeping the superstitions alive and well, is unlikely. For that institutions like the RCC, CoE, and all the American religious mobs have too much influence. And the disgusting scandals regularly exposed perpetrated by seem like no deterrent.
Didn’t know Wiseman is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Skeptical Inquirer consulting editor, that is a great plus after the squabble among certain CFI personalities earlier.

Posted on Aug 12, 2011 at 3:25am by shonny Comment #5

I enjoyed the interview and it was the reason I bought a copy of Richard’s book. The book was terrific. I actually used one of the tricks in the book to allow my 8 year old niece to “make contact” with a ghost. I let her get totally immersed in the experience and then a few minutes later I revealed to her how I did it. I used it as a lesson in how easily it is to be misled by our senses. I plan to do more of these things with her. She is very interested in the paranormal and I hope to teach her to be a skeptic.

Posted on Aug 12, 2011 at 5:57am by FreeInKy Comment #6