Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There (2024)

Richard Wiseman


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Professor Richard Wiseman is clear about one thing: paranormal phenomena don't exist. But in the same way that the science of space travel transforms our everyday lives, so research into telepathy, fortune-telling and out-of-body experiences produces remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and beliefs. Paranormality embarks on a wild ghost chase into this new science of the supernatural and is packed with activities that allow you to experience the impossible. So throw away your crystals, ditch your lucky charms and cancel your subscription to Reincarnation Weekly. It is time to discover the real secrets of the paranormal. Learn how to control your dreams -- and leave your body behind Convince complete strangers that you know all about them Unleash the power of your unconscious mind.

    GenresNonfictionSciencePsychologyParanormalSkepticismPopular ScienceReligion

341 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2010

About the author

Richard Wiseman


Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Professor Richard Wiseman started his working life as a professional magician, and was one of the youngest members of The Magic Circle. He then obtained a degree in psychology from University College London and a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.

Richard currently holds Britain’s only Professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, where he has gained an international reputation for research into psychology of luck, self-help, persuasion, and illusion. He has published over 50 papers in leading peer reviewed academic journals (including Nature and Psychological Bulletin), and his work has been cited in over 20 introductory textbooks.

A passionate advocate for science, his best-selling books have been translated into over 30 languages and he has presented keynote addresses at several organisations, including Microsoft, The Royal Society, Caltech, and Google.

Richard is the most followed British psychologist on Twitter, and has created viral videos that have received over 40 million views. Over 2 million people have taken part in his mass participation experiments and he has acted as a creative consultant to Derren Brown, The MythBusters, CBS’s The Mentalist, and Heston Blumenthal, Nick Cave, and the West End play ‘Ghost Stories’.

Richard is a Member of the Inner Magic Circle, an Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association, and a Fellow of the Rationalist Association. He is one of the most frequently quoted psychologists in the British media and was recently listed in the Independent On Sunday’s top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live.

He likes sushi, is fond of dogs, and finds Arrested Development very funny.

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5 stars

1,774 (36%)

4 stars

1,861 (37%)

3 stars

976 (19%)

2 stars

218 (4%)

1 star

87 (1%)

Displaying 1 - 30 of 301 reviews


35 reviews1 follower

August 24, 2011

Before reading this book I'd seen a fair few reviews of it on Amazon claiming it was an arrogant, biased view of the unexplained. I'm happy to say that such accounts couldn't be further from the truth!

Of course, Richard Wiseman is well-known for his sceptical views amongst those interested in the supernatural, so the sceptical slant of the book shouldn't surprise anyone. However, I found the book's content to be deeply interesting and very well researched and justified. The book also has a refreshing, witty tone. At no point did I sense any arrogance from Prof. Wiseman - in fact, he seemed very sympathetic towards those who believe in the supernatural. At several points in the book he talks about how we, as humans, are hard-wired to believe in the unknown, as this belief may have provided an evolutionary advantage. This is far from the snobbery that I was expecting judging by some other reviews! The book is subtitled "Why We See What Isn't There", and this pretty much sums up the real focus of the book - not just to debunk everything, but instead to try and understand WHY we are so prone to believing in things without needing evidence. I also found Wiseman's explanations of why certain conclusions were drawn to be very fair (e.g. the Jaytee research or research into the alleged psychic Patricia Putt). At times Wiseman many seem a little matter-of-fact, but at no point did I notice him say that the results of the research categorically proved that someone didn't have psychic abilities; he simply states that the studies did not show any evidence of psychic abilities, which would appear to still allow enough scope for someone to have abilities that simply weren't demonstrated effectively on the day - not the behaviour of someone who's arrogant or thinks he knows everything!

There's a long bibliography at the end of the book for anyone who wants to research more about the individual points covered. I particularly liked the QR tags (newfangled barcodes!) throughout the book that link to videos and audio clips that complement the book's content (URLs are also provided for anyone who doesn't have a smartphone).

This book probably won't convince any believers, and the content is probably very familiar to anyone who's already well-read on the topics covered in the book, but I would highly recommend it as a starting point to anyone who's curious about the world and interested in finding out about the unexplained.


Chad Kettner

41 reviews

January 26, 2012

Richard Wiseman's book, Paranormality, skillfully unravels the superstitious mind and explains how and why we tend all sorts of weird things. He focuses on fortune telling, out of body experiences, psychic power, talking with the dead, ghost hunting, mind control, and prophecy. Wiseman uses real cases and experiments as well as tests and recorded investigations to explain the claims of supernatural experiences - in a way that doesn't make somebody feel stupid for believing something strange in the past, but rather allows them to understand the actual explanations that have been backed by significant amounts of observation and testing.

Angie Boyter

2,063 reviews72 followers

June 12, 2012

My June Amazon Prime Free Lending Library selection.
Recommended to me by the president of the National Capital Area Skeptics Society.
Very disappointed. I do not understand the high scores for this book.
I confess I aborted the read about a quarter of the way through.
It started off well, with an entertaining style and some built-in features that could only be put into an eBook, such as links to websites interviews and pictures that move. However,there were odd typographical peculiarities in the book that were distracting such as repeated insertions of the word BOX and END BOX and some unexplained insertions that sounded like tennis scores "thirty-love", "Forty-love", that I never understood. Worst of all, the "science" was increasingly unsatisfying. For example,there was a study to see if twins had telepathy or other special ability to predict each others' actions. A good topic to be treated in this book. BUT why would someone write up as meaningful a study that had only 6 sets of twins and 6 controls and where the results for BOTH groups were significantly beloew what would be expected at random (an observation that the author did not even bother to mention, although my husband and I BOTH immediately said it.)? He lost too much credibility for me to be willing to spend more time on this book.



26 reviews1 follower

December 24, 2014

Also find this review at my blog 'Preludes'

Things are very rarely what they seem.

Whatever your opinions on the paranormal - be it ghosts, portents or spoon-bending - it's clear that there is a lot more at work than the simple telling of fantastical stories. Even if you believe in the supernatural, it's unlikely that you are liable to designate every medium as the genuine article, or every ghost as a genuine echo of a life long passed. The internet and TV are brimming with shows on things that go bump in the night or individuals who are more than happy to take your money to show off their gifts. If not all of them are the Real Thing (or, indeed, any of them) then why do we buy so enthusiastically into their tricks? What supports their industry and why, given the right circ*mstances, do we even believe in the paranormal ourselves, unprompted?

Richard Wiseman approaches these questions with a brilliant mix of personal experience, academic knowledge, and an approachable laugh-out-loud snark that doesn't turn into full-out sneering. While it would be too easy to hold up the banner of "SCIENCE!" and use it to insult those who subscribe to the paranormal without further explanation, Wiseman instead takes the approach of focusing on what the psychology of paranormality is and how, through people's natural draw and experimentations in the supernatural, it actually taught science some amazing facts about our minds that we might never otherwise have known. He is critical of those who use their knowledge to deliberately fool other people, but always has a respect for the skill and knowledge involved to do so. While some more innocent believers may be a little irrational or annoying (see the 'reincarnation of Catherine Howard' who followed them around on one of their experiments), he nevertheless gives them some respect.

Whatever your beliefs in the supernatural, this book is well worth a read. For those who don't believe, the book is a fantastic insight into the psychology of our minds that allows us to perceive such spooky goings on as we do. For those who do believe, this insight shows how you can separate out the fakes from the potentially genuine.

The book is very approachable in its style and for a non-fiction book has a nice narrative quality that leads you through all the short sections that make up each chapter. There are little exercises you can do at home to try out your own weird-and-wibbly skills. The gimmick that really made me smile was the Q.R Readers scattered throughout. These symbols can be scanned with your smart phone and will instantly take you to a video of a study that is mentioned in the book. If you don't have a smart phone don't worry - he also has included the website addresses themselves.

Some of the topics on offer are:

-Testing a 'psychic' dog
-Fortune Telling
-Out of body experiences and how to have your own
-The psychology of spoon bending and other magic tricks
- How two young girls and an apple on a piece of string created a whole new religion
-The power of cults
-How to contact the dead
- The tale of the talking mongoose in the Isle of Wight
-Ghost-hunting and how a group of psychologists almost shook a house to pieces
- Hypnotism, brainwashing and the psychology of persuasion
-Did Abraham Lincoln foresee his own murder?
-The remarkable world of sleep science
- The instant superhero kit

And many more.

It's well worth a look for anyone interested in psychology or the supernatural, why not give it a go?


Amanda Patterson

896 reviews288 followers

July 26, 2011

I started reading this book in February, was interrupted for months, and finished it a short while ago.
If you want to believe in the supernatural and are not prepared to be open minded when offered evidence that clearly shows charlatans for what they are, don't read it.
However, if you want a well-constructed book that cuts through the hype of psychics & clairvoyants, read Richard Wiseman's Paranormaility.
He will show you the simple explanations behind seemingly extraordinary events. He also explains a lot about the way our brains work.

If you ever need a rational Ghostbuster, Wiseman's your man.


365 reviews29 followers

December 16, 2020

Īsumā par to, kā mūs nolasa profesionāli pareģi un kā mēs ļaujam prātam sevi apmānīt, noticot, ka pieredzam pārdabiskas lietas.

    non-fiction self-help


363 reviews14 followers

January 1, 2017


Absolutely fantastic! Undoubtedly a book I will often be quoting in the future. It's a shame it's not required reading in high schools.

    awesome nonfiction read-in-2016


219 reviews5 followers

December 30, 2018

Could be re titled ‘Egotism. Why I know everything’ by Richard Wiseman.

In a gleefully condescending tone Professor Wiseman sets out from the standpoint that if something cannot be explained and understood by himself and his scientist chums then it didn’t happen, or doesn’t exist.

Some of the of the paranormal experiences he doesn’t disprove adequately. For example the case of the tennis shoe. In which a patient at a hospital reports that during an out of body experience she sees a tennis shoe on a 3rd floor window ledge on the outside of the hospital. We are told that, on investigation, her social worker finds the tennis shoe but we are told that
the shoe couldn’t be seen from the ground outside and that from the inside of the building she had to press her face against the glass to see the tennis shoe
The laces were tucked under the shoe as her patient had described and the position of the laces would only be apparent to someone viewing the shoe from outside of the building
Whether or not the story is true - the scientists who seek to disprove this don’t do so convincingly in my opinion. They place their own tennis shoe in the ledge but claim that it’s visible from the room and from the outside of the hospital. That’s not scientific proof - that’s 2 contradictory reports.
They then go on to say that the patient may have overheard a remark about the tennis shoe whilst she was sedated, which is conjecture.
They are unable to explain how she knew about the position of the laces but brush this aside
“Given that key aspects of the story were highly questionable, the trio thought that there was little reason to believe other aspects of the case, such as Maria saying the shoe was well worn and the lace trapped under its heel”
What is significant is that we’re told Marias social worker was initially sceptical about her story but the facts she discovered convinced her. The scientists set out with one goal in mind and that was to discredit Marias story - which, from Professor Wisemans retelling, they do by simply pooh poohing it.

I’m not convinced either way.

I think the reason Professor Wiseman irritates me so much, apart from his silly schoolboy ‘jokes’, is the arrogance of that class of privileged, educated, white male baby boomer generation. Perhaps in 50 years time when technology has advanced and, as a result, scientific beliefs have moved on, another author will take Professor Wiseman and his cronies to task with the same self satisfied tone.

Nguyet Minh

197 reviews122 followers

March 9, 2022

Một quyển sách vô cùng thú vị, hóm hỉnh và mở ra một góc nhìn khá mới mẻ về các dạng tâm linh được lý giải dựa trên tâm lý học. Giáo sư Richard Wiseman có một niềm đam mê mãnh liệt với các hiện tượng huyền bí, chính vì vậy mà ông không ngừng nghiên cứu và thử nghiệm các hiện tượng đó bằng các phương pháp khoa học nhằm tìm ra lời giải đáp. Thật bất ngờ khi khởi đầu sự nghiệp của ông là vi��c trở thành một ảo thuật gia. Những kết hợp quá trí tuệ và uyển chuyển: ảo thuật gia + nhà khoa học + giáo sư + nhà tâm lý = người viết tài năng.

Quyển sách như một tập mini game hướng dẫn chúng ta vừa thực hành, trải nghiệm và lắng nghe dẫn giải. Rất hài hước, thư gi��n ở đầu mỗi chương, nhưng cực kỳ nghiêm túc và tỉ mỉ khi phân tích và phản biện. Lúc nào cũng vậy, những câu chuyện tâm linh khiến ta chăm chú và hồi hộp theo dõi, nếu chưa có sự can thiệp của diễn giải khoa học, có lẽ ta sẽ hoàn toàn tin tưởng vào cái ta được nghe và thấy. Tác giả chỉ ra những mánh khoé và chiêu trò của ảo thuật khi dùng những điều huyền bí để lừa gạt mọi người. Những ảo thuật gia ấy sở hữu những kỹ thuật tâm lý khéo léo để tạo ấn tượng, biết dẫn dắt người khác vào cái bẫy của mình. Đọc mới nhớ gần đây trên các chương trình Got Talent khắp thế giới đang sốt lên những màn ảo thuật tâm linh. Khi được thử nghiệm và kiểm chứng bởi các nhà tâm lý học lão luyện thì mới thấy, mánh khoé tạo tâm linh cực kỳ đơn giản nhưng khả năng đọc tâm lý kết hợp sự khéo léo làm cho các hiện tượng trở nên quan trọng và kì bí.

Tại sao thầy bói nói đúng? Richard Wiseman đã phân tích rất sâu sắc dưới góc nhìn của ông. Có rất nhiều nhân vật và hình thức liên quan đến tâm linh. Nhân vật có thể là thầy bói, người xem tướng số, nhà ngoại cảm, kẻ săn ma, nhà thôi miên…Còn hình thức tâm linh là xem chỉ tay, bói bài Tarot, xem quả cầu, cầu cơ, gọi hồn… Tất cả những nhà tâm linh hầu như có khả năng “đọc nguội” rất tốt, họ dùng khả năng quan sát và óc phán đoán một cách trôi chảy, nhuần nhuyễn. Họ biết lựa chọn thời điểm chúng ta đang rà soát lại những hiện tượng để đưa ra lời phán xét. Chúng ta thì luôn tin và ám ảnh bởi các hiện tượng.

Những nhân vật, sự kiện trong sách đều có thực và là điển hình cho những chiêu trò tâm linh và bị bóc mẽ bởi tâm lý học. Những trò giả tâm linh làm các nhà khoa học càng tin vào sức mạnh của khoa học mà rời xa những hiện tượng huyền bí. Người tin vào tâm linh thậm chí còn thử nghiệm cân một linh hồn của một người vừa qua đời, còn nhà khoa học sẽ khoanh tay và bàn về vật lý lượng tử. Ta sẽ được bước vào thế giới của cầu hồn từ thời Victoria ở Anh, làm quen kẻ săn ma, hiểu được sức mạnh của phổ quang, những bí ẩn thú vị của giấc ngủ và giấc mơ… Tất cả những trải nghiệm ma quái đó giúp con người hiểu được một khía cạnh quan trọng của tâm lý học để tự kiểm soát bản thân trước mỗi hiện tượng khác nhau.

Sách rất bổ ích và mang tính giải trí khá cao. Nên nhớ, ở đây chỉ dùng khoa học và tâm lý để lý giải tâm linh chứ không hề bác bỏ và phủ nhận tâm linh cùng những hiện tượng siêu nhiên huyền bí của nó. Khoa học và tâm linh đều ngang bằng nhau trên một cán cân. Những hiện tượng được giải mã ở đây vừa là những chiêu trò lừa bịp vừa là những giải đáp bởi khoa học. Nhưng có thể tâm linh trong cuộc sống, trong từng trường hợp cụ thể lại là những thách thức mà sự huyền bí của nó sẽ còn quanh quẩn bên con người mãi mãi.

Gấp sách lại, ta còn được học thêm vài ba mánh khoé ảo thuật được Richard Wiseman hướng dẫn. Một cuốn sách thư giãn để đọc ở giữa những cuốn nặng kí khác.

    khoa-học-tự-nhiên-môi-trường tâm-linh-thiền-hành-hương


Author338 books173 followers

November 8, 2014

In haste because of my continued epic battle with the Deadline of Doom . . .

This is an excellent book which has unfortunately been published by idiots: I cannot begin to enumerate the straightforward production errors, up to and including the obvious misspelling in the chapter title "Prophesy" (and repeated throughout the chapter). I gather the book appeared in a UK edition a year later from a "proper" publisher, Pan Macmillan, and I do wish I'd had access to that version instead.

Even with all the blunders, I do heartily recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in a highly entertaining, often very witty demolition of the pretensions of the psychic crowd. What marks it out from other books of its kind is that Wisem*n is well up on the most recent psychological theories and research, and so can offer some fascinating explanations of events that might at first flush seem inexplicable. And he made me giggle quite often.

Bianca Mogos

254 reviews30 followers

December 15, 2022


Quite interesting little book on events which seem to be “paranormal”, yet they have a very logical explanation. Also very funny.

On organising a table turning/ouija session:
“10. If the group does manage to spell out a name while the letters are face down or they are blindfolded, leave your house immediately and contact your local church for help.”😅

    audiobooks non-fiction

Emmy B.

580 reviews129 followers

November 8, 2019

An interesting look at the neuroscience of why our brains or other people can trick us sometimes into believing in the paranormal.

This is light and told with humour, which make it an excellent read for a journey or before bed. It's engaging and even if you know something about the tricks often used in, say, palm reading or fortune telling, you'll still find out lots you didn't know.

I'd be interested in chasing up some of these studies, since this scientific field is expanding and developing at a great rate, to see if there'd been any more findings on this subjects.

    genre-historical genre-non-fiction period-contemporary

Brian Clegg

Author189 books2,914 followers

January 17, 2013

The subtitle here is ‘Why we believe the impossible’ or ‘Why we see what isn’t there’ (depending on your edition) emphasising that this a book not so much on parapsychology – the study of paranormal capabilities of the mind – but what you might call metaparapsychology – the study of why human beings incorrectly think that they have paranormal capabilities of the mind.

This is a very entertaining, lightly written book that takes a storytelling approach to introducing some of the strange and wonderful claims that people have made for supernatural mental abilities, only to pull them apart.

We begin with that most dubious of paranormal topics, psychics, with a UK psychic roundly failing in controlled tests and another psychic admitting exactly how he used cold reading tricks to fool his clients. Many books have debunked cold reading, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen before such a clear list of the six key techniques with a demonstration of how they were used in a specific reading. It’s superb.

Next under the microscope are out of body experiences (and for some reason the spurious idea of a body losing weight on death), which prove rather dull, and then moving things with the mind. There is interesting material on a specific case, though I found the ‘five psychological principles’ that make people believe this kind of act a touch heavy handed after we’d already been through the six for cold reading, especially as by the time we get to the fifth there is not one, but two asides in the middle of explaining it.

Next up is the table shifting/rapping/Ouija board style of spirit medium. There’s some nice historical introduction with the Fox sisters (who made ‘raps’ by clicking their toes) and some practical guidance on the do-it-yourself use of involuntary movement effects to jiggle tables or spell out Ouija messages (with perhaps a bit of cheating thrown in). We then move swiftly on to some entertaining ghost hunting tales (and thoughts on why we imagine ghosts exist), mind control and future gazing. All very readable, entertaining and often enlightening.

Although as a whole I liked the book, there was something about it that put me off a little (otherwise it might have made 5 stars). It was a touch gimmicky – I’m not sure, for instance, I particularly liked the used of QR codes to direct the reader to find out more online. In principle this should be a good thing, but these 3D barcodes were so large and obtrusive that they ruined the look of the page every time they were introduced.

The gimmickry also extends to some extent to the way the book is written, with chapters jumping around their subject and introducing little ‘tests’ that are supposed to show the reader the effect being discussed. (I’m pleased to say I avoided choosing the shape combination most people come up with when asked to think of one geometric shape inside another*.)

However, that’s just a personal thing – I think many people would like this kind of messing about in format, so it shouldn’t count against what I think is a really interesting book on a topic that isn’t really called metaparapsychology, but ought to be. If psychics, ESP and the world of the paranormal interest you, this book is an essential balance to your library – and if you are a sceptic, it will give you plenty of chances to raise an eyebrow and have a chuckle at the gullibility of the rest of the world.

* The usual choice is apparently a circle in a triangle or a triangle in a circle. I went for a triangle in a square.

Review first published on and reproduced with permission

Book Shark

778 reviews149 followers

September 30, 2011

Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there by Professor Richard Wiseman

"Paranormality" is an interesting book about supernatural science. Professor Wiseman in an entertaining and engaging manner takes us on a fun journey of debunking popular paranormal phenomena. This 342-page book is composed of the following seven chapters: 1. Fortune-telling, 2. Out-of-body experiences, Mind over matter, 4. Talking with the dead, Intermission, 5. Ghost Hunting, 6. Mind control, and 7. Prophesy.

1. The fascinating topic of the paranormal.
2. Very engaging and conversational prose with a touch of humor to boot.
3. Well researched, and one of the most interactive books ever written. The author makes generous use of interactive tags better known as QR tags to link to additional content.
4. Very good format. The author provides plenty of great examples and finishes each chapter with a hands-on application section.
5. A look at the world of mediums and psychics. What psychic reading is all about.
6. How selective memory affects our beliefs.
7. Interesting tidbits throughout the book, "Your personality is, to some extent written all over your face".
8. The chapter on Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) was my favorite. Fascinating legends put to rest and one of the best explanations for OBEs.
9. The sense of where you are and how the brain figures that out.
10. Telepathy...another phenomenon bites the dust.
11. The principles of psychic deception.
12. "Spiritualism" and its origins.
13. Thought-provoking science, "Your brain appears to make a decision before you are conscious of it".
14. The ideomotor action...
15. A unique and fair take on Persinger's theory until...
16. The power of suggestion and "Hypersensitive Agency Detection Device" to explain ghostly experiences.
17. What the scientific evidence says about hypnosis.
18. The appalling case of Jim Jones and The People's Temple and the impact of psychology of conformity.
19. How not to be brainwashed. This should probably be taught in schools everywhere.
20. The science of sleep.
21. Wegner's "rebound effect."
22. The fascinating case of Charles Lindbergh and how it relates to dream premonitions.
23. A great explanation of why dreams are necessary.
24. Great Appendix.
25. Links worked great and then some.
26. Great Kindle value.

1. The book to my surprise, had a couple of misspells and repeated words. Not enough to detract from the entertainment value.
2. This book is not an in-depth look at the paranormal, but it will whet your appetite for more.

In summary, this was a fun and informative book. The engaging and upbeat style of the author combined with a fascinating topic is a fine recipe for an enjoyable read. It will also provide you some wonderful party tricks so that you can amuse your friends. Have fun and pick up a copy. A solid recommendation.

Further suggestions: "The Believing Brain..." and "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer, "Scientific Paranormal Investigations" by Benjamin Radford, "Human" by Michael S. Gazzaniga, "SuperSense" by Bruce M. Hood, and "The Belief Instinct" by Jesse Bering.


Lindsay Stares

413 reviews32 followers

January 6, 2012

Premise: In this delightful volume, professor and skeptic Wiseman walks us through the science behind many seemingly paranormal experiences, and even explains how you can fake the paranormal yourself!

I don't buy many books for my Kindle for more than three dollars, but I happily made an exception for this one. The big US publishers passed on Wiseman's enjoyable work, reportedly “some suggesting that I re-write it to suggest that ghosts were real and psychic powers actually existed!” So Wiseman, in conjunction with his UK publisher, released it himself.

This is a fantastic book, which I devoured in pretty much one sitting. It's fun to read, it's funny, and it's educational. What more could you ask?

Wiseman examines seven main subjects: Fortune-telling, Out-of-body experiences, Mind over Matter (Telekinesis), Communication with the dead, Ghosts, Mind Control (hypnosis/brainwashing), and Prophesy (Dreams/Premonitions). For each, he gives an easy to follow history of the study of the phenomenon, followed by any current scientific findings.

A lot of the book delves into the specific ways that our brain tricks us into thinking or feeling certain things. It touches on everything from studies showing how likely people are to misremember details or only remember correct information (useful for card-readers to exploit, or for people to claim they dreamed about an event beforehand) to recent developments in easily provoking a disassociation between mind and body in the lab, and how that explains out-of-body experiences. I'd heard of many of these experiments before, but still loved reading this.

The book is also full of simple experiments you can try on yourself or your friends, whether it's how to give a cold reading like a professional “psychic”, how to appear to bend spoons, or how to protect yourself from brainwashing. Also: how to hypnotize a chicken. No, really.

This is a great book for a beginning skeptic: it's accessible and fun, and it showcases some fabulous history about people trying to get to the truth, whatever it might be. Bravo!


Atila Iamarino

411 reviews4,436 followers

February 19, 2015

Curti muito. Bem explicado, cheio de exemplos, demonstrações e escrito com muito bom humor. Pacote completo.


812 reviews70 followers

November 13, 2020

I always found it hard to reconcile having a parent who, on the one hand was highly rational and intelligent and who on the other hand occasionally confided certain experiences she had had which led her to infer that she was sensitive to the paranormal. Too sensible to call herself a medium or dabble in spiritualism; her strong Christian faith proved a bulwark against that, even though as a parent who had lost her first son in harrowing circ*mstances when he was just 14 she must have been sorely tempted... she nevertheless was clearly disturbed by certain experiences that could not be explained away. One time she told me she had dreamed of an air crash that was followed by an actual event. She implied that this was not a one off experience, though I don’t now recall her telling me of any others. However the most disturbing experience she had was when working night shifts for a large news organisation. On quiet nights someone would produce a ouija board and the little group would experiment. One night mum was on her own and got out the board and found that it worked even then. She worried she had somehow called down an evil influence on our family as my brothers death occurred a few months later. This story, confessed to me when I was in my early 20’s sent a shiver down my spine and remained at the back of the mind latent but with a big question mark.

Later when my surviving brother developed a fatal brain tumour mum told me the story again. (Alongside the story of a gypsy* visitor who had informed her that there was a curse on the male members of the family. ... Nice. )

Mum was not consumed by these experiences and seemed able to hold them up as curiosities but not necessarily without some possible explanation. She was too sensible and rational to allow them to get control but doubts remained. Her faith helped enormously of course. Trust in a loving and forgiving God does much to counter dark fears.

So, at last in Wiseman’s book I have stumbled across rational explanations for all her disturbing experiences and I must confess myself to be mightily relieved. My mother would have valued this too.

THANKYOU Richard Wiseman for writing such a clear and rational book that takes everything seriously but then explains both the history and the scientific research.

Wiseman ends the book by talking about how the human brain is hardwired to seek for patterns. Some people are better at identifying patterns than others and those with string imaginations may be more susceptible to making “paranormal” patterns than others. This makes complete sense to me and I hope many people will find comfort and reassurance in this book.

*I use the term gypsy here because that was the term used at the time. Mum welcomed travellers who came to the door and always offered hospitality and kindness.

    2020-books-read psychology


300 reviews114 followers

September 16, 2022

Mediocre. The author tries to make this book “fun” but by doing so he undermines the issues he is addressing. The information is not useless, but the tone is what put me off the most. He didn’t come across as taking the subject very seriously, his writing lacked a scholar’s insight, style, and credibility.

Yes, this is supposed to be a “pop” science book … and it shows. I was hoping for a more down to earth, analytical, and professional take on skepticism and investigating paranormal claims. As an atheist I like to take subjects seriously when assessing them, removing as much bias as possible - this piece was hard to take seriously at times because he makes it very obvious that his mind is entirely made up on the issue, leaving very little genuine skepticism of his own proofs.

I’m not convinced of paranormal propositions, but I’d at least expect the author to treat the topic as an atheist scholar who studies/writes papers on NDE’s (for example) would. This book is great if you want to confirm your presuppositions and never question your own views as an atheist. It lacks skepticism on both sides of the spectrum. Disappointing and irritatingly flippant - in this case, it’s better to read actual scholars on the topic.


Domenico Conza

3 reviews

September 4, 2015

“Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there” by Richard Wiseman is an easy and enjoyable read that cover a range of topics including telekinesis, prophecy, ghosts, fortune-telling or talking to the dead, and out-of-body experiences. I liked that Wiseman wrote this book in a way that it doesn’t ruin your love for the unexplained but instead presents you with evidence, the history, and scientific explanations that even the most inexperienced skeptic could understand and learn why this phenomena’s are fake. The book indulges the reader either believer or not of supernatural events to not be innocent to fall for fakes who want to take advantages of the weak minds, while giving us an insight in the psychology behind the phenomenon’s that will help us perceive these events in the future. The book also includes easy and fun tricks that you can try on your family and friends and have a better understanding on how some people are gullible for illusions if it gives them what they desire such as the fortune teller describing a perfect future or the dead communicating to you. I didn’t enjoy that the book seemed to be as deceiving as the illusions because it felt that the author was writing the book to grasp more readers and presenting some evidence that can be questionable for their validity and credibility because of lack of experimentation, such as the twin experiment. But overall the book had its flaws but was to fun to put down. I learned that people are always trying to trick us in life with things that aren’t easily explained and catches the viewers eyes for financial benefits, so I must be extra careful on what I believe and think could be true and what is already proven fake but only used to take advantage of us for financial reasons. It also open my eyes on how where, when, and how some of this illusions such as telekinesis can be so easy to create but so effective to create mass hysteria. I would recommend this book to others because even if this book goes against your religion, even though the author was careful to not disrespect any religions, or beliefs in illusions and tricks but instead creates a easy to read enjoyable read that provides possible explanations for this phenomenon’s. I overall enjoyed this book and Mr. Wiseman’s approach on this widely unknown territory.


1,057 reviews14 followers

March 2, 2013

An excellent book and a must read for anyone interested in psychic phenomena or human psychology. Its a relatively quick read which looks at various aspects of the paranormal such as fortune telling, ghosts etc. Each area is backed up with video links (via Q codes) & instructions for how to recreate the experience for yourself or to demonstrate them to friends and family. I've long been fascinated by the rubber hand experiment (I had it demonstrated to me years ago) and what it reveals about the way our brain operates and that and other examples of seemingly impossible experiences are included in here. Richard Wiseman is a good guide through this maze he is a former professional magician and is now Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.

Its also interesting that some of the reviews of this book show clearly how much we want to believe that these effects have greater significance. This is from a 1 star review:

"if findings do not conform to the strictly materialist worldview which is in the ascendence just now, they are dismissed, ignored, or explained away".

I'd always thought that that was the point of science was to explain things! (I didn't spot Professor R ignoring anything or dismissing it without explanation - but I suppose that could be my availability heuristic kicking in!)

I'd recommend his other books particularly Quirkology & 59 seconds which also demonstrate how our brain makes sense of the world and how we can make use of this

Христо Блажев

2,367 reviews1,600 followers

July 3, 2014

Паранормалното е навсякъде и никъде около нас:

Рядко, но по книжарниците все пак се появяват книги, които един ден ще бъдат ритуално изгаряни по площадите, когато суеверията и паникьорството бъдат официализирани, а критиката срещу тях – криминализирана като мерзко деяние срещу самите устои на фантазьорството. Помня колко праведно възмущение събуди “Псевдонауката” на Бен Голдейкър, но после пък изключителната “Вярващият мозък” на Майкъл Шърмър сякаш мина почти незабелязано, за тъга. Свикнаха нашенците, разбраха, че с книги не мож бутна организирания медиен заговор за затъпяване, и си гледат всякакви гурута, медиуми, нутриционисти, кемтрейлс-рупори, HAARP-конспиративисти и прочие, да не говорим продължаващото изкупуване на всякакви елементарни или уж по-сложни езотерики, астрологии, селф-хелп мътеници и прочие. Няма отърване, знам си го. Книги като “Паранормалното” на Ричард Уайзман са бели лястовици, които малцина ще видят, но в небе, пълно с оглушително грачещите черни врани на псевдонауката и шарлатанството, едва ли ще променят нещо.

Издателство "Изток-Запад"


70 reviews

October 4, 2011

This book is brilliant! Its explains how some psychic's fool you into believing their 'readings' and explains how the people experience out of body experiences, why you dream about certain things, how people really move objects with their 'mind, explains the reality of communicating with non existent spirits, psychology of suggestion, how people 'mind control', and gives great tips on how to pretend to be psychic too. Although, due to my own experiences that with some people that can't be explained, I don't believe every single psychic etc are fake this book def makes it easier to spot the fakes! Couldn't put this book down. Highly recommend it! Great read!!!!


336 reviews89 followers

May 4, 2013

3½ - nudging a 4
Quick, easy and enjoyable read. Thought I might be grappling with complex theories but not at all ............Professor Wiseman writes clearly and in an easily understandable way.
He does a very convincing debunk on ghosts, psychics, Ouija boards, table turning, out of body experiences etc.
Don't think I'll be watching any more repeats of Most Haunted now I've read this!



85 reviews9 followers

February 10, 2016

Professor Wiseman takes a task of providing rational explanations of phenomena like out of body experiences, clairvoyance or ghosts.

Throughout the book he keeps the tone light hearted, tongue in cheek, while making a strong case against supernatural origins of mentioned phenomena.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a nice, entertaining read with a lot of information and value. Recommended!

Vikas Datta

2,178 reviews136 followers

March 17, 2015

Marvellous debunking of various supernatural phenomena, with wit and candour, and a paean to the strange, still not fully understood workings of that spectacular, unparalleled machine - the human brain!


2,175 reviews

December 29, 2021

Completely debunks all paranormal 'activity' and very funny with it


Ross Blocher

484 reviews1,431 followers

January 1, 2023

Detailed review to come.

The Lazy Reader

173 reviews44 followers

November 28, 2020

"The ability to find patterns plays a crucial role in your everyday life because you are constantly required to spot genuine instances of cause and effect. Most of the time this skill serves us well and allows us to figure our how the world works. However, once in a while it goes into overdrive and causes us to see what isn't there."

Humorous, playful, enlightening. Richard Wiseman exposes the charlatans that deal in the paranormal, but he does it with charm, wit and a healthy dose of scientific evidence.

He also never condescends down to people who believe in it, but instead guides the reader gently to revel in the beauty of the human brain.What we consider an out of body experience, is actually the brain getting its wires crossed, and muddling our sense of self along the way. Fascinating stuff.
He's more optimistic than I am, but he is also a skeptic-magician/psychologist, and way more knowledgeable.

    s-creatures-of-pop-fantasy y-a-non-fiction y-psychology

Paul C. Stalder

408 reviews17 followers

May 19, 2022

The good first. Wiseman does a great job of being respectful throughout this book. He does not demean people for believing certain things. Rather, he shows why it makes sense that they would believe in something (a tarot card reading, for example), as well as the tricks used (consciously or not) by the individual performing the reading. This is refreshing in a genre which all too often critiques believers (for lack of better term). Wiseman goes so far walk the reader through how these "tricks" are done, which turns out to be rather fun.
However, I was hoping for a more robust answer to the question posed in the subtitle; why DO we believe the impossible? Most of this book is spent reminding you that people do in fact believe things that are impossible. That wasn't in question when I opened the book. It took until the conclusion for Wiseman to turn to this question. And then his answer is rushed, pithy, and based on nothing that came before. It would almost have been better to open with this, and then tie each story he tells into his reasoning. Rather, the conclusion reads like a section forgotten in the original draft, and hastily thrown at the end before the book went to press. It doesn't totally devalue Wiseman's work, but it clearly leaves a bad taste in the readers mouth.

    2000s hard-copy non-fiction


44 reviews1 follower

April 18, 2021

A fun and witty read into pseudoscientific phenomena. I was hoping for more detail on supernatural and prophetic behaviour, but it was still engaging and definitely enlightening.

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