Michael Shermer
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Michael Shermer
Key Topics:
  • The Psychology of Belief
  • How Ideas Change our Behaviors
  • Business
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Bio Info:

    Dr. Michael Shermer is a social scientist who specializes in the psychology of belief and how ideas change our behaviors and effect both our personal and professional lives. He received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University.

    Dr. Shermer has written a dozen books, including the New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain. His book, The Mind of the Market, applies his psychological theories to business, finance, and economics.

    Dr. Shermer has given two TED talks that have been viewed by millions and were voted as among the top 100 best TED talks amoung the thousands at TED.com. For this he was invited to give an unprecedented third TED talk in 2014.

    Dr. Shermer is an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University where he teaches Ph.D. students and at Chapman University where he teaches undergraduates. He is also the host of the Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, which he started in 1992.

    Dr. Shermer writes a monthly column for Scientific American and is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, a science publication promoting critical thinking.

    Dr. Shermer has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, Larry King Live, Donahue, and Oprah, as well as interviews in countless documentaries aired on PBS, A&E, Discovery, The History Channel, The Science Channel, and The Learning Channel. Dr. Shermer was the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series, Exploring the Unknown.


    Here is what Chris Anderson, the owner and curator of TED wrote to Dr. Shermer:

    “You gave a really wonderful talk at TED. I was delighted with it and—well—you saw the response yourself. People loved it. Here are a few written comments we received... ‘Great stuff. Really interesting. Good presenter.’ ‘Bold POV.’ ‘One of my favorites— loved the topic and his support of it.’ ‘A unique perspective that I thoroughly enjoyed.’ ‘Great and entertaining!’ ‘Could have listened to him for a while. Hits on the things that drive us all crazy.’ ‘High energy. funny, smart.’ ‘Funny, insightful, & thought-provoking.’ Well done indeed. That talk needs to be heard by EVERYONE.


    The Believing Brain: How We Construct Beliefs & Reinforce Them as Truths

    Synthesizing 30 years of research, psychologist Dr. Michael Shermer upends traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first, and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Dr. Shermer argues, is a belief engine. Using sensory data that flow in through the senses, the brain naturally looks for and finds patterns—and then infuses those patterns with meaning, forming beliefs. Once beliefs are formed, our brains subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them as truths.

    Dr. Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspircies, cults, and superstitious beliefs. In the end Dr. Shermer demonstrates how to think critically about any and all claims and beliefs through several principles of science, skepticism, and critical thinking.

    The Mind of the MarketHow Biology and Psychology Shape our Economic Lives

    How did we evolve from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumer-traders?

    Why are people so irrational when it comes to money and finance?

    Why does the market seem to have a mind of its own?

    In this lecture based on his bestselling book The Mind of the Market, Dr. Shermer draws on research from neuroeconomics to explore what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Dr. Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, why business negotiations often disintegrate into emotional tit-for-tat disputes, and why money alone does not make us happy.

    Employing research from complexity theory, Dr. Shermer shows how evolution and economics are both examples of a larger phenomenon of complex adaptive systems.

    Dr. Shermer brings together findings from psychology and biology to describe how our tribal ancestry makes us suckers for brands, why researchers believe cooperation feels (biochemically) like sex, and how even monkeys get indignant if they don’t get a fair reward for their work.

    The Psychology of Money: How Cognitive Biases Fool Our Brains 

    This is Dr. Shermer’s most practical lecture on how the various cognitive biases fool our brains and cause us to make mistakes in our thinking about money, finance, business, and economics. These cognitive biases are also called cognitive heuristics, or mental methods of solving a problem through intuition, trial and error, or informal methods when there is no formal means or formula for solving it (and often even when there is). These heuristics are sometimes called rules of thumb, although they are better known as cognitive biases because they almost always distort percepts to fit preconceived concepts.

    In this lecture Dr. Shermer will cover: the Confirmation Bias, the Hindsight Bias, the Self-Serving and Better-than-Average Bias, the Self-Justification Bias, the Attribution Bias, the Sunk-Cost Bias, the Status-Quo Bias, the Endowment Effect, the Anchoring Bias, the Availability Bias, the Representative Bias, Attentional Blindness, Framing Effects, and other psychological distortions.

    Skepticism 101How to Think Clearly 

    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    These words from Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman are no less insightful today than they were when he wrote them in 1985.Despite our best efforts, we are all vulnerable to believing things without using logic or having proper evidence—and it doesn’t matter how educated or well read we are. And although we are skilled at recognizing the cognitive biases in other people’s thinking, we often have blinders when it comes to our own.

    There is a method for avoiding these pitfalls of human nature -  skepticism. By using rational inquiry and seeing subjects from a scientific perspective, we can approach even the most sensitive claims with clear eyes to ultimately arrive at the truth. And today, the need for skepticism has never been more dire as superstition and magical thinking experience a resurgence in our society and around the world.

    Fascinating case studies illustrate how we can apply the methods of skepticism to detect specious claims and faulty logic in any scenario you encounter.As we learn how our brains work to form beliefs, we will examine the classic fallacies of thought that lead us to experience mistakes in thinking—particularly when it comes to finance—and to form bad arguments in favor of our beliefs.




    “It went fabulous! He is great both on stage and off. We loved working with him and the audience loved what he had to say.”—Michele Troop, Inman News Real Estate Connect, New York, 2008

    “Michael Shermer, as head of one of America’s leading skeptic organizations, and as a powerful activist and essayist in the service of this operational form of reason, is an important figure in American public life.”—Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard University

    “Michael Shermer has long been one of our most committed champions of scientific thinking in the face of popular delusion.” —Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best seller, The Moral Landscape.

    “We might think that we learn how the world works, because we take the time to observe and understand it. Shermer says that's just not so. We just believe things, and then make our world fit our perceptions. Believe me; you don't have take my word for it. Just try clearing some space in your own Believing Brain.”—Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Executive Director of The Planetary Society

    “The questions Shermer addresses are as old as rational thought, but they have taken on a new urgency as we come to understand ourselves through the sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution. His analyses are sophisticated and filled with good sense, and are enlivened with fascinating material from science and history.”—Steven Pinker, Harvard University.

    “Economics is not just about money. It is also about human nature, justice, trust, and happiness. Michael Shermer brilliantly shows that the real experts of Homo economicus are often found in psychology, biology, even primatology.”—Frans de Waal, Emory University Professor of Primate Behavior

    “Economists who understand Charles Darwin are almost as rare as biologists who understand Adam Smith. Yet the two were essentially saying the same thing—that order emerges unordained from competition and innovation. Michael Shermer brilliantly brings the two insights together from the seat of his racing bike and explains how the human mind creates the human market.” —Matt Ridley, author of The Origins of Virtue

    “You may disagree with Michael Shermer, but you’d better have a good reason and you’ll have your work cut out finding it. He describes skepticism as a virtue, but I think that understates his own unique contribution to contemporary intellectual discourse. Worldly-wise sounds wearily cynical so I’d call Shermer universe-wise. I’d call him shrewd, but it doesn’t do justice to the breadth and depth of his inspired scientific vision. I’d call him a spirited controversialist, but that doesn’t do justice to his urbane good humor.”—Richard Dawkins, Oxford University

    “It is both an art and a discipline to rise above our inevitable human biases and look in the eye truths about how the world works that conflict with the way we would like it to be. Michael Shermer reminds me of the guy in the dorm in college who made a career of standing his ground for the truth in the face of everyone else on the hallway who insisted on prattling the cozy wisdoms.”—John McWhorter, author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language 

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  • The Believing Brain: How We Construct Beliefs & Reinforce Them as Truths
  • The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape our Economic Lives
  • The Psychology of Money: How Cognitive Biases Fool Our Brains
  • Skepticism 101: How to Think Clearly
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