Why are some people more susceptible to bad ideas and others are more capable of repelling them?
Infectious Ideas, Mind Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think
by Andy Norman
HarperWave, May 2021
Andy Norman has spent years studying the destructive forces that can flip the minds of sensible people to understand how they take hold. He calls them mind-parasites, ideas that can poison our thinking and leave us more susceptible to wild conspiracies, lead us to reject scientific evidence, and convince us to double down on unfounded beliefs. Just as the body can be weakened by foreign organisms that make us sick, the mind too is vulnerable to infection. But just as antibiotics can be used to attack the biological organisms causing physical illness, we can treat the mind parasites that invade our heads. He shows us how to engage in productive discussion, analyzes the psychological evidence about how to change minds, and reveals how we can safeguard ourselves and protect those around us from mind-parasites like conspiracies and fake news. In MENTAL IMMUNITY Andy Norman calls for the study of cognitive immunology, a way of thinking where individuals and society learn to differentiate facts and reasons from disinformation and false memes. By strengthening our mental immunity, we become open to other ideas and learn how better to communicate about beliefs and policy without dissolving into partisan finger-pointing. Norman offers suggestions to create a value- and respect-based system of dialogue that can help us bolster cultural cognitive immunity as we protect our own minds from succumbing to bad ideas.
Steven Pinker will write the foreword and has already said that this is “a splendid idea for a book: original, controversial, and timely.”
Andy Norman teaches philosophy and directs the Humanism Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University. His work has appeared in Free Inquiry, Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, and dozens of other journals.