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Publisher's Summary

Why do people reject science and believe online conspiracy theories? How are people radicalized online and go on to commit acts of violence? Why is our society so politically polarized?

Astonishingly irrational ideas are spreading. Covid denial persists in the face of overwhelming evidence. Anti-vaxxers compromise public health. Conspiracy thinking hijacks minds and incites mob violence. Toxic partisanship is cleaving nations, and climate denial has pushed our planet to the brink. Meanwhile, American Nazis march openly in the streets, and Flat Earth theory is back. What the heck is going on? Why is all this happening, and why now? More important, what can we do about it? 

In Mental Immunity, Andy Norman shows that these phenomena share a root cause. We live in a time when the so-called “right to your opinion” is thought to trump our responsibilities. The resulting ethos effectively compromises mental immune systems, allowing “mind parasites” to overrun them. Conspiracy theories, evidence-defying ideologies, garden-variety bad ideas: these are all species of mind parasite, and each of them employs clever strategies to circumvent mental immune systems. In fact, some of them compromise cultural immune systems - the things societies do to prevent bad ideas from spreading. Norman shows why all of this is more than mere analogy: minds and cultures really do have immune systems, and they really can break down. Fortunately, they can also be built up: strengthened against ideological corruption. He calls for a rigorous science of mental immune health - what he calls “cognitive immunology” - and explains how it could revolutionize our capacity for critical thinking.

Hailed as “a feast for thought,” Mental Immunity melds cutting-edge work in science and philosophy into an “astonishingly enlightening and productive” solution to the signature problem of our age. A practical guide to spotting and removing bad ideas, a stirring call to transcend our petty tribalisms, and a serious bid to bring humanity to its senses.

©2021 Andrew Norman (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Mental Immunity

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  • IK
  • 20-05-2021

Too political

Author shows partisan political views which ruins book. He picks a side and calls other side”bad ideas”.

5 people found this helpful

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  • A fan
  • 08-06-2021

Underlying theme

The underlying theme is that conservatives, especially Trump supporters, are afflicted with a mental virus. The author is of course virus free or immune.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Brandon
  • 07-06-2021

Good but extremely biased for a critical thinking book.

Book is good and definitely on to something but the Author is blatantly biased in his ideas. All of his negative/bad idea examples come from right wing/conservative people. He uses little to no “bad” ideas that come from left leaning/liberal people.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Micah
  • 05-06-2021

Narrator and punctuation

This book is great; really interesting and engaging. I found myself pausing what was just said to process the idea. So what is my problem? The narrator has a nasty habit of running over full stops. That sounds petty - I'm sorry. Full stops (periods) are an important part of writing, speech, storytelling and yes, narration. The brilliant work that Andy Norman has done writing this book is severely hampered by this rookie mistake. Following is my review with the punctuation removed...

This book is great really interesting and engaging I found myself pausing what was just said to process the idea so what is my problem the narrator has a nasty habit of running over full stops that sounds petty I'm sorry full stops (periods) are an important part of writing speech storytelling and yes narration the brilliant work that Andy Norman has done writing this book is severely hampered by this rookie mistake following is my review with the punctuation removed

Annoying right?

2 people found this helpful

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  • chris boutte
  • 23-05-2021

Must-read book to improve thinking and beliefs

This book is a must-read, and my concern is that I won’t be able to explain how incredible it is within this short review. Andy Norman is a philosopher that has been teaching his students how to build mental immunity for years. So, what is mental immunity? Like viruses, bad ideas can spread, and there are a lot of misconceptions about our ideas and beliefs. We feel that we’re entitled to our beliefs or others are entitled to theirs, and sometimes we fall into the trap that all things are morally subjective. The reality is that there are consequences when bad ideas spread, which is why we need to have better conversations and challenge bad ideas in a healthy way. Mental Immunity will help you to not only have better conversations with people you disagree with, but it assists you in practicing some intellectual humility and challenging your own thoughts and beliefs as well.

I think the best analogy from the book is when Norman describes having ideas like weeds growing in a community garden. If it was just our garden and we didn’t clear out the weeds, that’s fine, but ideas and beliefs aren’t like that. Bad ideas are like weeds in a community garden, and if we don’t keep them in check, they can harm others. So, get this book and share it with others. Once my son is a little bit older, this is definitely going to be a book I have him read so he can grow and hopefully help decrease the spread of bad ideas while also encouraging healthy conversations.

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Eric H. Roth, English teacher, ESL expert, and co-author of the 'Compelling Conversations' series
  • Eric H. Roth, English teacher, ESL expert, and co-author of the 'Compelling Conversations' series
  • 22-07-2021

Can we ask better, sharper questions to improve public discourse?

Why do you millions of people believe in false, dangerous, and silly ideas? How can we reconcile our great technological and scientific progress with new outbreaks of fanaticism, intolerance, and collective madness? Is it possible to help individuals develop mental immunities to fashionable gibberish and orchestrated propaganda?

This book, written by a philosopher stunned by Trump’s election and horrified by a terrorist attack on his synagogue, reviews the false assumptions and peculiar “reasoning” used to justify bigotry, hatred, and racism. Urging readers to ask about the strength of evidence for claims and evaluate the possible consequences of beliefs, the author seeks to restore a search for truth focus in everyday conversations and public debates. He also systematically critiques some common evasions and polite strategies to avoid challenging problematic perceptions and fashionable falsehoods. The author, a confident professor who relishes classroom discussions, advocates confronting faulty reasoning, fake facts, “seductive misperceptions”, and toxic ideas. His solutions include seeking understanding over knowledge, rejecting relativism, and idea testing.

This 2021 primer on critical thinking and the Socratic method has already won considerable critical acclaim. It’s hard, however, to imagine that this fine philosophical work will be picked up by many violent racists or religious fanatics. Instead, the book seems targeted at liberal readers susceptible to half-baked notions of unproven radical theories and simplistic solutions to complicated social issues. The book also attempts to increase respect for empiricism and learning together to counter false certainties and “corrosive cynicism”.

I recommend this tome for college professors, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and lawyers. It’s a practical attempt to counter fanaticism and gently nudge our society away from dogmatic, rigid thinking and destructive politics. Two cheers for asking better questions, encouraging doubt, and reasoning together to create healthier lives and stronger relationships.

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  • Etta Jones
  • 19-07-2021

I really enjoyed this book!

This was a great listen. The narration is a bit stodgy and disengaged, but I got used to him after a couple chapters. I always prefer when the author narrates their own book. They know which parts to emphasize, and (as another commenter noted) which parts need a full stop.

There are several reviews that say the book is biased against the American political right wing. But in the publisher's notes, Harper Audio tells us up front which ideas are examined in the book:

Covid denial
Anti-vaxxers
Conspiracy theories
Climate change denial
A return of Nazism
A return of flat earth theory

It just so happens the above listed ideas exist 98% of the time in the minds of political Conservatives. The book is about why people believe things that are contrary to logic or evidence and the truth is, these ARE bad ideas - because they are contrary to logic and evidence. The truth is, the American political right wing IS more infected with bad ideas than the left is. That doesn't mean there are NO bad ideas on the left; there certainly are. Just not enough to write a whole book about.

I appreciate the fact that the author does NOT launch into a false equivalence exercise where he tries to "drum up" some bad ideas on the left just to make people feel like he's making an evenly-weighted argument. Such an exercise would lack scientific integrity. Science should observe and report. Not 'observe, report and make an evenly-weighted argument so that people feel comfortable about what they already tell themselves'. There's too much of that going on in the media, and also that isn't the point of empirical research.

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  • Dr. Charles Olk
  • 10-07-2021

Vital concepts and practices which should be taugh

Vital concepts and practices which should be taugh from elementary through college curriculum. Sometimes thick wirh jargon the author does an excellent job explaining.

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  • Ivy Rose
  • 24-06-2021

Good Concept, Biased Undertone

The concept of this seems great! I have no doubts of the qualifications of the author to discuss these topics. The book is not written from an objective neutral standpoint. It is immediately littered with "problems of the political right" which may or may not appeal to various people. It detracts from the message and does not seem to even attempt to appeal to everyone. Just more tribalism disguised in a "helpful" lesson.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 16-06-2021

Ouch!

Might be the worst book I ever read. Don't waste the money or time.

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