Mind Reviews; April/May 2008; Scientific American Mind; by Nicole Branan, Karen Schrock, Richard Lipkin, Melinda Wenner, Corey Binns; 2 Page(s)
The day after the 1986 Challenger shuttle accident, psychologist Ulric Neisser asked 106 students to write down exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the explosion. When he interviewed the students two and a half years later, 25 percent of them gave strikingly different accounts. But when confronted with their original journal entries, many students defended their beliefs. One of them answered, "That's my handwriting, but that's not what happened."
In On Being Certain, neuroscientist and novelist Robert A. Burton tries to get to the bottom of the curious sensation he calls the "feeling of knowing"--being certain of a fact despite having no (or even contrary) evidence. Throughout his book, Burton makes the compelling argument that certainty "is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process." Instead, he says, that unmistakable sense of certainty "arises out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason."