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Excerpt: "Rivited"

Excerpt: "Rivited"

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Published by OnPointRadio
From Riveted by Jim Davies. Copyright © 2014 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.
From Riveted by Jim Davies. Copyright © 2014 by the author and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

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Published by: OnPointRadio on Aug 08, 2014
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09/15/2014

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INTRODUCTION
I
n my first year of graduate school I worked in a condemned build-ing. Sitting in my office was a woman I was trying to impress. We were talking about dance music. She liked club music and techno; I liked rap. I put on an acid jazz album in the compact disc player.“How can you dance to this?” she asked.“How can you
not 
 dance to this?” I replied, and then demon-strated the irresistibility of the track. For the most part, I only want to listen to music that makes me want to dance. Sorry, John Denver.When I was young I was fascinated with psychic powers. I read every book in the libraries of both my elementary and high school on the subject, and was convinced that people had untapped mental abilities. All these books in the nonfiction section of my school’s library told me that people could move things with their minds, scry with crystal balls, and predict the future. We used only 10 percent of our brains, right? What else could that 90 percent possibly be for?I was absolutely captivated by this idea and convinced of it, until I read Susan Blackmore’s sobering
In Search of the Light: Adven-tures of a Parapsychologist 
 in college.
1
 It was the first skeptical book I’d encountered and it scorched and salted the lush landscape of my paranormal beliefs. First Santa Claus and now this? Ideas can be beautiful and we don’t want to let go of them even when we know they’re wrong.There are things in this world that deeply resonate with us. We seek them out. They hold our attention. They feel right. I want to dance to hip-hop. I feel moved by sad, uplifting stories. I want to believe that people can move things just by willing it to happen.
 
2
RIVETED
You are struck by a beautiful view from a mountain cabin. You hear that everyone gets the afterlife that they imagined they’d have, and the idea is so beautiful, and feels so right, that you smile in spite of yourself. You hear a story of some terrible thing that happened to a child that gives you chills and haunts you for days. You find your-self glued to the screen, watching a close basketball game. You hear a great joke and can’t wait to tell it to your friends.With the huge variety of things we find compelling, it seems nat-ural that a huge variety of qualities would make them compelling. There can’t be anything similar about what’s good about a pop song on the radio and what’s moving when someone recounts their near-death experience, can there?Yes, there can. Strange as it might seem, compelling things share
many
 similarities. My purpose in this book is to tie together research from many fields. I’ll do something that has never been done before and show how all these phenomena can be explained with the foun-dations of
compellingness.
 I will show you that, like art and other sensory experiences, beliefs and explanations have aesthetic qualities that make us more or less likely to believe them. The same qualities appear again and again in riveting things, be they jokes, paintings, quotations, paranormal beliefs, religions, sports, video games, news, music, or gossip. The qualities that are common to all these things fit like a key in a lock with our psychological proclivities. I call it the
compellingness foundations theory.
* * *Understanding compellingness and how it works requires some un-derstanding of our brains and how they were shaped by evolution. Our brains are a mix of old and newer processes that evolved at different times. They sometimes “disagree” on the meaning, impor-tance, and value of things, and often we are clueless as to how we got our opinions. Often we are attracted to something or repelled by it and don’t know why, and the reasons we dredge up are confabula-tions, mere guesses about our underlying psychologies.The old brain is evolutionarily older. It’s located near the top of the brain stem and the back of the head. We share much of its

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