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
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
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