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Riveted The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe by Jim Davies

Riveted The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe

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Why do some things pass under the radar, while others capture our attention? From art to religion, sport to supersistion Riverted is a fascinating and accessible exploration of the scientific and evolutionary underpinnings of why we find things compelling.


Riveted The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe by Jim Davies

Why do some things pass under the radar of our attention, but other things capture our interest? Why do some religions catch on and others fade away? What makes a story, a movie, or a book riveting? Why do some people keep watching the news even though it makes them anxious?The past 20 years have seen a remarkable flourishing of scientific research into exactly these kinds of questions. Professor Jim Davies' fascinating and highly accessible book, Riveted, reveals the evolutionary underpinnings of why we find things compelling, from art to religion and from sports to superstition. Compelling things fit our minds like keys in the ignition, turning us on and keeping us running, and yet we are often unaware of what makes these keys fit. What we like and don't like is almost always determined by subconscious forces, and when we try to consciously predict our own preferences we're often wrong. In one study of speed dating, people were asked what kinds of partners they found attractive. When the results came back, the participants' answers before the exercise had no correlation with who they actually found attractive in person! We are beginning to understand just how much the brain makes our decisions for us: we are rewarded with a rush of pleasure when we detect patterns, as the brain thinks we've discovered something significant; the mind urges us to linger on the news channel or rubberneck an accident in case it might pick up important survival information; it even pushes us to pick up People magazine in order to find out about changes in the social structure. Drawing on work from philosophy, anthropology, religious studies, psychology, economics, computer science, and biology, Davies offers a comprehensive explanation to show that in spite of the differences between the many things that we find compelling, they have similar effects on our minds and brains.


'A fascinating analysis of what we find fascinating.' -- Kirkus Reviews

'To describe Riveted as riveting sounds cliche, but I predict that Jim Davies could be the next Malcolm Gladwell. Integrating scientific findings with compelling stories across the wide spectrum of the human experience--art, music, literature, comedy, magic, quotes, sports, conspiracy theories, gossip, religion, and science itself--Davies weaves a central theme throughout to explain what makes them all so compelling. You can read Riveted for five minutes or five hours and be enriched at multiple levels, and the book itself explains why. How recursive.' -- Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and the author of The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, and The Science of Good and Evil

'What makes a song, a piece of art, a tabloid or even a silly romantic comedy film trailer so enthralling? What is it about these things that draw us in, even when we may (or at least should) know better? In Riveted, Jim Davies tackles this complex question by proposing a thoughtful, interdisciplinary framework to illuminate the qualities of 'compellingness,
the very attributes of riveting things that have the power to sway our beliefs and attention. By tying together psychological, anthropological, cognitive science, and evolutionary biological studies, he provides a thorough and persuasive context to help us understand how the compelling can fascinate (and sometimes manipulate) the human mind'. -- Kayt Sukel, author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex, and Relationships

About the Author

Jim Davies is a professor at the Institute of Cognitive Science of Carleton University, and director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory. He has been featured in Skeptic and Nautilus magazines, and has presented at Pecha Kucha Ottawa and TEDx on his theories of imagination. He writes a Psychology Today blog called The Science of Imagination. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th August 2014


Jim Davies

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Palgrave Macmillan


288 pages


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