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"Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations," by Chris Berdik

Mind Over Mind, Chris Berdik
Whitney Peeling

Jeff Glor talks to Chris Berdik about, "Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations."

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Chris Berdik: I had read a lot about the mind's quirks and irrational biases, all the beliefs and assumptions that lead us to make strange choices, cause us to see things that aren't there, or otherwise blind us to the truth. At the same time, I'd been reading about placebo studies by people like Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard and others, investigating the possibility that, under some conditions, truth and reality may actually be shaped by our expectations, rather than hidden and obscured by them.

Our brains are constantly making predictions and jumping to conclusions, and the effects can be surprisingly powerful in some cases, while toothless in others. I started seeing evidence of these effects in research outside of medicine, too - in athletic performance and sensory experience, for example. I was hooked.

JG: What surprised you most during the writing process?

CB: In terms of subject matter, I was amazed by how easily the expectations of self-perception can be hacked to change how we think and behave. These studies include immersive virtual reality research, in which altering somebody's appearance in a realistic computer-generated reality can actually shift who they think they are in subtle but important ways.

As for the writing, I didn't expect this project to be so all-consuming, so difficult and so much fun at the same time. It kind of took over my brain for about two years.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

CB: That's a tough one. I like to think I'd be a scientist. I believe that good journalism and science are both driven by curiosity, and I love asking questions.

JG: What else are you reading right now?

CB: "Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies" by Ben Macintyre. I'm also sampling Charles Bukoswki's poetry in "Love Is A Dog From Hell."

JG: What's next for you?

CB: It's back to the workaday life of a freelance journalist. I'm always on the prowl for my next book project. But, I'm also looking forward to exploring a wide variety of science stories, and dipping my toes in a few pools before I once again take the plunge.

For more on "Mind Over Mind," visit his website.

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