This is a crash course, designed to help you understand why your brain favors magical explanations over rational ones. Some woo is harmless, but many forms of woo can have serious and even fatal consequences. If woo is a disease, consider this course the vaccine, which like all other vaccines does NOT cause autism.
Learn to Spot Woo
Recognize your own biases and possible sources of supernatural, mystical, paranormal, and pseudo-scientific beliefs
Be able to offer a basic psychological explanation to others who profess belief in woo
Think more critically
Learn Why Your Brain Favors Mysticism and Magic Over Rationalism and Reality
Why do we have a tendency to believe in the supernatural, paranormal, mysticism, quackery, and pseudoscience? Hint: it's not because these things are supported by evidence. Our brains evolved to maximize our chances for survival and successful reproduction not for being reasonable, logical, or even knowing what is true.
By the end of this course, you should be able to recognize your own biases and be able to rethink some of your long-held beliefs in what you will realize is actually just woo.
Unlike most online courses unaffiliated with a university, each lesson in this course includes assignments that are manually evaluated by the instructor with detailed feedback provided (instructor evaluated course option only).
For this course, text, audio, and video resources are used. All of the resources are compatible with virtually all modern web-browsers and mobile devices.
The instructor is available for students to discuss course-specific content via e-mail, online chat, Skype, and telephone for the first six months of the course (instructor-evaluated option only).
There are no prerequisites for this course.
There are no required resources for this course.
There are no optional resources for this course.
This course begins with an introduction lesson, then the other lessons presented are in no particular order. You are free to skip around to the lessons that interest you most at the time and complete the lessons in any order.
This course is graded on a pass/redo scale. When lessons are reviewed, the student will either get a "pass" or a "redo". Students can redo assignments as many times as they like. All of the lessons are evaluated by both manual review of lesson-specific assignments and automatic grading of quizzes.
This course contains instructor-reviewed assignments, self-evaluated assignments, and multiple choice quizzes. There are no due dates or time limits on any of the assignments or quizzes.
As a self-paced course, there are no time expectations. However, student support is limited to 6 months from the start of the course date. Students are expected to communicate with instructors and other students in a professional and respectful manner.
This Syllabus May Be Updated
The contents of this syllabus may change from time to time. All students will be notified by e-mail of any significant changes.
Lessons in this Course
Click on any lesson below to see the lesson details. If you are a student and logged in, or if the lesson is a sample lesson, you will be able to go to the lesson.
Detecting woo is both an art and a science. The indicators presented in this lesson are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for woo, but merely "red flags" that suggest we might be dealing with woo.
Presented are just a fraction of the psychological factors that contribute to belief in woo. When you combine them all, what we have is demonstrable evidence of why belief in woo is so ubiquitous, and that has absolutely NOTHING to do with any of the claims of woo itself. The reasons discussed are:
Reason #1: We Are Born Believers
Reason #2: We’re Normal
Reason #3: We’re Emotional
Reason #4: Some of Us Are Genetically Predisposed To Woo
Reason #5: Accepting Woo Takes a Lot Less Effort Than Rejecting It
Reason #6: Our Brains are Bad at Probabilistic and Statistical Thinking
Reason #7: Feeling Important Is More Important Than Being Right