Think Before You Like: Social Media's Effect on the Brain and the Tools You Need to Navigate Your Newsfeed


Guy P. Harrison, Prometheus Books, 2017



At a time when the news cycle turns on a tweet, journalism gets confused with opinion, and facts are treated as negotiable information, applying critical thinking skills to your social media consumption is more important than ever.



Guy P. Harrison, an upbeat advocate of scientific literacy and positive skepticism, demonstrates how critical thinking can enhance the benefits of social media while giving users the skills to guard against its dangers.

Social media has more than two billion users and continues to grow. Its widespread appeal as a means of staying in touch with friends and keeping up with daily news masks some serious pitfalls-- misinformation, pseudoscience, fraud, propaganda, and irrational beliefs, for example, presented in an attractive, easy-to-share form. This book will teach you how to resist the psychological and behavioral manipulation of social media and avoid the mistakes that millions have already made and now regret.

Harrison presents scientific studies that show why your subconscious mind loves social media and how that can work against your ability to critically evaluate information. Among other things, social media reinforces your biases, clouds your judgment with images that leave a false impression, and fills your brain with anecdotes that become cheap substitutes for objective data. The very nature of the technology keeps you in a bubble; by tracking your preferences it sends only filtered newsfeeds, so that you rarely see anything that might challenge your set notions.

Harrison explores the implications of having digital "friends" and the effects on mood, self-esteem, and the cultivation of friendship in the real world. He discusses how social media affects attention spans and the ability to consider issues in depth. And he suggests ways to protect yourself against privacy invasion, cyberstalking, biased misinformation, catfishing, trolls, misuse of photos, and the confusion over fake news versus credible journalism. (Prometheus Books) 



“Guy P. Harrison has become an essential guide to the human mind and a champion of science, reason, and critical thinking. In this new book, the celebrated author of Think and Good Thinking applies his signature wit, insight, and good nature as he tackles the Internet and social media, two omnipresent beasts that he shows us how to tame. From fake news to privacy and filter bubbles, Harrison leaves no stone unturned, and he delivers another brilliant and vitally important book.”
—Julien Musolino, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Rutgers University


“Harrison combines outstanding and comprehensive research with engaging, colorful, and entertaining writing. His spot-on book raises and addresses important issues on how we are both victims and beneficiaries of a wired world. Readers should heed his call to pay attention to and think about social media’s role in society and in their lives. This is a fascinating treatment of an important subject.”

—Larry Atkins, author of Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias   


“[A] skillfully written and researched survey…. [This] book addresses timely topics, such as avoiding information ‘filter bubbles’ and ‘fake news.’ It also contains a well-designed chart for objectively measuring time devoted to social media and cogent advice about healthy use and warning signs. Perhaps the strongest sections are discussions of the importance of critical thinking, ‘standard weak points’ to be aware of in news reports, and five steps to ‘think like a scientist.’ Harrison manages to be firm without being a fearmonger.”

—Publishers Weekly






Good Thinking: What you need to know to be smarter, safer, wealthier, and wiser (2015)

Critical-thinking skills are essential for life in the 21st century. In this follow-up to his introductory guide Think, and continuing his trademark of hopeful skepticism, Guy Harrison demonstrates in a detailed fashion how to sort through bad ideas, unfounded claims, and bogus information to drill down to the most salient facts. By explaining how the human brain works, and outing its most irrational processes, this book provides the thinking tools that will help you make better decisions, ask the right questions (at the right time), know what to look for when evaluating information, and understand how your own brain subconsciously clouds your judgment.  

Think you're too smart to be easily misled? Harrison summarizes scientific research showing how easily even intelligent and well-educated people can be fooled. We all suffer from cognitive biases, embellished memories, and the tendency to kowtow to authority figures or be duped by dubious 'truths' packaged in appealing stories. And as primates we are naturally status seekers, so we are prone to irrational beliefs that seem to enhance our sense of belonging and ranking. Emotional impulses and stress also all too often lead us into traps of misperception and bad judgment.      

Understanding what science has discovered about the brain makes you better equipped to cope with its built-in pitfalls. Good Thinking--the book and the practice-- makes clear that with knowledge and the right thinking skills, anyone can lead a safer, wiser, more efficient, and productive life. 



  • “For all our vaunted intelligence, we human beings believe some really bizarre things. Guy P. Harrison takes us on a judicious, wide-ranging, and entertaining tour of the many dimensions of human mental weirdness, pointing out where we need to be particularly on guard against our poor decision-making processes.”   —Ian Tattersall, curator emeritus, American Museum of Natural History

  • “Harrison proves himself an excellent guide to reasonable thought in the ‘swirling, festering ball of lies and madness’ that is the modern world.”  —Publishers Weekly

  • “Nature gave us powerful brains but didn’t provide us with a user manual. Consequently, far too many people fail to use their brains optimally, often with catastrophic consequences. Thank goodness for Good Thinking. In this important, beautifully written, and well-researched book, Guy P. Harrison gives us the key tools we need to understand how our brains work, how best to use them, and how to take care of them. With clarity, eloquence, and unbridled passion, Harrison makes a compelling case for skepticism and critical thinking, and shows us why it is of vital importance to our species. Adding Good Thinking to your bookshelf should be a no-brainer!”  —Julien Musolino, associate professor of psychology and cognitive science, Rutgers University

  • “We’re drowning in information, but it’s as difficult as ever to make smart, fact-based decisions. As Guy P. Harrison shows, ‘good thinking’ doesn’t just happen—and he has crafted an engaging guide to the fine art of being wise.”   —William Poundstone, author of Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody

  • “Harrison explains why so many smart, well-educated people are capable of making terrible decisions for themselves and their children. It’s a ‘how-to’ book on how to get it right."  —Paul A. Offit, MD, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia





Think: Why You Should Question Everything  (2013) This introductory book is a fresh and exciting approach to science, skepticism, and critical thinking. My aim is to enlighten and inspire readers of all ages. This book challenges everyone to think like a scientist and embrace the skeptical life. If you want to improve your critical thinking skills, see through most scams at first glance, and learn how your own brain can trip you up, this is the book for you.


Think shows you how to better navigate through the maze of biases and traps that are standard features of every human brain. These innate pitfalls threaten to trick us into seeing, hearing, thinking, remembering, and believing things that are not real or true. It will help you trim away the nonsense, deflect bad ideas, and keep both feet firmly planted in reality. It really is in everyone's best interest to question everything. My brand of skepticism is constructive and optimistic. It's a way of life that anyone can embrace. An antidote to nonsense, quackery, and delusion, this accessible guide to critical thinking is the perfect book for anyone seeking a jolt of inspiration. 


“Harrison's upbeat style nicely conveys some of the latest scientific research on how the mind functions… [His] inviting style serves the interests of skeptics and scientists who face the onslaught of nonsense, delusion, ignorance, stupidity, and bias that dominates today's muddled culture… Highly recommended.”

Library Journal 


“If you are happy being told what to think, don’t buy this book. However, if you want to learn how to think and be in control of your health, your investments, and your destiny, then read this book now. In lucid and unbiased writing, Harrison explains how you can enrich your life and that of your loved ones by simply using your brain to think critically.”

—Dr. Donald C. Johanson, founding director of the Institute of Human Origins and discoverer of Lucy, the most famous fossil in history


“Sometimes we want things to be true, but being able to tell the difference between fable and fact is not just a nice idea—it will save you money, tons of time, and possibly your life. Harrison’s wonderfully written reality check offers the most valuable education you can get this side of grad school.”

—Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer, SETI Institute 




50 Popular Beliefs that People Think are True  (2013) is a skeptical grand tour of extraordinary claims such as ESP, ghosts, gods, psychics, astrology, UFOs, doomsday prophecies, Roswell, faith healing, Bigfoot, homeopathic medicine, and many more.

The book is not preachy or condescending and strives to show how we are all vulnerable to falling for unproven and unlikely claims simply because of the way our brains work. We all believe silly things. What matters is how many and how silly. Includes illustrations by Kevin Hand. 


“What would it take to create a world in which fantasy is not confused for fact and public policy is based on objective reality? I don't know for sure. But a good place to start would be for everyone on Earth to read this book." 

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist 


“Rarely has a skeptic gone to battle against nonsense with the warmth and humor found in 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think are True.”    

Skeptic, Vol. 17, No. 4, 2012


“Harrison has added to the growing body of skeptical literature a contribution that will continue to move our culture toward one that openly embraces reason, science, and logic.”
—Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific American


“Being a skeptic can be hard work, but Harrison makes it a lot easier. . . .  This is the book I wish I had written.”  

—Phil Plait, author of The Bad Astronomer 



Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know about Our Biological Diversity  (2010) takes readers on a far-reaching exploration of the idea of biological races, written for the layperson. I show that these categories are inconsistent and illogical. Groups such as "blacks" and "whites" do exist, but they are cultural groups, rather than something that nature imposed on us. Races change according to time period and culture, for example, and do not represent a sensible and accurate picture of humankind’s real biological diversity.

Professor of sociology at Stanford University, Dr. David B. Grusky, says the book is, "a tour de force that conveys the current science on racial classification in a rigorous yet readable way. Even those who think they know it all about race and racial classification will come away changed."


"We desperately need a book that sets us no-nonsense straight, and Race and Reality is just that book, a tour de force that conveys the current science on racial classification in a rigorous yet readable way. A book so clearly written, so elegantly crafted, so packed with nuggets that even those who think they know it all about race and racial classification will come away changed."

–David B. Grusky, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford University 


“In the beginning of this exceptional book, Harrison laments that he ‘should never have made it through 12 years of schooling before entering a university without ever hearing the important news that most anthropologists reject the concept of biological races.’  Then in a clear, concise, and very readable manner, Harrison explains why the scientists who study this subject have come to the conclusion that biological races do not exist.  He goes on to clarify the many misconceptions surrounding race and athletic ability, racialized medicine, race and IQ, and interracial love, marriage, and parenthood.  This is a very important, profound, enjoyable and enlightening book.  It should go a long way in helping disprove man’s most dangerous myth."  

-Robert W. Sussman, Professor of Anthropology, Washington University.  Editor of Yearbook of Physical Anthropologyand Editor Emeritus of American Anthropologist 


50 Simple Questions for Every Christian  (2013)

Written in a respectful and conversational style this unique book is designed to promote constructive dialogue and foster mutual understanding between Christians and nonbelievers. I ask basic questions about Christian belief, not to argue but to stimulate deeper thinking about this religion. What is the born-again experience? Why would God want or need to sacrifice his only son for us? Does this sacrifice makes sense in light of the Holy Trinity doctrine? Do miracles really happen? How reliable is the Bible? What is the rapture? Why isn't everyone a Christian?

Each question is followed by commentary and analysis that is skeptical and tough but never condescending. Christians will find the book useful as a basis for developing their apologetics, while skeptics should appreciate my rational analysis of religious claims.


"Every Christian on the planet should read this book. They will be pleasantly surprised by Harrison's respectful tone and sincere desire to enlighten. Far from an attack or a series of arguments, this book explains, in plain English, why some people are skeptical of Christianity. This book is nothing less than a rare opportunity to close the gap between believers and nonbelievers, and to bring more light and tolerance to the world."

-Peter Boghossian, Instructor of Philosophy, Portland State University 


“Guy P. Harrison's new book is a sober, thoughtful and engaging series of inquiries for us Christians. . . . the kind of challenge we should embrace wholeheartedly.”

Rev. Barry Lynn, author of Piety & Politics and The Right to Religious Liberty 


“A thoughtful, conversational, and eminently engaging book. Harrison offers a respectful and yet frank and undauntedly critical approach to Christianity. Believers and nonbelievers alike will find this a worthy, provocative read.”

—Phil Zuckerman, PhD, professor of sociology, Pitzer College

“With persistent, but gentle, words, Harrison injects logic, science and rational thinking into the discussion of Christian religions, asking only for consideration of facts without the emotional reaction of considering all questions as attacks. This book is another well written and well thought out work by Harrison, and it deserves serious consideration by believers and non-believers alike.”

Nick Wynne, author of Florida in the Great Depression: Desperation and Defiance, former executive director of the Florida Historical Society 



50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God  (2008)

This is a skeptical analysis of various religious claims made within a variety of belief systems around the world. Each chapter presents a common reason for belief espoused by followers of various religions and then explains why there is reason for doubt. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, calls the book "engaging and enlightening." I wrote this book in a way that respects believers, if not always their beliefs. I have no interest in winning arguments. I only want to inspire people to think more deeply about what they believe and why.


"Deep wisdom and patient explanations fill this excellent book." 

-James A. Haught, author of Honest Doubt and Science in a Nanosecond 


“Engaging and enlightening . . . Read this book to explore the many and diverse reasons for belief.”

—Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine


“Religion is as universal as language, which hints at a biological basis. Why did our ancestors evolve an attraction to the supernatural? The fundamental question is not whether this attraction is rational or not – which is the subject of a dozen recent provocative books -- but what exactly faith delivers to those who possess it. The present book treats this question respectfully, listening to the answer of the believers themselves, which seems an excellent place to start.”   

—Frans de Waal, primatologist, author of The Age of Empathy


"In this thought-provoking book, Harrison makes a powerful case against religion without the need for name-calling, contempt or condescension."

The Herald, Glasgow, Scotland 



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