Right between your ears

Ella Rhodes on a new social psychological documentary.

Neuroscientist Dr Kris De Meyer (King’s College London) and filmmaker Sheila Marshall are putting the finishing touches to Right Between Your Ears, a documentary about how we can become convinced that we are right, even when we are completely wrong.

In the spirit of social psychologist Leon Festinger’s classic study in cognitive dissonance, De Meyer and Marshall spent six weeks in the US with a group of ‘end-time believers’ before, during and after their failed prophecy. The film weaves personal stories together with interviews with experts, including social psychologists Professor Elliot Aronson and Dr Carol Tavris (University of California, Santa Cruz) and neuroscientists Professor Mark Cohen and Dr Pamela Douglas (University of California, Los Angeles).

De Meyer said: ‘Psychology has much to say about the nature of our convictions, and how we cope with the consequences of our actions. Yet it has fascinated me for a long time how little impact this knowledge has on resolving our increasingly polarised public debates and conflicts. Working with filmmaker Sheila Marshall stimulated me to step out of a purely academic role, and to try to engage a wider audience with these psychological insights.’

In addition to the personal accounts and academic contributions, one of the believers also takes part in an fMRI study about belief. De Meyer said: ‘Together these perspectives give a unique insight into the nature of belief, and turn it from a story about “them” and “their” beliefs into a story of how we believe.’ 

I A crowdfunding campaign to cover the final part of the post-production costs, with the opportunity to preorder the DVD, is running until 21 May 2015. To find out more about the campaign and to watch the trailer of the film visit www.rightbetween.com.

UPDATE: There will be a screening at IoPPN, King's College, on 31 January. Get more information and register.

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