The science of belief: A progress report

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The science of belief: A progress report

The moon landing, or what NASA would have you believe was the moon landing.

Abstract

The empirical study of belief is emerging at a rapid clip, uniting work from all corners of cognitive science. Reliance on belief in understanding and predicting behavior is widespread. Examples can be found, inter alia, in the placebo, attribution theory, theory of mind, and comparative psychological literatures. Research on belief also provides evidence for robust generalizations, including about how we fix, store, and change our beliefs. Evidence supports the existence of a Spinozan system of belief fixation: one that is automatic and independent of belief rejection. Independent research supports the existence of a system of fragmented belief storage: one that relies on large numbers of causally isolated, context‐sensitive stores of belief in memory. Finally, empirical and observational data support at least two systems of belief change. One system adheres, mostly, to epistemological norms of updating; the other, the psychological immune system, functions to guard our most centrally held beliefs from potential inconsistency with newly formed beliefs. Refining our understanding of these systems can shed light on pressing real‐world issues, such as how fake news, propaganda, and brainwashing exploit our psychology of belief, and how best to construct our modern informational world.

This article is categorized under:
Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making
Philosophy > Knowledge and Belief
Philosophy > Foundations of Cognitive Science

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