The Echoes of the Mind (93) Belief


A belief is not merely an idea that the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind. ~ English clergyman Robert Bolton

A belief is confidence in an abstraction as truth. Beliefs are value constructs cast into symbolic systems which are then projected onto perceptions to make contextual sense of sensation.

Once you have a belief, it influences how you perceive all other relevant information. ~ American political scientist Robert Jervis

A superstition is a belief in some particular object, event, or context. Whereas a superstition is a localized belief, a belief is an unbounded superstition. As with the wave/particle duality in quantum physics, the two differ only in applied scope: a superstition is a quantum of conviction, while a belief encompasses a field.

Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is. ~ German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

People are prone to developing false beliefs. ~ English cognitive psychologist Kimberley Wade

Naïve realism is the belief that we experience reality as it is, objectively and without bias. Naïve realism is the central cognitive conjecture of the Collective: that things are as they seem.

There are no impartial ‘facts.’ Data do not have a logic of their own that results in the same perceptions and cognitions for all people. Data are perceived and interpreted in terms of the individual perceiver’s own needs, own connotations, own personality, own previously formed cognitive patterns. ~ American psychologists David Krech & Richard Crutchfield

People think that their beliefs accord with the world: a conclusion which proceeds from self-validation.

The more we examine our beliefs and explain how they might be true, the more closed we become to challenging information. ~ David Myers

Motivated reasoning is decision-making biased by emotion. People frame their inquiries regarding reality to promote comforting answers which conform to their preferences.

Cognition and motivation collude to allow our preferences to exert influence over what we believe. ~ Thomas Gilovich

In one study, participants were led to think that academic success was related to either introversion or extroversion. Those who were fed the introversion version thought of themselves as more introverted, and vice versa. Further, asked to recall relevant autobiographical events, those invested with introversion recalled more incidents of introversion, and did so quickly. Extrovert wannabes did likewise.

Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true. ~ Francis Bacon

By establishing a preference, the ease of generating supportive evidence is enhanced: different criteria are employed to evaluate premises favored and those scorned. For inclined ideas, the gating issue is whether evidence impels contradictory belief; a rather easy standard, given the equivocal nature of much information. The question boils down to: can this be believed?

For unpalatable propositions, the evidence must be compelling, which is a much more difficult standard. The crucial question here is: must this be believed?

If credulity were the effect of reasoning and experience, it must grow up and gather strength, in the same proportion as reason and experience do. But if credulity is the gift of Nature, it will be strongest in childhood, and limited and restrained by experience. The most superficial view of human life shows that the last is really the case, and not the first. ~ Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid

It is only gradually that we learn to suspend judgment, to doubt. ~ English psychologist William McDougall

Once a belief takes hold, people can readily weave a story about it: why it exists and what it means. Through recall and imaginative manipulation, such storytelling reinforces belief. This dynamic is also the basis for false memories.

Once imbued, belief systems are held dear. Belief systems are emotional ballasts, not impartial (statistical).

One shows off one’s beliefs to people one thinks will appreciate them, not to those who are likely to be critical. ~ Robert Abelson

Whatever the belief, confirmation is commonly sought by association with those who hold the same belief. Shared beliefs are often the basis of tribalism in modern societies. The more fringe the belief, the stronger the tribe.

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Beliefs are like possessions. ~ Robert Abelson

Parallels in language show how beliefs are like possessions. A person adopts/acquires/holds a belief until it is discarded/abandoned/disowned. Dismissal of a proffered belief: “I don’t buy that”; the metaphor applies as well to how beliefs are assembled into a worldview (“I buy that”).

Aesthetic sense of style has us wearing clothes that do not clash; so too with beliefs. Belief inconsonance is a philosophic itch that may be scratched, but not cured. The mind works to reconcile beliefs that do not fit together. When forced conformity fails, enamored convictions are refurbished with conceptual accoutrements which do not create implacable dissonance. Incompatible beliefs may coexist in a truce.

A person’s belief system comprises a covey of convictions woven together for emotional comfort, creating a world that is comprehensible, and as safe as denial allows. An incomprehensible world fills one with fear, as it has no predictability.

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. ~ Bertrand Russell

In essence, beliefs are generalizations related to expectation. Via mental filtering, people experience what they believe.

Belief creates the actual fact. ~ William James

Beliefs are pages in a mental catalog portraying how things are supposed to be. Taking perception as conforming to the contents of the catalog confuses concept with actuality. Thus, confusion is inherent in those who believe.

The interpretive process of projecting belief onto actuality is a high-level aspect of perception, creating a cogent composite from disparate inputs and infusing a situation with symbolic meaning. That a process comes naturally does not make it actual, or even sensible; but it does make it real to a believer, and what is taken to be real carries consequences.

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Religions are born and may die, but superstition is immortal. ~ American historians Will & Ariel Durant

Beliefs are categorical conventions of conviction, distinct from worldly experiences. Treating any model as if it were reality is absurd – yet that is exactly what matterist scientists regularly do. Ultimately, a belief system is an extensive exercise in just that: faith in absurdity. But such absurdities are exactly what people depend upon to propel themselves.

Belief bolsters every attempt at anything that a more open, calculating mind would consider problematic. Confidence may be superstitious, but no one doubts its essentiality in entrepreneurship.

Innumerable experiments have probed the value of superstition. One such study pondered golf putting.

Participants were asked to engage in a 10-trial putting task. A pretest revealed that more than 80% of our participant population believed in good luck; so, to activate the superstition, we linked the concept of good luck to the ball participants used during the task. Specifically, while handing the ball over to the participants, the experimenter said, “Here is your ball. So far it has turned out to be a lucky ball” (superstition-activated condition) or “this is the ball everyone has used so far” (control condition). Finally, participants performed the required 10 putts from a distance of 100 cm. ~ German psychologist Lysann Damisch et al

Golfers putting their “lucky” ball were 35% more successful than those striking an “everyman” ball. Similar tests involving physical dexterity, task efficacy, memory recall, and awareness all had participants performing better when luck was on their side.

In another study, participants played a game of 20 questions. People in one group were told that before each question appeared, the answer would be briefly flashed before them on a computer screen. The answer would appear too quickly to be read, but their subconscious mind would be able to pick it up. The other group was told that the computer screen flash simply signaled the next question.

Those that thought that the answers were being flashed to them and should “trust their skills” did significantly better statistically.