Socially adaptive belief

Mind and Language 36 (3):333-354 (2020)
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I clarify and defend the hypothesis that human belief formation is sensitive to social rewards and punishments, such that beliefs are sometimes formed based on unconscious expectations of their likely effects on other agents – agents who frequently reward us when we hold ungrounded beliefs and punish us when we hold reasonable ones. After clarifying this phenomenon and distinguishing it from other sources of bias in the psychological literature, I argue that the hypothesis is plausible on theoretical grounds and I show how it illuminates and unifies a range of psychological phenomena, including confabulation and rationalisation, positive illusions, and identity-protective cognition.



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Dan Williams
Cambridge University

Citations of this work

Rational Polarization.Kevin Dorst - 2023 - Philosophical Review 132 (3):355-458.
Echoes of covid misinformation.Neil Levy - 2021 - Philosophical Psychology 36 (5):931-948.
The Trinity and the Light Switch: Two Faces of Belief.Neil Van Leeuwen - forthcoming - In Eric Schwitzgebel & Jonathan Jong (eds.), The Nature of Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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References found in this work

The Enigma of Reason.Dan Sperber & Hugo Mercier (eds.) - 2017 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
The Language of Thought.J. A. Fodor - 1978 - Critica 10 (28):140-143.
Brainstorms.Daniel Dennett - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 47 (2):326-327.

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