The Belief Illusion

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I offer a new argument for the elimination of ‘beliefs’ from cognitive science based on Wimsatt’s concept of robustness and a related concept of fragility. Theoretical entities are robust if multiple independent means of measurement produce invariant results in detecting them. Theoretical entities are fragile when multiple independent means of detecting them produce highly variant results. I argue that sufficiently fragile theoretical entities do not exist. Recent studies in psychology show radical variance between what self-report and non-verbal behaviour indicate about participants’ beliefs. This is evidence that ‘belief’ is fragile, and is thus a strong candidate for elimination. 1 Introduction2 Robustness and Fragility2.1 A historical example of robustness2.2 Fragility and elimination3 The Received View4 Evidence for the Fragility of Belief4.1 Contamination and fragility4.2 Implicit association tests and fragility5 Attempts to Preserve the Belief Category for Cognitive Science5.1 Beliefs and aliefs5.2 Contradictory beliefs5.3 In-between beliefs and the unity assumption5.4 Belief sub-classes5.5 Self-deception6 Alternative Mental States7 Conclusion
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Alief and Belief.Gendler, Tamar Szabó
The Weirdest People in the World.Henrich, Joseph; Heine, Steven J. & Norenzayan, Ara

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