Sunday, November 09, 2008

On Belief

Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.

We all hold beliefs. Whenever we board a train or a car, e.g., we believe that it will take us to our destination. Such beliefs can be termed as cognitive beliefs. However, passionately held beliefs (or affective beliefs) are usually speculative or imaginative, having little or no evidence and having an emotional payoff in that they make us "feel good" or vindicated.

A good way to evaluate whether a belief is cognitive or affective is to see the emotional effect it has on the believer, and the offense its criticism causes. A cognitive belief, in contrast, makes one function effectively in the world, or think sensibly, and is amenable to being discarded or being changed if evidence is presented.

Religious and spiritual beliefs in particular are dearly held, and criticizing them is considered bad manners.

Cognitive beliefs can also be similar to implied facts or deduced facts. Affective beliefs can also be aphorisms or adages.

Some examples of cognitive beliefs are:
  • My parents were born in the past.
  • The sun will set today.
  • I, like other human beings, have a liver.
  • There are people alive in New York right now.
  • If I board this car, it will take me to my destination.
  • I believe it when you say that your girlfriend was cheating on you.
Some examples of affective beliefs are:
  • Nobody loves me but God.
  • What goes around, comes around.
  • Honesty is the best policy.
  • Today's generation is irresponsible.
  • I am a good person.
  • My soul will never die.

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