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Here are academic theories about how and what we
 Automatic Believing
 Belief Bias
 Belief Perseverance
 Conversion
 Disconfirmation bias
 Just-world phenomenon
 Placebo Effect
 Schema
 Source Credibility
 People initially believe everything they see
and hear ('seeing is believing'), but then
rapidly assess whether it is true or not and
consequently reject or continue to believe
things. This assessment and decision takes
time and energy, so the more tired people
get or more distracted by other things, the
more they are likely to believe false
Gilbert, Tafarodi and Malone
(1993) asked people to read
crime reports and
recommend prison
sentences, including some
false statements which were
marked in red to indicate
them as such. In normal
situations, they were not
affected by the false
statements. However, when
they were overloaded by
additional work, the false
statements affected their
 People will tend to accept any and all
conclusions that fit in with their systems of
belief, without challenge or any deep
consideration of what they are actually
agreeing with.
 The reverse is also true, and people will tend
to reject assertions that do not fit in with their
belief systems, even though these statements
may be perfectly logical and arguably possible.
 It is even more true of people who are not
educated in logic and argumentation, as such
people reason by experience and not at all by
Luria (1976) asked illiterate
farmers in Central Asia to
reason deductively, giving
them statements like: "In the
far north, where there is
snow, all bears are white.
Novaga Zamlya is in the far
north. What color are the
bears there?"
The responses were such as, "I
don't know...I've seen a black
bear, but not others. Each area
has it's own type of animals,
you know..."
 Once we have decided that we believe
something, we will tend to keep on
believing it, even in the face of
disconfirming evidence.
 Particularly if other people know of our
belief, it can be embarrassing to climb
down from our previous assertions. It is
also difficult to remove a belief which has
been woven into a wider web of belief,
without disturbing those other beliefs.
Ross, Lepper and Hubbard
(1975) asked experimental
participants to look at
suicide notes to determine
which were real. A third
each of the participants
were told that they were
right 10, 17 and 24 out of
25 times. They were then
told that they had been lied
to and asked to estimate
more correctly. Those who
had been told higher
numbers continued to guess
 Thisis a sudden change in beliefs, such as
when someone ‘experiences’ a religious
conversion. The experience is often felt
very strongly and leads to radical changes
in behaviors.
Cults often attract people
who are searching for
meaning in their lives and
who have built up massive
tension around this. The
converts experience a
significant emotional
release, often within a
carefully engineered
context of ritual and
socialization, as they ‘see
the light’.
 When people are faced with evidence for
and against their beliefs, they will be more
likely to accept the evidence that supports
their beliefs with little scrutiny yet
criticize and reject that which disconfirms
their beliefs.
 Generally, we will avoid or discount
evidence that might show us to be wrong.
I am a scientist who is
invited to investigate a
haunted house. I
rubbish the idea and
decline the invitation.
When given a paper
which supports my pet
theories, however, I
laud the fine research
with little questioning
as to the methods
 We tend to believe that the world is, on
the whole, fair, and that wrongs will be
punished and rights rewarded at some time
in the indeterminate future.
 This attitude helps us make sense of the
world as we translate events as being just,
fore-ordained or inevitable.
The Bible agrees:
'whatsoever a man soweth,
that shall he also reap.'
(Galatians 6:7). The
Christian religion also
includes the potential for
reward and punishment to
be meted out after death in
the fields of heaven or fires
of hell.
 The reason the placebo works is because
the patient believes it will be effective.
There may also be some conditioning
effect. The credibility of the person
administering the placebo is hence another
important factor, as is the manner of
A person complains of
regular headaches and
normal analgesics do not
seem to have an effect. A
doctor prescribes a placebo
but says it is a new wonder-
drug. The headaches
magically disappear.
A schema is a mental structure we use to
organize and simplify our knowledge of the
world around us. We have schemas about
ourselves, other people, mechanical devices,
food, and in fact almost everything.
 Schemas affect what we notice, how we
interpret things and how we make decisions
and act.
Some people dislike police
because they have a
schema of police as people
who perceive everyone as
guilty until proven
innocent. Other people feel
safe around police as their
schemas are more about
police as brave protectors.
 People are more likely to be persuaded if
the person doing the persuading is seen as
being credible, expert and trustworthy.
 It is worth noting that expertise is not the
only factor for example physically
attractive communicators are generally
more successful than unattractive ones in
changing beliefs, as are people who are
generally likeable.
A shampoo commercial uses
a person in a white coat
who is described as their
chief scientist to explain
why the product is so
 Changingminds.org/explanations/theories/th