By Justin L. Barrett
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Additional info for Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds
In this chapter I present how nonconscious information contributes to the formation of beliefs, an area of broad application and particularly relevant to religion and theology. 2 Common sense tells us that much of what we believe was imparted to us by other people. The importance of testimony bears upon every domain of knowing, even in the sciences: we believe things because trusted others tell us that they are true. Arguably, we would know very little in life if we did not give testimony the benefit of the doubt—sometimes called the credulity principle.
Similar lessons apply to other beliefs that are not directly formed through perception or memory. I discuss these below. Two Kinds of Belief In a similar vein to Kahneman, and following anthropologist Dan Sperber, I find it helpful to talk about two kinds of “beliefs”: reflective or explicit beliefs, and nonreflective or intuitive beliefs. Reflective Beliefs Reflective beliefs are those beliefs we consciously hold and explicitly endorse. Barring deception, simple verbal responses are the most direct measure of reflective beliefs.
In terms of the two-system model above, reflective beliefs are a product of the reasoning system. Reflective beliefs are typically represented as propositions. “The chair is ugly,” “England won the last World Cup,” “Bob is angry at Emma because Nick told Tom about Bob’s secret,” “Maple leaves have five points,” and “Harvey is seven feet tall” are all examples of reflective beliefs. Note that reflective beliefs are not necessarily inferential in the sense of reflectively drawing inferences from consciously accessible evidence or reasons or inferring them from other beliefs, a point I return to below.