Beliefs definition psychology

Beliefs (SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY) - iResearchNet

Beliefs are generally defined as convictions that things held in the mind are true. If individuals think particular tenets are likely to be true, they are said to believe them. If individuals think particular tenets are unlikely to be true, they are said to disbelieve them. In their most basic form, beliefs are nonevaluative. For example, if one believes the sky is blue, that belief could either be positively evaluated (if the individual likes the color blue and thinks the sky would look worse in red), or that belief could be negatively evaluated (if the individual dislikes the color blue and thinks a red sky would be nicer). As such, there is a fine distinction between attitudes and beliefs. Often, beliefs will, at least partially, form the basis or foundation of attitudes.

Beliefs can also form the basis of behavior. An example of this is found in health psychology via the health belief model. In this model, health behavior is predicted by several types of beliefs: (a) beliefs about all of the possible consequences of engaging in or failing to engage in a particular health behavior, (b) beliefs about personal vulnerability (i. e., how likely is the occurrence of these outcomes for oneself), (c) beliefs about the likelihood that a behavioral change would either stop negative outcomes from occurring or would facilitate positive outcomes, and (d) beliefs about whether the necessary behaviors can be enacted. According to this model, behavior change occurs when individuals believe that a particular action leads to negative, likely consequences that could be personally stopped. This model has successfully predicted smoking cessation, skin cancer preventative behaviors, tooth flossing, breast self-examination, safer sexual behavior, and eating a balanced diet.

Beliefs are important foundations of attitudes and behavior, but they can be extremely difficult to change. Often, people will vehemently maintain their beliefs even in light of disconfirming evidence. This phenomenon is known as belief perseverance. Belief perseverance typically occurs because people base their beliefs on information that they find logical, compelling, or attractive in some way. Therefore, even when beliefs are seemingly disconfirmed by new evidence, the foundation for what the person believes may still exist. At times, the belief will still be maintained because of the remaining support of the explanation behind it.

Understanding how beliefs form and how they underlie subsequent attitudes and behaviors is important because it can aid understanding of social phenomena like prejudice and discrimination, helping and aggressive behaviors, impression formation, obedience to authority, interpersonal attraction, and group decision making. In general, beliefs are the most basic type of social knowledge.


  1. Anderson, C. A., Lepper, M. R., & Ross, L. (1980). Perseverance of social theories: The role of explanation in the persistence of discredited information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 1037-1049.
  2. Rosenstock, I. M. (1990). The health belief model: Explaining health behavior through expectancies. In K. Glanz, F. M. Lewis, & B. K. Rimer (Eds.), Health behavior and health education (pp. 39-62). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

What Actually Is a Belief? And Why Is It So Hard to Change?

“For some of our most important beliefs, we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold these beliefs. Considering how little we know, the confidence we have in our beliefs is preposterous—and it is also essential.”

2002 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman1

Source: Source: Alain Lacroix/Dreamstime

Beliefs are a slippery concept. What actually are they? Philosophy has long struggled to define them.2 In this post-truth and ideologically polarized world, we need a better understanding of beliefs. As a psychiatrist, my job frequently involves identifying distorted beliefs, understanding how they formed, and helping people to learn to be more skeptical of their own beliefs.

Let’s consider a helpful evolutionary framework for making more coherent sense of what beliefs really are, and why mistaken beliefs can sometimes be so hard to change. Then we’ll talk about how to gain a more accurate grasp of reality, and how, ultimately, to advance society.

Beliefs as energy-saving shortcuts in modeling and predicting the environment3

Beliefs are our brain’s way of making sense of and navigating our complex world. They are mental representations of the ways our brains expect things in our environment to behave, and how things should be related to each other—the patterns our brain expects the world to conform to. Beliefs are templates for efficient learning and are often essential for survival.

The brain is an energy-expensive organ, so it had to evolve energy-conserving efficiencies. As a prediction machine, it must take shortcuts for pattern recognition as it processes the vast amounts of information received from the environment by its sense organ outgrowths. Beliefs allow the brain to distill complex information, enabling it to quickly categorize and evaluate information and to jump to conclusions. For example, beliefs are often concerned with understanding the causes of things: If ‘b’ closely followed ‘a’, then ‘a’ might be assumed to have been the cause of ‘b’.

These shortcuts to interpreting and predicting our world often involve connecting dots and filling in gaps, making extrapolations and assumptions based on incomplete information and based on similarity to previously recognized patterns. In jumping to conclusions, our brains have a preference for familiar conclusions over unfamiliar ones. Thus, our brains are prone to error, sometimes seeing patterns where there are none. This may or may not be subsequently identified and corrected by error-detection mechanisms. It’s a trade-off between efficiency and accuracy.

In its need for economy and efficiency of energy consumption, the default tendency of the brain is to fit new information into its existing framework for understanding the world, rather than repeatedly reconstructing that framework from scratch.

Seeing is believing

It seems likely that the processes in the brain involved in abstract belief formation evolved from simpler processes involved in interpreting sensory perception.

Since we experience the external world entirely through our senses, we find it hard to accept that these perceptions are sometimes subjectively distorted and that they are not necessarily reliable experiences of objective reality. People tend to trust their physical senses and to believe their perceptions even when they are hallucinating and no matter how bizarre their perceptual distortions. People will layer explanations on top of their perception of reality to explain away contradictions.

We give our subjective experience too much credence, and so too our beliefs. We will more readily explain away evidence that contradicts our cherished belief by expanding and elaborating that belief with additional layers of distorted explanation, rather than abandoning it or fundamentally restructuring it.

Homeostasis — maintaining stability

Primitive nervous systems evolved in simple organisms in part to serve the function of homeostasis—a dynamic physiological state of equilibrium or stability, a steady state of internal conditions. Homeostasis is structured around a natural resistance to change, following the same principle as a thermostat.

The lower, primitive parts of our human brains maintain homeostasis of breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, energy balance (via appetite) and a variety of endocrine processes. So too, beliefs preserve a kind of cognitive homeostasis—a stable, familiar approach to processing information about our world.

We should expect that the homeostatic function that defined primitive brains would likely have been preserved as an organizing principle in the evolution of more complex brains. Certainly, complex brains are geared toward reacting, learning and adapting, but just like primitive brain functions, these adaptations are ultimately in the service of maintaining homeostasis in an ever-changing environment.

Radically restructuring our belief system and creating a new worldview engages parts of the brain involved in higher reasoning processes and computation, and is consequently more effortful, time- and energy-consuming. The brain often cannot afford such an investment. This would explain why, when we experience cognitive dissonance, it is easier to resolve this discomfort by doubling down on our existing belief system—ignoring or explaining away the challenging, contradictory information.

A consistent sense of self, and personal investment in one’s beliefs

Another important factor accounting for resistance to changing our beliefs is the way our beliefs are so often intertwined with how we define ourselves as people—our self-concept. Indeed, beliefs are associated with a part of the brain integrally involved in self-representation—the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.4 We want to feel that we are consistent, with our behavior aligning with our beliefs. We constantly try to rationalize our own actions and beliefs, and try to preserve a consistent self-image. It’s embarrassing and quite often costly in a variety of ways to admit that we are fundamentally wrong.

In many cases, people have a lot invested personally in their belief system. They may have staked their reputation on a particular belief. Not infrequently, people structure their whole lives around a belief. And this investment may go far beyond a sense of self, extending to large material and financial investments or a life’s career. A change of belief for such a person would obviously involve a monumental upheaval and may entail intolerable personal losses.

No wonder it’s so hard to change our cherished and entrenched beliefs.

The social dimension of belief

A lot of our belief framework is learned at an early age from parents and other adult authority figures. Many human beliefs are the cumulative products of millennia of human culture. Children are strongly predisposed to believe their parents, and, as adults, we are inclined to believe authorities.

It's not surprising that our brains have evolved to more readily believe things told to us than to be skeptical. This makes evolutionary sense as a strategy for efficient learning from parents, and as a social, tribal species it promotes group cohesion.

People can be swayed by persuasive individuals or compelling ideas to override and reject their previously received authority. Sometimes, this is rational. But sometimes, it is not—people are susceptible to influence by charismatic ideologues and by social movements. Especially when these offer new attachments and new self-identities imbued with more powerful affiliation, validation, esteem and sense of purpose than the individual previously had in their life.

Science and the excitement of proving ourselves wrong

Science values the changing of minds through disproving previously held beliefs and challenging received authority with new evidence. This is in sharp contrast to faith (not just religious faith). Faith is far more natural and intuitive to the human brain than is science. Science requires training. It is a disciplined method that tries to systematically overcome or bypass our intuitions and cognitive biases and follow the evidence regardless of our prior beliefs, expectations, preferences or personal investment.

The increasing application of the scientific method in the last four centuries ushered in unprecedented, accelerating progress in humanity’s quest to understand the nature of reality and vast improvements in quality of life. Discovering just how mistaken we collectively were about so many things has been the key to sensational societal progress.5

Imagine if each of us as individuals could cultivate a scientific attitude of rigorous critical thinking and curiosity in our personal lives, and could experience an exhilarated feeling of discovery whenever we find we have been wrong about something important. Perhaps it’s time to stop talking admiringly about faith and belief as if these were virtues.

Faith is based on belief without evidence, whereas science is based on evidence without belief.

Human Beliefs - Human Psychology

Each of our strongest convictions can be overturned, or at any rate changed by further advances in knowledge.
Thomas Henry Huxley

Have you, dear readers, paid attention to how much our life depends on the beliefs that we consciously or unconsciously adhere to? After all, we very rarely look or at least try to look objectively at various events in our lives. In the vast majority of cases, we pass these events through the filter of our beliefs and thus distort them. And these distortions can negatively affect our perception of reality and our decision-making. At the same time, most of our beliefs came to us from somewhere and from someone. They were planted in us. And only a small part of them is based on our own life experience. But even so, we must understand that our experience reflects only a small part of what happens in life. Therefore, you should not always trust your beliefs, no matter what they are based on. nine0009

Thus, beliefs, like everything else, have their good and bad sides. We have to deal with both. And this means that the benefits of beliefs must either cover the harm they cause, or you need to be able to completely abandon those of your beliefs that do not meet our interests, or to review and rethink them. We will talk about how this can be done in this article.

Beliefs are

First, let's find out what exactly we are talking about when we talk about beliefs. Beliefs are a stable system of views of a person, which is based on his knowledge, life experience, faith, attitude towards anything, desires and ideas. In a deeper sense, a person's beliefs are his picture of the world, which he accepts and adheres to. By beliefs we can also understand a person's basic ideas about the world, about life, about other people and about himself. With the help of his beliefs, a person orients himself in this world and makes decisions. If his beliefs are for the most part true, adequate to reality, then his decisions will be mostly effective. If the beliefs are wrong, then a person will make many mistakes in life. But no matter how correct a person's beliefs are, they have one serious drawback - they are for the most part static, therefore they are beliefs, and not living thinking, which is always in search of something new. In this sense, thinking differs from beliefs - it is more effective in solving some problems and tasks, as it allows you to find a new approach to them. Life does not stand still, and the world is not fully known, so it is extremely naive to believe that you know and understand everything, adhering to certain beliefs. nine0009

On the other hand, one cannot do without beliefs based, among other things, on faith. We cannot constantly question everything and each time take a fresh approach to issues and cases already known to us. We do not have enough mental or time resources for this. Therefore, we need to rely on the knowledge and beliefs that we have in the form of beliefs that allow us to quickly orient ourselves in this or that situation and understand how we need to act in order to solve the task or problem we face. Thus, our beliefs are a map with which we can move from one point to another, making certain decisions. This map does not reflect reality as it really is. It presents us with only a simplified model of it, which is only as accurate as our beliefs are reasonable. And the reasonableness of our beliefs largely depends on how well we are aware of them. Think about what exactly your beliefs are based on? What [tested] knowledge, beliefs, experience, values, etc. underlie them? How often do you think about the quality of your beliefs? How well do they help you achieve your goals in life? There may be many such questions. With their help, you can understand how accurate your model of the world is and, therefore, useful to you. It is largely based on your moderately conscious beliefs. nine0009

Are our beliefs always conscious, deliberate, and useful to us? Of course no. Most of the beliefs that people hold are based on their blind faith in something. We believe in some things not because they are reasonable, adequate to reality and useful to us, but because we are simply used to them and we like them. Here's a simple example for you. We want, for example, to believe in life after death, which is arranged in a certain way [life in paradise], and we believe in this life. Because we want to believe in it, we like it, we are so comfortable. And at the same time, we also believe that we need to adhere to a certain behavior in order to find this life later, after death. Therefore, we believe [some of us] that there is right and wrong conduct, the rightness and wrongness of which does not depend on its effectiveness, but on its compliance with those requirements, meeting which we can gain life in paradise after we die. That is, it turns out that the goal in which we believe determines our behavior in the present. But at the same time, this behavior of ours in the present may not meet our current interests. So think about how such beliefs, which are expressed in a person's striving for obscure distant goals, to the detriment of closer and tangible goals, can be considered conscious and reasonable. Meanwhile, many people evaluate their behavior in this way. They compare it with the standard of behavior that they have in their head, on which, as they believe, the quality of both their current life and the possible subsequent life after death depends. In other words, they determine the correctness or incorrectness of their behavior not by the results that they get here and now thanks to it, but by what they believe in. I gave you just one example of beliefs that are rather questionable in their rationality, probably the most striking, given the number of people who perceive religion in a traditional way. In fact, there are many more such examples. After all, all people believe in something, know something, experienced something. And everything that they believe in, that they know, that they saw, heard, experienced, forms the basis of their beliefs, which will not necessarily be conscious, deliberate and useful. But on the other hand, they will be quite durable, because people really appreciate what they consider their own. nine0009

Some of our beliefs may be illogical, but at the same time very stable, thanks to public opinion. It is of great importance to many people. Suppose a person can hold the belief that lying is bad, sinful. And he may not be interested in a different point of view on this issue. Even if you point out to him that he himself often lies and that sometimes his lies are necessary, you can’t do without him in this life, he can still remain with his opinion. That is, his conviction regarding lies will remain unshakable. Why? Because this belief is an integral part of his picture of the world. His whole life is based, among other things, on this conviction. Many of the decisions he once made and is taking now are based in one way or another on this conviction. Do you think it is easy for a person to give up all this, especially if he has lived with this belief for most of his life? Probably not. If he refuses it, then he will have to reconsider many of his other views on many other issues that are somehow connected with this belief of his. He and his experience will have to rethink and reconsider his views on many decisions that he made, based on his conviction. Can you imagine what kind of work it is? And what discomfort from understanding that you have been mistaken for so long, considering the truth that which is not it. And with all this a person needs to cope. For if, having changed his belief, he does not begin to put things in order in his head, he will simply lose his peace, he will be tormented by such thoughts that, both on a conscious and unconscious level, will begin to conflict with his new beliefs. Therefore, many people prefer to stay with their old beliefs so as not to leave their comfort zone and not do difficult mental work. nine0009

There is another point - our Ego. We somehow don’t really like to admit that we were mistaken in something, didn’t understand something, didn’t know something. It lowers our self-esteem, undermines our credibility in our own eyes, and feeds our uncertainty when making decisions in the future. This is especially difficult for people with a depressed psyche, because there is so much negativity inside them that needs to be balanced with good thoughts about oneself in order not to fall into depression. Therefore, it is very difficult to admit one's mistakes and delusions in such a state. And that is why many people resist everything that does not fit into their supposedly ideal picture of the world, in which they see themselves as very smart, good, correct, adequate and not making mistakes people. nine0009

Now imagine how difficult it is for the same psychologist to induce a person [client, patient] to think about his beliefs, understand how they are related to the problems he wants to solve and begin to make the necessary volitional efforts to change wrong beliefs for more constructive. Sometimes it's like trying to break through a concrete wall with your forehead. But psychologists manage to do this when they show perseverance and ingenuity. In such cases, working from a textbook is not always possible, you have to improvise a lot in order to find a way to the mind of the client. nine0009

So you see how much a person's beliefs mean to him. It's not just the things we know and believe in - it's an essential part of our personality and our lives.

The meaning of belief

The meaning of any belief is to make life easier for us. You and I can philosophize for a long time about any basic statement that exists in this world, we can turn everything upside down, question, distort, refute, prove the opposite, thanks to our thinking. But we have no time, and someone does not really want to do this. Therefore, a lot has to be taken on faith and agree with those truths that only look like the truth, but in fact they are not. This makes life easier and clearer. And this simplicity has its practical benefits. The fact is that in our world, sometimes you need to react very quickly to certain events, without really thinking about them. To do this, it is necessary to be able to correctly evaluate these events and select the most appropriate behavior pattern for them. This must be done quickly. This is where our beliefs help us, thanks to which we put everything in its place in a short time and make the necessary decisions. At the same time, we convince ourselves that we understand everything and control everything, because we know exactly what is happening and what to do about it. Sometimes, of course, we are wrong, but in most cases, our beliefs help us survive and achieve certain success, so we value them. nine0009

There is another meaning in our beliefs - it is psychological comfort. We feel much more confident and smarter when we think that we know, well, if not everything, then a lot, or at least what we need for a normal life. In reality, this is not so. For not only a single person, but in general all of humanity still does not know a lot about this world. But thinking that we know a lot, we believe that we can control a lot and can influence a lot. And thanks to this opinion, we are calm and even sometimes overly self-confident. Also, our psychological comfort is affected by the convenience for us of our beliefs. For example, if a person considers himself good, smart, talented, and so on, then he feels good about such an opinion about himself, right? Other people may see a completely different personality in him and have a completely different opinion about him. But he doesn't need to know about it. He lives in his fictional world, in which he likes what he sees several times every day in the mirror, both literally and figuratively. And another important point, thanks to which our beliefs help us feel comfortable, is connected with the laziness of the human mind. People don’t really like to think long and exhaustingly about something, to reason and think about something - for real, asking difficult questions and building complex structures out of them, and not just chasing other people’s thoughts around their heads or arguing about something with foam at the mouth. They do not like it because mental work is very hard work, much harder than physical work. And without special need, people do not want to do it. It is much easier to turn to your beliefs when assessing this or that event and making this or that decision. Beliefs do not require external and internal dialogue from a person, unless he is going to rethink them. They just exist and can be applied to different events and different people. You don't need to think about it, at least a lot. nine0009

This is the meaning of a person's beliefs. Due to our beliefs, our life is relatively simple and comfortable for us. Although beliefs are different and some of them poison people's lives. Therefore, you need to work with such harmful beliefs, on your own or with the help of a specialist, in order to replace them with more useful ones.

The essence of belief

Now let's touch on a more interesting issue and talk about the essence of belief. The essence is the most important and essential thing in anything. So, the essence of any belief is the desire of a person to live in an understandable and explainable world. This is the most important thing that our beliefs give us. Thanks to them, we have a stable model of the world in our heads. Without belief, we would be forced to rediscover this world every time, studying its features as if we had just been born. At the same time, as I wrote above, beliefs make our life easier. And the simpler the belief itself, the easier it is to accept. People love to smear everything with black and white paints - seeing only good in some things, and only bad in others. And therefore they need such convictions that allow them to concrete their picture of the world with the help of eternal and indestructible truths. People don't need such philosophical points of view as knowing that you don't know anything. People want to know obvious things, the obviousness of which should not be questioned under any circumstances. In this sense, our beliefs make us see in the darkness of ignorance and give us confidence in our own abilities. nine0009

How are beliefs formed?

And now we will consider an even more interesting and important issue regarding human beliefs. This is a question of how they are formed, our beliefs. We must understand where it came to us and comes from what we consider our own. This is easy to understand, understanding the essence and meaning of the beliefs that I wrote about above. Therefore, knowing what beliefs are for and what is most important in them, we can see and understand the pattern of their formation.

Beliefs are formed due to the personal experience of a person, his knowledge, upbringing, some bright events in his life that made a strong impression on him and made him believe in something, as well as thanks to social stereotypes and authoritative personalities whom the person believed and believes. All these sources of belief have influenced and continue to influence each of us in one way or another. I don’t know if you believe that any, even the most brilliant person, brings into this world no more than ten percent of really something of his own, but it is quite obvious that much of what we know and what we believe has come to us from other people. And this means that any information from the outside world in one way or another forms our beliefs. There is no point in classifying it somehow, although I did just that above to show you where we get what then becomes our beliefs. The main thing, in my opinion, is different here. We need to understand how our beliefs affect our lives. To do this, you can make a reverse move - think, looking at your life, what led you to it. Our lives have shaped certain beliefs in us. And now they affect our life, making it what it is. nine0009

Each person has their own experience of gaining certain beliefs. Someone basically succumbed to public opinion and formed their beliefs on its basis. For some, the main source of his beliefs have become authoritative personalities, for example, parents, teachers, mentors and just people who are successful in something. And someone's beliefs were formed mainly due to the books that he read. Well, your life experience should not be discounted. He also teaches us a lot. For some, this experience underlies all his beliefs, when a person believes mainly in what he himself once saw, heard, touched, felt, and so on. Usually people are well convinced by something that makes a very strong impression on them. I mean something that evokes strong emotions and feelings. Logic and reason are much less likely to contribute to the formation of beliefs. In order for you to understand this better, let's now talk about the methods of persuasion. nine0009

Methods of persuasion

How to convince a person, people of something? There are many different methods to do this. I will tell you about some of them, which, in my opinion, are the most powerful and often used. First of all, it should be said that any methods of persuasion have one common basis - they are addressed to the needs and desires of people. It is easy to convince a person that in one way or another meets his interests, desires, needs. And this means that a person can be convinced of anything, because any ideas can be associated with his interests, desires and needs. A simple example is the flat earth. Why does a person need such a conviction, especially if he knows that it is round? If he lives in a society in which it is important to adhere to the point of view of the majority in order to at least survive, and at the maximum to enlist someone's support, then what difference does it make to him what the Earth really is? Let it be flat if others want it. nine0009

It's not about truth, it's about what it gives a person. Therefore, it is much easier for people to start believing in what is beneficial for them to believe or even vital to believe. For this reason, people always try to stick to beliefs that are beneficial and convenient for them, and not true ones.

Simplicity, certainty, clarity is another very important criterion for most persuasion methods. People do not want to carry in their heads too complex mental structures, theories, concepts. They do not need beliefs with variable truths, relative statements, all sorts of variations. It is easier for them to accept clear and precise statements that specifically talk about specific things. Such people are good, and such are bad, this is right, but this is not, this is true, and this is false. And that's it, no options. These are the beliefs that can sit in the mind of many people all their lives. Beliefs should be simple and easy, understandable and specific, and one might even say interesting, so that people can easily remember and adopt them. nine0009

The next important point in the methods of persuasion is, as I have already said, the colorfulness, the brightness of an event or some kind of statement. People are easily convinced of something if you make a strong emotional impression on them. People need emotions, feelings, energy in which to clothe the truths transmitted to them. It is not for nothing that the people believe more in the one who speaks the loudest, shouts, swears. Sometimes it makes sense even to mention such qualities as courage, audacity and assertiveness, and even impudence, thanks to which many speakers convinced people of their views. There must be strength in beliefs in order for most people to accept them, since strength in this world is a very weighty argument. nine0009

The next method of persuasion is based on the ability to lead a person to the right thoughts, attitudes, conclusions, without hurting his self-esteem, pride and ego. It is necessary in every possible way to help a person save face, convincing him of something, so that he does not consider himself stupider and weaker than you. This is, in my opinion, the most useful method of persuasion by which people can be taught something and helped them solve their problems. It is this approach that I use in my consultations, because I have long been convinced that no matter what useful advice a specialist gives to his clients, most often they do not follow them, including because of their unwillingness to follow other people's advice and recommendations, to the detriment of their own. own opinion and desires. This approach allows you to bypass many of the psychological defenses of a person and convey important thoughts to his consciousness. But he also has a drawback. It cannot be used if a person, a client, a student, a patient, does not want to think, reason, think. Or even worse, he doesn't know how to do it. Then no matter how much you push a person to useful thoughts, he still will not draw independent conclusions. Therefore, this method of persuasion is sometimes useless. nine0009

Logic is also often used to convince people of something, but it is not always well received. I can use iron logic, proving to the smoker the harmfulness of his habit. And he can agree with me in everything, but he still won’t quit smoking. Because my belief about the dangers of smoking will not become his belief, since he can understand everything with his head, but his body will push him to further harm his health. Logic helps to explain, chew, prove, but it is not able to help the mind of another person cope with his animal essence. In fact, all arguments addressed to the mind, in the process of persuading a person, will be as effective as that person is reasonable. If he perceives logic badly, if he is not used to thinking about his own or other people's thoughts, then it is pointless to convince him with the help of logic alone. Nevertheless, logic must always be present in the process of persuasion, even the most elementary one. The human brain is designed in such a way that it is always looking for a connection between various statements. Thinking, of course, can be upset, as it sometimes happens in religious sects, where a person can be instilled with such absurd, illogical, contrary to all common sense beliefs that he will simply forget how to think correctly. In these cases, pseudo-logic and some other methods of persuasion are used. But in most other cases, normal logic is needed. Moreover, the simpler it will be [will consist of fewer links], the better. If A, then B - this is the easiest scheme for people to understand and accept. But the more complex the logical construction, the more suspicion it causes. For everything complicated is often false. Most of us have experienced this many times in our lives. nine0009

Repetition of information is a relatively simple and highly effective method of persuasion. If you are constantly hammered into some thought, then sooner or later you will accept it, well, most likely accept it, because you will begin to consider it very important, since it is repeated so often. And if it is important, then it is true. In any case, it must be remembered. And having remembered something, we then consider this information as our own, and it becomes part of our beliefs. This is how primitive advertising works, which inspires people a hundred times a day that this particular washing powder is the best on the market, so you need to buy it. Many people say that advertising does not work for them. And look, and you will see that they are surrounded by advertised things everywhere. So, no matter what anyone says about this method of persuasion, it has always been and remains very effective. nine0009

Fear is a very effective method of persuasion. When people experience fear, they are ready to believe anything to get rid of it. They also remember well what is associated with a feeling of fear and try not to face those that cause it. For example, parents often use feelings of fear to convince their child not to do something they think they shouldn't do. Myths and legends that appeal to the feeling of fear of people are also quite stable - they are believed in, they are referred to, when explaining strange and terrible phenomena, they scare them. So this feeling, perhaps the strongest of all, is used in many persuasion techniques. nine0009

Myths and legends are what most people's beliefs are based on. Even many historical facts often turn out to be nothing more than myths. And these myths form the basis of the beliefs of a huge number of people who then make important life decisions based on these beliefs. So you can live your whole life blindly, without realizing that you were moving along a non-existent path to an unattainable goal. The essence of this method is to turn to the past, to myths and legends, convincing another person, other people of something. People willingly believe in something that has a very long history, which was believed by many generations before them. Well, the colorfulness and unusualness of the myth, the legend, as I wrote above, gives it additional weight. nine0009

These are the methods of persuasion I can present to your attention. In fact, there are many more. But these are enough to convince most people of almost anything.

The power of persuasion

Now let's talk about the power of persuasion. This power should not be underestimated. She is much more powerful than she looks. Most people are not driven by common sense, but by what they believe. And people can believe in everything, even in the most absurd things. As I said above, I am absolutely sure that almost anyone can be convinced of anything. Why do I think so? Because it is impossible to synchronize the objective reality with the reality that is in the human head. We all live in imaginary worlds that are only partially a reflection of the outside world. Therefore, in any case, a person will adhere to some beliefs, regardless of who turns out to be their author. For we all need some kind of model of the world in our head in order to navigate in the environment. So beliefs are strong primarily because we simply cannot do without them. But what these beliefs will be, is another question. nine0009

Again, people can believe whatever they want. Therefore, if someone convinces a person that black is white and white is black, then one should not be surprised that he will begin to consider this the truth. Never be surprised at the absurdity of someone's beliefs and do not go against a person if you see that he is not ready to give them up. Your picture of the world is true only for you, and other people can look at life differently and understand it in their own way. You need to be able to accept their views in order to find a common language with them. That is why I advise you to agree with people on various issues more often, if possible, and not to argue and not to convince them in order to be able to agree with them. nine0009

The strength of one or another belief is often embodied in the form of violence. In this form, this power is easiest to see and feel. As soon as some authoritative person inspires the masses with destructive ideas, people will begin to do evil to bring these crazy ideas to life. This has happened many times in history. Beliefs in such cases become social viruses that pass from one person to another and eventually infect the minds and hearts of most people. And interestingly, even if these beliefs are absurd, the very fact that most people believe in them helps to strengthen and spread them. It is easier for a person to join the majority, no matter what this majority believes, than to draw their own conclusions, and even more so, to try to convince this majority of something. Most often, strong destructive beliefs are picked up by weak people who want to use them to feel strong. In addition, violence against someone else is often a way to protect against this violence. A weak person understands, or feels, that as long as the majority to which he belongs hates someone else, nothing threatens him. Aggression and violence have always been a part of our society. But few people want to become their target. nine0009

A person's beliefs are his program of action. And the closer this program is to the natural essence of a person, the easier it is for him to follow it. And aggression and the desire to commit violence against other people, mostly weaker ones, is part of our nature. That is why many leaders, manipulating the masses, turned more to their animal aggressive nature than to reason and virtue. It is easier to make people hate someone than to love someone. And by hating someone, and even more so by causing harm to someone, people feel strong. Most people have always needed an enemy, because they do not want to be responsible for their own problems, failures, suffering, miscalculations, stupidities. It's easier to put the blame on someone else. And therefore, if they find this enemy, preferably in the person of someone whom they are able to punish, then people will willingly accept this idea. They will believe in evil, but they will consider themselves good, for every evil can be justified. That is what those manipulators do who control the crowd through its aggression. They find enemies, scapegoats for them and urge them to punish them. This is the strength and at the same time the danger of some beliefs - in the idea embodied in physical violence. nine0009

But there is another, positive force of belief - the force of non-violence, the force of love, the force of goodness. A person can be convinced of the need to do good deeds, help other people, work for the common good, lead a creative lifestyle. And although it is more difficult to convince a person of the need to be kind and good than evil and bad, we still see that our culture generally succeeds. Culture opposes reason and virtue to the natural aggressive essence of man. Thus, a person can be programmed for any life, having formed the appropriate beliefs in him. This also expresses their strength - they make a person who he is. nine0009

And yet what gives beliefs the greatest power is that they can be anything, regardless of objective reality. Beliefs can be good, that is, useful for a person and society, or they can be bad, bringing pain and suffering to people. However, their main quality is survivability. Like it or not, we cannot live without any beliefs. And the more durable the belief, the more stable it is, and the more people adhere to it, the stronger it is. At the same time, most of our beliefs are based on such statements, truths and facts that we ourselves are not able to verify. In fact, most of our beliefs are based on our belief in something. Even what we know from our own experience may have different explanations. The only question is which explanation we will accept, which one we will believe. And some explanation for everything that we see, hear, know, we still have to accept. And when we do this, when we decide on our beliefs, we will empower them, allowing them to rule our lives. Therefore, your current beliefs largely govern your life and your behavior. And if for some reason you don’t really like your life, then it makes sense to think about these beliefs and, if possible and necessary, reconsider them. nine0009

Persuasion - Humanitarian Portal

Belief is The communication process between people (and result of this process), during which Proof (convinced) transfers to the opponent (convinced) some Significant information in order to give rise to Vera in its the truth is . At the same time, persuasion is not capable of serving by itself proof of the truth of the transmitted information. However, during the process of persuasion, one or another form of evidence is often used in the framework of argumentation (see Argumentation). In this sense, persuasion is understood as a method of verbal influence, which includes a system of arguments (arguments) built according to the laws of formal logic (see Formal Logic) and substantiating (see Justification) statement 9 put forward by the proponent 900

1 (thesis).

The goal of persuasion as a communication process is achieved if the opponent understood the proponent and believed him. Most often, it is achieved in two ways: monologue , when the proponent speaks, and the opponent listens to him, perceiving the transmitted information, and dialogue , when the opponent has the opportunity not only to ask questions, but also to criticize the proponent, analyzing his statements. Successful persuasion leads to the opponent's acceptance of new information and their subsequent inclusion in his system of views and beliefs, and, consequently, to a change in the motivational basis of his behavior. Therefore, in some social practices, persuasion is considered as a method of influencing a person's thinking and behavior. At the same time, the difference from such a common method of influencing consciousness as suggestion , belief is based on the meaningful (but not always rational) acceptance by the individual of the information transmitted to him, on their analysis and subsequent evaluation.

The result of persuasion (i.e., persuasion as a result) can be represented as a stable, conscious need of an individual, prompting him to think and act in accordance with new value orientations. The content of such needs, acting in the form of beliefs, reflects a certain picture of the world of the individual, in the correctness of which he believes and on the basis of which he acts. Forming an ordered system of views, the totality of beliefs acts as alignment (see Alignment). Persuasion as a process and persuasion as a result are not always unambiguously correlated. A separate explanation requires the fact that an individual is able not only to form his own worldview and act on the basis of beliefs, but in a number of situations he is ready to give his life for them.

In the intellectual tradition since the time of Plato and Aristotle, two methods of persuasion are distinguished: dialectical and eristic . The dialectician proponent communicates to the opponent the information that he himself believes in, and cites in its defense those arguments that convinced him himself. The proponent-erist is less scrupulous: he seeks to convince the proponent of the correctness of the information, belief in which is beneficial to him or his customers. nine0009

In the simplest case, the dialectician proponent simply reproduces the thesis and those arguments in its defense that convinced him. This is quite enough when the proponent and opponent are on the same social, intellectual and professional level. But, for example, for a politician who is fighting for the presidency, such persuasion tactics are doomed to failure. The process of persuasion takes place in the mind of the opponent, who believes only in what follows from the beliefs he already has, moreover, according to the rules that also do not cause him doubts. That is why the most conscientious substantiation of the thesis can cause rejection in him, and the totality of demagogic methods - delight. Therefore, the condition for successful persuasive influence is the ability to put yourself in the place of the proponent, "to look at the world through his eyes." Psychologists call this ability empathy . A proponent who possesses it puts forward only those theses that the opponent is able to understand, and brings in their defense only those arguments that he is able to accept. Already ancient thinkers were well aware that the process of persuasion is not limited to rational arguments and logical reasoning based on them, although the latter are its strong means. Even Aristotle in his "Rhetoric" pointed out that persuasion is achieved, firstly, by the character and behavior of the orator; secondly, the emotional impact on the listeners, the ability to evoke feelings and moods in them that are appropriate to the situation; thirdly, the content of logical evidence. In the future, these components of persuasion, jointly studied in ancient rhetoric , became the subject of a separate study in philosophy, logic and psychology, and rhetoric itself turned into a branch of philology that studied rather artificial forms of constructing oratory.

Each belief usually consists of two parts: describing and prescribing . These two parts determine two directions of the process of persuasion: the proponent first substantiates the truth of the descriptions he reports, and then creates faith in the rationality of the prescriptions formulated on their basis. These are different procedures. By convincing the opponent of the truth of the description, the proponent shows that it corresponds to his subject, and by convincing him of the rationality of the prescription following from this description, he shows its correspondence, firstly, to the needs of the person being convinced; secondly, the laws of the objective world; thirdly, one or another opportunity to bring it to life. It follows that among the factors influencing the result of persuasion, the most important place is occupied by the interests of the person being convinced. Without taking them into account, it is impossible to convince or change his mind. nine0009

Often in politics, jurisprudence, ethics and other social practices, situations arise when the opponent's low educational level (see Education) does not allow him to be convinced of the truth of the thesis by those arguments that actually prove it. There are two ways to get out of this situation. It is not uncommon for a dialectic proponent, such as a lawyer, who convinces jurors of the correctness of his proposed solution, uses eristic proof, that is, becomes a dialecticist in goals and an erist in means. But sooner or later, the opponent realizes that he was "fooled around", and "throws out the baby with the water" - refuses the correct beliefs generated by eristic tricks. The second way out is simply that non-professionals are not allowed to solve problems in which they are incompetent, and this work is transferred to specialists who deserve their trust. Thus, it is precisely for this purpose that universal suffrage is deliberately restricted in a number of cases. Thus, the scope of "white lies" narrows. And vice versa: erists often deliberately expand the circle of people who make decisions in order to suppress the opinion of specialists with the opinion of an incompetent majority. Erist never defends a blatant lie. His art is based on the startling fact that lies are often more like the truth than the truth itself. Eristic methods of persuasion have been carefully described, researched and criticized since the time of Aristotle. But their arsenal is constantly replenished, and their success with non-professionals does not decrease. nine0009

In addition to the indicated meanings of the term "belief" in the common sense, in scientifically oriented discourses, in particular in analytical epistemology (see Epistemology) and methodology of science (see Methodology of science), it is often used as the term "belief" ( belief) in the definition of the term "knowledge" (knowledge): "knowledge is a justified belief"; or it generally replaces the term "knowledge" in order to remove the question of its assessment of truth.

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