In a world where our beliefs can define us, could you honestly say you’re proud of what you believe in?
From a young age we begin forming beliefs. An opinion plants a seed which then grows into a full fledged belief in your subconscious, its roots grounded in the back of your mind.
Most individuals would think that our beliefs begin in childhood and that we adopt them from our parents. But Dr Krissy Wilson, a psychologist from Charles Sturt University, says that, while we don’t automatically pick these up from our parents, our upbringing does influence the belief system we form as adults. “Beliefs come from a variety of sources and are developed, maintained and nurtured from a range of causes,” Dr Wilson told The Newsroom. “These could effectively be biological, cultural, cognitive and simply due to environmental influences such as the media.”
“There are a multitude of reasons why people cling to extraordinary beliefs with little or no scientific evidence to back them up,” Dr Wilson said. “The short answer is that we want to. It’s fun, exciting and phenomena such as psychic medium ship appeals to us as it suggests that death is not the end.”
“A lot of research [including much of my own] has tried to distinguish the difference [if there is one] between believers and non-believers,” Dr Wilson told The Newsroom. Her evidence suggests that there are valid comparisons and that believers are more likely to score highly on certain individual difference measures and personality traits such as absorption, fantasy proneness and suggestibility. Dr Wilson said that research suggests believers, in things such as paranormal activity, process information differently. They often perform poorly compared to non believers in reasoning and critical thinking tests. Believers could be more susceptible to false memories. Dr Wilson reminds us that anyone can be fooled, we are all susceptible to suggestion and cognitive biases – our cognitive powers constantly let us down.
What would a world without beliefs look like anyway? In a time of distress and sadness individuals cling to their beliefs as a coping mechanism, which is a typical human response. We all believe in something at some point in life, even skeptics believe in skepticism.
“Richard Dawkins [famous atheist] is convinced he is right,” said Dr Wilson. “Is he any different in his beliefs compared to the extremist religious zealot?
“The answer is to keep an open mind and to seek evidence,” said Dr Wilson. “Think critically and weigh up the evidence.” – Alana Scott