Because the Brain Agrees: The Impact of Neuroscientific Explanations for Belief

Dillon Plunkett, Tania Lombrozo, Lara Buchak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Three experiments investigate whether neuroscientific explanations for belief in some proposition (e.g., that God exists) are judged to reinforce, undermine, or have no effect on confidence that the corresponding proposition is true. Participants learned that an individual's religious, moral, or scientific belief activated a (fictional) brain region and indicated how this information would and should influence the individual's confidence. When the region was associated with true or false beliefs (Experiment 1), the predicted and endorsed responses were an increase or decrease in confidence, respectively. However, we found that epistemically-neutral but “normal” neural function was taken to reinforce belief, and “abnormal” function to have no effect or to undermine it, whether the (ab)normality was explicitly stated (Experiment 2) or implied (Experiment 3), suggesting that proper functioning is treated as a proxy for epistemic reliability. These findings have implications for science communication, philosophy, and our understanding of belief revision and folk epistemology.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages1180-1185
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780991196708
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014 - Quebec City, Canada
Duration: Jul 23 2014Jul 26 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014

Conference

Conference36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014
Country/TerritoryCanada
CityQuebec City
Period7/23/147/26/14

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • Neuroscience explanations
  • belief debunking
  • intuitive epistemology
  • scientific communication

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