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Types of Belief


Explanations > Beliefs > Types of Belief

Existence | Association | Equivalence | Enaction | Causation | So what?


There are many types of belief. Here are a few:

Existence (A)

One of the simplest beliefs is that some given thing exists. The classic existence belief is the belief in God.

For existentialists, the belief is in the outer world. If you realize that what we perceive is an internal inference of what happens in the outer world, then our first belief is that what we perceive truly exists.

Note that existence can also have temporal and morphological aspects. Thus A can come into existence at a point in time, it can change (gradually or suddenly) into something else (A becomes B). It can also disappear or become extinct. To believe that things can exist is also to believe that things do not exist.

Existence is probably the most basic belief. Thus I believe that the world outside of my mind really exists. Each word that I write has a whole bag of beliefs attached to it. For the most part, however, it is simply impractical to challenge beliefs at this level - though sometimes it can be very useful.

Association (A:B)

We understand things in terms of other things. Thus we say A is like B or related to B in some way. You look like your father. A rose is a sort of flower.

We also have an entire map within our heads of what we know. Think about something and other things come immediately to mind.

The Freudian analyst's couch is the classic place where associations are examined. If we associate 'killing' with 'father', what does this mean? Is our father a murderer? Do we have an Oedipal complex and want to kill our father? This is a very dangerous zone for analysts, who can also create associations by asking things like 'So, why do you want to kill your father?'

Equivalence (A=B)

We assume that things are the same, although in reality, everything is different, including two pennies, if you look closely enough.

The trap of equivalence belief is in when we mean 'some elements of A are similar to some elements of B', and then shorten it to 'A is B'. For example, you might might say 'You are stupid'. I could then be mightily upset because I equate all of stupid to all of me. The verb 'to be' is thus a very dangerous word!

Another classic equivalence error we make is that we assume that 'the map is the territory'. We make internal maps of the outer world and then act as if they are the same thing.

Enaction (A happens)

'Shit happens' is a common belief that is useful in accepting an imperfect world. We believe in the flow of time and the change of the world around us.

Causation (A -> B)

We have a constant need to explain how things work, and a part of that explanation is to determine cause.

A false form of causal belief is where we correlate two things and assume that because they happen at the same time or in the same place that one causes another. Detectives do this when a 'suspect' was in the same place that a murder happened.

We even have a special part of our memories (procedural memory) to remember how to do things.

So what?

Understand what people believe. It is their reality. It is a different reality from your reality. If you want to change their beliefs, start from where they are, not where you are.

Use belief errors to create the perception your want.

Say 'you are clever' when someone does something you want, and they will equate themselves to all of clever and feel good.

Say 'You don't bring me flowers. You don't love me.' to infer a causal connection.

See also

Theories about belief, Disbelief


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