Examining the Nature of Belief
Jonathan Fugelsang
University of Waterloo

Research in numerous fields, including decision making, social reasoning, and scientific thinking, has demonstrated that one's beliefs can influence how new information is gathered, interpreted and applied in multiple contexts. My colleagues and I have been involved in several lines of research examining the nature of belief-based processes, particularly as it pertains to causal beliefs. I will discuss three lines of research aimed at examining (1) the representation of belief at a semantic level, (2) the degree to which the application of belief can be consciously controlled, and (3) the possible mechanisms underlying the acquisition of belief. These three lines of research converge on the notion that beliefs can affect processing at a very low level. The implications of this low level of processing will be discussed in terms of the modifiability of beliefs in the face of new evidence in real life decision-making.