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Last Updated on September 24, 2022 by Randy Withers, LCMHC
The science of believing is an area of focus in the field of Neuroscience. While neuroscience seeks to understands how the brain works, the science of believing attempts to understand our brains in action. Beliefs are incredibly consequential, as they directly impact almost every aspect of our lives.
Often, our beliefs are faulty and need to be challenged. The problem is that beliefs are strongly linked to emotions. The result is that we feel threatened when our belief systems are challenged.
However, when we change our thinking, we change our brain’s biochemical potential, initiate the growth process, and afford ourselves a greater quality of life.
Interested to know more? Let’s find out more about the science of believing.
The Science of Believing: 7 Key Points
What follows is 7 takeaways from research on the science of believing:
1. Facts Usually Don’t Change Beliefs
Evidence usually doesn’t change our beliefs on a topic, whether it’s war, GMOs, or vaccines. Ideally, we use logic and facts to make an argument and support our opinion.
However, according to a new study of beliefs, we tend to use only those facts that support our opinions. If facts counter our beliefs, we tend to deny them, or discard them as irrelevant.
2. Changing Someone’s Beliefs Is Difficult
In general, it is wise to avoid directly challenging another person’s belief system. When beliefs are threatened, we tend to double-down on them, no matter how irrational or flimsy they are.
Instead, try to understand WHY the other person believes what they do. Try engaging in a conversation and finding common ground. You are more likely to help a person change their belief if you approach it with collaboration instead of conflict.
3. Believing In Yourself Can Improve Your Mental Health
In this study, 3015 Danish people participated and the conclusion was obvious – the more you believe in yourself, the stronger you are mentally.
All in all, the positive beliefs about your abilities to do something is very important to your well being.
4. How To Change Your Own Beliefs
The answer is curiosity. Scientific curiosity leads us to a better life, and bigger opportunities, and helps to practice an open-minded approach.
Research shows that those who like to discover something new every day are more open to new information and sensibilities. If you are open to the world, you have more knowledge, more insight, and a sharper mind.
5. Neuroscience and Beliefs
Beliefs start to form when we are around 5 years old. Research shows that the amygdala and the hippocampus help to form and implement beliefs. The NMDA receptor is responsible for belief formation.
Our beliefs harden like concrete as our brain develops. This may explain why beliefs are so difficult to change.
6. Spinozan Belief-Fixation System
The Spinozan belief-fixation system relieves the acquisition and rejection processes of belief. The most important aspect is that it is easy and quietly automatic.
But these beliefs can later be approved or rejected by the same person. As a rule, the rejection process is active and needs a person’s effort.
The understanding of the Spinozan belief-fixation system helps to understand real-world people’s belief issues. For instance, why so many people believe in fake news, propaganda, and unfounded conspiracy theories.
7. Pain and Believing in Placebo
Pain is the body’s response that could be related to psychology. In other words, a person’s beliefs about pain greatly influence their symptoms.
Although placebo effectiveness is questionable, according to science, placebo effects are effective in ~1/3 of patients. There are very interesting facts in the science of beliefs.
For instance, the color of a placebo pill will change how people feel after taking the placebo pill. Red pills will act as stimulants in comparison with blues. Another amazing fact is that cost affects patients’ health: the more a placebo costs, the more effective it is.
Beliefs and believing are related to neurotransmitters in our brains. That is the reason why scientists can estimate and conduct basic and even clinical research on the science of believing.
It is easy to accept beliefs without question. But it is quite difficult to change them. Beliefs have a direct impact on our mental health, our well-being, our relationships, and the way we live and function in society.
While many beliefs are positive in nature, it is important to challenge and overcome any beliefs that keep us stuck, sick, or otherwise prevent us from living to our fullest potential.
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