The Nature of Belief

sand_through_hands.jpgABC Radio’s All in the Mind recently hosted a debate for Australian National Science Week on the ‘nature of belief’ where a neuropsychologist, a minister and a science writer got together to discuss one of the most tricky problems in psychology.

Although we use the term belief in everyday life with little problems, it is actually incredibly hard to define with some schools of thought thinking it will eventually be discarded as useless, like other abandoned theories such the four humours theory of medicine.

This is an important issue, as researchers are now working on the neuropsychology of delusions, often described as pathological beliefs, that can occur as part of psychosis after mental illness or brain injury.

Professor Max Coltheart, one of the panel members in the debate, is trying to do exactly this as part of the Macquarie University belief formation research project.

The debate tackles what it means to believe something, as well as issue surrounding why we believe things, and what evidence justifies a belief.

When asked the now classic question “what do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” Coltheart gives the wry but accurate answer “everything”.

The show has a half hour edited version, but has also put the whole hour and 20 minutes debate online for those wanting the full story.

Link to All in the Mind webpage with audio downloads of debate.

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