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

Dillon PlunkettUniversity of California, Berkeley
Tania LombrozoUniversity of California, Berkeley
Lara BuchakUniversity of California, Berkeley

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.

Files

Because the Brain Agrees: The Impact of Neuroscientific Explanations for Belief (290 KB)



Back to Table of Contents