June 4, 2020

Forming beliefs

The Value of Beliefs

Relevant article with key messages:
We construct our beliefs to meet two sometimes conflicting goals: forming accurate beliefs to inform our decisions and forming desirable beliefs that we value for their own sake. In this NeuroView, we consider emerging neuroscience evidence on how the brain motivates itself to form particular beliefs and why it does so.
Our beliefs are fundamental parts of what makes each of us unique. They are a major cause of both harmony and discord; shared beliefs bring people together, while divergent beliefs can spark revolutions. In this age of the internet and social media, the ability of beliefs to both invigorate and polarize is more apparent than ever. This raises a fundamental question: how do people arrive at their beliefs? A traditional approach to studying beliefs is grounded on the idea that people build an internal model of the world for the purpose of informing their decisions to help them achieve external goals, such as gaining rewards and avoiding punishments.
 In particular, individuals often prefer to hold positive beliefs and hold beliefs with high certainty. To achieve this, changes in information seeking and belief updating are motivated by tapping into the same circuits that drive primary reward seeking. However, unlike primary rewards such as food, beliefs on their own do not directly promote survival.