Ch1 L26: Beliefs – part II (Generalization)

  1. In the last post, we opened up the discussion about beliefs: meanings with high emotional amplitude or frequency. We also found out that beliefs enabled us to predict [1]; because when you believe in something, its probability of existence is either 0 or 1 which means there’s no doubt.
  2. Doubt is formed through the disequilibrium state [2] when our beliefs don’t work or our brain receives two or more opposing evaluations about a thing. Let’s go back to the main story and experience the process as Adam or Eve [3].
  3. Imagine that you saw an apple tree. The color of apples would catch your eyes, so you’d walk towards it. Then you’d pick an apple. Its smell was also promising. So, you’d taste it with your tongue and it’s sweet. Then you’d chew and swallow it. You’d feel joy which means your solution to survive works. So, you could repeat it.
  4. Later, you’d have the second apple and it was sweet and delicious as well. Right now, you’d be on the verge of generalizing that all apples are delicious. How could you generalize with two experiences?
  5. First of all, it depends on the importance of experience. In the 21st post, we thought about the experience that fire burnt our finger [4]. How many more times would you need (or be willing)  to try it, so you could generalize that “fire burns”?
  6. As discussed, belief is a meaning with high emotional amplitude or frequency. Therefore, in some cases, one experience is enough to create a belief.
  7. On the other hand, if something is unimportant to us, due to minergy [5], we won’t spend time studying or experiencing more examples about it. For instance, if you hadn’t seen any Eskimos in your life and you read an article about them, you’d more probably believe it because they had no significant effect on your life; besides, you trusted the source of the news.
  8. Secondly, it’s less taxing to form a belief rather than to keep some doubt in mind. Having doubt looks like sleeping with one eye open; it’s a stressful and draining experience which we’d rather avoid. Theoretically, we approach certainty; so, more affirming experiences can consolidate beliefs in our mind. However, in reality, we’d rather quickly generalize and form a belief.
  9. That’s the power of belief. The predictability can alleviate stress due to uncertainty.
  1. The amount of doubt can be translated to the amount of stress. You’d be indecisive when you’re at the middle of the spectrum which means you’d fear the outcome of your judgment or decision the most.
  2. Buridan [6] has hypothetically stated that if a donkey (ass) were equally hungry and thirsty and equidistant to a stack of hay and pail of water, it couldn’t decide which way to go, so it would die. [7]
  3. In the next post, we’ll discuss the dangers of premature generalizations.

Exercise 26:

  1. how are stereotypes formed?


[1] Link to the previous post.

[2] We discussed the disequilibrium state in the first post about assimilation and accommodation. Link

[3] To study how brain started to create ideas, we imagined that our brain was totally empty and had had no earthly knowledge, so the best characters who could fit in the story were Adam and Eve. Link

[4] Link to the 21st post.

[5] Minergy is the word I’ve come up with to describe our tendency to spend minimum energy to get something done. I introduced it in the first post and it has been the foundation of analyzing our behaviors, thoughts, and decisions.

[6] For more information about Jean Buridan, you can refer to this page.

[7] In philosophy, this paradox is called Buridan’s ass. Link


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