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On the adaptive advantage of always being right (even when one is not)

  • Nathalia L. Gjersoe (a1) and Bruce M. Hood (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2010

We propose another positive illusion – overconfidence in the generalisability of one's theory – that fits with McKay & Dennett's (M&D's) criteria for adaptive misbeliefs. This illusion is pervasive in adult reasoning but we focus on its prevalence in children's developing theories. It is a strongly held conviction arising from normal functioning of the doxastic system that confers adaptive advantage on the individual.

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E. Aronson (1969) A theory of cognitive dissonance: A current perspective. In: Advances in experimental social psychology, vol. 4, ed. L. Berkowitz , pp. 134. Academic Press.

B. M. Hood (1995) Gravity rules for 2- to 4-year olds? Cognitive Development 10:577–98.

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C. Massey & R. Gelman (1988) Preschoolers' ability to decide whether pictured or unfamiliar objects can move themselves. Developmental Psychology 24:307–17.

L. Rozinblit & F. Keil (2002) The misunderstood limits of folk science: An illusion of explanatory depth. Cognitive Science 26(216):521–62.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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