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Emotional Beliefs

  • Jonathan Mercer (a1)

A belief in alien abduction is an emotional belief, but so is a belief that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, that one's country is good, that a sales tax is unjust, or that French decision makers are irresolute. Revolutionary research in the brain sciences has overturned conventional views of the relationship between emotion, rationality, and beliefs. Because rationality depends on emotion, and because cognition and emotion are nearly indistinguishable in the brain, one can view emotion as constituting and strengthening beliefs such as trust, nationalism, justice or credibility. For example, a belief that another's commitment is credible depends on one's selection (and interpretation) of evidence and one's assessment of risk, both of which rely on emotion. Observing that emotion and cognition co-produce beliefs has policy implications: how one fights terrorism changes if one views credibility as an emotional belief.

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