Belief and Belief Formation: Insights from Delusions

  • Michael H. Connors
  • Peter W. Halligan
Part of the New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion book series (NASR, volume 1)


Beliefs are stable mental representations of reality that we accept as true. As such, they play a critical role in shaping our phenomenological experiences and determining the choices and actions we make. Despite their considerable importance, the cognitive nature of belief and the underlying processes involved in forming beliefs have received little formal investigation in their own right. This may be due, in part, to the challenges of operationalising intimately familiar, yet highly complex and distributed cognitive processes. One promising avenue, however, has come from cognitive neuropsychiatry and the investigation into delusions, considered by many as pathological forms of belief. Identifying the nature of the responsible causal pathologies can be used to reveal some of the cognitive processes likely to be present in non-pathological belief formation. In this chapter, we describe a tentative five-stage account of belief formation that accommodates some of the key features of both delusions and belief. We provide evidence for this account and discuss its implications for understanding belief.


Face Processing Belief Evaluation Belief Formation Belief Formation Process Autonomic Responsiveness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Dementia Collaborative Research CentreSchool of Psychiatry, University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Sydney Medical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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