Fear-Driven Inference: Mechanisms of Gut Overreaction

  • Paul ThagardEmail author
  • A. David Nussbaum
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 8)


Model-based reasoning requires not only inferences about what is happening, but also evaluations of the desirability of what is happening. Emotions are a key part of such assessments, but sometimes they can lead people astray, as in motivated inference when people believe what fits with their desires. In contrast to motivated inference, fear-driven inference generates beliefs that people do not want to be true. Although paradoxical, this kind of inference is common in many domains, including romantic relationships, health, parenting, politics, and economics. This paper proposes that fear-driven inference results from gut overreactions, in which a feeling that something is wrong is erroneously taken as evidence that something really is wrong. We discuss psychological and neural mechanisms by which gut overreactions can lead to fear-driven inference, and show how a computer model of emotional coherence can explain both fear-driven and motivated inference.


Positive Emotion Emotional Reaction Emotional Intelligence Social Feedback Financial Bubble 
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.



Thagard’s research is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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