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date: 18 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the multiple mechanisms by which beliefs are formed — from observation, social influence/socialization, induction, deduction from other beliefs, adaptation to desire (wishful thinking), and dissonance-reduction mechanisms — as well as the conditions under which each arises and the characteristic processes (and problems) associated with each. The discussion is generally set in a socio-cognitive framework, which is based on the assumption that individuals are motivated by an ‘effort after meaning’. The article first considers the role of categorization in belief formation before turning to inductive reasoning and analogism. It then describes the conditions under which people’s beliefs are particularly likely to be influenced by others, followed by an analysis of the mechanism of dissonance reduction. It suggests that while beliefs are slippery and difficult to nail down, they need to be taken into account in any explanation of action.

Keywords: beliefs, social influence, socialization, desire, categorization, belief formation, inductive reasoning, analogism, dissonance reduction, deduction

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