Why do we sometimes contradict our beliefs

Myers - Chapter 10: Thought and Language

  • 10.1 Thinking
    • 10.1.1 Terms
    • 10.1.2 Problem solving: strategies and obstacles
    • 10.1.3 Decision-making and judgment
    • 10.1.4 Do other species share our cognitive abilities?
  • 10.2 Language
    • 10.2.1 Structure and composition of language
    • 10.2.2 Language development
    • 10.2.3 Brain and Language
    • 10.2.4 Do other species have speech?
  • 10.3 Thought and Language
    • 10.3.1 Influence of language on thinking
    • 10.3.2 Thinking in pictures
  • 10.4 Chapter review
    • 10.4.1 Questions of understanding
    • 10.4.2 Key Terms
    • 10.4.3 Further German literature



cognition is a term that covers all mental activities related to thinking, knowing, remembering and communicating.

We use Termsto simplify and organize the world around us. Based on similarities, we divide groups of objects, events, ideas or people into Categories a. Because we Hierarchies we break these categories down into smaller and more detailed units. We form other terms (e.g. triangle) through definition (Geometric figure made up of 3 points that do not lie on a straight line and are connected to one another by stretching) However, most of the terms arise in connection with Prototypes, d. H. typical examples of a category. By comparing objects and ideas with prototypes, we can efficiently decide in seconds whether something belongs in a specific category or not.

A. algorithm is a set of rules and procedures (e.g. a cookie recipe or a detailed description of what to do to evacuate a building in the event of a fire) that is time consuming but well thought out and ensures problem solving. A. Heuristic is a simpler thinking strategy (e.g., walking to the exit when you smell thick plumes of smoke) that allows problems to be solved quickly, but which sometimes turns out to be incorrect. A. Insight is something else again, because this is not a solution based on a strategy, but an aha reaction - a flash of inspiration with which one solves a problem.

The Affirmation tendency leads to the fact that we see our hypotheses confirmed rather than questioning them. A. Fixation like a mental set and functional constraint can lead us to pursue a line of reasoning and prevent us from adopting a novel perspective from which to solve the problem.

The Representativity heuristic makes us judge the likelihood of things by how much they represent our prototype for a group of things. The Availability heuristic seduces us to judge the likelihood of things by how alive they are to us and how quickly they enter our consciousness. Both types of short thinking paths can lead us to ignore important information or to underestimate the likelihood of something happening.

The main disadvantage of the Overconfidence is that our tendency to seek confirmation of our hypotheses and therefore to use a quick and simple heuristic sometimes makes us overlook our susceptibility to error - an error that can be tragic when we are in a position of responsibility. On a personal level, however, people who overestimate themselves tend to live happier lives, make difficult decisions easier, and seem more believable.

A question can be presented in different but equally logical ways (framing); but the subtle way in which it is phrased can steer us in the direction desired by the questioner. (For example, think of “Do you think people should be free to smoke in public?” As opposed to “Do you think smokers should have the right to expose the lungs of non-smokers to second-hand smoke?” «.

We tend to judge conclusions that match our beliefs as more logical than those that do not match our beliefs. thesis Belief bias may lead us to accept invalid conclusions and reject valid ones.

Insistence on beliefs means that you hold on to your ideas because the justification that was originally accepted as valid has an inward effect on us, even if it is doubtful. The best remedy for this form of bias is to make an effort to consider evidence of the opposite position.

Although the intuition Sometimes misleading, it can be remarkably efficient and adaptable. If we z. For example, when dealing with a field of knowledge, we learn better and better to make quick and informed judgments. Smart thinkers will use their intuitions, but then check them to see if they agree with what is available.


All languages ​​consist of the same basic units. Phonemes are the basic sound units in a language. Morphemes are the elementary units of meaning; some are words (like the English I), but most are elements like prefixes (be) or suffixes (-te). The grammar is a system of rules (mental rules, not rules as taught in German lessons) that enable us to communicate and understand others. The semantics is part of grammar and consists of a set of rules for deriving a meaning in a given language. The syntax is also part of grammar and consists of a set of rules for organizing words into sentences.

The Course of language acquisition from the babbling stage to two-word sentences:

  • At about 4 months old, babies babble and make a wide variety of sounds found in languages ​​around the world.
  • At around 10 months, your babble contains only those sounds that can be found in your target language.
  • At around 12 months of age, toddlers speak in single words.
  • Before the second birthday, this one-word stage develops into two-word utterances.
  • Shortly afterwards, the children begin to speak in full sentences.

When exactly these stages are passed through varies slightly from child to child, but this order is followed for all children.

Skinner's Contribution to the Investment-Environment Debate on Language Acquisition in Children: According to the Behaviorist Skinner (he stands for the Emphasis on the environment in the debate language development), children acquire the language through the familiar learning mechanisms:

  • coupling (the appearance of things with the sounds of words),
  • imitation (of other people's words and syntax) and
  • Reinforcement (with smiles and hugs after saying something right).

Chomsky's contribution to the investment-environment debate on language acquisition in children: The Linguist Chomsky (it stands for the Attachment emphasis in the debate) contradicts this, arguing that we are born one Language acquisition machine that biologically predisposes us to learn the language. As proof of this, he makes findings in favor of a language that exists across our species and one on which it is based Universal grammar the tremendous speed with which children acquire their vocabulary and the consistent sequence of stages in language development. Statistical learning is the ability to discover language patterns (such as the pauses between syllables).

The childhood is a sensitive phase for learning spoken language and sign language: children who do not learn the language at this early stage lose the ability to fully master a language.

Thinking and language

The Linguistic determinism hypothesis states that language determines thinking. But it is more correct that language influences thinking. Words convey ideas, and research on bilingual people shows that different languages ​​are associated with different ways of thinking. Research into the use of masculine word forms as a generic term shows that subtle prejudices can be passed on with the help of the words we choose to express our thoughts in everyday life. Some evidence suggests that expanding vocabulary helps improve thinking skills.

We often think in pictures when using procedural memory - our unconscious memory system for motor and cognitive skills and conditioned associations. Researchers have found that Think in pictures is particularly useful in preparing mentally for upcoming events and actually improving our skills.

Thought and Language in Animals

5 cognitive skills that Great apes and humans together are:

  • Both humans and great apes form concepts,
  • demonstrate Insight,
  • use and create Tools,
  • pass on cultural achievements other
  • to have a Theory of Mind (This includes the following skills: reasoning, self-awareness, empathy, imitation and understanding what the other is thinking).

Both animals and humans own linguistic expression: Bees dance to tell something about the direction and distance of a food source, parrots sort objects according to their number, dogs understand and respond to complicated commands from humans. Monkeys of various species have learned to communicate with people through sign language or by pressing buttons on a computer. These monkeys developed vocabulary of hundreds of words, they communicated by chaining those words together, and taught these skills to their young, who, like humans, are usually easiest and most thorough to acquire the skills when they are very small. Nevertheless, researchers pointed out an important difference in the linguistic ability of apes and humans to express themselves: Only humans can master the complex rules of syntax in verbal expression or in sign language.