The Unreliable "Feeling of Certainty"

A personality trait common in many (pseudo)religious people (like woos) is an intellectual vice called feeling of certainty (a.k.a. feeling of knowing).

Beliefs (especially strong ones) are normally caused by imperfections in our capacities to process information and draw conclusions.

Examples of intellectual vices (a term coined by Linda Zagzebski, a US philosopher) are gulliibility, carelessness, closed-mindedness, negligence, idleness, rigidity, obtuseness, prejudice, lack of thoroughness, and insensitivity to detail.

Read more about intellectual vices – a.k.a. bad thinking – here: .

Today we know that differences in intellectual character may help to explain why some people, facing the same situation, will end up believing X, while others believe Y (or vice versa).

The feeling of certainty/knowing is closely related to gullibility. and can be defined as a propensity to believe things for which there is no good evidence, and/or dismiss claims for which there is excellent evidence.

So there are two important ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true. And the other is to refuse to believe what is true. Both ways lead to woo-ism (i.e.magical and/or religious thinking).

Even worse, if people are made to feel uncertain, then they regress their adult cognitive faculties by strengthening and increasing the brain’s pattern detection system. And that means they return to the the child’s information processing system based on emotional, intuitive, prelogical magical and religious thinking.

In other words, one of the biggest cognitive problems we face in this world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves while wiser people are so full of doubt.

But at the same time, don’t forget what Winston S. Churchill once said, “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

διά πέντε / dia pente

What most people do not know is that certainty is a feeling. It’s probably on the same level as jealousy or anger. It’s a reaction to certain stimuli. Yet just like anger, the stimulus doesn’t have to actually exist to create the feeling. Imagine your significant other cheating on you, or imagine someone you love crying or getting injured. These scenarios are not true yet the feeling we get when we imagine it is no less real.

Check this out. I will give you the “feeling of knowing” right now:

A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it is better to run than to walk. You may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close…

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Filed under Blogs I follow, Brain, Cognitive flaws, Delusions, Neuroscience, Woo

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