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Understanding Beliefs

Robert Jervis
Political Psychology
Vol. 27, No. 5 (Oct., 2006), pp. 641-663
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3792533
Page Count: 23
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Understanding Beliefs
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Abstract

Beliefs are central to political psychology, but in many ways remain undertheorized. A good starting place for further thought is the typology of Smith, Bruner, and White that separates reality testing from the social and psychological functions of beliefs. The concept of beliefs has several connotations, some of which involve faith and emotions. It is often difficult to grasp others' beliefs, especially when they are foreign to us or morally repugnant. It is even more difficult to determine whether beliefs are powerful in the sense of determining behavior and autonomous in the sense of not being directly derivable from other factors. The Smith, Bruner, and White typology is useful here, helps us understand the operation of biases, and points to the multiple roles that beliefs play in people's lives, including managing trade-offs and generating what looks to others like hypocrisy.

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