Beliefs as signals: A new function for belief

Philosophical Psychology 30 (6):809-831 (2017)
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Abstract

Beliefs serve at least two broad functions. First, they help us navigate the world. Second, they serve as signals to manipulate others. Philosophers and psychologists have focused on the first function while largely overlooking the second. This article advances a conception of signals and makes a prima facie case for a social signaling function for at least some beliefs. Truth and rational support are often irrelevant to the signaling function. If some beliefs evolved for a signaling function, then we should expect various biases that aid in the manipulation of others.

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Eric Funkhouser
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Citations of this work

The Trinity and the Light Switch: Two Faces of Belief.Neil Van Leeuwen - forthcoming - In Eric Schwitzgebel & Jonathan Jong (eds.), The Nature of Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Socially adaptive belief.Daniel Williams - 2020 - Mind and Language 36 (3):333-354.
Intellectual Virtue Signaling.Neil Levy - 2023 - American Philosophical Quarterly 60 (3):311-324.
The Point of Political Belief.Michael Hannon & Jeroen de Ridder - 2021 - In Michael Hannon & Jeroen de Ridder (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology. New York: Routledge.

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Direct perception in the intersubjective context.Shaun Gallagher - 2008 - Consciousness and Cognition 17 (2):535-543.
The Possibility of Practical Reason.J. David Velleman - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 121 (3):263-275.
Animal Signals: Mind-Reading and Manipulation.John R. Krebs & Richard Dawkins - 1984 - In J. R. Krebs & N. B. Davies (eds.), Behavioural Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach. Blackwell Scientific. pp. 380–402.
The evolution of misbelief.Ryan McKay & Daniel Dennett - 2009 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (6):493–510; discussion 510–61.

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