What is Counterintuitive? Religious Cognition and Natural Expectation

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (4):715-749 (2013)
  Copy   BIBTEX


What is ‘counterintuitive’? There is general agreement that it refers to a violation of previously held knowledge, but the precise definition seems to vary with every author and study. The aim of this paper is to deconstruct the notion of ‘counterintuitive’ and provide a more philosophically rigorous definition congruent with the history of psychology, recent experimental work in ‘minimally counterintuitive’ concepts, the science vs. religion debate, and the developmental and evolutionary background of human beings. We conclude that previous definitions of counterintuitiveness have been flawed and did not resolve the conflict between a believer’s conception of the supernatural entity (an atypical “real kind”) and the non-believer’s conception (empty name/fictional). Furthermore, too much emphasis has been placed on the universality and (presumed) innateness of intuitive concepts (and hence the criteria for what is counterintuitive)—and far too little attention paid to learning and expertise. We argue that many putatively universal concepts are not innate, but mostly learned and defeasible—part of a religious believer’s repertoire of expert knowledge. Nonetheless, the results from empirical studies about the memorability of counterintuitive concepts have been convincing and it is difficult to improve on existing designs and methodologies. However, future studies in counterintuitive concepts need to embed their work in research about context effects, typicality, the psychology of learning and expertise (for example, the formation of expert templates and range defaults), with more attention to the sources of knowledge (direct and indirect knowledge) and a better idea of what ‘default’ knowledge really is



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 76,101

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Counterfactuality in counterintuitive religious concepts.Justin L. Barrett - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):731-732.
Devitt’s Shocking Idea and Analyticity Without Apriority.Nenad Miščević - 2006 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):69-95.
Perceptual cognition: A nyaya-Kantian approach.Monima Chadha - 2001 - Philosophy East and West 51 (2):197-209.
Formal Logic for Informal Logicians.David Sherry - 2006 - Informal Logic 26 (2):199-220.
Still counterintuitive: A reply to Kremer.Roy T. Cook - 2003 - Analysis 63 (3):257–261.
Boghossian on empty natural kind concepts.Tom Stoneham - 1999 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 99 (1):119-22.
Doing Without Concepts.Edouard Machery - 2009 - Oxford University Press.


Added to PP

37 (#317,251)

6 months
2 (#296,374)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Yvan I. Russell
Middlesex University

Citations of this work

Three problems of interdisciplinarity.Yvan I. Russell - 2022 - Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 1 (13):1-19.

Add more citations