Using co-occurrence to evaluate belief coherence in a large non clinical sample.
Pechey R., Halligan P.
Much of the recent neuropsychological literature on false beliefs (delusions) has tended to focus on individual or single beliefs, with few studies actually investigating the relationship or co-occurrence between different types of co-existing beliefs. Quine and Ullian proposed the hypothesis that our beliefs form an interconnected web in which the beliefs that make up that system must somehow "cohere" with one another and avoid cognitive dissonance. As such beliefs are unlikely to be encapsulated (i.e., exist in isolation from other beliefs). The aim of this preliminary study was to empirically evaluate the probability of belief co-occurrence as one indicator of coherence in a large sample of subjects involving three different thematic sets of beliefs (delusion-like, paranormal & religious, and societal/cultural). Results showed that the degree of belief co-endorsement between beliefs within thematic groupings was greater than random occurrence, lending support to Quine and Ullian's coherentist account. Some associations, however, were relatively weak, providing for well-established examples of cognitive dissonance.