Like many of you, I really enjoyed Andrew’s recent post and heartily agree that he should post more often! I was listening to the You Are Not So Smart podcast, an older episode called Belief Change Blindness. The psychologist being interviewed explains the triangulation of three things, all of which we kind of sloppily lump together under the umbrella of our values or beliefs: knowledge, belief and attitude. These three things are actually distinct, sometimes misunderstood for each other, and frequently mislabeled when we try to explain our views and feelings to ourselves or to other people.
- Knowledge. This is the set of facts we may know about something. Theoretically, this can change whenever we are exposed to new information, history, statements by experts, etc. We may also have “false” facts or misinformation that we don’t know is incorrect. This is the sum total of all we know about a thing, all the arguments we know about a topic, the direct and indirect observations we’ve made (anecdotes), and any data we’ve read or researched.
- Belief. This is what we believe about how the world works. It’s the sense we make of the world based on the knowledge we currently possess. We come to these beliefs or conclusions based on our knowledge.
- Attitude. This is how we feel about that belief and the facts. In simplest terms, we could be positive or negatively disposed toward it, or anywhere in between. We could like how the world works or hate how it works, or be neutral about it.
When our beliefs change, particularly when they flip from one thing to its opposite, usually through the acquisition of knowledge (or newly discredited bad information), we have a very hard time acknowledging that we ever felt differently or believed differently. We can’t feel or believe that way once we feel or believe the opposite, and our mind quickly sets about rewriting our memories to fit the new beliefs or feelings.
Belief doesn’t always follow knowledge, though. You may know a lot about dragons. You may understand the lore of dragon stories, what powers dragons have, what function they perform in the stories and legends, and yet that knowledge doesn’t equate to believing that dragons are real. So, you could have this kind of split:
- Knowledge of dragons: Vast stores of knowledge about dragons.
- Belief in dragons: Dragons are cool, but alas, they aren’t real.
- Attitude: Dang, it would be cool if dragons existed!
So let’s take these through a few examples. First, let’s start with polygamy. Here’s a rough overview of my triad:
- Polygamy knowledge: I know quite a bit about it from reading, and from being around non-LDS polygamists in other cultures.
- Belief: Polygamy is oppressive to women, and men who practice it are basically the worst.
- Attitude: Cultures that elevate polygamy are misogynistic cultures.
If someone asked me what I think of polygamy, I have strong negative feelings about it. I would say that it exploits women and creates misery for men and women, confusion for children, and only occurs in a society in which women are viewed as subordinate to men, usually as a status symbol of male wealth and power. Those are my beliefs and attitude about polygamy based on the facts I know about it.
I can’t remember a time when I considered polygamy to be acceptable. The closest I ever got was when I was told that in the Mormon church, polygamy wasn’t as awful as that. I was told at various times that: 1) the men only practiced it because they had to, not because they wanted to,  2) it gave the women more opportunity through a shared labor pool  so that they could go to medical school if they wanted while the wives that wanted to stay with the kids could do that, 3) that it was only done to care for the widows, not to satiate the men’s sexual appetites for young, attractive wives, 4) that it resulted in more children , 5) that it was never intended for everyone, only about 20% practiced it , 6) that it’s necessary in the eternities because women are so much more righteous than men that we will basically have an “eternal widows” issue that some men will have to step up and marry .
Why are these odd justifications a thing in Mormonism? Because there is a disconnect between the party line “belief” that the Church holds as doctrine and the “attitude” of Church members, particularly women, toward that belief. Women know instinctively that polygamy is a raw deal for us. It can only be sold to us, or at least tamped down somewhat, with new “facts,” some of which are not true or are fallacious logically. It’s easier to use misinformation to take the heat out of a negative “attitude” toward a belief when a person is young enough to accept those “facts,” then set them aside (put them on a shelf). Only when those facts are discovered to be not factual does it call into question the belief again, and/or revive the animus of the attitude.
Here’s a different version of the Knowledge, Belief, Attitude model for polygamy:
- Knowledge: Person knows family stories of happy people who were polygamists.
- Belief: Person holds the belief that refusing to support polygamy makes them selfish, not righteous like their ancestors.
- Attitude: When polygamy comes up, the person feels a twinge of guilt or self-loathing for not liking it, but is resigned to assume the celestial lobotomy will improve their attitude toward it after death.
If one’s knowledge is changed on this topic, it’s easy to see how quickly the self-loathing attitude can flip to relief and blame of the organization because the doctrine of polygamy causes stress to most women.
You can see how this model would work for a variety of beliefs and attitudes. Here’s one for abortion.
- Belief: Unborn life is innocent and sacred, and women who abort a fetus are callous monsters.
- Attitude: I can rescue / protect life by opposing abortion.
If you change the extent of the knowledge to include stories of male irresponsibility (rape and incest), fetus inviability, and to provide empathy toward women who don’t have the emotional, mental or financial resources to raise a child, your attitude could shift, but probably not totally, and not overnight. Instead it might look more like:
- Belief: Unborn life is important, and ensuring they have capable, supported caregivers is equally important to their birth.
- Attitude: Abortion should be rare and women who give birth should have the support needed to raise these children.
That’s a slight but significant shift. Here’s another one to consider:
- Belief: Democrats want to solve every problem through taxation for their “pet programs” that mostly benefit people who aren’t like me.
- Attitude: It’s my money; I earned it. Get out of my pocket, damned Democrats!
But with some additional information, this could change to:
- Belief: Some proposed programs do benefit me, or benefit my community, and make it possible for more people to live their dreams. Obstructing government isn’t the same thing as governing.
- Attitude: I’d be willing to pay for things that benefit me or my community, so long as they are well managed. I’ll be skeptical, but willing to try it.
It’s been a long time since I felt at all hopeful that people can change their beliefs or attitudes, but this model actually made some sense to me. I was also thinking about some of the people I know who are not active in the Church. In some cases, they are unorthodox (not believing), and in other cases they are unorthoprax (not practicing). For example on the non-practicing side, you could have this Belief / Attitude set:
- Belief: The Law of Chastity is a true principle, God’s law.
- Attitude: I wish it weren’t because it’s not really practical when you’re single and 30.
But if you were non-believing yet practicing the religion, you might have this set:
- Belief: The Church isn’t what it says it is. All Churches are man-made, but have mostly good intentions.
- Attitude: I wish I could believe it was what it says it is. Life would be simpler.
I’ve heard this second one many times, and observed the first one as well. Beliefs and attitudes often have a disconnect like this.
It’s also often easier to live in denial of things like racism, homophobia or sexism as it’s painful to acknowledge its influence in your life, and it’s overwhelming to realize how hard it is to change these things in society. That’s just turning your wishful thinking attitude (e.g. “I don’t like sexism”) into your belief (“Sexism doesn’t exist.”) Denying that these things exist only allows us to be complacent. It doesn’t make the world a better place which takes time and effort. It’s OK to believe a thing that you don’t like. That’s what motivates us to try to change the world to be a better place.
- Can you remember a time when facts did shift your beliefs or attitude?
- Have you seen this shift in someone else?
- Do you have a negative attitude toward things you believe that are religious? Did you used to?
 “flaming sword” my eye. That’s got to be the most ridiculous phallic excuse I’ve ever heard.
 This one I buy, somewhat, as a side benefit for some small number of the women, but treating women equally, eliminating the patriarchy and its accompanying gender roles, and paying women for their work also affords women opportunity.
 If you’re a widow, I have to think this is the worst pickup line ever. Also, it has occurred to me as an adult that you can support widows without marrying them or having sex with them. Go figure.
 Not true, unless you are a polygamous man who is only counting his own offspring. It does not result in more children overall in a community. It just gives the most powerful men in the group more direct descendents.
 Which begs the question, why was it necessary for anybody? (and of course points to the contradiction that D&C 132 says it’s necessary for all).
 While flattering, this is probably just placating women with a head pat about their eternal subservient status. Thanks, but no thanks. If men are so bad, why do we want to reward them with many wives?
“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” — David Hume.
“ “flaming sword” my eye. That’s got to be the most ridiculous phallic excuse I’ve ever heard.”
OMG, HOW HAVE I MISSED THIS ALL THESE YEARS???????
It wasn’t that long ago that my beliefs and attitudes about LGBTQ/church issues were at odds, as you describe. It was something like,
Belief: The prophets tell us homosexuality is a sin and the prophets speak for God.
Attitude: This is a confusing and tragic doctrine and I hope we receive new revelation on the subject.
At some point I read Bryce Cook’s essay “ What Do We Know of God’s Will For His LGBT Children?” and had a powerful spiritual experience connected to it, when I realized the revelation I was seeking had already arrived just not by way of the church. After that my beliefs were significantly different.
“flaming sword” — not the only such angelic weapon for mystic unions. Did JS know anything of St Teresa of Avila?:
“I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form….He was … most beautiful—his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels… I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God…. I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.”
Evolution of my beliefs / attitudes about women and the priesthood that I think probably tracks with a lot of Mormon journeys from literal –> progressive / nuanced –> nonbelieving.
Original thinking and attitude:
Belief: God restored the priesthood to Joseph Smith and restored it only to males. Men hold the priesthood and have an administrative / leadership role in the Church; women have other roles but primarily within the home. Our prophets speak for God and the priesthood was restored exactly how God intended.
Attitude: I am not comfortable with patriarchy but I guess that the only place patriarchy works is the Church, because then it’s from God. There are probably lots of reasons why a gender (and formerly race) hierarchical priesthood leadership makes sense, especially since it can only be used to bless other people. Someday I will understand this all and it will make sense. I just need to be patient. It’s really hard though. Maybe my cross to bear in life.
Intermediate thinking and attitude:
Belief: The priesthood is the power of God. It is different from priesthood office / authority / ordination. Women do not hold priesthood office, but they wield priesthood power and even perform priesthood ordinances in the temple. Also, prophets can make mistakes.
Attitude: I wish more people would understand this about the priesthood and stop conflating priesthood power with priesthood office. I’m grateful I have access to priesthood power. I wish the Church would disaggregate priesthood office and ordination with so many functions – there are lots of things that can be done without priesthood ordination that are currently only done by men, and we should look at those areas and broaden participation by women. I don’t know how I feel about Ordain Women’s approach, but I’m also uncomfortable with the Church’s response which seemed a little tone-deaf. The restoration is continuing and I hope that someday women will be ordained, but I’m not sure our leadership is asking that question right now or open to that response.
Later thinking and attitude:
Belief: Joseph Smith may have made up or exaggerated the priesthood ordination story to shore up his authority as a prophet during a time of a lot of dissension. White men throughout history have made God in their own image – maybe the leaders in our Church have done that exact same thing and God isn’t a white guy who puts white men in charge after all. I’m seeing a lot of people have powerful experiences outside the priesthood structure. And this whole pandemic thing is showing that there is a real tangible downside to women not being able to bless the sacrament in their homes. The priesthood is a construct that may be helpful to people but, like Dumbo’s feather, it isn’t the actual power of God which has nothing to do with priesthood ordination or any of those constructs. It may help point people to something, but it isn’t the something.
Attitude: I don’t care about priesthood ordination. I don’t need anyone’s permission to access or exercise the power of God. I especially don’t need that permission in my own home, and if I feel like blessing my sacrament or my kids, I’m going to do that. By insisting that women have some version of the priesthood via temple ordinances, I think Church leadership is simply continuing to justify their exclusion from actual priesthood leadership so I am impatient with those attempts – lipstick on the pig of patriarchy. I don’t actually care anymore about priesthood ordination anymore since I don’t think it’s real, but I do wish the Church would ordain women so that they can be fully included at all levels of leadership and decisionmaking. It would make the Church a better place. Right now it is just replicating the same patriarchal structures we’ve seen across history and doing real harm, and I can’t support that.
If you bore with me for that, an observation I’ve had lately: with my intermediate attitude, I felt empowered to participate in Church and help people reach a different understanding of the priesthood and hopefully move more people away from attitude #1. With the latest attitude I honestly just don’t care what anyone has to say about the priesthood because we are no longer operating from the same or similar set of assumptions or facts (and I clearly could not express my newer beliefs at Church without causing massive problems for myself). It was easy to express my intermediate attitude in a faith-promoting / non-heretical way. Not so easy now. Makes Church participation less interesting & meaningful.
Really interesting post. Thanks. The connection between belief and attitude is clear and intuitive. I’m curious about the role of knowledge. After the first example, polygamy, it takes a break. Also, what passes for knowledge could also be identified as a belief or an opinion, e.g., in my family there was always laughter about great grandfather blah blah and how he had to flee to Mexico and how his first two wives refused to go because he had taken a third wife without telling the first two. “Oh, that kooky polygamy (patriarch of the family slaps his knee) really created some uncomfortable moments!” My parents believe that polygamy was necessary for all the reasons listed above, and their knowledge tells them many people were happy in it, except that the same knowledge also indicates that great grandfather’s first two wives were not so happy in it, but they’ll ignore that part.
The knowledge component is sometimes factual, but often not even remotely. In a world were knowledge is often the last thing I read on Facebook and I’m only fed things I already agree with, the idea of knowledge slides closer to that of belief. Are we edging towards a knowledge-free world?
The psychologist you listened to left out the most important thing that should be used to help form our values or beliefs — TRUTH! And by “truth”, I mean unchanging truth, eternal truth. Not like the knowledge he mentions that can change with additional facts or removal of incorrect facts. Eternal truth should be at the core of our values and beliefs. Most of us already include truth in our values and beliefs, but I think it should have been listed specifically by the psychologist. Based on what hawkgrrrl shared from the podcast, it seems like the psychologist is suggesting that one can never be certain about anything.
@bwbarnett how would one go about ascertaining unchanging, eternal truth? Certainly in our own Church a lot of unchanging truths have changed.
I’m not only referring to religious truth, but all truth – mathematical, scientific, historical, anatomical, behavioral, etc. Seems to me that truth should be included in a discussion of how we should formulate our values and beliefs.
I mean, sure, if we could determine truth, it would make reconciling beliefs and attitudes a much more direct process. Clearly, as a society, we’re not even close to agreeing on truth. Among all the disciplines you listed, only math approximates universal truth, and that’s only by stopping short of theoretical concepts. The rest are riddled with disputes and disagreements.
bwbarnett, Certainty is an attitude or degree of belief. It is not indicative of eternal, unchanging truth, but may be indicative of a commitment to belief that one has found an eternal, unchanging truth. People sometimes like certainty because it comforts them with respect to the unknown future. It can help them make decisions quickly about actions that can affect their unknown future. Some like certainty about the statements of Church leaders. If they’re certain their leaders speak for God (and that they correctly understand what is said) they can reduce, if not eliminate, some of the tasks of thinking and moral decision making. If they’re certain their Church leaders don’t speak for God, they can greatly reduce the time and effort they may otherwise spend considering or seeking confirmation of when their leaders have spoken for God. Some people learn to deal with ambiguity and degrees of belief and don’t get paralyzed into indecision because of a lack of certainty. I wonder sometimes if that’s a characteristic of adulthood.
@jaredsbrother – Truth doesn’t require the agreement of society nor do disputes and disagreements change truth. I’m glad you agree though that *if* we could determine truth, it would be worthwhile in determining values and beliefs. That’s really my main point here, that as a concept, truth should be included in a discussion about values and beliefs. The primary method we as humans use to determine truth is through the scientific method, and there have been plenty of truths outside of mathematics that have been identified through that method.
@Wondering Well said.
Wondering: Yes, exactly. I was going to add a bit about the conflation of *knowledge* and belief in Mormon parlance. We’ve been instructed by McConkie and others that a “testimony” which is a statement of belief can become “knowledge,” but in these terms, it’s not knowledge, it’s just certainty and intransigence. It’s saying that we are no longer open to any new information or previously unknown facts, that our belief is unshakable by additional study or experience–it can only be confirmed, not altered.
That’s not the same use of the word “knowledge” by this psychologist (and he doesn’t claim that there’s only one way to use that word; he just clarifies how it is used in this psychological triad). However, McConkie’s use of “knowlege” is not describing the word as we use it outside of Mormonism. He’s describing certainty (what Peter Enns calls the Sin of Certainty), not knowledge, and he’s calling it a higher moral good than belief or faith. I disagree, although I’m sure I accepted it as a teen when I first heard it.
The other thing the interview discusses is that we can’t remember former opinions we’ve held, not really. We may remember the fact of them as Elisa lays out in her three-parter about Priesthood, but we don’t recall memories vividly, we are grasping at them, they aren’t like videotapes we can play from the past, and it makes it hard for us to remember what it was like when we did believe something differently than we do now. Often it’s a blind spot we have which is why we think that people don’t change their beliefs; we don’t experience that change. We just rewrite our memories of the past to conform and connect to our current views. And although the interviewer didn’t say this, the way it feels to me is that we contain doubts and beliefs all at once. Our beliefs aren’t 100% settled, just leaning in a direction. They can lean in another direction with enough new information we find credible, and that leaning doesn’t feel like a radical shift. We already contained the capacity to believe differently. It’s only intransigence that prevents us from accepting new information. McConkie was onto something pscyhological there, but I can’t call it a net good.
I think this model is intriguing. I do like that it breaks things out into different subjective components. And I like that the psychologist acknowledges in this model that we can “know” things that aren’t true — which makes yet another aspect of differentiating the subjective and the objective.
(I know bwbarnett doesn’t like that, but I think it’s really important to acknowledge that even if there is an objective truth about any issue, we can only interact with what we *believe* or *know* or *feel* about it. And if any of those are wrong, then we may feel incredibly certain about something that is not objectively true.)
We all know members of the Church (maybe even some of you) who are very KNOWLEDGABLE about the Gospel, doctrine, Church, etc. but who know very little about challenges to conventional Church history or truth claims. I’ve literally talked to more than one bishop who had not read the Gospel Topic Essays for example. And when I encounter people like this, I always wonder how knowledgeable they really are. It’s not that they aren’t smart. It’s that they have a certain ATTITUDE about alternative sources of info. And this attitude steers their BELIEF in a way that prevents them from really knowing.
I’m not saying that I am smarter than anyone. But don’t I have a significant advantage when my attitude allows me to gain knowledge through various sources that then forms my ultimate beliefs? Or is better to limit oneself to official / Desert Books sources and pretend you know everything?
bwbarnett, as much as I agree with your salute to the scientific method, it’s a much more jiggly prospect in the social and behavioral sciences. Finding truth in the study of people is like nailing lime green Mormon jello to the wall.
I just finished listening to the podcast that hawkgrrrl referenced in her post, and it was quite interesting. Thanks hawkgrrrl! The primary focus of the psychologists was a study on belief change, so other things that I was wondering about, like what role truth should play or how do our beliefs and attitudes affect our behavior, were not really discussed in detail. The conclusion they came to was that most people experience more belief changes than they are aware of – they simply forget how they previously believed, so they don’t notice the change. Two of the examples they used were “how effective do you think spanking is as a form of discipline?” and “does TV violence make children more violent?”. They classified these beliefs as non-top-of-mind beliefs and these are the types of beliefs they focused their study on. They didn’t perform any studies on beliefs that are more tied to tribal loyalty, your identity, or your profession, but they assumed that changes in those beliefs, on the other hand, would be noticeable.
The word “evidence” was used throughout the podcast in relation to belief change. I suppose at a minimum there is a loose tie here to what I was thinking about in relation to truth’s role in belief change. We are more likely to change our beliefs as more objective evidence is presented to us. If we are presented with several studies that show that spanking is an effective form of discipline, we are more likely to change our beliefs on it. Usually the change is not an immediate 180 degrees, but an incremental change.
@jaredsbrother – Love the lime green jello comment! 😉 And yes, I agree that the scientific method may be less effective in other disciplines, but some argue that it is the best option we have today of discovering truth about our world.
@Andrew S. Could you elaborate on this for me please? Maybe provide a few examples of this? – “…then we may feel incredibly certain about something that is not objectively true”
I’ve also now been thinking about how our attitudes influence our beliefs.
In my example above re priesthood, each of those shifts of belief was really the result of the new belief serving a purpose for me. The attitude & belief about a certain set of facts (knowledge) is impossible to disaggregate and I don’t think that it only runs belief —> attitude. It also runs attitude —> belief
So I guess – what @Dave B. said. We truly do only believe what we want to believe. On that same podcast (different episodes) we are frequently reminded that no one is acting “irrationally” from their own point of view.
@bwbarnett, I’ve spent many years searching for TRUTH that is true in all times and all situations. I’ve found only 2: It is wrong to teach others to hate; and Greed is evil.
@Hawkgrrrl, my example of changing belief:
I was a mother of young children when ETB became prophet. He spoke very strongly that mothers should not work outside the home.
Previous belief: The Prophet speaks for God and gives the best advice for how we should live our lives.
Previous attitude: Following the Prophet is the best plan.
New knowledge, gained by much thought, prayer and study: The Prophet gives the best general advice. Not everyone lives in the best situations.
New belief: I am responsible to make decisions for the situations in my life. I will be accountable to God for my decisions, not to the Prophet.
New attitude: Listen to the Prophet, but make my decisions carefully using the knowledge, skills, abilities, faith, I have and the situation I’m in. Try to do the best I can with the information and resources I have at the time.
You are correct that I cannot go back to the first belief. Decisions are now filtered through the new belief.
I like the categorization. But I’m skeptical about there being much of a dividing line between belief and knowledge. What I mean is that all knowledge to some degree is based on beliefs and assumptions and is therefore tentative. Some of what we call knowledge has more evidence to back it up and some of what we call knowledge has less of such. That said, we should be striving to have knowledge and obtain knowledge. But recognize that the process of knowledge acquisition can be challenging and full of surprises. To illustrate my point, judicial opinions are a good analogy. Jurists have to exist. We need a law, people interpreting that law, and making judgments based on their understanding of the law. Simply because some cases are difficult to adjudicate and because there are some areas of the law that are vague and difficult to interpret, it should not be an excuse for a lack of action. Another challenge is human bias. Every judge and jurist is influenced by different and often competing judicial philosophies. Full impartiality is not really possible. Still, that doesn’t mean that a jurist shouldn’t try. Ultimately, the process of arriving at a legal opinion is perhaps more important than the legal opinion itself. And likewise with knowledge. On the one hand, the fact that knowledge is tentative should not be used as an excuse not to strive toward knowledge. Many resign themselves to endless questioning, hole poking, anomaly hunting, and skepticism never to try to draw conclusions or make assertions. This is the basis of conspiracism, a philosophy that exists on the sidelines and takes potshots at mainstream understandings, never to take ownership for its ideas or come up with solid explanations for reality that it backs up with evidence. On the other hand, the process of arriving at a position that is understood to be knowledge is sometimes more important than the piece of knowledge itself. When we look at the body of information and claims that are called knowledge, we should be just as interested in determining how that knowledge was arrived at. And yet, people often conveniently skip this important step. When we look at experts and what they think about coronavirus, for instance, we need to understand the rigorous processes that many of them have gone through to arrive at their positions on coronavirus. Many times, expert opinions have been proven to be incorrect. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to dismiss everything they have to say. For when we look at the process that they’ve gone through to understand coronavirus, we can respect what they have to say even if some points here and there have been proven incorrect. But when we focus only on the product of what they say and not the process, we may experience the tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater and to be skeptical of everything they have to say simply because something they said turned out to be wrong. Again, it is lazy thinking that ignores the process of coming up with the knowledge that lends itself to conspiracism.
I think the scientific method is less about discovering ultimate objective truth than about chipping off bits of un-truth. And even that doesn’t guarantee it will be useful – Newtonian physics is less *true* than quantum mechanics, but it is sure more useful at a pool table.
In gospel doctrine once several folks were poo-pooing science because it is *always changing*. Duh. We have hundreds of thousands of people spending billions of dollars trying to see and understand smaller and smaller things and bigger and further away stuff. Then they try to apply that knowledge. It is always progressing and refining.
Religionists seem to want the comfort of putting a pin in God’s truth – words that someone has claimed were revealed to them. The words become cloaked in tradition and vociferously proclaimed. Eternal and unchanging. In fact, it often consolidates dominion and doesn’t evidence an even application of God’s blessings. Of course one could say we have on-going revelation – but it is seldom revolutionary or advances humankind in any significant way.
Our experiment with God is individual. It should lead us to be better and to lift our neighbor. That just might be as real and true as it gets.
bwbarnett: I’m not Andrew S, but in answer to your question about how we can know things that we feel are true but are not, I believe the podcast very briefly mentioned Flat Earth theory. That, and other conspiracy theories, would be a good example of this phenomenon. The more you know about a conspiracy theory, the more you study it, the more “facts” you obtain about it, the more you may become convinced it is credible, particularly when you make emotional connections with others who believe it. It starts to “make sense of the world” (belief), and you “want it to be true” (attitude). That’s where the scales tip into changing your belief around knowledge (a set of “facts” or “information”) that is not actually true, but has elements of truth and plausibility to it.
Conspiracy theories are definitely a great example of the phenomenon — there are general psychological concepts such as “Belief perseverance,” “backfire effect,”
I have also written a bit about how truth isn’t always *intuitive*, so one basic issue is, “What if the truth is something that seems really unlikely to us?” How can we distinguish between something difficult to understand but true, vs something easy to understand but wrong?
one of my favorite simple examples is the Monty Hall problem. There is *definitely* a correct answer, but it’s very unintuitive to many people (including experts in relevant fields). If we can be very convinced of incorrect answers in a “rock solid” field like mathematics, then it seems like we’re going to have a lot more issues in every other field.