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Exploring the Folk Understanding of Belief: Identifying Key Dimensions Endorsed in the General Population

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AbstractFolk psychological accounts consider beliefs to be shared assumptions or internally represented theories that guide or inform the explanations and predictions about what people say and do. There are numerous studies that explore people’s beliefs on health, politics, religion, paranormal phenomena and delusional themes, but this paper describes the first study to explicitly evaluate if the general population share a relatively consistent definition of the term. A large stratified British sample (N=1000) was asked to rate a set of 14 qualitative descriptors to characterise key operational features of ‘belief ’. Individual features showed endorsement rates of 79-90% and a principal components analysis revealed that the majority of features loaded onto a single component. Despite differences in endorsement levels for individual features, the findings suggest that ‘belief ’ comprises a common set of distinct properties shared by most of the general population.

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