I have come across a lot of discussions where people end up calling belief a choice. Of course, I always ask them to believe that it's not, and they can't.

But it might help if I have a better psychological argument, or if there is psychological theory and evidence that says that belief is a choice, I would like that too. Theories could be about the nature of how beliefs are constructed in the brain, how the brain and body respond to stimuli which attack the beliefs, etc.


I am not asking for opinion on free will or anything like that. I am asking for scientific theory and evidence, on the ability to actively change one's own beliefs, cognitive defense mechanisms against belief change, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Why do you choose to not believe in free will? $\endgroup$
    – faustus
    Feb 10, 2018 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ What is your definition of the word "choice"? $\endgroup$
    – syntonicC
    Feb 10, 2018 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Well, doesn't cognitive science have a concept of what a belief is and how it functions? $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2018 at 21:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There isn't a complete consensus on it because the term is not well defined. There is some work in neuroeconomics that suggests that some beliefs are a part of decision making and cognitive control systems. The issue is what "choice" means. In this field, what we call choice in everyday language is usually defined as a valued state or action that maximizes future rewards. This is not the typical everyday meaning of the word choice. $\endgroup$
    – syntonicC
    Feb 10, 2018 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielGoldman That wasn't clear from the original question. If you are asking about Confirmation Bias, then this question would still be closed as a duplicate, since we already have many many questions about it - eg, psychology.stackexchange.com/q/117/7001, psychology.stackexchange.com/q/5878/7001, psychology.stackexchange.com/q/13173/7001 $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 12, 2018 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


No, I don't think belief is a choice. A belief is simply your interpretation of reality and your interpretation is not something you choose.Your reality and consequently your beliefs are simply the conclusions you come up with after cognitively processing some information. For example I simply cannot believe that I am the president of the United States no matter how hard I try. This is because when I process what is real and what is not, then it becomes clear to me that I am not the president. I can lie to myself as much as I want that I am the president but I will never be able to truly believe it. People tend to think that by lying yourself you can believe anything, however this in not true. In order to believe something you must really be able to interpret it as the reality. For example people who give the advise " believe in yourself" is really nonsense.Believing in yourself and your capaabilities is not something you can choose, In order to believe in yourself and your capabilities you must really prove it to yourself.

  • $\begingroup$ There are statements here which to be quite frank, can be countered very easily. For example, with the general statement you made "A belief is simply your interpretation of reality and your interpretation is not something you choose." look at the times of Galileo. Even though Galileo believed he proved that the earth was round, some chose to believe the old theory that the earth was flat. You cannot just generalise belief because it depends on what beliefs the OP is talking about (as @user303375 pointed out) $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2018 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand why the downvote this is just my opinion. And for the Galileo example I don't think people chose to believe that the earth was flat they just weren't convinced that the earth was round. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2018 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ Furthermore if my statement that a belief is what you interpret real and what not is false then that would mean that is possible for someone to interpret reality in one way but believing something else. This clearly impossible, for example if people are convinced that the reality is that the earth is round, they can't keep believing that the earth is flat. Of course they can still keep saying the earth is flat in the hope that forcefully trying to believe the earth is flat will make them believe it. However that doesn't work, it is just like trying believing you are the president $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2018 at 18:58

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