Source: Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?, 2015 March, by Joel Achenbach

[Andrew] Shtulman [of Occidental College] ’s research indicates that as we become scientifically literate, we repress our naive beliefs but never eliminate them entirely. They lurk in our brains, chirping at us as we try to make sense of the world.

This staggered and overwhelmed me: How else can we correct, improve, and refine our lurking, substratal intuitions or instincts that are wrong? I ask NOT about simply accepting or tolerating facts or science superficially (as insinuated by this excerpt), and remain traumatised.

Footnote: The author has a BA in Politics, and not in science, if this implies anything?

  • $\begingroup$ The quote suggest that these beliefs are merely naive, not that they are wrong. What axe are you trying to grind here? $\endgroup$
    – TheDoctor
    Oct 31, 2018 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't directly relevant, but remember that science isn't observable fact. Science generally gives us theories that have not yet been disproven. Witnessing observable facts is different from accepting scientific theories. $\endgroup$
    – user24662
    Nov 8, 2019 at 1:38

2 Answers 2


Our memory act as a very powerful database, being able to store a huge load of data. Thing is, that "instinctive data" you learned someday is still there. It might get erased eventually, but as it is "fetched" and used, it gets stronger.

Memory retrieval act akin to a computational weighted-graph navigation, where once you need to remember something, you start navigating in your memories. Memories with greater "weight" or "importance" may be fetched earlier and given a stronger "stamp", i.e., they are more relevant in a given context.


Learning and memory are direct consequences of attentional processing: the more attention is directed or devoted toward something, the more likely it is that it will be later learned and remembered.


[page 2, §2] Another example which everyone can associate or relate to is remembering an almost forgotten event after a very long time. It so happens that, when we come across a bite of a cookie after decades or smell of a perfume after a long time, we take time to recall what it is about and our association with it.


[page 3, §3] [In a face querying context] In the Memory Repeat, the brain repeats the same querying activity until it deduces a relationship between the second image and the fifth image. Once a relationship is establishes, corresponding activities that are chained/outlined to form a bountiful array of events.

Based upon the data present at the back of the brain, relevant output can be expected. The output might be an association of that image with certain events. It can either be the first time they met or the assignment that any had done together or a project/ paper that they had worked upon or classes they had attended, etc. It should, however be noted that not all images can yield a positive result. Some associativity (read: data) may have gotten erased as the passage of time.

A positive result is named as Hit Rate and False Alarm Rate. Hit rate is the positive outcome of a query while False Alarm Rate is the irrelevant or negative outcome of the querying. False alarm rate is the output when an image (or a face) is identical to another image.

If the data is fetched, but never used, it will eventually wear off from the results, but it will only disappear from your brain upon physical memory removal, which takes time.

  • $\begingroup$ It is not very clear to be how this answers the question? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Aug 19, 2018 at 17:34

The Debunking Handbook provides an excellent guide to construct a myth-debunking article. The message that impacts me most is to focus on the fact, not the myth.

enter image description here enter image description here

This is to increase the familiarity with the fact rather the myth, but for those who take the myth as their worldview, giving any counter-argument will only lead to by misunderstood or distorted, because it threatens their core beliefs and identity. They will cherrypick the information by selectively seek out which pieces that bolster their views (confirmation bias). In this case, it's best to focus the effort to the undecided majority, rather than the unswayable minority. However, if the message must be sent directly to them, it should couple with self-affirmation (make the person feel good), or be framed in a less threatening way.

My view

But I think sugarcoating is no difference than cherrypicking. Let's say that person A is actually more correct than person B, but just a single moment that A considers themself as knowing better, then they are also in the same position of B, and sooner or later it's their turn to cherrypick B's words, despite how hard A tries to keep an opened mind. As long as A still worry about elucidating B, then they cannot be mindful about what B says.

If we are locked in our own perspective, then we need to transform our perspective first. Putting ourselves into other's shoes is easier said than done, but when the perspective transformation can be visualized, then it will be fun. If both sides can see the fun from it, then each of them will be mindful in the topic, and the conversation will be joyful.

I have two articles that explains my ideas in details:

  1. Making concrete analogies and big pictures.
  2. Straightforwardness, Fearlessness and Improvisation: How to find the fresh perspective?

Thanks for your reading.


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