This is the fancy vocabulary that describes when you act in opposition to your beliefs.

Humans claim to be rational: that’s our well established psychological trait that sets us apart from the beast, yet we tend to behave irrational at times (no offense). Like yelling at the television for who knows what’s that for, … These reactions are all examples of a little weird phenomenon known as “alief” — that’s when your reaction contradicts a belief.

Related media: Where Do Superstitions Come From?

Do You Believe Or Think So?

Alief happens in the real world in all sort of ways. A typical example is that awkward feeling you get at the climax of a movie you’ve seen over and over again, or that instant panic you get when your fictional character dies. These scenarios aren’t real, but your emotions don’t care, and you suddenly react as if they are.

The same also goes for seemingly risky scenarios as well, like looking over a steep hill, there’s no chance that you’ll fall over, but you seem quaver a bit. This is also rooted in your superstitions as well. You know for sure that nothing really happens when you …, but doing that makes you feel relieved, and so you do so. That’s all alief in reaction.

“The point of alief is to capture the fact that our minds are partially indifferent to the contrast between events that we believe to be real versus those that seem to be real, or that are imagined to be real.” writes Paul Bloom in an article for The Chronicle. “This extends naturally to the pleasures of the imagination.”

How Worse Your Alief Is

Image: Shutterstock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Sometimes, however, your alief might be against you than you thought. This is mostly experienced in the case of racial prejudice, that awkward moment a person who even claims to be an avowed anti-racist inadvertently behaves not as such. In a paper that was the first of its kind on the topic, psychologist Tamar Szabó Gendler summarized how racism pervades society, often without our conscious knowledge.

In the study, white people who were shown images of black people were more likely to perceive them as armed; identical résumés bearing stereotypically black names are less likely to get interviews than those bearing stereotypically white names; and the brain scans of both white and black Americans revealed more neural activity in the threat-centric amygdala whenever they were shown images of people of another race.

Its All Stereotypical

That’s the catch; but fortunately, there’s a loophole to this effect. One study found  that when people were asked to press a “NO” button whenever they saw a stereotypical name, and press a “YES” button whenever they saw another image that was counter to that stereotype increased the rate at those opposite stereotypes. And another study found found that people who were asked to imagine a non-stereotypical person in mind later “produced substantially weaker automatic stereotypes.”

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Wed, Jul 24, 2019.


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