Beliefs and Attribution (II)

In a previous post we talked about the beliefs and attribution systems. In this second post on the subject we analyze the influence of our beliefs in different aspects of life and questioning if beliefs are whether or not part of knowledge.

Our beliefs influence in a  very relevant way, and sometimes without realizing it, in our behavior, interaction and social adaptation, education and learning (as well as teachers or as students), consumption in coaching (Coaches / clients) in how we make decisions, in our emotional responses, in our view of the world, etc.


Charles Sanders Peirce develops a definition of belief which states that beliefs “should be such that can guide our actions in order to satisfy our desires; and this reflection will reject any belief that has not been made to ensure this result “. This means that belief has the pragmatic objective of establish our behavior based on regular process of cognition, in which is known reality and is fixed a belief, which is restored by a principle of truth. Therefore the belief establishes a willingness to guide behavior, allow evaluation of the truth of an opinion or a fact, and finally, evaluate the meanings of the action.

In education and learning

Different studies have shown that beliefs and attitudes of students have a strong impact on their learning. They have analyzed their impact on language learning, in mathematics, science.

Also they found evidence suggesting a strong correlation between the beliefs of teachers and how they plan their classes, their decisions on the form and timing of provision and classroom practice. In other words, the beliefs of teachers are defined as a system in which underlying constructs the teacher uses when he thinks, evaluates, classifies and guide their teaching performance. For a high number of researchers [Crookes (2003), Hamel (2003), Harmer (1998) Moll (1993), Tillema, (1998) and Williams & Burden (1999)] beliefs of teachers influence their performance rather than disciplinary knowledge they possess.


Religious beliefs and its socio-cultural significance impose certain restrictions on consumption, and very especially on food: the main constraints may refer to the time of year that may or may not consume certain foods; the hours of the day that may or may not eat and about fasting in terms of quantity and duration. Some religions also establish a clear division between foods that are pure and impure or impose some restrictions for certain moments of life (pregnant woman, mourning or widowhood among others).

The placebo effect

Placebo in the field of health is “a pharmacologically inert substance used as a control in a clinical trial. The placebo is capable of eliciting a positive effect on certain sick individuals, if they do not know they are receiving an inert substance (eg . water, sugar) and believe it is a drug. This is called the placebo effect and is due to psychological causes.

Something similar happens with personal beliefs. This implies that in certain cases the beliefs of people are capable of causing physiological changes in the body. Dr. Bruce Lipton, cell biologist at Stanford in his research published in “The Biology of Belief” showed that, among other things, the stem cells can develop into muscle tissue or fat depending on the environment they are placed. Lipton believes that genes and DNA can be altered by the beliefs of a person.

Culture, teams and individuals

Culture can be defined as a shared sense of values and beliefs. When a group of people gathered under similar shared beliefs, they can achieve higher goals.

Self-confidence, belief in yourself and in your abilities is a factor to be considered for action. The belief effect can improve performance, but also can significantly affect it negatively. The message is simple: “Believe in yourself, believe in your training program, believe in your ability to learn, believe in your diet, believe that your efforts will pay off and achieve your goals …”

In coaching the coaches themselves must take into account the impacts of their own beliefs in the effectiveness of their activity and remain neutral (without pre-judgments). Customers, meanwhile, bring their beliefs, assumptions and preconceived ideas. They are often their own beliefs (limiting) which hinder them get their goals. The role of the coach is to help the client move your “stuck state”.

Beliefs and knowledge

According to the old definition of Plato knowledge is justified true belief. Knowledge can only mean that the belief that something is true, but nothing is true, a priori, without a base to justify it.

On the other hand, there is no unjustified beliefs. Everyone has their own reasons for their beliefs. Therefore, the key question is: What kind of justification is necessary to make a belief is knowledge? The process of formation of scientific concepts states that three kinds of justification are required: empirical, theoretical and social.

  1. The empirical justification is obtained from observations and experiences about objects / issues in question.
  2. The theoretical justification relates to the structure of knowledge, the mutual relations of the pieces of knowledge. The necessary compatibility of experiences provides theoretical justification.
  3. The social justification originates from observations and experiences of other similar or related persons. A private belief can not be knowledge. Knowledge must have the approval of any society or group thereof, convinced of the adequacy of both the empirical justification and the theoretical justification.

The conviction in these three forms of justification while ago that beliefs are knowledge, because even scientific knowledge has the nature of belief and is basically intuitive, as is also the conviction.


If you want to know a little bit more …


Teunissen, P.W. y Bok, H.G. (2013) Believing is seeing: how people’s beliefs influence goals, emotions and behaviour. Med Educ. 2013 Nov; 47 (11): 1064-72.

Crookes, G. (2003), A practicum in Tesol. Professional development through teaching practice. Cambridge Language Education. Cambridge.

Hamel, Frank (2003), Teacher understanding of student understanding: Revising the gap between teacher conceptions and students’ ways with literature. Research in the Teaching of English. 38, 49-84.

Harmer, J. (1998), How to teach English. Longman. England.

Moll, L. (1993), Vygotsky y la educacion. Connotaciones y aplicaciones de la psicología sociohistórica en la educación.. Aique. Buenos Aires.

Tillema, Hellen (1998), Stability and change in student teachers’ beliefs about teaching”. Teachers and thinking: theory and Practice, 4, 217-228.

Williams, M. & Burden, R. (1999), Psicología para profesores de idiomas. Cambridge University Press. Madrid.

Díaz, C. et al. (2012) Los docentes en la sociedad actual: sus creencias y cogniciones pedagógicas respecto al proceso didáctico . Polis [En línea], 24 abril 2012.

Bateson, G. (1998) Pasos hacia una ecología de la mente. Una aproximación revolucionaria a la autocomprensión del hombre. Ediciones Lohlé-Lumen. Buenos Aires.

Vela, C. y Ballesteros, C. (2011) La influencia de las creencias religiosas en el consumo. Una aproximación desde las tres religiones del Libro. ICADE. Revista cuatrimestral de las Facultades de Derecho y Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, n. 83-84. Especial 50 Aniversario ICADE, 2011.

Heiphets, L.A. (2013) The influence of beliefs on children’s and adults’ cognition and social preferences. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.

Mark, A.(2003).Placebo:the Belief Effect. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 96(4), 199–200.

Evans, D. (2004) Placebo. Mind Over Matter in Modern Medicine. Oxford University Press.