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The Bayesian Fallacy: Distinguishing Four Kinds of Beliefs


  • Khalil, Elias


This paper distinguishes among four kinds of beliefs: conviction, confidence, perception, conception. Conviction concerns self-ability:“I can build these stairs.” Confidence also concerns the self—ut focuses on the assertion of will in the face of weakness of will. Perception is about the environment such as weather prediction. Conception is also about the environment—but usually couched with context. While convictions are noncognitive and nonevidential beliefs, the other beliefs are either cognitive, evidential, or both. This paper uses the terms “cognition” and “evidentiality” as axes to distinguish the four beliefs. While “cognitive beliefs” are about one’s environment, “noncognitive beliefs” are about one’s self. While the cognitive/noncognitive divide is unconventional, it generates a payoff in light of the evidentiality axis. While “evidential beliefs” are correctable via Bayes’s rule, “nonevidential beliefs” are not. However, when the nonevidential belief is about the environment, the evidence can at least make the belief more (or less) warranted—where “warrantability” is a weaker criterion than “correctability.” And when the nonevidential belief is about the self, i.e., a conviction, the evidence cannot even make the belief more (or less) warranted. The evidence itself develops when one tries to test a conviction. This paper highlights that convictions are the basis of tenacity—crucial for entrepreneurship and economic growth. This paper further demonstrates how three major theories of action—standard rationality, normative theory, and procedural rationality—fail to distinguish the four kinds of beliefs. They, hence, commit, although in different ways, a set of confusions called here the “Bayesian fallacy.”

Suggested Citation

  • Khalil, Elias, 2008. "The Bayesian Fallacy: Distinguishing Four Kinds of Beliefs," MPRA Paper 8474, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 26 Apr 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8474

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jörg Rieskamp & Jerome R. Busemeyer & Barbara A. Mellers, 2006. "Extending the Bounds of Rationality: Evidence and Theories of Preferential Choice," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(3), pages 631-661, September.
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    13. Joshua M. Epstein & Robert L. Axtell, 1996. "Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262550253, January.
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    More about this item


    Cognitive Dissonance; Internal Motivations (convictions); Normative Theory (embodied cognition); Other Beliefs (confidence; perception; conception); Procedural Rationality Theory (pragmatism); Self-Perception Theory; Standard Rationality Theory;

    JEL classification:

    • B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other
    • B59 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Other

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