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Alief (mental state)

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In philosophy and psychology, an alief is an automatic or habitual belief-like attitude, particularly one that is in tension with a person's explicit beliefs.[1]

For example, a person standing on a transparent balcony may believe that they are safe, but alieve that they are in danger. A person watching a sad movie may believe that the characters are completely fictional, but their aliefs may lead them to cry nonetheless. A person who is hesitant to eat fudge that has been formed into the shape of feces, or who exhibits reluctance in drinking from a sterilized bedpan may believe that the substances are safe to eat and drink, but may alieve that they are not.

The term alief was introduced by Tamar Gendler, a professor of philosophy and cognitive science at Yale University, in a pair of influential articles published in 2008.[2] Since the publication of these original articles, the notion of alief has been utilized by Gendler and others — including Paul Bloom[3] and Daniel Dennett[4] — to explain a range of psychological phenomena in addition to those listed above, including the pleasure of stories,[3] the persistence of positive illusions,[4] certain religious beliefs,[5] and certain psychiatric disturbances, such as phobias and obsessive–compulsive disorder.[4]


  1. ^ "Tamar Szabó Gendler, Alief and Belief". PhilPapers. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2010-06-01.
  2. ^ "Philosopher's Annual". Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  3. ^ a b Bloom, Paul (2011). How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like. W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0393340006.
  4. ^ a b c T. McKay, Ryan; Dennett, Daniel (2009). "The Evolution of Misbelief". Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 32 (6): 493–510. doi:10.1017/S0140525X09990975. PMID 20105353.
  5. ^ K. Mitch Hodge (2011). "On Imagining the Afterlife". Journal of Cognition and Culture. 11 (3–4): 367–389. doi:10.1163/156853711X591305.
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Alief (mental state)
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