Beliefs and Aliefs

Sonnie Bailey

18 February 2015

Talk is cheap. It’s easy to say things about how the world works. Or about ourselves. Or about our relationship to the world and other people.

What’s interesting, is that people (myself included) often say one thing, and act another way. It’s as if our “stated beliefs” are in contrast to the “actual beliefs” we have which dictate our behaviour. Our stated beliefs don’t map the territory. 

I’ve long thought of this as a “reporting problem” – there’s something lost in translation between our “actual” beliefs and the beliefs we report that we have. 

However, I’ve recently found a way that reconceptualises this even more elegantly.

I now distinguish between “beliefs” and “aliefs”. Beliefs are those things that we say that we believe. Aliefs are the “beliefs” that we actually live by.

There may be cases where our “beliefs” and “aliefs” align. But there are many cases where they don’t and that they are in contrast.

It’s made me a lot more skeptical of my stated “beliefs”. Equally, it makes me a lot more skeptical of people who self-disclose about personal characteristics.

In each case, it’s easier to look to behaviour exhibited over time and infer a person’s beliefs (or aliefs) rather than rely on the words they use.


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