Thursday, 17 January 2019

Values in Psychological Science

Today's post is by Lisa Osbeck. Lisa is a Professor of Psychology with interest in the Philosophy of Science. Her work explores the psychological dimensions of science practice and considers how they can help us better understand both science and persons. In this post, Lisa presents her new book Values in Psychological Science: Re-imagining Epistemic Priorities at a New Frontier, published by Cambrige University Press.


In previous work, I collaborated with Nancy Nersessian and colleagues in an ethnographic study of four bioengineering laboratories. We analysed how emotional expression and social positioning are integrated with cognitive processes in innovative problem solving with these settings. One aspect of this work was a study of disciplinary identities and associated epistemic values, with an analysis of the ways these identities facilitate or impede creative innovation in collaborations (Osbeck, Nersessian, Malone, and Newstetter 2011Osbeck & Nersessian 2017). In the new book I turn more directly to the question of values and how they impact psychology.

Values and Psychological Science: Re-imagining Epistemic Priorities at a new Frontier argues for a need to consider how the personal dimensions of scientific practice including value commitments, might facilitate good science in various ways. The opening chapter claims that psychology will increasingly find an opportunity for lasting impact through interdisciplinary participation that generates new questions and new possibilities for a sustainable human future.

In keeping with this claim, I argue that a set of activities is in need of greater appreciation and emphasis across research domains and orientations in psychology. I suggest that these activities are more fundamental than the methods that have been psychology's main preoccupation. As activities that are important for science, their cultivation becomes a disciplinary value, an epistemic priority. I argue that the most fundamental activities cut across the traditional domains of science and art/humanities, and therefore ground the possibility for productive and resourceful collaboration between psychology and other disciplines.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Meanings of "Think" and "Believe"

Today's post is by Neil Van Leeuwen who talks about his recent research with Larisa Heiphetz on the differences in meanings between "think" and "believe". For related research by Heiphetz and Van Leeuwen, see herehere, and here

Neil Van Leeuwen

Do “think” and “believe” mean the same thing? Consider two sentences:
  • Jill believes that God exists.
  • Jill thinks that a lake bigger than Lake Michigan exists.

Both sentences attribute mental states to Jill. And each breaks down into an attitude (thinks/ believes) and a content (that God… / that a lake…). So we can sharpen our question: if we set the contents aside, do the words “thinks” and “believes” convey the same attitude type (or manner of processing)?

Many philosophers and cognitive scientists talk and write as if the answer were yes—as if the words “think” and “believe” were interchangeable, at least in propositional attitude reports (i.e., as if “thinks that p” and “believes that p” referred to the same attitude).

But do lay speakers use “think” and “believe” to convey the same thing? In addition to its intrinsic interest, answering this question is important for philosophers and psychologists: if the answer is no, then we theorists should be cautious about treating them as interchangeable, unless we clarify their meanings as terms of art (which we rarely do).

Larisa Heiphetz

Larisa HeiphetzCasey Landers, and I address this very question in our new paper “Does ‘think’ mean the same thing as ‘believe’? Linguistic Insights into Religious Cognition” (forthcoming, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality). We have two main findings:

  • Lay speakers of American English are more likely to use “think” for everyday, matter-of-fact attitudes (factual beliefs) and “believe” for religious and political/ideological attitudes (religious or ideological credences).
  • This difference remains even when contents are held fixed: a factual belief that pis more likely to be described as “thinks”, but a religious credence that pis more likely to be described as “believes”.

These findings emerged from both corpus linguistics and behavioral studies. (Important caveat: we are not saying that these are the only uses of these two verbs; other uses exist, such as hedging. We are saying, rather, that an important pattern of differential usage exists that tracks differences in attitude type.)

Our first study explored the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), a body of text with over 520 million words going back to 1990. Over several searches, we found that “believe that” had a multiple religious collocates (words or phrases associated at a higher rate than would be expected by chance), words like “miracles” and “Allah,” while “think that” had no religious collocates whatsoever. 

Casey Landers

Furthermore, we searched various religious propositional complements, like “that God is,” to see whether “think” or “believe” would precede them with significant frequency: “believe” occurred as a collocate prior to such phrases often; “think” was never a collocate. So “believe” collocates with religious complements in both directions; “think” has no specifically religious associations at all.

We then did four behavioral studies to see what attitude verbs participants would choose for different attitude report contexts (religious vs. factual for Studies 2-4; religious vs. factual vs. political for Study 5). Consider the following fill-in-the-blanks, which are representative of our stimuli in Studies 2 and 3. 

  • Zane _______ that Jesus turned water into wine.
  • Fred and Yuriana _______ that George Washington was the first U.S. President.
  • Nick _______ that cassiterite is the chief source of tin.
  • Sharon _______ that she will meet her mother at the grocery store today. 

The first context is of course religious. The other three are matters of fact: well-known fact, esoteric fact, and everyday life fact. We found participants were more likely to choose “believe” for religious attitude reports and “think” for factual attitude reports. This was true in both forced-choice (Study 2) and free-response paradigms (Study 3).

In Study 2, for example, participants chose grammatically appropriate forms of “believe” in 89% of the religious contexts (11% for “think”) and only 18% of the time in factual contexts (82% for “think”). Study 2 data look like this:





Study 3 used the same stimuli as Study 2, just with a free-response paradigm (participants could fill in any words they wanted). We found that participants still used “believe” for religious contexts 51% of the time; they used “believe” for matter-of-fact contexts only 8% of the time. Another result from Study 3 was that participants were more likely to use “know” for factual than religious items. (We weren’t expecting this, since our overall sample had a reasonable balance of religious and non-religious participants.) 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Psychiatry

This post is written by Şerife Tekin and Robyn Bluhm. Şerife Tekin is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has published widely in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychiatry, and medical ethics.

Robyn Bluhm is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. She has published widely in philosophy of neuroscience and philosophy of medicine and psychiatry. In this post, Şerife Tekin and Robyn Bluhm present their new edited volume "The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Psychiatry".


Although there has long been a close link between philosophy and psychiatry, it is only in the past few decades that philosophy of psychiatry has emerged as a field in its own right, with its specific set of questions and themes generating interest from both traditional philosophers, and mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

Consider some of these themes that have generated many philosophical and scientific questions: How must we define mental disorders? What are the criteria for the validity and reliability of scientific categories of mental disorders? Are there cross-cultural differences in the properties of mental disorders? Are mental disorder criteria responsive to the experience of people with mental disorders? How do the systematic problems in psychiatric care affect intersectional identities? What are the ethical issues concerning psychiatric diagnoses and treatment? What kind of science is psychiatry?

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Identification and Self-knowledge

Luca Malatesti (left in the picture below) and Filip Čeč (right) collaborated on the project Classification and explanations of antisocial personality disorder and moral and legal responsibility in the context of the Croatian mental health and care law (CEASCRO), funded by the Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ-IP-2013-11-8071). 




Both are based in the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka (Croatia). Luca is associate professor of philosophy and works mainly in philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychiatry. Filip is assistant professor of philosophy and his interests include the metaphysical problem of free will and moral responsibility, and the history of psychiatry.

In this post Luca and Filip summarize their chapter ‘Identification and self-knowledge’, that is contained in the collection edited by Patrizia Pedrini and Julie Kirsch, Third-Person Self-Knowledge, Self-Interpretation, and Narrative

According to “Real Self” accounts, an agent is morally responsible when she acts or thinks because of propositional attitudes, such as beliefs and desires, that, in virtue of a process of identification of the agent with them, belong to her real self (Frankfurt 1971, 1988Watson 19822004). This process is taken to lead the agent to embrace and internalize these mental states in a way that they come to reflect what she really is.

Matt King and Peter Carruthers criticized these accounts of responsibility (King and Carruthers 2012; see also Carruthers 2011). They argued that these doctrines necessarily require that identifying with a propositional attitude involves knowing it transparently. This means that the agent has a privileged and unmediated epistemic perspective on her mental states over the indirect access that others might have to them. 

Moreover, they argue that contemporary cognitive science offers evidence that there are no conscious propositional attitudes and decisional processes that would ground such transparency. According to them, the only objects of transparent knowledge are perceptual and sensory data that are exploited by mentalizing mechanisms to ascribe propositional attitudes to ourselves and others. 

Thursday, 3 January 2019

The Computational Mind

This post was co-authored by Matteo Colombo, an Assistant Professor in the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science, at Tilburg University in The Netherlands, and Mark Sprevak, Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh

They share research interests in philosophy of the cognitive sciences and philosophy of science in general. Here they write about their new co-edited volume “The Routledge Handbook of the Computational Mind”.


The book aims to provide a comprehensive, state-of-the-art treatment of the history, foundations, challenges, applications, and prospects for computational ideas regarding mind, brain, and behaviour. There are thirty-five chapters from contributors across philosophy and the sciences. It is organized into four parts:

1.     History and future prospects of computational approaches

2.     Types of computational approach

3.     Foundations and challenges of computational approaches

4.     Applications to specific parts of psychology

You can read a sample chapter here.

The Handbook displays several common threads. We want to mention three, each reflecting a departure from traditional thinking about the computational mind.