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“Belief & Behaviour”

Hello fellow bloggers, can you believe how time flies and that already it’s time to contemplate our blog topics for the week.  I saw Jess Martin’s blog with the video footage discussing “From what and where young people acquire or place their beliefs?”  Jess advised that he was interested to see commentary regarding this topic.  I was intrigued with the video clip and interesting topic, so with this in mind, this week I have decided to delve into Social Psychology and talk about my take on “Origins of Belief” tadaaaaa!!! 

According to the Oxford dictionary the word “belief” can be interpreted in the following ways “the feeling that something is real and true; something that can be trusted, or something in which we have confidence”.  So how does this relate to human behaviour you ask?  Well let’s assume that our beliefs are socially constructed and question whether they contribute to making us who we are and ask ourselves if they influence how we behave? 

So let’s adopt a behaviourist perspective and argue that all behaviour is learned.  If we consider the early stages of primary socialisation, parents and extended family provide a most obvious vehicle through which “beliefs” are passed on. Therefore, if we learn “beliefs” from this type of socialisation then we must learn “beliefs” from all social interaction.  Education, Science, Literature, Religion, the Government, the Media, the Law are all secondary agencies of socialisation that contribute significantly to the social constructions of “beliefs”.

From past to present day Religion has played a significant role in providing the origins of what different cultures and societies deem appropriate or inappropriate behaviour.    Religion has a strict ethos of expectation, in Christianity there are the Ten Commandments and in Islam there are the Five Pillars.  Punishments for breaking with “beliefs” can be as severe as death, take for example the stoning to death of Islamic women for committed acts of adultery. 

Does this contribute to “beliefs”? I would argue that it does.  Attitudes towards women, ethnic minorities, same sex relationships and disability have changed as a direct consequence of evolving socially constructed “beliefs” that have been heavily influenced by the secondary agencies of socialisation.    Furthermore as we have acknowledged that “beliefs” are ever changing social constructs, it poses a wealth of exciting opportunities for future research.  In conclusion “beliefs” clearly contribute to who we are and how we behave.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

 Buddha quotes (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)





Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Like this blog! I have to say I do not have the behaviourist perspective. I like to think that however I would have been bought up, I would have still had the same beliefs. A set of identical twins for example, can go through exactly the same childhood life, and have completely different beliefs by the age of secondary school, or before! I suppose to a point I would have to agree with the behaviourists perspective, as events that happen in your lifetime will obviously slightly alter your beliefs.

    • October 10, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Yes brilliant Jess! I was hoping for some good discussion on this subject and bingo! You have raised exactly the point I was hoping for “Twins studies” but hey we need to discuss the evidence.
      Twin studies are used to provide evidence of genetic determination in behaviour. Identical twins are believed to share 100% of their DNA but even this under question. They look the same, and are a result of one egg dividing in to two eggs with the same DNA (monozygotic). Fraternal twins are not similar in appearance, and can differ in sex; they are the result of two separate eggs and so share just 50% of their DNA (dizygotic). Even when Identical twins have been reared separately they often still demonstrate similarities in behaviour over and above fraternal twins. So does this mean that genes determine behaviour or are the similarities are a result of shared environmental & learning experiences as early as in the womb? Let’s think of about your example of the Reimer twins as both of these men suffered similar episodes of depression and ended their own lives. I think any good scientist would agree that nature and nurture are equally influential to behaviour.

  2. October 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Hmmmm the old Nature V nurture debate, so are our beliefs formed due to socialisation or are we born with certain morals, I must agree with the behaviouralist approach on this one, I do feel that certain personality traits can be passed down genetically however the vast majority of what we are told and how we are socialised definitely plays a massive part in the way we behave, without rules and laws would we really all behave the way we do now? I don’t think so!
    The british legal system is still based on the 10 commandments, so whether we follow religion or not the law is heavily influenced by this set of beliefs and this is definitely the basis for social structure that we all tend to follow, therefore I would say that both nature and nurture play major rolls in contributing to behaviour.

    • October 11, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      Oh the never-ending debate! The issue I have with genetic determinism is the fact that it is taking away responsibility from the individual and thus from society. If we place our focus in genes determining our behaviour then would mass suicide take place? What are the chances of a group of people all being pre-determined to want to commit suicide? Is this due to genetic impulses or is it because of a type of brainwashing, obedience to a perceived authority maybe? A lack of accountability then leads to a breakdown in society, where people can excuse deviant behaviour because ‘it runs in the family’. However I do not think that nurture is totally responsible for our actions either, if a child is raised by a same sex couple then according to nurture the child would be homosexual, but this is not always the case. It would seem to me then that in many cases it is a combination of both nature and nurture rather the v’s scenario. Of course there are exceptions as with any subject, which is why society or rather the law chooses not to punish deviant behaviours from people with mental illness in the same way it would a ‘normal’ (I hate that word!) person. If a person is raised with an alcoholic parent do they in turn become alcoholics, yes often but not always. However if addiction is genetically determined then socialisation could either encourage or discourage this behaviour in the child. See I cannot even make my own mind up – as with correlation and causation, the two may follow the same line, but which causes the other? Very interesting and neverending debate!

  3. psufeh
    October 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    As ppp1003 said the British legal system is based on the 10 commandents which in itself is a belief. No matter whether we believe that the rules were set out by God or not, all citizens have to follow the law. The way we learn these is questionable and it can be seen that if a parent has been involved in crime then the child is more likely to be. However does this come from genes or from learning the behaviour. It is hard to distinguish between a correlation and causation.

    • October 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      Yes, although I would prefer to phrase it this way, all citizens are expected to conform and abide by the laws of the land. Which in effect are the more rigorous social norms of society. Furthermore, yes there is evidence to suggest that when a parent is involved in crime there is an increased likelihood of the child being involved in crime too. Particularly if we are talking about fathers with involvement in crime, then son’s are more likely follow the same path. As I have said previously, it is very difficult to make a distinction between whether this is due to a genetic predisposition for crime or whether this is related to social learning theory. You may have inspired my blog topic for week 3, so thankyou!

      • October 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

        Just wanted to add a further comment on the subject of the law. I do believe that the law is a form of custom in otherwords “behaviour or practice”. These rules are the guidelines for behaviour but they also control. When we conform we may feel slightly affected but if we breech the law then we are met with a negative response or punishment. I would argue that this is definately along the lines of the behaviourist perspective and that this is form of negative and positive reinforcement with a view to shaping behaviour.

  4. October 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Yes the twin study gives an example of how genetics are a major factor in behaviour however does it also account for beliefs? Behaviour is more likely to be influenced by genetics than beliefs as ones beliefs are learnt from our upbringing like you said ihmsl. This brings up the question whether it is our behaviour that causes our beliefs or if it is our beliefs that cause our behaviour? Another branch of the nature vs nurture argument.

  5. October 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    While I agree that beliefs constitute to the way in which we behave, might I add that so do many other things; law, culture and personal opinions lay weight to what we believe in. I believe that beliefs can be changed – if they can be changed surely this is a criticism of the behaviourist approach? Surely we could argue that free will overrides behaviours that are learned in such important matters as a religious belief? Especially if you didn’t agree with some of the religious guidelines. Over all I think it’s a touchy matter; what about the beliefs of atheists? They follow no specific guideline yet their believes must have come from somewhere, perhaps our peers are our main influence, yet the human mind is very unpredictable, and each has the right to their own thoughts; surely if you had a bad experience with a religion you could simply ‘stop’ believing?

    • October 11, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      Yes you have raised some interesting points in your argument. I would like to respond to the later part of your blog, particularly your question on whether a bad experience with religion could lead to a change in beliefs thus implying that self will as opposed to beliefs is influencial to behaviour. Well then how would you explain the beliefs of the Jewish, who inspite of experiencing of 6,000,000 deaths during the Holocaust from 1941 to 1945 still maintain their beliefs?

  6. October 12, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I do not believe that it is nature that determines our belief systems. If we refer back to Locke (1689) and the tabula rasa, he stated that everyone is born with a blank slate. I would agree with this as it is our experiences that shape who we are and therefore form our beliefs. Great blog Mel.

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