January 15, 2008

Is Belief a Reckonable Force?

Thoughts to examine. Is belief a force to be reckoned with? Is it possible that belief in something itself can help cause it to come true? And if so, at what atomic level does this force begin and end?
Let's start with some psychology. Game theory suggests, and experiments seem to show that humans (and indeed monkeys as well), when given a choice between two scenarios, would rather be in a 'winning' position than actually have a more beneficial outcome between the two choices. In other words, they'd rather be in a position where they come away with more than their counterparts in the game scenarios.
Now, if we take this and extrapolate it to politics, where the atomic scale is groups of people, is it possible that people have a predisposition to vote for whomever they think is going to win an election? Has belief in 'who will win' become a psychological tool that can be used to sway an election? If so, have we given too much power to the major media outlets? If they say that a candidate has no chance of winning, doesn't that influence his/her chance by itself? If the major media outlets declare that someone is becoming a leader in the polls, is this a self-fulfilling statement?
What about at an individual level? Can belief affect us at the level of just one person? By following the lives of very religious people, one might begin to believe this is the case, as faith seems to drive their life decisions and affect positive outcomes. Or does blind faith drive their expectations and the analysis of the outcomes themselves? One experiment into the power of belief would be the placebo effect, where a sugar pill is substituted for real medication. In some instances, the placebo can have the same effects as the actual medicine, although I've only heard of such success when it comes to pain management.
Perhaps belief itself is not a power in and of itself, but something that can affect comprehension of causality. When an outside influence can be utilized to affect the outcome, people may be willing to push that outside influence to cause the desired or believed outcome, often without conscience effort. Modifying our theory that belief is a force, then, perhaps we could say that the blindness of causality within humans is a weakness that can be manipulated to swing independent forces in our favor. And in that case, the atomic scale of the force of 'belief' would end at the level that irrational thought begins in mammals.

2 comments:

Matthew Martin said...

Well, opponents of Sadaharu Oh (Japanese baseball player), threw easy pitches so as not to ruin his world record. The opponents wanted a hero, too.

Ova said...

Great work.