While most of us like to think we come by our beliefs independently, new research out of Berkeley suggests otherwise.
In the study, published in Open Mind, some 600 participants were given a series of 30 statements ranging from “the Earth is flat” to “HIV causes AIDS” and asked to rate how strongly they believed them. Then they were shown how many others believed those statements and asked to reevaluate. The study found that subjects tended to adjust their level of certainty in response to what others believed.
“It makes a lot of sense that we use how popular a belief is in the world to guide how believable we think it is ourselves,” said lead author and developmental psychology graduate student Evan Orticio, Ph.D. ’25. “But where things can go wrong is on these online environments, where you don’t really get a representative state of the world.”