When and why people think beliefs are “debunked” by scientific explanations of their origins

Dillon Plunkett, Lara Buchak, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


How do scientific explanations for beliefs affect people's confidence that those beliefs are true? For example, do people think neuroscience-based explanations for belief in God support or challenge God's existence? In five experiments, we find that people tend to think explanations for beliefs corroborate those beliefs if the explanations invoke normally-functioning mechanisms, but not if they invoke abnormal functioning (where “normality” is a matter of proper functioning). This emerges across a variety of kinds of scientific explanations and beliefs (religious, moral, and scientific). We also find evidence that these effects can interact with people's prior beliefs to produce motivated judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-28
Number of pages26
JournalMind and Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


  • belief debunking
  • epistemology
  • experimental philosophy
  • explanation
  • folk epistemology
  • scientific communication


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