People act according to what they believe, not what they know

If you search for Google images for "knowledge" and "belief", then you will see several versions of this image. Its pervasiveness may seem to suggest that it is universally accepted, but think about it:



1. Is everything that you KNOW necessarily true?

I am prepared to say that most people ‘know’ stuff that are not true. You ‘know’ that being wet in the cold without a jumper will give you a cold, right? You know that eating fatty foods will make you fat? Since neither of those is true, there is at least SOME parts of your knowledge that is simply not true.

2. Is there really any part of ‘BELIEF’ that is excluded from KNOWING?

Isn’t the definition of belief that you ‘just know’ (maybe without evidence) but you certainly know. In fact, anyone that holds on to a belief they KNOW is wrong must be classified as clinically insane.

I think the following axioms hold instead:

  • Truth is greater than knowledge and belief.
  • You believe everything you know.
  • You don’t know everything you believe.
  • Only part of what you believe is true.

The title of the post is: People act according to what they believe, not what they know.

If I am correct, and people act based on beliefs rather than knowledge, it explains why we constantly tell people not to ‘assume’. Assumptions are rarely recognised, people mistake them for knowledge bytes. The pervasiveness of assumptions and erroneous conclusion jumping suggest that I am right.

This means selling benefits or attempting to persuade anyone with the ‘facts’ is doomed to failure. What we have learned in the last decade about neuroscience further supports this view.

Belief is not about emotions per se, but rather a ‘meta-knowledge’ that defies empirical and materialistic validation. However it is real and it is not irrational even if it makes life difficult.

If you want to affect change (sell, persuade, negotiate) and get people to behave differently, figure out what they believe and address that. The things they (think) they know is more likely an obstacle.



Knowing and Believing.png