The word “belief” evokes concepts such as religious or political beliefs, however there is more to belief than cultural aspects. The formation of beliefs depends on information acquired through subjective sampling and informants. Recent developments in the study of animal cognition suggest that animals also hold beliefs and there are some aspects that underly the formation of beliefs which are shared with other animal species, namely the relationship between causality, predictability and utility of beliefs. This review explores the biological roots of belief formation and suggests explanations for how evolution shaped the mind to harbour complex concepts based on linguistic structures held by humans. Furthermore, it suggests that beliefs are shaped by the type and process of information acquisition which progresses through three levels of complexity.
Part of the book: Evolutionary Psychology Meets Social Neuroscience