Even people from similar backgrounds differ greatly in terms of what they believe and how strongly they believe it. What explains this? We offer a cognitive science perspective and highlight, in particular, the potentially central role of metacognition (i.e., the capacity for individuals to think about their own thinking and monitor their decision making). We argue that metacognition is the underlying psychological faculty that determines confidence and intellectual humility and that this is important for determining what people believe about the world. We address multiple specific questions, but most broadly the expectation is that high overconfidence and low intellectual humility are uniquely associated with some forms of beliefs, but that low overconfidence and high intellectual humility are associated with greater belief flexibility over time. This project will involve panel experiments/studies with representative samples of Americans and will culminate in a cross-cultural investigation. Although there is some relevant past work on the topic, there is no coherent theoretical perspective on the metacognition of belief. The present studies will form the empirical basis of this perspective. Our expectation is that the proposed research will lead to several impactful publications, in addition to other forms of scientific communication (conference presentations, media coverage, op-eds/press releases). Our research integrates theory across several disconnected domains of research. Our goal is to orient experts on the psychology of belief to the importance of metacognition and to illustrate how cognitive science theories can be relevant to laypeople.
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