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Science  07 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5745, pp. 21
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5745.21a

Unlike the title, which is equally valuable (or not) read backward or forward, beliefs acquire different values depending on whether we rely on them as explanations for why things happen or instead focus on figuring out explanations of how these beliefs evolved. In surveys of Boston train station patrons, Preston and Epley found that a statement describing human behavior—individuals prefer partners with similar characteristics—was regarded as being important and relevant when it was applied as a causal guide for organizing and predicting life's events. On the other hand, coming up with possible explanations as motivating this statement reduced its perceived value, perhaps as a consequence of relegating it to an intermediary in a chain of causes and effects. The authors go on to point out that this valuation hierarchy is consistent with the weighting of scientific disciplines providing mechanistic insights, such as neuroscience, over those that offer broader-scale analysis, such as social psychology. They also note that these two ways of interacting with beliefs—applying them as explanations for x and y versus seeking to uncover explanations of a and b—may bear upon discussions of religion and science. — GJC

Psychol. Sci. 10, 826 (2005).

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