Aliefology and Beliefology

We have talked about weird effects that occur in what I called Social Descriptive Epistemology. I want to get a more precise description of what it is that we are studying. To that purpose in this essay I introduce and explain aliefology and beliefology and speculate about future avenues for investigation and how to use that information.

In particular I go into detail about Individual Descriptive Aliefology, suggest a standpoint and various heuristics and show how to take advantage of the knowledge of the existence of these heuristics to create a better map.


Aliefology and Beliefology

Phenomenon of Study                                                                  

Actual Beliefs Claimed Beliefs
Social Social Descriptive Aliefology Social Descriptive Beliefology
Individual Individual Descriptive Aliefology Individual Descriptive Beliefology


Aliefology is the study of how an agent or set of agents come to believe X.

Beliefology is the study of how an agent or set of agents claim to have come to the belief that X.  Individual and Social refer to the level of analysis.

A lot of focus on this blog has been on how to build an appropriate map. I think that the study of aliefology and beliefology at the individual and societal level are, together, a  crucial lever to create a map fast.

I think this lever is what both Thiel and Graham found in the context of pushing the lever to make money.  Thiel talks about secrets: “Back in class one, we identified a very key question that you should continually ask yourself: what important truth do very few people agree with you on? To a first approximation, the correct answer is going to be a secret. Secrets are unpopular or unconventional truths. So if you come up with a good answer, that’s your secret.” and Graham about “What can’t you say?”

They are clearly circling the same topic here, although they did not divide it as I do.

What is gained by dividing it as I did is that you can start talking about various categories of mismatches more precisely. Things that are aliefed at the societal level, and claimed to not be believed. Things that are claimed to be believed and are not aliefed, at the societal level (See the whole of Overcoming Bias). Things that are aliefed, and claimed to be believed for a reason, but in fact are aliefed for a totally different reason.

And this enhanced precision is possible even before starting to classify the beliefs and aliefs as true or false.

To demonstrate what this study may look like, in the next section I speculate about Individual Descriptive Aliefology.


Individual Descriptive Aliefology

I sense that naive realism is the default human epistemological stance – the folk epistemology if you will. I suspect this because you need to go up in levels to figure out that naive realism doesn’t obtain and most of the population is achieving the formal operations level at which this is a possibility (and may or may not be pursued)

The other reason to sense this is the case is that it took 9 Eliezer-essays to explain that the map is not the territory. (Of course, evidence I can easily share, the stronger reason for this idea are year-hours of observation of people talking and speaking.)

Besides the default epistemological sense I think we can reverse-engineer what heuristics people are using by looking at several areas:

  • Rhetorics
  • Persuasion
  • Fallacies
  • Bias

I consider these to be descriptions of what works, with the job of individual aliefology being to systematize them, and understand why they work.

Rhetorics and persuasion techniques are codifications of what has historically worked to convince people.  Fallacies are patterns of thought that lead to incorrect conclusions that happen so frequently that they got codified as such, being a special case of bias, as they relate to arguments.

Following I describe several possible heuristics that are being used in individual aliefology.

  • Futuristic heuristic

“Discount things that sound futuristic”

  • Movie-like heuristic

Generalizing from fictional evidence

  • Conspiracy theory heuristic

“Discount things that can be called conspiracies” (That this heuristic exists is shown by the fact that conspiracy theory is used as a term of ridicule and works as a semantic-stop sign)

  • Authority Heuristic (newspaper, tv, internet)

“Trust authoritative figures/institutions ”  (That this is a heuristic is show by the fact that social sciences have needed to coin credentialism: “reliance upon formal credentials conferred by educational institutions, professional organizations, and other associations as a principal means to determine the qualifications of individuals to perform a range of particular occupational tasks or to make authoritative statements as “experts” in specific subject areas”)

  • Status quo bias

Prefer what is the case

  • Politicized Heuristic

Follow the group line

  • Sacredness Heuristic

“Do not question what is sacred.”


The power of descriptive aliefology

Each of these heuristics can be reversed to tell you where to go look about for wrong beliefs. As Haidt has said (in the case of the Sacredness heuristic) – ““The fundamental rule of political analysis from the point of psychology is, follow the sacredness, and around it is a ring of motivated ignorance.”

Reversing this heuristic tells you where to look to build your map – as in this analysis. Reversing the other ones should lead to the same effect.


  • folk psycholgy, folk physics, experimental philosophy, human intuitive ontology (paper on evolutionary psychology on this)
  • how these heuristics are sound in a certain environment but have been abused and don’t work in our current environment (EEA and gigerenzer)
  • knowledge goes pop
  • “broscience”
  • social aliefology:
  • Coolized  “Prefer what is cool” ; crossfit
  • authority heuristics and
  • (Unclear if politicized heuristic fits into individual beliefology or aliefology.)
  • need better names

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