Alok Jha in The Guardian:
Belief can make people do the strangest things. At one level, it provides a moral framework, sets preferences and steers relationships. On another, it can be devastating. Belief can manifest itself as prejudice or persuade someone to blow up themselves and others in the name of a political cause.
“Belief has been a most powerful component of human nature that has somewhat been neglected,” says Peter Halligan, a psychologist at Cardiff University. “But it has been capitalised on by marketing agents, politics and religion for the best part of two millennia.”
That is changing. Once the preserve of philosophers alone, belief is quickly becoming the subject of choice for many psychologists and neuroscientists. Their goal is to create a neurological model of how beliefs are formed, how they affect people and what can manipulate them.
And the latest steps in the research might just help to understand a little more about why the world is so fraught with political and social tension.