Models and Neural Bases of the Believing Process


Departing from the long debates on the role of faith/belief, recent interdisciplinary research has turned to characterize the features of the psychophysical processes underlying believing. Here we review recent cognitive neuroscience models of the believing process and propose a conceptual framework that integrates current theoretical and empiric knowledge about the processes of believing. There are theories that elegantly explain believing as a self-organization process of cognitive and emotional elements. Adding to the component of self-organized belief representation, dual-component models assume a belief evaluation component, which is probably supported by the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and explains the stability of the belief despite the changing environment. Borrowing an idea from the neural models for the mental representation of action or situation, inclusion of both perceptive and action informations as the construct of belief representation allows the intimate relationship between a specific belief and a specific range of behaviour. Furthermore, inclusion of the personal value or affective information in the representation explains the deep impact of one’s emotional and physical state on the believing process. For associating perception, action, and value in a representation, the medial frontal cortex (MFC) may play a key role. Recent neuro-cognitive models of self-cognition explain the developmental origin of such a representation and the hierarchically nested structure of three levels of complexity in the representations: basic physical level, interpersonal level, and higher social level. The integrated model provides a comprehensive perspective of the believing process which suggests the importance and future directions of this interdisciplinary approach.

Share and Cite:

Sugiura, M. , Seitz, R. and Angel, H. (2015) Models and Neural Bases of the Believing Process. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, 5, 12-23. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2015.51002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Huber, F. and Schmidt-Petri, C. (2009) Degrees of Belief. Vol. 342, Springer, Heidelberg.
[2] Denoeux, T. and Masson, M.H. (2012) Belief Functions: Theory and Applications. Vol. 164, Springer, Heidelberg.
[3] Aune, D.E. (2013) Recent Readings of Paul Relating to Justification by Faith. In: Aune, D.E., Ed., Jesus, Gospel Tradition and Paul in the Context of Jewish and Greco-Roman Antiquity, Collected Essays II, Mohr, Tübingen, 472-523.
[4] Marguerat, D. (2013) The Pauline Gospel of Justification of Faith. In: Marguerat, D., Ed., Paul in Acts and Paul in His Letters, Mohr, Tübingen, 179-219.
[5] Kenny, A. (1992) What Is Faith?: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[6] Mitchell, B. (1994) Faith and Criticism: The Sarum Lectures 1992. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[7] Smith, W.C. (1987) Faith and Belief. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
[8] Swinburne, R. (1983) Faith and Reason. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[9] Helm, P. (1999) Faith and Reason. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[10] Plantinga, A. and Wolterstorff, N. (1983) Faith & Rationality: Reason & Belief in God. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame.
[11] Stich, S. (1985) From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science: The Case against Belief. MIT Press, Cambridge.
[12] Runehov, A.L.C. and Angel, H.F. (2013) The Process of Believing: Revisiting the Problem of Justifying Beliefs. Studies in Science and Theology, 14, 205-218.
[13] Coltheart, M. (2007) The 33rd Sir Frederick Bartlett Lecture—Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Delusional Belief. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 1041-1062.
[14] Coltheart, M. (2010) The Neuropsychology of Delusions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1191, 16-26.
[15] Corlett, P.R., Aitken, M.R.F., Dickinson, A., Shanks, D.R., Honey, G.D., Honey, R.A.E., Robbins, T.W., Bullmore, E.T. and Fletcher, P.C. (2004) Prediction Error during Retrospective Revaluation of Causal Associations in Humans: fMRI Evidence in Favour of an Associative Model of Learning. Neuron, 44, 877-888.
[16] Devinsky, O. (2009) Delusional Misidentifications and Duplications Right Brain Lesions, Left Brain Delusions. Neurology, 72, 80-87.
[17] Festinger, L.A. (1957) Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
[18] Fletcher, P.C., Anderson, J.M., Shanks, D.R., Honey, R., Carpenter, T.A., Donovan, T., Papadakis, N. and Bullmore, E.T. (2001) Responses of Human Frontal Cortex to Surprising Events Are Predicted by Formal Associative Learning Theory. Nature Neuroscience, 4, 1043-1048.
[19] Friston, K. (2010) The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory? Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11, 127-138.
[20] Langdon, R. and Coltheart, M. (2000) The Cognitive Neuropsychology of Delusions. Mind & Language, 15, 184-218.
[21] Seitz, R.J. and Angel, H.F. (2012) Processes of Believing—A Review and Conceptual Account. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 23, 303-309.
[22] Turner, D.C., Aitken, M.R.F., Shanks, D.R., Sahakian, B.J., Robbins, T.W., Schwarzbauer, C. and Fletcher, P.C. (2004) The Role of the Lateral Frontal Cortex in Causal Associative Learning: Exploring Preventative and Super-Learning. Cerebral Cortex, 14, 872-880.
[23] Cabeza, R. and Nyberg, L. (2000) Imaging Cognition II: An Empirical Review of 275 PET and fMRI Studies. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 12, 1-47.
[24] Decety, J. and Chaminade, T. (2003) Neural Correlates of Feeling Sympathy. Neuropsychologia, 41, 127-138.
[25] Gray, J.R., Braver, T.S. and Raichle, M.E. (2002) Integration of Emotion and Cognition in the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 99, 4115-4120.
[26] Seitz, R.J., Schafer, R., Scherfeld, D., Friederichs, S., Popp, K., Wittsack, H.J., Azari, N.P. and Franz, M. (2008) Valuating Other People’s Emotional Face Expression: A Combined Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Electroencephalography Study. Neuroscience, 152, 713-722.
[27] Rolls, E.T. (2006) Brain Mechanisms Underlying Flavour and Appetite. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 361, 1123-1136.
[28] Schaefer, A. and Gray, J.R. (2007) A Role for the Human Amygdala in Higher Cognition. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 18, 355-363.
[29] Angel, H.F. (2015) Die Creditive Basis wirtschaftlichen Handelns. Zur wirtschaftsanthropologischen Bedeutung von Glaubensprozessen. In: Dierksmeier, C., Hemel, U. and Manemann, J., Eds., Wirtschaftsanthropologie, NOMOS, Baden-Baden.
[30] Gettier, E.L. (1963) Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? Analysis, 23, 121-123.
[31] Goel, V. and Dolan, R.J. (2003) Explaining Modulation of Reasoning by Belief. Cognition, 87, B11-B22.
[32] Angel, H.F. (2006) Religiositat als menschliches Potential. Ein anthropologisches Modell im neurowissenschaftlichen Horizont. In: Angel, H.F., Broking-Bortfeldt, M., Hemel, U., Kunstmann, J., Jakobs, M., Pirner, M.L. and Rothgangel, M., Eds., Religiositat, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 62-89.
[33] Angel, H.F. (2013) Credition, the Process of Belief. In: Runehov, A.L.C. and Oviedo, L., Eds., Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions, Springer, Dordrecht, 536-539.
[34] Morewedge, C.K. and Kahneman, D. (2010) Associative Processes in Intuitive Judgment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 435-440.
[35] Nelissen, K., Borra, E., Gerbella, M., Rozzi, S., Luppino, G., Vanduffel, W., Rizzolatti, G. and Orban, G.A. (2011) Action Observation Circuits in the Macaque Monkey Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 3743-3756.
[36] Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L. and Gallese, V. (2001) Neurophysiological Mechanisms Underlying the Understanding and Imitation of Action. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 661-670.
[37] Zamboni, G., Gozzi, M., Krueger, F., Duhamel, J.R., Sirigu, A. and Grafman, J. (2009) Individualism, Conservatism, and Radicalism as Criteria for Processing Political Beliefs: A Parametric fMRI Study. Social Neuroscience, 4, 367-383.
[38] Krueger, F., Barbey, A.K. and Grafman, J. (2009) The Medial Prefrontal Cortex Mediates Social Event Knowledge. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 103-109.
[39] Barsalou, L.W. (2009) Simulation, Situated Conceptualization, and Prediction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364, 1281-1289.
[40] Seitz, R.J., Franz, M. and Azari, N.P. (2009) Value Judgments and Self-Control of Action: The Role of the Medial Frontal Cortex. Brain Research Reviews, 60, 368-378.
[41] Frith, C.D., Blakemore, S.J. and Wolpert, D.M. (2000) Abnormalities in the Awareness and Control of Action. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 355, 1771-1788.
[42] Hebb, D.O. (1949) The Organization of Behaviour. Wiley & Sons, New York.
[43] Sugiura, M. (2011) The Multi-Layered Model of Self: A Social Neuroscience Perspective. In: Kawashima, R., Sugiura, M. and Tsukiura, T., Eds., New Frontiers in Social Cognitive Neuroscience, Tohoku University Press, Sendai, 111-135.
[44] Sugiura, M. (2013) Associative Account of Self-Cognition: Extended Forward Model and Multi-Layer Structure. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 535.
[45] Piaget, J. (1928) The Child’s Conception of the World. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.
[46] Seitz, R.J., Nickel, J. and Azari, N.P. (2006) Functional Modularity of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex: Involvement in Human Empathy. Neuropsychology, 20, 743-751.
[47] Walsh, V. and Rushworth, M. (1999) A Primer of Magnetic Stimulation as a Tool for Neuropsychology. Neuropsychologia, 37, 125-135.
[48] Klucharev, V., Munneke, M.A.M., Smidts, A. and Fernandez, G. (2011) Downregulation of the Posterior Medial Frontal Cortex Prevents Social Conformity. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 11934-11940.
[49] Rushworth, M.F.S., Hadland, K.A., Paus, T. and Sipila, P.K. (2002) Role of the Human Medial Frontal Cortex in Task Switching: A Combined fMRI and TMS Study. Journal of Neurophysiology, 87, 2577-2592.
[50] Sakai, K. and Passingham, R.E. (2003) Prefrontal Interactions Reflect Future Task Operations. Nature Neuroscience, 6, 75-81.
[51] Sugiura, M., Friston, K.J., Willmes, K., Shah, N.J., Zilles, K. and Fink, G.R. (2007) Analysis of Intersubject Variability in Activation: An Application to the Incidental Episodic Retrieval during Recognition Test. Human Brain Mapping, 28, 49-58.
[52] Badre, D. (2008) Cognitive Control, Hierarchy, and the Rostro-Caudal Organization of the Frontal Lobes. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 193-200.
[53] Koechlin, E. and Summerfield, C. (2007) An Information Theoretical Approach to Prefrontal Executive Function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 229-235.
[54] Seitz, R.J. and Angel, H.F. (2014) Psychology of Religion and Spirituality: Meaning-Making and Processes of Believing. Religion, Brain & Behaviour, 22-30.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.