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Mitchell Rabinowitz, Maria Acevedo, Sara Casen, Myriah Rosengarten, Martha Kowalczyk and Lindsay Blau Portnoy

Abstract

This paper presents results from five studies that investigate how people perceive the distinction between facts and beliefs. The central question being asked is whether the features that distinguish the categories of facts and beliefs are distinct or overlapping. In each of the five studies, participants are presented with content statements and asked the degree to which they agree with a given statement, the degree to which they think others would agree with it, and whether the statement was a fact or a belief. From these ratings, six possible patterns were derived. The results showed that in many content areas the patterns that describe the statements they categorized as facts and those that they categorized as beliefs had considerable overlap. In addition, participant consensus as to which statements were to be considered facts versus beliefs varied from high to low depending on the specific content being evaluated.