The Linguistic Structure of Beliefs

The main purpose of our beliefs and belief systems is to link core values to other parts of our experience and maps of the world. As was pointed out earlier, the belief statement, "Success requires hard work," links the value "success" to a particular class of activity ("hard work"). The statement, "Success is mainly a matter of luck," connects the same value to a different cause ("luck"). As these statements illustrate, beliefs are fundamentally statements of relationships between various elements of our experience.

Linguistically, beliefs are typically expressed in the form of verbal patterns known as "complex equivalences" and "cause-effects." Complex equivalences are linguistic statements which imply "equivalences" between different aspects of our experience ("A = B," or "A means B"). This type of language pattern is typically used to make definitions of values and establish evidences for whether or not values have been met or violated. To say, "A resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute is healthy," "Having a lot of money means you are successful," or "Love means never having to say you're sorry," are examples of complex equivalences reflecting beliefs.

Cause-effect statements (characterized by words such as: "cause," "make," "force," "leads to," "results in," etc.) link values causally to other aspects of our experience. Such linguistic structures are used to define the causes and consequences of particular values. Benjamin Franklin's classic adage, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," is an assertion of causal factors leading to the achievement of certain values. The saying that "power corrupts" or "love heals" are statements relating to the consequences of expressing particular values.

Cause or Evidence

Lots of Money

Hard Work

Means

Causes

OR Success

* Value or Criterion

Means

Causes

Beliefs are Typically Expressed in the Form of Either a Complex Equivalence or Cause-Effect

Complex equivalences and cause-effect generalizations are fundamental structures from which we build our maps of the world.

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