My former philosophy thesis advisor from Yale is on Bloggingheads.tv! She is interested on the interaction between the imagination and normal cognition, and she begins by describing her newly coined concept of “Alief” (Pron: uh-LEAF). Basically, an alief describes something that is similar to a belief insofar as it guides our behavior, but different from belief insofar as we know that it is really a product of our imagination.
For instance, we might refuse to eat a piece of fudge shaped like feces even though we know that it tastes like any other piece of chocolate. Here, we allow something that we don’t honestly believe (namely, that the brown object is disgusting) to guide our behavior. Aliefs are interesting to cognitive scientists because they have important implications for how we act in the world. Bloom and Gendler discuss these implications in the context of evolutionary psychology, racial prejudice, video games, etc.