When I ask people to explain the difference between knowledge and beliefs, I usually receive a confused stare like the head tilt a dog gives you when they don’t understand your commands. There is, however, a huge difference between the two concepts: Knowledge is information that can be tested and falsified by scientific inquiry and includes interpretations that can be replicated across different people and similar contexts. Beliefs, on the other hand, are personal understandings and ways of thinking that are experienced-based and unique.
Many beliefs, but not all, are based on phenomena that defy scientific clarification. By example, most people agree and scientific evidence supports the interpretation that life has both a beginning (birth) and end (death). However, despite this knowledge, 61 percent of Americans embrace the existence of vampires, werewolves, and zombies, or hold similar paranormal beliefs that lack evidentiary support. Herein lies the problem: People routinely embrace fiction, a dilemma that is quite troublesome when it comes to understanding the motivational beliefs about the self and others.