(UPDATE: I recently came across inquiry into “knowledge resistance” [e.g. link]; such inquiry is similar to aspects of what I discuss below).
There a lots of fields that fuse consideration of human psychology and other concerns. Examples include health psychology, educational psychology and economic psychology. Some are highly interdisciplinary and others might better be considered branches of psychology. For instance, one definition of health psychology is “the application of psychological knowledge and methods to the study, prevention, and management of physical diseases and disorders” (link), and, as part of this, health psychologists consider the influence of psychological and related behavioural factors on physical health and illness.
The purpose of this post is simply to note another potential such field which strikes me as worth developing and may be emerging. For lack of a better term I’ll refer to it as ‘knowledge psychology’ (I’m open to suggestions). What I mean by this is the study of psychological factors which influence how people process information, use evidence, and seek and/or produce knowledge (or don’t). For instance, we might be interested in whether people evaluate claims with a skeptical or reflective mindset and related aspects of cognition.
I’ve noticed that some of my recent reading is in this space and it feels useful to give it a label. Some examples:
- Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson: amongst other topics this book examines the influence of cognitive dissonance and self-justification on information processing with a particular focus on what people do “when directly confronted by evidence that they are wrong”;
- Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe by Hugo Mercier (a cognitive scientist) which considers how people evaluate communicated information and cognitive aspects of gullibility (Mercier argues that human beings are much less gullible than is often claimed);
- Another book I’m reading called Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling by James E. Alcock also addresses some similar themes (link) regarding how people respond to new information, persuasion, and other belief formation and maintenance processes; and
- The Knowledge Illusion by two cognitive scientists – Steven Sloman and Philip Fernback – addresses issues like the feeling that we understand things better than we actually do and related core aspects of human psychology.
I intend to keep an eye out for books and articles in this space, as it’s a fascinating emerging area of inquiry and writing which has high relevance to many contemporary issues.