Internal and social sources shape judgments about the mental and physical nature of an experience.

Jacinth J.X. Tan, Alexander Karan, Dolores Albarracín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although humans are intuitive dualists, little is known about whether they hold lay beliefs about the origins or sources of their intuitive perceptions of what is physical and what is mental. Drawing on theories of the sources of phenomenological experiences, we examined if people hold beliefs about the internal and social origins of judgments that their experiences are physical or mental. In Study 1, participants provided physical or mental judgments about a range of personal experiences, and reported relying on both internal (i.e., examining own body and thoughts) and social (i.e., observing others) sources as information for their judgments. To examine the actual reliance on such information, in two additional studies, participants were randomly assigned to receive feedback about whether a target experience was physical or mental in nature, ostensibly from an internal source in Study 2 and a social source in Study 3. Following this feedback, participants recounted a personal instance of the target experience and subsequently judged its physical or mental nature. Participants’ judgments were found to align with feedback from both internal and social sources. Overall, these findings demonstrate that people do hold lay beliefs about the internal and social origins of physical and mental perceptions, and information from these sources do shape judgments of their own experiences. Implications for the science of lay theories, as well as the applied domains of clinical and health psychology are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Consciousness: Theory Research, and Practice
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • belief
  • health psychology
  • mental
  • physical
  • sources of information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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