The Science of Lay Theories

How Beliefs Shape Our Cognition, Behavior, and Health

  • Claire M.  Zedelius
  • Barbara C. N. Müller
  • Jonathan W.  Schooler

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. The Origins and Nature of Lay Theories

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Anne E. Wilson, Jaslyn A. English
      Pages 17-43
  3. Explorations in Lay Theories About Human Psychological Attributes or Phenomena

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 45-45
    2. Veronika Job, Gregory M. Walton
      Pages 47-69
    3. Simone M. Ritter, Eric F. Rietzschel
      Pages 95-126
    4. Aneeta Rattan, Oriane Georgeac
      Pages 127-156
    5. Michèlle Bal, Kees van den Bos
      Pages 157-177
  4. Insights into Lay Theories About the Metaphysical or Supernatural

  5. Investigation of Lay Theories About Mental and Physical Health

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 317-317
    2. Jeni L. Burnette, Crystal L. Hoyt, Kasey Orvidas
      Pages 319-339
    3. David J. Hauser, Randolph M. Nesse, Norbert Schwarz
      Pages 341-354
    4. Adrian Furnham
      Pages 355-374
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 375-382

About this book


This timely and important collection broadens our understanding of the ways in which lay theories (also known as folk psychologies, implicit theories, naïve theories, or mindsets) impact our lives and social relations. Moving well beyond lay theories as applied to intelligence and achievement, this volume considers lay theories in an admirably wide context, including perspectives on prejudice, creativity, self-regulation, health, free will, justice, magic, religion and more. Eminent and emerging scholars alike provide a comprehensive overview that presents and synthesizes cutting edge contemporary research on lay theories, spanning social, cognitive, developmental, cultural, and clinical psychology.

Structurally, this volume is organized in three parts. Beginning with a preface by renowned scholar Carol Dweck, the first part looks at the origins and nature of lay theories, and how malleable they are. The second part explores lay theories about common psychological phenomena. The third section discusses lay theories about the metaphysical or supernatural. Finally, the last section explores the important question of how lay theories impact health and health behavior. Taken together, the chapters provide an integrative survey of the science of lay theories, bringing together many perspectives that previously have been studied largely in isolation. This volume is more than the sum of its parts—perspectives from different strands of research provide insights that cut across research disciplines, making novel connections and prompting new directions for this field of study. Shedding light on how our beliefs shape all facets of our lives, The Science of Lay Theories: How Beliefs Shape Our Cognition, Behavior, and Health will appeal to researchers and practitioners in psychology, as well as philosophers, cognitive and developmental neuroscientists, religious scholars, sociologists, and anthropologists.

It is very rare to say of an edited volume of scholarly chapters “I couldn’t put it down!” Yet that was the case with this book. It’s not just that I have worked in this field for many years, but rather, with every chapter I felt I was gaining new insights into what, deep down, people really believe and how these beliefs influence their lives—Carol Dweck, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA


implicit theories folk psychology lay beliefs about creativity mindsets metacognition mind wandering and lay theory nature of willpower ego depletion weight-based mindsets unconscious bias experimental philosophy mindsets about intelligence mindsets about intergroup relations justice motive naive theories allure of neuroscience belief in free will belief in God anthropology of religion belief in magic

Editors and affiliations

  • Claire M.  Zedelius
    • 1
  • Barbara C. N. Müller
    • 2
  • Jonathan W.  Schooler
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

Bibliographic information