Playing the Believing and Doubting Games*

Ways to Play the Doubting Game


Ways to Play the Believing Game





  • Find internal contradictions
  • Find lapses in logic
  • Doubt even reasonable assertions
  • Look for imprecision
  • Look for mistakes
  • Uncover hidden (and not-so-hidden) assumptions and question them
  • Compare with your own experiences/read-ings/observations to find places of dissonance with proposition
  • Consider negative implications of proposition
  • Don't doubt any assertions
  • See other experiences or phenomenon in the light of the assertions
  • Enter into the skin of a person with other perceptions
  • Remain open; be willing to change your mind (at least during game)
  • Find ways to believe by metaphor, analogies, association
  • Find reasons that it makes sense to agree with the proposition
  • Consider positive implications of proposition
  • Imagine a belief system in which the proposition makes sense
    *This chart is based upon Peter Elbow’s concept of the believing and doubting games, which he explains in the appendix essay in Writing Without Teachers. Some items are extracted directly from his text; others are extrapolations created in the spirit of his idea. As you might suspect--and as Elbow would predict--students (as well as scholars) have a much easier time with the doubting game than with the believing game.