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Belief Perseverance: Definition, Examples and Effects

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Belief perseverance is the tendency to maintain a belief even after being presented with evidence that contradicts it.

Examples: Consider a situation where you believe that your coworker, John, is not very competent because of a mistake he made on a project a few years ago. Since then, John has consistently demonstrated his skills and competency by successfully managing complex projects. Despite evidence of his improvements and capabilities, you continue to hold onto your initial belief. This is belief perseverance - clinging to your initial view despite contrary evidence.

In another scenario, suppose you've always believed that you're terrible at public speaking because of a single bad experience you had in high school. Over the years, you've successfully delivered several presentations at work, receiving positive feedback. Despite this, you continue to insist that you're bad at public speaking, ignoring the evidence that suggests otherwise. Once again, this is an instance of belief perseverance, as you're sticking to an initial belief regardless of the counter-evidence.

Effects: Belief perseverance can have a variety of negative effects. For example, it can lead to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to seek out information that confirms existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. Additionally, it can lead to a lack of critical thinking, as people may be less likely to consider alternative perspectives. Finally, it can lead to a lack of progress, as people may be less likely to consider new ideas or solutions.

It is important to be aware of this phenomenon and to be open to considering alternative perspectives.

Do you want to expand your knowledge on this topic? Read our full in-depth article on cognitive biases.

Do you have extra 15 minutes today? Take our fun and interactive quiz to learn which of 16 reasoning styles you use, your overall level of rationality, and what you can do now to improve your rationality skills.


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