Belief Perseverance

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Definition: Belief perseverance is the tendency to hold on to beliefs even when evidence proves those beliefs to be wrong. This is not a pathological condition, but rather an inherent human behavior.

People expend considerable mental energy to maintain their beliefs when presented with facts that prove them wrong. They will focus on experiences that support their point of view, but will ignore any experiences, even their own, that provide evidence that they are wrong.

They will do the same thing with any other types of evidence as well.

Three types of belief perseverance exist: 1) self-impressions, 2) social impressions, and 3) social theories. The first type consists of beliefs about the self, including what one believes about his abilities and skills, including social skills, and body image. The second type consists of what one believes about specific others, for example, a best friend or a parent. The third type consists of what one believes about how the world works, including how people think, feel, act and interact.

Social theory beliefs can be either indirectly or directly learned. That means that they can be learned through experience as a member of a particular society (socialization) or they can be taught. In the first case, kids tend to learn what is expected of them and of others simply by observation and by being a participating member of society.

They will learn what it means to be a son, a daughter, a man, a woman, and the behaviors that go with these various roles. In the second case, kids - and adults - are taught what to believe. They may be taught at church, at school, or by their parents.

Belief perseverance makes it difficult for people to change the beliefs they hold.

This may be why it is so difficult to get people to understand giftedness and gifted children.

Sources:
Anderson, C.A. (2007). Belief perseverance (pp. 109-110). In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
R. Curtis (Ed.), Self-Defeating Behaviors: Experimental Research. Clinical Impressions. and Practical Implications. New York: Plenum Press. 1989.

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