Have you ever found yourself stubbornly clinging to a belief despite ample evidence that contradicts it? We’ve all been there. Our brains seem hardwired to hold onto notions and ideas that we want to be true, even when faced with facts that prove otherwise. This tendency is known as belief perseverance, and it’s a close cousin of confirmation bias, the inclination to search for and favor information that confirms what we already believe.
While the two concepts are related, there are some key differences. Understanding how belief perseverance and confirmation bias work can help shed light on why we so often resist changing our minds, even when we probably should.
Table of Contents
Defining Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. We all do it, often unconsciously.
How it works
- When we have a belief or idea in our mind, we look for information that supports it. We ignore information that contradicts it.
- We interpret ambiguous information as confirming what we already believe.
- We remember information that aligns with our views better than information that doesn’t.
- We trust sources that confirm our beliefs and distrust sources that don’t.
It’s a vicious cycle. The more we strengthen our beliefs, the more prone we become to confirmation bias. This polarization makes it hard to consider other perspectives and opinions.
To combat confirmation bias, actively look for information that contradicts your beliefs. Consider alternative ideas and explanations. Try to view issues from multiple sides. Ask open-ended questions. Discuss with people who have different views. Stay open to changing your mind.
None of us are immune to confirmation bias. But with conscious effort, we can broaden our thinking and make more informed choices. Understanding the difference between confirmation bias and belief perseverance, the tendency to cling to beliefs even after they’ve been proven wrong, is the first step. Awareness and an open, curious mindset can help overcome these common pitfalls.
How confirmation bias distorts thinking
Once you have a belief, your brain works to confirm it, often ignoring contradictory evidence. This is known as confirmation bias, and it leads to poor decision-making and stubborn close-mindedness.
You seek out information that backs up what you already believe and ignore the rest. For example, if you think the economy is headed for recession, you notice every news story that confirms a slowing economy but dismiss reports of economic growth.
Confirmation bias also causes you to interpret information in a way that confirms your preexisting beliefs. If two sports fans watch the same game, they’ll likely see different events that confirm their belief that their team is superior.
To overcome confirmation bias, you must make an effort to consider alternative perspectives and opinions. Seek out information from a range of media sources with different viewpoints. Try to interpret events in a neutral, objective way rather than in a way that matches your current beliefs.
Ask yourself probing questions about your views and opinions to determine if there are weaknesses or alternative explanations you haven’t considered. Be open to changing your mind, even on topics you care deeply about. Overcoming confirmation bias is challenging, but with conscious effort, you can reduce its distorting effects.
The path to truth often begins with an open and curious mind. Make that your goal, and you’ll start to gain a more balanced and accurate view of the world.
Examples of confirmation bias in real life
In everyday life, we see confirmation bias play out frequently. Here are a few common examples:
1. Social media echo chambers
On social media, we often follow people with similar beliefs and values as our own. When we see posts that confirm what we already believe, we like and share them, creating an echo chamber effect. We ignore or avoid information that contradicts our preexisting views.
2. Selective exposure
When we tune into media that aligns with our beliefs and values, ignoring other perspectives. For example, choosing to watch news channels that share a particular political slant while ignoring other viewpoints We seek out information that confirms what we want to believe.
3. Interpreting new information
We interpret new information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs. For example, if you believe the stock market is going to crash, you may interpret a small drop in the market as evidence that validates your view while ignoring information that contradicts it. Our biases lead us to twist facts to suit our established ways of thinking.
4. Remembering selectively
We remember and recall instances that confirm our beliefs much more easily than ones that contradict them. Our memories are malleable, and we subconsciously filter out details that go against what we want to believe. Over time, this selective remembering strengthens our biases.
The human mind is prone to seeking out and believing what it wants to be true. But by developing an awareness of these cognitive biases, we can make an effort to consider other perspectives and opinions. The truth is often complex, and multiple viewpoints contain pieces of the puzzle. Overcoming our innate tendencies isn’t easy, but with open and curious minds, we can get closer to the truth.
The impact of confirmation bias on decision-making and perception
Confirmation bias causes us to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms what we already believe. It leads us to ignore facts that contradict our preexisting beliefs and selectively look for evidence that supports them.
Impact on decision-making
When making a decision, confirmation bias can cause you to ignore alternatives and only consider options that align with what you want to believe. You give more weight to information that confirms your initial choice and dismiss facts that suggest otherwise. This can lead to poor decisions since you fail to consider the issue objectively.
For example, say you’re set on buying a certain car model. Due to confirmation bias, you’ll likely ignore negative reviews about that model and only read positive information from sources that reinforce your choice. You’ll also dismiss alternatives that could actually be better options. By being aware of this tendency, you can make an effort to consider counterarguments and alternatives, leading to better decisions.
Influence on perception
Confirmation bias also impacts how we perceive the world around us. We see what we expect to see. Our preconceptions lead us to interpret ambiguous information as confirmation of what we already think is true.
For instance, if you believe a co-worker is unfriendly, you may perceive their normal behavior and facial expressions as rude or aloof. But someone without that preconception may see them differently. Our beliefs distort our perception of reality.
The key is recognizing when confirmation bias may be affecting our judgment and making an effort to consider alternative perspectives. While belief perseverance causes us to cling to false beliefs, confirmation bias prevents us from accepting the truth in the first place. By overcoming these tendencies, we can gain a more accurate understanding of ourselves and the world.
What is Belief Persistence?
Belief perseverance refers to our tendency to cling to our beliefs even after the evidence that supports them has been disproven. It’s the unwillingness to change one’s mind or consider alternative perspectives.
How It Differs From Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is when we seek out and believe information that confirms what we already think is true. Belief-based perseverance takes this a step further. Even when confronted with irrefutable evidence that contradicts our beliefs, we still refuse to change our minds. Our beliefs become so firmly entrenched that we ignore facts that challenge them.
While confirmation bias leads us to make up our minds too quickly before considering all the facts, belief perseverance prevents us from changing our minds even after we have all the facts. It’s a stubborn refusal to accept that we might be wrong. Our beliefs become an unshakable part of our identity, and changing them would mean admitting a flaw in ourselves. This inability to accept fallibility and incorporate new evidence is what turns confirmation bias into the more problematic belief of perseverance.
Belief perseverance often arises from emotional or ideological convictions rather than evidence or reason. Our beliefs make us feel secure, and changing them can induce feelings of discomfort and anxiety. So we subconsciously employ defense mechanisms like denial, rationalization, and projection to protect our beliefs. We convince ourselves that the facts must be wrong rather than our beliefs.
Overcoming belief perseverance requires intellectual humility, open-mindedness, and a willingness to accept that our beliefs aren’t always right. We must consider each piece of evidence objectively and be willing to incorporate new facts, even if they don’t fit our preexisting notions. With effort and awareness, we can overcome our beliefs and perseverance. But first, we have to admit it’s there.
Factors contributing to belief perseverance
Belief perseverance refers to our tendency to cling to our beliefs even in the face of contradictory evidence. Several factors contribute to this troubling human tendency.
1. Confirmation bias
We have an innate drive to confirm what we already believe. We seek out information that validates our preexisting opinions and ignore information that contradicts them. This selective exposure to information that confirms what we think strengthens our beliefs.
2. Anchoring bias
Our first impressions, or “anchors,” shape how we perceive and interpret information. We stick to these initial anchors even when exposed to new details. If we form an initial belief, it is hard to move away from that belief.
3. Ego and self-interest
Our beliefs are tied to our sense of identity and self-worth. Admitting we are wrong can feel like a threat. It is easier to dismiss conflicting evidence than to accept that our beliefs may be flawed. Our beliefs may also serve our self-interest, and we are reluctant to accept information that would require us to act against our self-interest.
Our beliefs form a coherent whole that shapes how we understand the world. Accepting conflicting information may require a painful reshaping of how we see and understand the world. It feels more comfortable to ignore information that does not fit with our existing worldview.
The factors that contribute to belief perseverance are an inextricable part of human psychology. Becoming aware of them, however, can help us challenge our preexisting beliefs and open our minds. With conscious effort, we can overcome them.
When belief persists,
Belief perseverance refers to clinging to a belief even after the evidence that originally supported it has been contradicted or disproven. This tendency to stick with our preexisting notions occurs for a few reasons:
1. Confirmation bias
We have a tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already believe and ignore information that contradicts it. We accept confirming evidence at face value while scrutinizing and dismissing disconfirming evidence. This selective exposure and assessment of information strengthens our beliefs over time.
2. Cognitive dissonance
When we’re presented with evidence that challenges a belief, it creates an uncomfortable psychological tension known as cognitive dissonance. Our mind scrambles to reduce this discomfort, often by dismissing the new evidence and reaffirming the belief. It’s easier to ignore the contradictory information than to accept that our belief was wrong.
3. Ego protection
Our beliefs are deeply tied to our sense of identity and self-worth. Admitting we were wrong can feel like a threat to our ego or self-esteem. It’s less damaging to our ego to maintain the belief, even if we have doubts.
4. Sunk cost fallacy
We tend to stick with beliefs we’ve invested heavily in, whether through time, money, or effort. We reason that we’ve come too far to turn back now, so we continue down the same path to avoid wasting our investment. But this is the sunk cost fallacy: we should make decisions based on future benefits, not past costs.
The good news is that we can overcome belief perseverance by exposing ourselves to alternative perspectives with an open and curious mindset. We must accept that we’ll sometimes be wrong and revise our beliefs based on facts, not feelings. With conscious effort, we can avoid clinging to false beliefs.
Dangers of belief persistence
Belief and perseverance can have serious consequences. Once beliefs take hold, they can be extremely difficult to dismantle, even in the face of contradictory evidence. This “stickiness” of beliefs can negatively impact individuals and society in several ways:
When we cling rigidly to our preexisting beliefs, it closes us off to new ideas and perspectives. We become unwilling to consider alternative explanations or opinions, stifling open debate and progress.
2. Poor decision-making
If we persist in our false beliefs, we may make poor choices based on inaccurate information. For example, continuing to believe that smoking does not cause cancer could lead someone to keep smoking despite the health risks.
3. Conflicts and controversy
Belief persistence can fuel tensions between groups with opposing views. Each side digs into their beliefs, unwilling to acknowledge weaknesses in their positions or consider compromise. This can escalate conflicts and controversies rather than resolve them.
4. Spread of misinformation
Once a belief takes hold, we tend to look for and share information that confirms it while ignoring information that contradicts it. This allows false beliefs and “alternative facts” to spread as people pass along dubious information that reinforces their preconceptions.
While belief and perseverance come naturally to the human mind, awareness of this tendency is the first step to overcoming it. We must make an effort to consider evidence that challenges our beliefs, accept that we may be wrong at times, and stay open to revising our beliefs based on facts. This open and reflective mindset can help create a more progressive society where the truth ultimately prevails.
Confirmation Bias vs Belief Perseverance
Belief perseverance and confirmation bias are closely related but differ in important ways. Belief perseverance refers to clinging to beliefs even after the evidence that first formed them has been refuted.
Once you’ve formed a belief, it can be hard to let go of it. Even when faced with facts that contradict what you believe, you may ignore or dismiss them. This is because beliefs become entwined with your identity, values, and community. Accepting contrary evidence can feel like a personal attack.
Confirmation bias, on the other hand, refers to seeking out and favoring information that confirms what you already believe while ignoring information that contradicts your views. When you have confirmation bias, you’re not necessarily clinging to a belief in the face of contradictory evidence. Rather, you’re avoiding exposure to that contradictory evidence in the first place.
For example, say you believe vaccines cause autism. If you continue believing this despite numerous scientific studies proving otherwise, that’s perseverance. If you only read studies and anecdotes claiming a vaccine-autism link while ignoring the larger body of evidence refuting that link, that’s confirmation bias.
The two biases are related but distinct. Belief perseverance causes you to maintain your views when faced with counterevidence. Confirmation bias leads you to avoid counterevidence altogether. But together, they make it very difficult to change your mind on topics you care about. The good news is that self-awareness and open-mindedness can help overcome these prejudices. Staying receptive to all sides of an issue and focusing on facts over personal biases are good first steps.
The Interplay Between the Two Biases
Confirmation bias and belief perseverance often reinforce each other, making them challenging to overcome.
Once you’ve formed an initial belief, confirmation bias kicks in as you seek out information that confirms what you already think is true. This selective search for evidence strengthens your belief, even if that evidence is flawed or misleading.
Belief perseverance then causes you to cling to that belief even when faced with solid evidence that contradicts it. You may make excuses for the disconfirming evidence, reinterpret it to fit your beliefs, or ignore it altogether. These mental gymnastics allow you to persevere in your beliefs.
Overcoming these ingrained habits isn’t easy. Your beliefs feel like an integral part of who you are, so changing or abandoning them can be psychologically painful. Admitting you were wrong also wounds your ego and sense of identity. It’s no wonder we often dig into our positions.
The good news is that self-awareness is the first step. Pay attention to the evidence and arguments you seek out or ignore. Notice when you make excuses or reframe information to protect a belief. Accept that changing your mind based on facts doesn’t make you any less smart or capable. With practice, you can overcome confirmation bias and perseverance.
The key is staying open and willing to accept credible evidence, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Approach new information with an open and curious mindset rather than trying to confirm what you already believe. And remember, beliefs that can’t stand up to scrutiny are rarely worth clinging to. With an open and curious mind, the truth will come out.
The personal development perspective
Recognizing confirmation bias and perseverance in yourself is key to personal growth.
Challenging Your Assumptions
We all hold onto beliefs that we assume to be true, but many are built on shaky foundations. Make it a habit to regularly challenge your long-held assumptions and question why you believe what you believe. Try to find objective evidence that contradicts your beliefs. This can be an uncomfortable process, as we tend to surround ourselves with information that confirms what we already think. But exposing yourself to alternative perspectives helps create a more balanced and open mindset.
- Seek out differing opinions from people you respect. Engage in civil discussions where you listen with an open mind.
- Do research from objective sources, not just those that align with your views. Look at the facts and evidence, not just emotionally appealing arguments.
- Consider alternative explanations or interpretations of situations, not just the ones that fit your narrative. The truth is often complex and not black-and-white.
Updating Your Views
Being willing to accept credible new information and update your beliefs accordingly is a hallmark of wisdom. Strong convictions are not inherently virtuous if they are impervious to facts. Remain humble enough to realize you may have been mistaken, and have the courage to admit when you’re wrong. Evolve your thinking as new evidence presents itself.
- Don’t cling to outdated beliefs just for the sake of consistency. It’s not weak to change your mind; it shows growth.
- Stay open to revising your judgments and assumptions. The world is constantly changing, and we must adapt to new realities.
- Focus on having accurate beliefs, not just confirming what you want to be true. The truth matters more than protecting your ego or preconceptions.
Examining your biases and willingness to accept inconvenient truths about yourself and the world leads to greater wisdom, better judgment, and more authentic relationships. An open and curious mindset is essential for lifelong progress. Regularly reviewing and revising your beliefs based on facts and evidence helps ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
The benefits of challenging these biases
Challenging our confirmation biases and beliefs with perseverance allows us to grow in understanding and wisdom. When we cling too tightly to our preexisting beliefs, we close ourselves off from different perspectives and opportunities to expand our minds.
1. Consider Alternative Viewpoints
Actively seeking out alternative or opposing viewpoints exposes us to new ideas and helps us gain a more balanced, well-rounded perspective. Make an effort to read, watch, or listen to sources that contradict your beliefs. Try to understand other arguments and evidence with an open mind. You may find your beliefs evolve or become more nuanced. At the very least, you’ll have a better appreciation for different sides of an issue.
2. Ask tough questions.
We should regularly question our own assumptions and beliefs, as well as the information we consume. Ask yourself challenging questions like, What evidence do I have to support this belief? Are there any weaknesses or holes in that evidence? What would convince me I’m wrong? Could there be any biases influencing my thinking? Questioning in this way encourages critical thinking and helps uncover the truth.
3. Stay humble and open-minded.
Having humility and an open mind means accepting that we don’t know everything, that our beliefs could be wrong or incomplete, and that there are always opportunities to expand our thinking. Stay willing to accept new evidence and ideas, even if they contradict long-held beliefs. An open and curious mindset leads to growth, while arrogance and close-mindedness lead to stagnation.
Challenging biases and perseverant beliefs is a lifelong endeavor that requires effort and practice. But with an open mind, a willingness to question yourself, and exposure to alternative perspectives, you can overcome these human tendencies and gain a more truthful understanding of yourself and the world.
Overcoming confirmation bias and belief persistence
Overcoming your own biases and preconceptions is challenging, but awareness and an open mind can help. To overcome confirmation bias and perseverance,
1. Question your beliefs.
Regularly ask yourself why you believe what you believe. Try to identify the experiences that shaped your views. Then look for alternative explanations and be open to them. The truth is often complex, so try to consider multiple perspectives.
2. Seek out different viewpoints.
Follow news sources with different ideological bents and engage in discussions with people who have opposing views. Their arguments may be persuasive, or at least help you understand other viewpoints. Look for well-reasoned counterarguments to your positions.
3. Consider the evidence objectively.
When new evidence arises that contradicts your views, evaluate it objectively. Don’t dismiss it out of hand. Try to determine if it’s credible and relevant. Be willing to accept information that challenges your preexisting beliefs.
4. Stay curious and humble.
Approach new information with an attitude of openness and curiosity, rather than defensiveness. Remind yourself that you could be wrong. No one has a monopoly on the truth. There are usually multiple sides to every issue.
With conscious effort and practice, you can overcome your natural tendencies towards confirmation bias and belief perseverance. But it requires keeping an open and inquiring mind, exposing yourself to different perspectives, and accepting that the truth isn’t always what you want it to be. The rewards of overcoming bias are worth it: greater wisdom, empathy, and understanding.
Combining Strategies for Maximum Impact
To maximize the benefits of recognizing and addressing confirmation bias and belief perseverance, combine strategies from both.
1. Identify triggers.
Notice the situations and circumstances that activate your biases. For confirmation bias, it may be exposure to information that confirms what you already believe. For belief perseverance, it could be receiving evidence that contradicts a long-held belief. Knowing your triggers helps you stay vigilant.
2. Seek out alternative perspectives.
Make an effort to expose yourself to different viewpoints. Follow people with opposing views on social media. Read articles from various media outlets, not just those you already agree with. This helps broaden your thinking and opens you up to new ideas.
3. Ask open-ended questions.
Rather than looking for information to confirm what you think is true, adopt a curious mindset. Ask open-ended questions about the topic to gain new insights. Consider other possibilities and explanations. This simple strategy can help overcome the narrow thinking caused by biases.
Approach new information with humility and a willingness to accept that you could be wrong. Say to yourself, “I could be mistaken here; let me consider this further. An open and curious mindset is key to overcoming biases of all kinds. When your beliefs are challenged, avoid becoming defensive. Stay open to learning and changing your mind.
Combining these techniques provides the best opportunity for personal growth and avoiding poor decision-making due to biases. With regular practice monitoring your thinking, exposing yourself to alternate ideas, asking open-ended questions, and maintaining an open mind, you can overcome your natural tendencies towards confirmation bias and belief perseverance. Success comes from perpetual self-examination and a commitment to lifelong learning.
So there you have it: the difference between confirmation bias and belief perseverance. Both can lead us to cling to false beliefs, but for different reasons. Confirmation bias happens unconsciously as we seek out information that confirms what we already believe. Belief perseverance is more willful; we dig in our heels even when faced with contradictory evidence.
The good news is that now that you understand the difference, you can start to catch yourself in the act. When you feel yourself only searching for or accepting information that matches your preexisting beliefs, that’s confirmation bias. Question it. Seek out opposing facts and opinions. Only by exposing ourselves to different perspectives can we overcome our natural tendency toward confirmation bias.
And if you find yourself stubbornly clinging to a belief even after it’s been disproven, that’s belief perseverance. Ask yourself why you’re so unwilling to accept the truth. Are you afraid to be wrong? Are you concerned about how it might impact your identity? The truth may be inconvenient, but it’s always better than a false belief in the long run.
Stay curious and keep questioning. It’s the only way to ensure you aren’t falling victim to biases and persevering in false beliefs. The truth is out there; go find it!
- What is Confirmation Bias? Written by Dayva Segal
- Arguments: Why Do You Believe What You Believe? by Author: Thomas Metcalf
- Belief perseverance From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Dreamachine: How we perceive the world differently, and why that brings us together
- An Overview Of Selective Memory by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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