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Did you know that there are three types of belief perseverance? Learn more about belief perseverance from examples. Then, test your knowledge with a quiz.

Belief Perseverance Defined

Mike is a 32-year-old engineer who is obsessed with conspiracy theories.

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Mike has a conversation with his friend Jim, in which Mike tells Jim that the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center were orchestrated by the United States government. Jim shows Mike several official government documents and independent research reports that concluded that the United States government was not responsible for the attacks. Mike brushes off Jim’s evidence as false and made up by the government in order to cover its tracks. No matter what Jim says or what kind of evidence he provides, Mike refuses to believe that the United States government was not responsible for the attacks.

This is an example of belief perseverance.Belief perseverance is the tendency for people to hold their beliefs as true, even when there is ample evidence to discredit the belief. When faced with evidence that contradicts their beliefs, people may choose to discredit, dismiss, misinterpret, or place little significance on the contradictory information. For example, Mike chose to dismiss the evidence that Jim presented to him. As a result, this allowed Mike to hold on to his beliefs about the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Types of Belief Perseverance

According to research, there are at least three types of belief perseverance. Let’s look at examples of each of the three types.

Naïve theories are your views about the world and how it operates. Examples of naïve theories include your beliefs about how criminals think or the causes of global conflicts and war. They also include any stereotyping beliefs you might have regarding people from different races, age groups, or genders. For example, Tom might believe that all welfare recipients are African American women, despite being presented with facts that show that the majority of welfare recipients are Caucasian.Self-impressions are your beliefs about yourself. Examples of self-impressions include your beliefs about your intelligence, athletic ability, and personality. For example, Carrie might believe that she is a good skier despite the fact that she has never been able to ski for more than a few seconds before falling down.

Social impressions are your beliefs about other individuals. Examples of social impressions include your beliefs about your mother, your teacher, and your boss. For example, Bill might believe that his teacher dislikes him and is purposefully failing him.

Bill believes this despite being presented with evidence that the teacher is quite fond of him and that Bill’s answers to his tests have been mostly wrong.

Additional Examples

Example 1

Kirk has been a cigarette smoker for the past fifteen years. Kirk believes that smoking cigarettes is not harmful to the body, and it does not cause cancer.

Even though numerous studies and government reports as well as Kirk’s doctors have all warned against the dangers of smoking, including showing links between smoking and cancer, Kirk refuses to believe that smoking cigarettes is harmful.

Example 2

There are several Americans who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in America. Even after being presented with documentation that proves that President Obama was in fact born in America, many still believe that this evidence was falsified and that President Obama was not born in America.

Example 3

In 1975, Ross, Lepper, and Hubbard conducted one of the earliest studies that looked at belief perseverance. Research participants were given a task in order to measure their level of social sensitivity. Participants were separated into two groups. One group was given high scores on social sensitivity, and the other was given low scores.

After receiving feedback on their scores, both groups were informed that the feedback was false and not an accurate representation of their social sensitivityLater, these same participants were asked to estimate their true levels of social sensitivity and how they believed they would perform on the task in the future. Researchers found that the participants who were given false high scores still believed that they would do well on the task, while the participants who were given false low scores still believed that they would perform poorly. In other words, even after the participants were shown evidence that their initial scores were false, participants still believed that the scores were accurate representations of their social sensitivity.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

Belief perseverance refers to our tendency to hold onto our beliefs even in instances where we are presented with strong evidence that contradicts them. The three types of belief perseverance are self-impressions, or personal beliefs about ourselves; social impressions, or beliefs about others; and na;ve impressions, or beliefs about the way in which the world operates. An example of belief perseverance is a person who believes that smoking does not cause cancer despite the abundance of evidence that shows that smoking does cause cancer.

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