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This is your brain on a belief..

Belief Persistence Despite Discredited Evidence

"Humans have a pronounced tendency to believe when they shouldn't, disbelieve despite counter-evidence, and sustain beliefs that are unreasonable. One of the ways that this is manifest is as belief persistence. A number of studies, including this one: Anderson, Lepper, and Ross, “Perseverance of Social Theories: The Role of Explanation in the Persistence of Discredited Information,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1980, Vol. 39, No.6, 1037-1049 have shown that people will go on believing something even after their reasons have been shown to be faulty.

Anderson, Lepper, and Ross presented subjects with some evidence and asked them to theorize about it. Then they told the subjects that the evidence they had been given was completely fabricated and false. But when tested afterwards about the truth of their theory based on that evidence, the subjects still tended to believe. In philosopher speak: For any S who forms belief P on the basis of evidence E, belief in P will tend to persist even after evidence E has been completely discredited to S.

The implications here for religious belief are obvious. Spend a lot of time entertaining fairy tales about Adam and Eve, Noah, and people rising from the dead in Sunday school, and even if you discover that the evidence for those beliefs is suspect, the belief has a way of persisting. Once it's in there, it's very hard to get it out. There's a copy of the study here "







Asked by clarity333 at 10:17 PM on Mar. 30, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 22 (13,098 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (27)
  • Humans want to be right- no one likes to admit they are wrong.  I think the majority of people, even when presented with evidence to the contrary, will still believe what they did before. They will somehow try to validate those beliefs any way they can regardless of how ridiculous they may seem to others.


    Answer by IhartU at 8:48 AM on Mar. 31, 2011

  • So- does this include your belief that religion is not valid- if you keep researching things that back up what you believe do you actually believe your own "fairy tale" even when millions find something valid in religion- ?

    Answer by soyousay at 10:58 PM on Mar. 30, 2011

  • I am assuming this can mean any belief... not only religious beliefs. What about political beliefs? Something like that has the potential to do far more damage than a religious belief. And religion just doesn't include Christianity. It can include all Pagan beliefs as well. You can also throw atheism in there too... that's a belief in itself. It is a belief that there is no God. So the potential is that people waste their time proving or disproving something all over a silly belief. It human nature people, and there's nothing to be done about it. It is how we are wired.

    Answer by anime_mom619 at 11:29 PM on Mar. 30, 2011

  • The implications do not restrict themselves to just "religious beliefs' but to social, political, and even personal beliefs. We are all guilty of "Belief Persistence" in one form or another.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 12:34 AM on Mar. 31, 2011

  • fairy tale?

    science is real.

    Answer by autodidact at 1:33 AM on Mar. 31, 2011

  • yeah...this happens...and not only with religious beliefs.

    Answer by MrsMWF at 10:20 PM on Mar. 30, 2011

  • I believe this is a known as Cognitive Dissonance... thank you Psychology class :D

    Answer by EdwinsMommy at 10:24 PM on Mar. 30, 2011

  • Hehehe, all I had to do was read the "question" part to know exactly who posted this.

    Answer by Renee3K at 10:27 PM on Mar. 30, 2011

  • Some of us can believe in God but find the story of Adam and Eve to be unbelievable...a fiction. That is possible you know. I truly do think that people who hang onto the stories in the Bible and believe that they actually happened have been afraid to question it....afraid of that big  bolt of lightning from the sky,that will come down and strike them dead for questioning.


    Answer by minnesotanice at 12:12 AM on Mar. 31, 2011

  • It is not only discredited evidence it is sometimes no evidence . You can of course believe anything you want to , the study neither invaldates that nor endorses it . However, the rejection of science and scientific method and anti-intellectualism in American life is a classic case of what I suppose you would call cognitive dissonance and that is harmful.

    Answer by janet116 at 12:25 AM on Mar. 31, 2011