Belief Perseverance and Experience


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, including their own, that provide evidence that they are wrong. They will do the same thing with other types of evidence as well.

Types of Belief of Perseverance

There are three main types of belief perseverance:

1) Self-impressions – Beliefs about the self, including what one believes about his abilities and skills, including social skills, and body image.

2) Social impressions – Beliefs about specific others, for example, a best friend or a parent.

3) Social theories – Beliefs 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.

If learned indirectly, 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. If learned directly, 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 could possibly explain why it is often difficult to get people to understand giftedness and gifted children.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bergamaschi Ganapini M. Confabulating ReasonsTopoi. 2020;39:189-201. doi:10.1007/s11245-018-09629-y

  2. Nestler S. Belief Perseverance: The Role of Accessible Content and Accessibility ExperiencesSocial Psychology. 2010;41(1):35-41. doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000006

  3. Karpen SC. The Social Psychology of Biased Self-Assessment. Am J Pharm Educ. 2018;82(5):6299. doi:10.5688/ajpe6299

  4. Van prooijen JW, Douglas KM. Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain. Eur J Soc Psychol. 2018;48(7):897-908. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2530

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.