Why It's Hard To Change Your Beliefs

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Why It's Hard To Change Your Beliefs

Beliefs are made to navigate the complex world that people live in / Photo by Africa Studio via Shutterstock.com


Everyone has different beliefs about different things and this is what makes beliefs such a strenuous subject to be defined. In a world wherein people are more than free to express their stance and opinions, which paves way for them to be divided, it is crucial to have a better understanding of beliefs. But what are beliefs anyway? And why is it so hard to change them?

Beliefs As Predictors of Understanding the World

In an article on Psychology Today, Canadian psychiatrist Ralph Lewis discussed an evolutionary framework to help gain a better understanding of beliefs and why changing these beliefs can be a struggle. He says beliefs are made as a way to make sense and navigate the complex world that people live in. They are the mind's representations of how the brain expects the environment to behave and the way the things should be connected to one another. Simply put, they are the patterns that the brain expects the world to follow.

Beliefs are outlines to effectively gain knowledge and are usually key elements for survival. They allow the brain to refine information in order to enable the mind to quickly identify and evaluate details and make conclusions. Moreover, beliefs are usually deal with comprehending the reason why things happen, For instance, if "b" came right after "a", then "a" may be presumed to be the grounds for "b" to occur.

As the brain processes large quantities of information, it uses shortcuts to recognize recurring patterns and make conclusions out of them. These shortcuts, according to Lewis, interpret and predict the world that people live in and usually involves "connecting dots and filling in gaps" as well as make assumptions based on partial information and similarity to previously recognized patterns.

When making conclusions, the brain prefers the familiar conclusions instead of the unfamiliar ones. This results in the mind to be susceptible to making mistakes, and sometimes see patterns even where there are none. These errors may or may not be eventually recognized and straightened by error-detection mechanisms—it's a settlement between efficiency and accuracy.

The default tendency of the mind is to place new information into its established framework in order to understand the world for its need to save energy consumption. This is done instead of repeatedly building that outline from nothing.

Sticking With Established Beliefs

Since the brain has already made a framework for understanding how the world operates, and putting new information in accordance with that framework, it can be difficult to change the beliefs that sprouted from this process.

According to Forbes, the beliefs that are rooted in the mind is caused by a  psychological principle known as "belief perseverance." This is when a person believes in something—regardless if it's political or a belief about themselves—they will pick out the evidence that contradicts their beliefs. For example, when someone thinks that they are not smart enough, they will chalk up a decent grade to them being lucky or that their achievement is just by chance.

Moreover, once a core belief has been established, it is more likely that one will pay more attention to any proof that strengthens this belief. In the given example, if that person fails one test will conclude that they are unintelligent, despite passing nine other tests. People are also likely to hold onto their beliefs about others. Studies have shown that more enthralling evidence is needed in order to change beliefs compared to the number that it is needed to create them.

Testing the Beliefs Formed on Other People

Researchers of a 2008 study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, asked participants to mark a person's score on an intelligence test. The scores were manipulated so that the marks either showed the individual was either in the 93rd percentile or the 36th percentile.

After completing the scoring process, the researchers told participants that the wrong answer key was accidentally given to them which means that the scores were inaccurate. The participants were told that the tests cannot be recovered and that they cannot grade them with the correct answer key.

Later on, the participants were asked to give an estimate of the individual's intelligence. Their estimations were parallel with the scores that the individual received on the test. Those who are initially led to think that the individual had an above average intelligence continued to see that the person is smart. Despite being told that there was a mistake in the individual's grades, the participants held on to the initial belief that was developed.

This also shows that making a good first impression is crucial in forming relationships with them. The moment that a judgment about a person is formed, it will be hard to change that judgment.

However, people clearly do the same things to themselves. Even if these beliefs don't serve them well, they still cling on to it since it is difficult to "unlearn" something that they already hold to be as the truth.


Beliefs enables the mind to quickly identify and evaluate details to make a conclusions / Photo by Wayhome Studio via Shutterstock.com




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