Why is it so difficult to admit that we are psychologically wrong?

Changing your mind is not easy. It may be that the food we are talking about is the food we are going to select from a restaurant menu, but not when we are talking about beliefs, political positions or superstitions.

But why so hard? Man is supposedly a rational animal, and The logical thing is to adapt our beliefs Depending on the new information that reaches us. What we do is often reluctant.

Quick answer: We are not as rational as we think.

A slow response can help us know the how before we know the why. How do we stick to our guns without changing our minds even when the evidence is overwhelming? Because we have several resources for that.

The first step in maintaining our stubbornness is to ignore everything that confronts our view. We tend to reject or ignore In those sources that usually bring us information that may contradict our point of view. To the point that they may feel threatened by us and build fortifications in our positions.

Hearing our own voice is still something strange, unpleasant and hated by many people.  It is logical and has an explanation

Keith M. Bellizzi, professor of human development at the University of Connecticut, explains, in an article the conversation, our rejection of information contrary to our beliefs may be such that they have the opposite effect. This is called the “backfire” effect (Backfire effect)

Of course, that comes hand in hand with ignoring what contradicts us and focusing on what affirms our ideas and positions. We often talk about echo chambers when we search the media and social networks not for new ideas but for those we already have.

All these events fit what we call Confirmation bias. This bias goes beyond our tendency to seek information, for example, it can also affect our way of interpreting what we find.

Memory can even work against us, making us forget information that contradicts our position more easily than information that confirms it.


Different streams of psychology study how we form our opinions, how we maintain them, and how we change them. For example, the self-affirmation hypothesis highlights that we are more receptive to opinion change when we feel good about ourselves.

Another current, that of cultural cognition, considers that we shape our ideas to blend in with the groups with which we want to identify. Both currents start from a slightly tribal perspective where opinion helps us draw the line between “good” and “bad”. David Ropeik explains inside Psychology Today.

Often from a neurological perspective We talk about cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) is responsible for our closed mind to new ideas that contradict our norms. According to this hypothesis, our brain will react to these ideas as it does to threats, releasing a hormone that puts us on alert.

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This is interesting if we consider that our brain also has an evolutionary tendency towards searching for new information. When we seek new information And when we find it, we release dopamine, another hormone associated with our brain’s reward system.

Psychology also studies what happens in our brains on a biological scale. a research published in the newspaper Nature is neuroscience In 2019, he analyzed the brains of forty participants using an MRI scanner.

They test their brains when they respond to information about a numerical estimate (the value of a piece of real estate) other than their own. Stomations that may or may not match.

The party Special attention is given In the medial posterior prefrontal cortex, the place that should be Responsible for “absorption” of new concepts, new assumptions in this case. They observed that the area was activated when the hypotheses were in agreement… but not when there was disagreement, regardless of the conviction with which the hypothesis was presented.

Accepting change

But it would be absurd to think that it is impossible to change our minds, that it is possible to change our beliefs, and in fact we often do. Changing your mind can be easier than it seems, things we don’t understand.

A classic example It has been given through a change of government. Some studies have identified how selection can change our perception About the state of the economy: If my party comes into government, my perception of the economy will improve; If it comes out, however, my perception of the economy will be more pessimistic.

Changing your mind is not inconsistent with irrationality.

Very often we don’t admit that we change our minds because we don’t realize it. Psychologist and Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman explains this phenomenon in his book “Think Fast, Think Slow”. The root of this is that our memory is not good at remembering our past emotional states.

When we change our minds slightly we tend to fill in gaps in memory based on what we think now, so that our positions over time seem coherent. What is this called? Perceived bias after the event.

Kahneman gives some examples based on studies By 1975 And Nineteen ninety five. One of them, for example, in A study conducted in 1977 A group of participants were asked about their stance on the death penalty. Next, participants heard a “persuasive” message either for or against punishment. When researchers ask participants to reconstruct their previous positions, they encounter various inconsistencies and contradictions in the story.

Social and political polarization is one of the hot topics in the media. Understanding our biases and our irrationality can be a first step to avoid falling into irrationality. Stubbornness makes us susceptible to deception and falling for inevitable logic. Furthermore, the more closed-minded we are, the greater the fallout when we change our minds.

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Picture | Volodymyr Hryshchenko (front page) / Mohammad Hasan (inside)