Sometimes people seem to be very resistant to information that is in conflict with prior beliefs, even when this new information is very plausible.

For example, a patient might change a doctor, because he/she does not get the diagnosis he/she expected even if the diagnosis is correct.

How is the psychological term for this tendency?

  • $\begingroup$ That would be "messenger-shooter," or a person who "shoots the messenger." King's messenger used to be a dangerous job, if you had to bring news the king wouldn't like. $\endgroup$ – Here_n_Now Oct 25 '15 at 18:12

Belief perseverance is "the tendency to cling to one's initial belief even after receiving new information that contradicts or dis-confirms the basis of that belief" (Anderson, 2007).

Belief perseverance is usually regarded as a special case of the confirmation bias. (Also see these earlier questions.)


Anderson, C.A. (2007). Belief perseverance (pp. 109-110). In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


The term I would use is "cognitive dissonance." That is, there is "dissonance" between the result of one's cognitive processes, and the actual truth. According to psychologist Leon Festinger, people strive for internal consistency even at the expense of truth.

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't cognitive dissonance more like a conflict between two beliefs instead of a conflict between reality and belief? $\endgroup$ – Robin Kramer May 4 '17 at 6:24
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    $\begingroup$ @RobinKramer: In many cases, one of those to "beliefs" is what is true, and the other belief is what is believed, and the two are in conflict. $\endgroup$ – Tom Au May 4 '17 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ @RobinKramer the very Q states conflict with prior beliefs $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Jun 7 '17 at 15:22

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