Backfire Effect (n.) - In our current culture, you may have many moments where someone presents you with facts, figures, and research evidence to show you that a deeply held personal belief or opinion doesn't match up with the facts When you look at this new information and are not only not swayed to change your mind but, rather, you dig your heels in even more to maintain your belief, you are exhibiting the Backfire Effect.
Looking at a Few Examples
Tom believes that global warming isn't real. Nancy has shown him numerous scientific studies and a lot of evidence to dispute his belief. The more she pushes and explains, the more convinced he is that he is right and she is wrong.
Paula is convinced her brother has joined a cult. The more she points out to him that they are distancing him from his friends and are filling his head with things that are completely untrue, the more he believes her to be wrong.
When You Push, They Push Back
It's important to be aware of this one in yourself if it is present. Are you holding onto beliefs because you just don't want to be wrong or you've become emotionally invested in a certain line of thinking? It's really difficult to say you may not have made a good decision or you've gotten involved in something you shouldn't have. Owning up to times when we have been wrong requires a strong sense of self.
When this is happening with another person, it's important to realize that the more pressure you apply, the more pressure they will return. They will give you equally what you give them. There are many times people hold onto false beliefs longer than they otherwise would have because people have pushed so hard against them. Once you have to defend your beliefs -- even if they are false beliefs, the more invested you become in maintaining them.
Stop Pushing or Seek Out an Advocate
If the belief the other person is holding onto is non-life threatening, it works best to stop applying the pressure so they can have the space to change. Often as long as you apply the pressure to shift their thinking, the longer they will hold onto the false belief.
If it is life-threatening or severe harm could happen, it's time to seek out a professional. Find a therapist or clinician to talk with. Don't be afraid to get help when you need it.
Be aware of the Backfire Effect. Learn to admit when you are wrong and need to change. Be aware of when to back off and the let other person grow at their own speed. And, know when to bring in professional help when it's needed.
Fridays – Flaws in Thinking
There are some common errors in thinking (more formally called cognitive distortions and biases) that can get in the way of healthy and helpful thinking. Each Friday, you will learn a new term to help in seeing your own thinking more clearly.
My Writing and Other Resources for Students
A growing collection of writing and other resources for students to use to continue their growth.