The Psychology of Stubbornness: Why People Cling to Incorrect Opinions

In the realm of human cognition, the persistence of incorrect opinions is a fascinating phenomenon that has intrigued psychologists and scholars for centuries. Despite access to information and the potential for intellectual growth, individuals often cling to opinions that may be demonstrably incorrect. This article explores the intricate psychological factors that contribute to the tenacity of incorrect opinions, shedding light on the cognitive biases, emotional attachments, and social dynamics that play a pivotal role in shaping and preserving these beliefs.

  1. Cognitive Dissonance:

Cognitive dissonance, the discomfort experienced when holding conflicting beliefs or attitudes, is a fundamental force driving the persistence of incorrect opinions. When individuals are confronted with information that contradicts their existing beliefs, it triggers cognitive dissonance. In an attempt to alleviate this discomfort, people may reject the new information or find ways to rationalize and minimize the inconsistency.

The fear of cognitive dissonance can lead individuals to actively avoid information that challenges their existing opinions. By maintaining a cognitive echo chamber, where only reinforcing information is accepted, people shield themselves from the discomfort of conflicting beliefs. Recognizing and addressing cognitive dissonance is a crucial step in understanding why incorrect opinions often endure.

  1. Confirmation Bias:

Confirmation bias, the tendency to favor information that confirms pre-existing beliefs, is a pervasive cognitive bias that reinforces incorrect opinions. People naturally seek out and prioritize information that aligns with their existing views, while downplaying or dismissing evidence that contradicts those opinions. This selective processing of information perpetuates the cycle of holding onto incorrect beliefs.

Overcoming confirmation bias requires intentional effort to seek out diverse perspectives, critically evaluate information, and remain open to the possibility of being wrong. Developing awareness of this bias is essential for individuals striving to cultivate a more objective and evidence-based approach to their opinions.

  1. Emotional Investment:

Emotional attachments to opinions can significantly contribute to their persistence. When individuals emotionally invest in a particular viewpoint, admitting that they were wrong can feel like a personal failure. The emotional cost of changing one’s mind may include feelings of embarrassment, guilt, or a sense of identity threat.

Addressing the emotional dimension of incorrect opinions involves fostering emotional intelligence and creating an environment that encourages vulnerability. Establishing a culture where changing one’s opinion is seen as a sign of intellectual growth rather than weakness can mitigate the emotional barriers to flexibility in thinking.

  1. Social Identity and Group Affiliation:

Human beings are inherently social creatures, and our opinions often become intertwined with our social identity. Individuals may adhere to incorrect opinions to maintain cohesion within their social groups, fearing the potential social consequences of dissenting. The desire for acceptance and validation from one’s social circle can override the pursuit of intellectual honesty.

Overcoming this social influence requires creating spaces where diverse perspectives are welcomed and respected. Encouraging open dialogue and fostering a culture that values individual thought over conformity can help individuals feel more secure in expressing opinions that may differ from the group consensus.

  1. Anchoring Bias:

Anchoring bias refers to the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information encountered when making decisions. Once an opinion is formed, individuals often anchor their subsequent judgments and interpretations around that initial belief. This bias makes it challenging to adjust opinions even when presented with compelling evidence to the contrary.

Combatting anchoring bias involves cultivating a mindset of ongoing inquiry. Encouraging individuals to revisit and reassess their initial opinions in light of new information fosters intellectual flexibility and reduces the influence of anchoring biases.

  1. Distrust of Information Sources:

In an era of information overload, people may become skeptical of the reliability of sources that contradict their opinions. This distrust can be fueled by misinformation, the spread of disinformation, or a general lack of media literacy. When individuals question the credibility of information challenging their beliefs, they are more likely to dismiss it outright.

Addressing this challenge requires promoting media literacy and critical thinking skills. Teaching individuals to evaluate the reliability of information sources and discern credible sources from unreliable ones empowers them to navigate the information landscape more effectively.

  1. Fear of Uncertainty:

The human psyche is often averse to uncertainty. Incorrect opinions can serve as cognitive anchors, providing a semblance of stability in a world characterized by complexity and ambiguity. The fear of uncertainty can lead individuals to resist revising their opinions, as doing so requires embracing the discomfort of not having all the answers.

Cultivating a tolerance for uncertainty involves fostering a growth mindset and acknowledging that intellectual evolution is a dynamic process. Encouraging individuals to view uncertainty as an opportunity for learning rather than a threat can mitigate the fear associated with changing one’s opinions.


Understanding why people cling to incorrect opinions is a complex exploration of cognitive, emotional, and social factors. The interplay of cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, emotional investment, social identity, and various cognitive biases creates a formidable barrier to changing deeply held beliefs. As individuals and societies strive for intellectual growth and progress, addressing these psychological mechanisms is crucial for fostering a more open-minded, evidence-based approach to opinions.

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