People Discount Evidence

When confronted with facts or information which contradict what we believe, rather than change our beliefs, we usually dismiss or discount the evidence (see Fiske & Taylor).

For instance, most parents believe that their children are wonderful and can do no wrong. So when confronted by evidence of their son’s or daughter’s wrongdoing, parents will often go to great lengths to discount the facts – that can’t be true “my son or daughter would never do something like that.”

Our judgment is not always guided by reason and logic. In fact, people often engage in irrational thinking – dismissing evidence in order to maintain a version of the world which suits them. In some cases, people will overlook medical problems, like dismissing a persistent cough or lump, rather than entertain the possibility that something might be seriously wrong. The opposite can also happen. People, who are convinced they are sick, will discount evidence of their health.

Discounting evidence also happens a lot in our close relationships.

For example, people often overlook or discount evidence of their spouse’s affair – holding on to the belief that their spouse would never cheat, despite evidence to the contrary.

And the opposite is true as well.

Some people are so convinced that their husband or wife is cheating that they consistently discount evidence of their partner’s fidelity.

As a general rule of thumb – our beliefs are just as important, and in some cases more important, than the actual evidence one encounters.