Thomas Gilovich

HowWeKnowWhen examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude. Information that is consistent with our pre-existing beliefs is often accepted at face value, whereas evidence that contradicts them is critically scrutinized and discounted. Our beliefs may thus be less responsive than they should to the implications of new information.

People will always prefer black-and-white over shades of grey, and so there will always be the temptation to hold overly-simplified beliefs and to hold them with excessive confidence.

What we believe is heavily influenced by what we think others believe.

2 thoughts on “Thomas Gilovich

  1. shinichi Post author

    How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life

    by Thomas Gilovich

    We humans seem to be extremely good at generating ideas, theories, and explanations that have the ring of plausibility. We may be relatively deficient, however, in evaluating and testing our ideas once they are formed.

    For desired conclusions, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe this?”, but for unpalatable conclusions we ask, “Must I believe this?

    It seems that once again people engage in a search for evidence that is biased toward confirmation. Asked to assess the similarity of two entities, people pay more attention to the ways in which they are similar than to the ways in which they differ. Asked to assess dissimilarity, they become more concerned with differences than with similarities. In other words, when testing a hypothesis of similarity, people look for evidence of similarity rather than dissimilarity, and when testing a hypothesis of dissimilarity, they do the opposite. The relationship one perceives between two entities, then, can vary with the precise form of the question that is asked.

    How do we distinguish between the legitimate skepticism of those who scoffed at cold fusion, and the stifling dogma of the seventeenth century clergymen who, doubting Galileo’s claim that the earth was not the center of the solar system, put him under house arrest for the last eight years of his life? In part, the answer lies in the distinction between skepticism and closed-mindedness. Many scientists who were skeptical about cold fusion nevertheless tried to replicate the reported phenomenon in their own labs; Galileo’s critics refused to look at the pertinent data.

    When we do cross paths with people whose beliefs and attitudes conflict with our own, we are rarely challenged.

    We hold many dubious beliefs, in other words, not because they satisfy some important psychological need, but because they seem to be the most sensible conclusions consistent with the available evidence. People hold such beliefs because they seem, in the words of Robert Merton, to be the “irresistible products of their own experience.”7 They are the products, not of irrationality, but of flawed rationality.

  2. shinichi Post author

    Thomas D. Gilovich
    Irene Blecker Rosenfeld Professor of Psychology


    Madey, S., & Gilovich, T. (1993). The effect of temporal focus on the recall of expectancy- consistent and expectancy-inconsistent information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 458 – 468.

    Frank, R.H., Gilovich,T., & Regan, D.T. (1993). Does studying economics inhibit cooperation? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 7, 159 – 171.

    Cone, J., & Gilovich, T. (2010). Understanding money´s limits: People´s beliefs about the income-happiness correlation. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 294-301.

    Haynes, G., & Gilovich, T. (2010). The ball don´t lie: How inequity aversion can undermine performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 1148-1150.

    Inbar, Y., Cone, J., & Gilovich, T. (2010). Intuitions about intuitive insight and intuitive choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 232-247.


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