When Beliefs Face Reality: An Integrative Review of Belief Updating in Mental Health and Illness

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2021 Mar;16(2):247-274. doi: 10.1177/1745691620931496. Epub 2020 Aug 20.


Belief updating is a relatively nascent field of research that examines how people adjust their beliefs in light of new evidence. So far, belief updating has been investigated in partly unrelated lines of research from different psychological disciplines. In this article, we aim to integrate these disparate lines of research. After presenting some prominent theoretical frameworks and experimental designs that have been used for the study of belief updating, we review how healthy people and people with mental disorders update their beliefs after receiving new information that supports or challenges their views. Available evidence suggests that both healthy people and people with particular mental disorders are prone to certain biases when updating their beliefs, although the nature of the respective biases varies considerably and depends on several factors. Anomalies in belief updating are discussed in terms of both new insights into the psychopathology of various mental disorders and societal implications, such as irreconcilable political and societal controversies due to the failure to take information into account that disconfirms one's own view. We conclude by proposing a novel integrative model of belief updating and derive directions for future research.

Keywords: Bayesian brain; belief updating; mental health; optimism bias; predictive processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Prejudice