Individual differences |
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Such beliefs can be maintained by intrapersonal cognitive structures, sometimes based on particular uncommon occurences. For example having been involved in a car accident I develop and maintain a belief that automobile travel is catastophically dangerous. We could develop a notional sliding scale of irrationality from beliefs that are only slight exagerations of what might be considered a 'normal reaction' to such events to extensive delusions which seem completely irrational. Cognitive dissonance theory and psychodynamic theory have been partly developed to explain how such beliefs are maintained.
They can also be partly shaped by external social pressures. Studies of conformity have indicated how people will report irrational beliefs under the influence of group dynamics and peer pressure, while studies of cults show just how far these effects can go.
The degree to which irrational beliefs underpin mental disorders is addressed by various forms of cognitive therapy which attempt to alter the beliefs in order to enable people to change their feelings and behavior