The Denial Bias

The tendency to discount or disbelieve an important and uncomfortable fact.

When faced with a fact that's uncomfortable to accept, this bias says, " Reject it! It's not true despite overwhelming evidence." The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact (simple denial), admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimization), or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility (transference). Denial is a generic defense mechanism. 

Denial of Fact
Avoiding a fact by lying. Lying can take the form of an outright falsehood (commission), leaving out certain details to tailor a story (omission), or by falsely agreeing to something (assent). Someone who is in denial of fact is typically using lies to avoid facts they think may be painful to themselves or others.

Denial of Responsibility
Avoiding personal responsibility by blaming, minimizing or justifying. Blaming is a direct statement shifting culpability. Minimizing is an attempt to make the effects of an action seem less harmful than they are. Justifying presents reasons why someone is right. Denial of responsibility is a ploy to avoid potential harm or pain by shifting attention away from oneself.

Denial of Impact
Avoiding thinking about or understanding the harms one's behavior has caused to themselves or others. By doing this, the person is able to avoid feeling a sense of guilt and it can prevent that person from developing remorse or empathy for others. Denial of impact reduces or eliminates a sense of pain or harm from poor decisions.

Denial of Awareness
Avoiding pain and harm by stating he/she was in a different state of awareness (such as alcohol or drug intoxication or on occasion mental health related). This type of denial often overlaps with denial of responsibility.

Denial of Cycle
Avoiding looking at one's decisions leading up to an event or not considering one's pattern of decision-making and how harmful behavior is repeated. The pain and harm being avoided by this type of denial is more of the effort needed to change the focus from a singular event to looking at preceding events. Many who use this type of denial say things such as, "It just happened."

Denial of Denial
Denial of denial involves thoughts, actions and behaviors which bolster confidence that nothing needs to be changed in one's personal behavior. This form of denial typically overlaps with all of the other forms of denial, but involves more self-delusion.

BrainTip:  When you're in denial, ask yourself, "Is it true that denying the facts is less painful in the long run? How does denial make me feel? And how would I feel if I faced, and heartily embraced, the truth?"