Semmelweis Reflex

The Semmelweis reflex is the tendency to automatically reject new information that contradicts our current understanding.

The Semmelweis reflex is a term used in medical literature to describe the tendency of humans to reject new information that contradicts their current understanding. This phenomenon was first described by Ignaz Semmelweis, who noticed that doctors were more likely to contract puerperal fever than midwives.

Semmelweis hypothesized that this was because the doctors were coming into contact with infected corpses, and instituted a policy of hand-washing that dramatically reduced the incidence of puerperal fever.

However, his ideas were met with resistance from the medical community, which was reluctant to accept new information that contradicted their existing beliefs.

In our daily lives, we are constantly bombarded with new information that contradicts our existing beliefs. Whether it’s a new study that shows that coffee is actually good for you, or an article that challenges your political beliefs, we all have a tendency to reject new information that doesn’t fit with our existing worldview.

This is because our brains are wired to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, and to discount information that contradicts them. It’s a major reason why we find it so difficult to change our minds, even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

If you want to overcome the Semmelweis reflex, it’s important to be aware of it in the first place. The next time you find yourself rejecting new information out of hand, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re really considering it objectively. 

It might just be the case that you’re letting your preexisting beliefs get in the way of learning something new.

Learn with fellow humans

This content was generated with AI. If you want to learn with fellow humans, join the Ness Labs learning community.

Join Now