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Explanations > Behaviors > Coping > Idealization

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Idealization is the over-estimation of the desirable qualities and underestimation of the limitations of a desired thing. We also tend to idealize those things that we have chosen or acquired.

The opposite of Idealization is Demonization, where something that is not desired or disliked has its weak points exaggerated and its strong points played down.


A teenager in awe of a rock star idealizes their idol, imagining them to have a perfect life, to be kind and thoughtful, and so on. They ignore the star's grosser habits and rough background.

A person has bought an exotic foreign holiday. They dream about how perfect their vacation will be, not thinking about insects, heat, crime etc.

I buy a sports car and look admiringly at its sleek lines. I ignore the fact that it drinks fuel and is rather uncomfortable.

A person in a religious cult idealizes the cult and its leader, assuming they are perfect and that the outside world is very poor in comparison.


Idealizing allows us to confirm our decisions as being wise and intelligent as we play up the good things we have chosen and downplay detracting factors. We thus cope with potentially dissonant thoughts that we have made a wrong decision.

It also makes us feel better to pay attention to things we desire that spend our time thinking about less pleasant things.

Playing up the good things and pushing down the bad things also creates a contrast that makes the good things seem even better.

So what?

When selling something, focus on the good things, idealizing what you are selling and the benefits that it will bring. Note, however, that if this sales talk goes too far, it may lead to disappointment that result in betrayal effects.

To persuade someone away from something they are idealizing, show them lots of unavoidable hard evidence that breaks the idealized perceptions.

See also

Fantasy, Attribution Theory

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