Minimization occurs when a child downplays the importance of something, shrinking it until it appears insignificant. Its opposite is magnification.
Minimization can be routine, like a self-esteem problem, but can potentially become dangerous if the thing minimized is a serious issue.
- A girl is told that she is pretty, but she thinks of herself as ugly, and so talks down her looks.
- A boy is good at math, but he’s not very good at reading. He minimizes his mathematical ability because he can’t look past his deficiencies in other areas.
- A child’s friend pulls straight A’s for a semester. The child is jealous and minimizes his friend’s achievement by saying that he really only got good grades because he’s the teacher’s pet.
- An abused child plays down the amount of abuse: “He only hits me sometimes. He’s nice the rest of the time.”
In Critical Thinking
Minimization is, quite simply, downplaying evidence for a claim in order to support a contrary claim. Evidence should be weighed objectively, and when someone talks down the significance of some evidence in order to tip the scales for a certain outcome, it can lead to false beliefs and bad decisions.
- The “crop circle” phenomenon has been shown time and again to be perfectly achievable by human means. Those that still claim it as evidence of alien visitation must admit that humans can do it (after all, it’s been caught on video), but they minimize that clear evidence by saying that humans couldn’t account for all of the crop circles.
- In a trial, clear surveillance camera footage shows someone who looks remarkably the defendant committing the crime. The defense attorney may point to trivial details in an attempt to minimize the resemblance between the person in the video and his client.
- A man comes home to find the front window of his house shattered. He assumes it’s the neighbor kid, even though lots of people saw him playing baseball at the park all day. The man plays down their reports as lies or mistakes.
Bridging the Gap
When a child minimizes, he or she is maintaining a negative belief by undervaluing or downplaying evidence that would otherwise be considered significant and indicate a positive situation. The evidence might be as simple as someone telling a girl that she’s pretty, but rather than accept that she isn’t the grotesquerie she believes herself to be, she finds ways to downplay that evidence:
Will said I was pretty [the evidence], but he’s only one person [downplaying the evidence]. I’m still ugly [maintaining negativity].
In adolescent life as well as all other spheres of life, it is important to give the proper weight to evidence in order to get an objective, realistic view of reality. Children minimize regularly, and once they understand that it’s simply a matter of downplaying good evidence, they can easily understand why it’s bad to downplay good evidence elsewhere, too.