Deutsch: Realismus / Español: Realismo / Português: Realismo / Français: Réalisme / Italiano: Realismo

Realism refers to the belief that abstract universals (essences) exist and that empirical events are only manifestations of those universals.

In psychology, realism often refers to the tendency or practice of perceiving or representing things as they actually are, without idealization or distortion. This concept is explored particularly in cognitive psychology, where it relates to how accurately individuals can assess the world around them and their own abilities.


Realism in psychology involves understanding and accepting the reality of situations and oneself, which is crucial for making rational decisions and maintaining mental health. It contrasts with cognitive biases such as overconfidence or pessimism, where perceptions do not align with actuality. Psychological realism pertains not only to the accurate appraisal of external situations but also to self-awareness and self-assessment.

This concept also appears in discussions about therapeutic techniques, where fostering a realistic perspective in clients is often a goal. This can involve challenging unrealistically negative or positive thoughts and encouraging a more balanced and evidence-based view of oneself and the world.

Application Areas

Realism is relevant in various areas of psychological practice and research, including:

  • Clinical psychology: Helping clients develop a realistic understanding of their circumstances and capacities, which is often crucial in treating conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Cognitive psychology: Studying how people perceive reality and the accuracy of their perceptions in decision-making.
  • Educational psychology: Encouraging realistic goal-setting and self-assessment in students to enhance learning and achievement.

Well-Known Examples

Psychological research related to realism includes:

  • Studies on depressive realism, a hypothesis that suggests that people with depression often have a more accurate perception of their control, performance, and outcomes than non-depressed people, who might be unrealistically optimistic.
  • Research on the Dunning-Kruger effect, where individuals with low ability at a task overestimate their ability, reflecting a lack of realism in self-assessment.

Treatment and Risks

In therapeutic contexts, encouraging realism can help individuals make better decisions and reduce distress by aligning their expectations with what is genuinely attainable. However, there's a balance to be struck, as excessive realism, especially if it veers into pessimism, can demotivate individuals or exacerbate feelings of helplessness.

Similar Terms

In psychology, related terms include:

  • Optimism: Generally involves expecting the best possible outcome from any given situation, which can sometimes conflict with a realistic outlook.
  • Pessimism: The tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen, often viewed as the opposite of optimism and sometimes of realism.

Articles with 'Realism' in the title

  • Depressive realism: Depressive Realism refers to the tendency of mildly depressed people to make accurate rather than self-serving biases judgments, attributions and predictions
  • Experimental Realism: Experimental Realism refers to the degree to which the experiment absorbs and involves its participants- the extent to which the study’s setting feels realistic and involving to participants and elicits spontaneous behavior - the extent t . . .
  • Moral realism: Moral realism is a term which According to Piaget is the stage during which children judge acts as moral when they conform to authority or to the rules of the game
  • Mundane realism: Mundane realism is a degree to which an experiment is superficially similar to everyday situations. In psychology, "mundane realism" refers to the extent to which an individual's beliefs or perceptions match up with the actual physical ch . . .
  • Naive realism: Naive realism refers to the belief that what one experiences mentally is the same as what is present physically. Naive realism is a concept in social psychology that refers to the belief that our perception of reality is objective and accur . . .


In psychology, realism is important for understanding how individuals perceive and interpret their environments and themselves. It involves a balanced and accurate assessment of situations, which is crucial for effective decision-making and mental health. Psychological interventions often aim to enhance realism to improve overall well-being and decision-making processes.


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