Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

2020 Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Rationalization (Defense Mechanism)

  • Megan KnollEmail author
  • Claire J. Starrs
  • J. Christopher Perry
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_1419



Rationalization is a disavowal defense mechanism which permits an individual to deal with emotional conflicts, or internal or external stressors, by devising reassuring or self-serving but incorrect explanations for his or her own or others’ thoughts, actions, or feelings, which cover up other motives (Perry 1990).


Defense mechanisms are automatic psychological processes that protect an individual from emotional conflicts or awareness of internal or external stressors. They impact individuals’ reactions to conflicts and stressors (American Psychiatric Association 2013). Defenses can be arranged hierarchically based on their usual level of adaptiveness. Within the hierarchy, defenses are grouped into different levels based on common functions. These levels include the psychotic (0), action (1), major image-distorting (2), disavowal and autistic-fantasy (3), minor image-distorting...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan Knoll
    • 1
    Email author
  • Claire J. Starrs
    • 2
  • J. Christopher Perry
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational and Counselling PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryMcGill University at the Jewish General HospitalMontrealCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Simon Boag
    • 1
  1. 1.MacQuarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia