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Minimisation is a type of deception[1] involving denial coupled with rationalisation in situations where complete denial is implausible. It is the opposite of exaggeration.

Words associated with minimisation include:

  • discounting
  • meiosis
  • trivialisation
  • understating

Minimization may take the form of a manipulative technique:

  • observed in abusers and manipulators to downplay their misdemeanors when confronted with irrefutable facts.[2][3]
  • observed in abusers and manipulators to downplay positive attributes (talents and skills etc) of their victims and facilitate victim blaming.[4]

A variation on minimisation as a manipulative technique is "claiming altruistic motives" such as saying "I don't do this because I am selfish, and for gain, but because I am a socially aware person interested in the common good"[5].

Minimization may also take the form of cognitive distortion:

  • that avoids acknowledging and dealing with negative emotions by reducing the importance and impact of events that give rise to those emotions.
  • that avoids conscious confrontation with the negative impacts of one's behavior on others by reducing the perception of such impacts.
  • that avoids interpersonal confrontation by reducing the perception of the impact of others' behavior on oneself.
  • observed in victims of a trauma to downplay that trauma so as to avoid worry and stress in themselves and others.[6]


  • saying that a taunt or insult was only a joke
  • including the words "just" or "only" and claiming it was an accident in a reply such as "I only brushed his shoulder by mistake" when accused of injuring somebody
  • a customer receiving a response to a complaint to a company for poor service being told that complaints like his from other customers were very rare when in fact they are common.

See also


  1. Guerrero, L., Anderson, P., Afifi, W. (2007). Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
  2. Simon, George K. In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People (1996)
  3. Minimization: Trivializing Behavior as a Manipulation Tactic
  4. Discounting, Minimizing, and Trivializing
  5. Kantor, Martin The Psychopathology of Everyday Life 2006
  6. Blackman, Jerome 101 Defenses: How the Mind Shields Itself (2003)

Further reading

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