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charlie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-25-10 12:23 AM
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When in doubt, shout
A study confirms an effect we encounter often enough -- if you can get someone to doubt his belief, he'll become a more ardent advocate for that belief:
You dont have to look very far for examples of people holding on to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Thousands still hold to the idea that vaccines cause autism, that all life was created a few thousand years ago, and even that drinking industrial bleach is a good idea. Look at comment threads across the internet and youll inevitably find legions of people who boldly support for these ideas in the face of any rational argument.

That might be depressing, but its not unexpected. In a new study, David Gal and Derek Rucker from Northwestern University have found that when peoples confidence in their beliefs is shaken, they become stronger advocates for those beliefs. The duo carried out three experiments involving issues such as animal testing, dietary preferences, and loyalty towards Macs over PCs. In each one, they subtly manipulated their subjects confidence and found the same thing: when faced with doubt, people shout even louder.

Gal and Rucker were inspired by a classic psychological book called When Prophecy Fails. In it, Leon Festinger and colleagues infiltrated an American cult whose leader, Dorothy Martin, convinced her followers that flying saucers would rescue them from an apocalyptic flood. Many believed her, giving up their livelihoods, possessions and loved ones in anticipation of their alien saviours. When the fated moment came and nothing happened, the group decided that their dedication had spared the Earth from destruction. In a reversal of their earlier distaste for publicity, they started to actively proselytise for their beliefs. Far from shattering their faith, the absent UFOs had turned them into zealous evangelists...

When in doubt, shout why shaking someones beliefs turns them into stronger advocates


This is unrelated, but interesting, so I'll add it here. Another study lends credence to what Stalin knew -- if you want a jury to go easier on you, hurt more people:
Ben Goldacre - Empathys failures
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