Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Facts Fail: UFO Cults, 'Birthers' and Cognitive Dissonance

UFO Believers

By Susan Perry

     More than 50 years ago, University of Minnesota social psychologist Leon Festinger and two colleagues wrote these words in the opening to “When Prophecy Fails,” their groundbreaking case study on cognitive dissonance:
A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.

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