Cognitive Dissonance -- something for everyone here : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Found this commentary on Leon Festinger's When Prophecy Fails (1956). It seems to explain a lot of what we hear from both ends of the doomster/polly spectrum. Festinger's book develops his theory of Cognitive Dissonance.

Extracts from the commentary follow, including quotes from the book:

What Festinger and his associates demonstrated in the end was that the failure of prophecy often has the opposite effect of what the average person might expect; the cult following often gets stronger and the members even more convinced of the truth of their actions and beliefs! Festinger observes:

"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.

"But man's resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view."

When Prophecy Fails focuses on the failure of prophecies to come true, termed disconfirmation by Festinger, and the accompanied renewal of energy and faith in their source of divine guidance. His theory presupposes the cult having certain identifying features, such as: (a) belief held with deep conviction along with respective actions taken, (b) the belief or prediction must be specific enough to be disconfirmed (i.e., it didn't happen), (c) the believer is a member of a group of like-minded believers who support one another and even proselytize.

Festinger relates:

"But whatever explanation is made it is still by itself not sufficient. The dissonance is too important and though they may try to hide it, even from themselves, the believers still know that the prediction was false and all their preparations were in vain. The dissonance cannot be eliminated completely by denying or rationalizing the disconfirmation. But there is a way in which the remaining dissonance can be reduced. If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must, after all, be correct. Consider the extreme case: if everyone in the whole world believed something there would be no question at all as to the validity of this belief. It is for this reason that we observe the increase in proselytizing following disconfirmation. If the proselytizing proves successful, then by gathering more adherents and effectively surrounding himself with supporters, the believer reduces dissonance to the point where he can live with it."

In the case of Y2K, the moment of truth is not far off -- or will it be months?

-- Tom Carey (, April 20, 1999


Seems to debunk the theory of a Self Fullfilling Prophecy, no?

Just curious if in the 1400's & 1500's when people thought the world was flat, and Columbus didn't fall off the end of the world, did people still "proselytize" the world was still flat?

Just have to see and wait...

Sometimes the truth is the funniest. Not.

Seems to me that no matter what, the heart of the matter is the predictability of the masses, not the unpredictability of a specific sample. ie (Doom and Gloomers)



-- Thomas G. Hale (, April 20, 1999.

In the past, when certain religious sects had a specific date & time for an event, and it did not happen, they lost members.

The hard-core fanatics stayed on, but many or most of the membership drifted away.

The cool thing about Y2K, is that it'll be here soon, and if nothing happens, many of us have been posting anonymously and you don't know who we are! We can drift away, and convince our friends that we weren't really that serious after all.



-- Jollyprez (, April 20, 1999.


In the wake of some government (Koskinen, et. al.), corporate, newsmedia and individual Y2K Okay proselytizing, contrary to scads of scattered evidence and the standard mantra no one knows, its best to open your mind and keep a sharp breeze blowing through.


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 20, 1999.

Faith is the assured expectation of things not seen.
Hopefully we base our faith on factual evidence.
Many times (myself included) we get wrapped up in the dogma
of our belief structure. This is evident in some of our post's
here. Why it is so hard for us to "live and let live" is a mystery
to me. Perhaps, it is man's/woman's built in desire to believe in

I agree with the book quoted above. We seem to have this need to
Reaffirm our personal belief structure by associating with those of
A like mind. We fervently defend our positions and lash out at non- believers.

This attitude has been groomed by the "power's to be" including government and
Organized religion (no condemnation intended). We have a good example
Right now in Yugoslavia. Christians are bombing Christians. Christians are
Killing and dislocating Muslims. Everyone feels justified because they have a
Sufficiently established following of believers in their cause.

I enjoyed the quote from Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan "The conveniences and comforts of humanity in general will be linked up by one mechanism, which will produce comforts and conveniences beyond human imagination. But the smallest mistake will bring the whole mechanism to a certain collapse. In this way the end of the world will be brought about."

So I went to the SUFI website.
I wish I could always emulate this ideal

[snip] The Sufi shows his universal brotherhood in his adaptability. Among Christians he is a Christian, among Jews he is a Jew, among Muslims he is a Muslim, among Hindus he is a Hindu; for he is one with all, and thus all are with him. He allows everyone to join in his brotherhood, and in the same way he allows himself to join in any other. He never questions, "What is your creed or nation or religion?" Neither does he ask, "What are your teachings or principles?"

Life would be so much more peaceful.

-- WebRNot (, April 20, 1999.

"...Among Christians he is a Christian, among Jews he is a Jew, among Muslims he is a Muslim, among Hindus he is a Hindu..."

...sounds like Clinton. Since we're on the topic, what's your definition of "hypocrisy"?

-- I know it when (, April 20, 1999.

hypocrisy ??? included in my definition would be those who post rhetorical, non-responsive, condemnatory, argumentative, intellectualized (but not intellectual) answers with alias names and e-mail addresses.

To me, the quote means that we could all display a little more acceptance of others and less condemnation.

-- WebRNot (, April 20, 1999.

"To me, the quote means that we could all display a little more acceptance of others and less condemnation. "

Your incredibly hostile non-response was quite a good lesson about Sufism. Quick to reject & condemn... Got it. Thanks.

-- I know etc. (thanks@so.much), April 20, 1999.


I've obviously got a long way to go !!!

-- WebRNot (, April 20, 1999.

And Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." And there is that famous saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

I studied theology obsessively for over a decade. I've studied in every church you can imagine, from variations on Catholicism and protestant Christianity; to sects such as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness, etc; to Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism; to Judaism and a little Islam; to Qabala and Christian Mysticism; to pagan religions and the Occult. And a lot of very weird things in between.

And in the end, it boils down to what Aldous Huxley once called "The Perennial Philosophy." When you get past all the doctrine that other people try to stuff down your throat, when you get over what you wear and whether you sit or stand or whether women can pray with men or whose name you have to include in the prayers --

You are still talking to God. It is still a relationship between you and God. After all that searching, to my relief yet chagrin I discovered that God, unlike man, does not have an identity crisis. He knows who you're talking to.

I can do what I call "using the structure" of any religion. I used to function informally as a counselor to a lot of people. I would find out their religion, and I would counsel them within that framework. It's a big, mysterious and wonderful world. God is smarter than me and has probably been involved in lots of stuff I know nothing about. Who am I to decree that John Doe has to think or pray like I do? You go talk to enough John Does from religions all over the planet and you will find that God touches everybody. Religion is a human invention: religion is how humans deal with it, how they congregate. But God is not found in the pews or the windows. He is everywhere, innate to all living things. You pray hard enough, for enough years, and God will show you this.

I am always drawn back to the simplicity of my childhood, when I was too stupid to know better. I went to church briefly when I was 5, got a whole lot of indoctrination, and then didn't go again till I was about 12. When I was little, they told me God forgave sins. When I was 8 I realized that there was no sin I could do that God hadn't seen before, and if he were so smart he'd surely be pretty patient. So I got over guilt. And when I was 5 they told me God could hear my every thought. So I figured if he was in my head, I would just talk to him. So I did. I told him jokes and my problems and asked what he thought about things. Never got words in response (except once) but usually if I just "accepted" he'd answer somehow, it'd work itself into my life.

When I got older (12) and started going to church, I thought it was really weird. All these people mostly acted like jerks 6 days a week, then they'd come to church on Sundays and sing about love. They were more concerned with what the teenage girls wore than talking to God. I was once denied access to the sanctuary, one Wednesday night, because I was wearing jeans. I thought, God is with me 24 hours a day, even when I'm naked, even when I'm dirty, but they won't let me talk to him unless I'm wearing a dress? Bosh, that's not the God I know. Church got stranger as I got older. People would gather to pray in a way that reminded me of, "Dear God. You're great. Can I have this? Thanks. I'm done with you now. Amen." That was it, prayer was something they did like a little ritual, and always seemed to revolve around ASKING for something. I figured, even as a kid, if I was God, I'd get pretty tired of people only wanting to be my friend so I could give them something. It was years before someone showed me the biblical quote about "praying unceasingly" and I realized that's what I'd been doing since I was a kid. Prayer, like all forms of love, isn't limited to a formula. I tell God my hopes and dreams while I'm driving my truck home from work. I didn't have to get on my knees or wear appropriate attire or call them anything at all. He's cool. I call him The Boss.

Well that's my rant on religion, anyway.

Tom, as always, you are the master of obscure but fascinating reference.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 20, 1999.

PJ -- that was a beautiful essay. thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts.

-- Mary (, April 20, 1999.

Once in a while we get lucky and a thread develops that demonstrates that not everyone is locked into Certainty.... that there are still people willing to think.... that we still have the potential to build something better than we've yet seen.... no matter what happens next year.

In his WRP 116, Cory quoted an essay by a college student named Matt. He also gives a link to other essays by Matt, Foraging thru there, I came across the Festinger quotations. I figured this ought to start some juices flowing here --- wasn't far wrong, either.

-- Tom Carey (, April 21, 1999.


I'm fascinated.

In a BB that tends toward the macabe you bring a glimmer of hope.

If only more people had such an understanding of the "Universal".


-- Thomas G. Hale (, April 21, 1999.

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