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Psychology of Belief Part 2: Insufficient Justification Effect





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Published on Apr 4, 2012

In the previous video, we learned how peer pressure leads to public conformity. Now we shall see how public conformity can be turned into genuine belief, even when the belief is embarrassingly false.

Psychology of Belief Playlist:

The phenomenon described in this video (the insufficient justification effect) easily explains why "testimonies" and miraculous reports from believers tend to grow more and more impressive over time. It can also explain why people later in life are much less likely to free themselves from religion than young people.

For example, if someone realizes they have wasted a large portion of their life on religious rituals that have no evident "payoff", there are only two ways to resolve the mental discomfort (dissonance) that results. They can either (1) Give up the behavior and admit that they have been wasting their time and energy on something with no apparent justification, or (2) They can alter their perceptions and convince themselves that they actually BELIEVE the things they have been professing. Both options remove the cognitive dissonance, but the second method does so without the emotional trauma of being forced to admit a mistake.

This is what the test subjects in this experiment who got only $1 for lying did. Rather than admit to themselves that they agreed to lie without a sufficient justification (which reflects poorly on their character), they ended up convincing themselves they weren't really lying after all! This shows that humans are capable of dramatic self-deception to ease cognitive discomfort. It also may explain why personal "testimony" is so important to religion. Given that most believers have little to no rational justification for their beliefs, the act of telling stories to try and persuade others is very likely to increase the confidence that the storytellers themselves have in those beliefs, even to the point where memories are altered (or even created) to support them.

Cognitive Dissonance:

Paper cited:
Festinger L., and Carlsmith, J. M., "Cognitive consequences of forced compliance," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol 58, pp 203 - 210 (1959)

Music: Gravel Walk by The Orthodox Celts

Psychology of Belief Playlist:

This video series was created and reuploaded with permission of AntiCitizenX. Check out his channel for more great videos!

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. In no way do I benefit either financially or otherwise from this video.


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