Dec 052020

Leon Festinger was a big deal social psychologist. He changed a the world some. Most people have some awareness of Cognitive Dissonance theory. Festinger did that.

Wikipedia saith:

Social comparison theory and cognitive dissonance have been described by other psychologists as “the two most fruitful theories in social psychology.”[62] Cognitive dissonance has been variously described as “social psychology’s most notable achievement,”[63] “the most important development in social psychology to date,”[64] and a theory without which “social psychology would not be what it is today.”[65] Cognitive dissonance spawned decades of related research, from studies focused on further theoretical refinement and development[66] to domains as varied as decision making, the socialization of children, and color preference.[67]

… In addition, Festinger is credited with the ascendancy of laboratory experimentation in social psychology as one who “converted the experiment into a powerful scientific instrument with a central role in the search for knowledge.”

He is also famous in his world for writing “When Prophecy Fails” (Amazon, Abe Books) way back in 1956.

Wikipedia Saith:

Festinger and his associates read a story in their local newspaper headlined “Prophecy from Planet Clarion Call to City: Flee That Flood.” The prophecy came from Dorothy Martin …

… Martin claimed to be receiving messages from superior beings from a planet she referred to as Clarion, and these messages included a prophecy that Lake City would be destroyed by a flood before dawn on December 21st

… [A] group of believers, headed by Martin, had taken strong actions to indicate their degree of commitment to the belief. They had left their jobs, college, and spouses, and had given away money and possessions to prepare for their departure on a flying saucer which was to rescue the group of true believers…

… Festinger and his colleagues contacted Martin and infiltrated her group.

The book describes someone who can be easily understood as a lunatic; and also describes the much less understandable people who became and remained her devotees even after increasingly irrational behavior by the leader. Real people, real events. Followers who hung in way past when you would think people would give it up, and believed whatever crazy shit the leader confabulated. So, this is how followers of absurd sets of beliefs process what is going on.

 Posted by at 1:29 am

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