Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Donald Fatigue

Nothing is more fatiguing, nor, in the long run, more exasperating, than the daily effort to believe things which daily become more incredible.

— Bertrand Russell

In a focus group last week, a dozen Pittsburgh voters labeled Donald Trump—whose standing in polls is the worst of any American president's in history—"contemptible," "disastrous," "crazy," and an "abject disappointment."

Admissions like these don't come easy for former supporters—or at all.

Blame it on cognitive dissonance.

Psychologist Leon Festinger was among the first social scientists to explain its irresistible sway, which causes otherwise sane people to hold stupid beliefs long after they're proven stupid.

In a 1954 experiment, Festinger infiltrated a religious cult led by a housewife who prophesied the world's end in an immanent flood.

The woman convinced believers they'd be spared from drowning by saviors from the planet Clarion.

Festinger predicted the woman's believers would stick by her, even when the prophecy proved false. 

Festinger's hypothesis was correct.

As the day of the great flood approached, many believers quit their jobs and gave away their possessions; but no flying saucers arrived to fetch them.

When they asked their leader why, she told them their faith had spared the world.

The believers grew elated—and stepped up their recruiting efforts
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