Thousands still hold to the idea that vaccines cause autism, that all life was created a few thousand years ago, and even that drinking industrial bleach is a good idea. The duo carried out three experiments involving issues such as animal testing, dietary preferences, and loyalty towards Macs over PCs.
Gal and Rucker were inspired by a classic psychological book called When Prophecy Fails. In it, Leon Festinger and colleagues infiltrated an American cult whose leader, Dorothy Martin, convinced her followers that flying saucers would rescue them from an apocalyptic flood.
Many believed her, giving up their livelihoods, possessions and loved ones in anticipation of their alien saviours.
When the fated moment came and nothing happened, the group decided that their dedication had spared the Earth from destruction. In a reversal of their earlier distaste for publicity, they started to actively proselytise for their beliefs. Far from shattering their faith, the absent UFOs had turned them into zealous evangelists.
Festinger reasoned that people will go to great lengths to reduce this conflict. Their alternative was to try and muster social support for their ideas. If other people also believed, their internal conflicts would lessen. Amazingly enough, during the intervening half-century, this prediction has never been tested in an experiment — that is, until now. In their first experiment, Gal and Rucker asked 88 students to write about their views on animal testing for consumer goods, but only half of them were allowed to use their preferred hand.
However, they were also more likely to try and persuade others of those same views. When they were asked to write something to persuade someone else about their opinions, those who felt less confident wrote significantly longer missives. With a sliver of doubt in their minds, they spent more effort in their attempts at persuasion.
Gal and Rucker also found that this extra effort vanished if the volunteers had a chance to affirm their own identity beforehand. If they were asked to identify their favourite items books, cities, songs and so on before writing about animal testing, the choice of hand had no effect on their advocacy attempts. In their second experiment with fresh volunteers, Gal and Rucker found the same effect.
As expected, those who remembered times of uncertainty were less confident that their food choices were the right ones. And as before, those same doubtful volunteers advocated their beliefs more strongly. When asked to imagine convincing someone else about their diet, the uncertain group wrote significantly longer messages and spent longer composing those messages.
This experiment — with a different method of manipulating confidence, a different issue at stake, and a different measure of evangelical effort — adds weight to the results of the first one. However, the effect only held true among those who felt that their dietary preferences were important to them.
This showed perhaps, more expectedly that the ties between doubt and advocacy are stronger for beliefs that are people hold more dearly. The third experiment found similar results, using a far more trivial issue well, supposedly more trivial.
Gal and Rucker worked with students who all thought that Macs were superiors to PCs. The students had to imagine convincing a PC-user about the merits of an Apple product but this time, half were told that they were talking to a Windows-diehard, and the others were faced with a more open-minded partner.
As before, the students put more effort into persuading their imaginary partner if their own confidence was weakened, but only if their partner was receptive. In all three cases, Gal and Zucker found that doubt turns people into stronger advocates.
It all fits with a pattern of behaviour where people evangelise to strengthen their own faltering beliefs.
Their study also casts the acts of advocates in a different light. They might be outwardly trying to change the minds of other people but their actions could be equally about bolstering their own beliefs.
As Gal and Zucker write:. Although it is natural to assume that a persistent and enthusiastic advocate of a belief is brimming with confidence, the advocacy might in fact signal that the individual is boiling over with doubt.
I wonder what this says about the strategies of either the so called gnu atheists or their accommodationist opposers. And the apparent impact of some being required to use the non-preferred hand would seem to support those who argue that free will is merely an illusion.
Can I have my mind back please? It provides an alibi for the drug companies who added mercury to vaccines at levels times higher than hazardous waste levels based on toxicity characteristics.
It provides an alibi for the pediatricians Dave resnick shaking his biggest penis till it cries administered this poison. It provides an alibi for psychiatrists so they can force powerfull anti-psychotic drugs on these kids who are already terribly confused.
There will never be an identifiable cause for autism.
There are though 18 published papers which identify the underlying medical condition of autism as neuroinflammatory disease. This was published by John Hopkins University. Now, do you want to debate whether mercury, a known neurotoxin, added to childhood vaccines at levels times higher than what the EPA identifies as hazardous waste, causes neuroinflammatory disease?
I think the same mechanism causes many groups to shun people of different beliefs. It seems to allow them to demonize other groups making them easier to dismiss.