Click here to go to the Introductory Overview of that movement. When Prophecy Fails From the time that Jesus Christ returned to heaven after His resurrection, there have been people yearning so badly for his return to earth that they have poured over the prophecies of the Bible to try to "discern the times" in which they lived. And in many of those generations, Bible students have been convinced that they have been able to determine, through the prophetic hints in the Bible, that Jesus was, indeed, coming soon, in the lifetime of most living in their own generation. Not content with just the general hope, many have also worked out elaborate mathematical schemes whereby they could pinpoint not just the generation, but the decade, the year, the month, perhaps even the day that their "blessed hope" would be fulfilled.
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One of the first published cases of dissonance was reported in the book, When Prophecy Fails Festinger et al. Festinger and his associates read an interesting item in their local newspaper headlined "Prophecy from planet clarion call to city: flee that flood. Marion Keech, had mysteriously been given messages in her house in the form of "automatic writing" from alien beings on the planet Clarion, who revealed that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December The group of believers, headed by Mrs.
Keech, had taken strong behavioral steps to indicate their degree of commitment to the belief. They had left jobs, college, and spouses, and had given away money and possessions to prepare for their departure on the flying saucer, which was to rescue the group of true believers. Premise of study Edit Festinger and his colleagues saw this as a case that would lead to the arousal of dissonance when the prophecy failed.
Altering the belief would be difficult, as Mrs. Keech and her group were committed at considerable expense to maintain it.
Another option would be to enlist social support for their belief. As Festinger wrote, "If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must after all be correct.
Keech could add consonant elements by converting others to the basic premise, then the magnitude of her dissonance following disconfirmation would be reduced. Festinger et al. Sequence of events Edit Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated Mrs. The group shuns publicity. Interviews are given only grudgingly. Access to Mrs. The group evolves a belief system—provided by the automatic writing from the planet Clarion—to explain the details of the cataclysm, the reason for its occurrence, and the manner in which the group would be saved from the disaster.
December The group expects a visitor from outer space to call upon them at midnight and to escort them to a waiting spacecraft. As instructed, the group goes to great lengths to remove all metallic items from their persons. As midnight approaches, zippers, bra straps, and other objects are discarded. The group waits. No visitor. Someone in the group notices that another clock in the room shows The group agrees that it is not yet midnight. The second clock strikes midnight.
Still no visitor. The group sits in stunned silence. The cataclysm itself is no more than seven hours away. The group has been sitting in stunned silence.
A few attempts at finding explanations have failed. Keech begins to cry. Another message by automatic writing is sent to Mrs. It states, in effect, that the God of Earth has decided to spare the planet from destruction. The cataclysm has been called off: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction.
Newspapers are called; interviews are sought. In a reversal of its previous distaste for publicity, the group begins an urgent campaign to spread its message to as broad an audience as possible. Festinger stated that five conditions must be met, if someone is to become more fervent in a belief even after its disconfirmation: A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.
The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief. The first two of these conditions specify the circumstances that will make the belief resistant to change. The third and fourth conditions together, on the other hand, point to factors that would exert powerful pressure on a believer to discard his belief.
It is, of course, possible that an individual, even though deeply convinced of a belief, may discard it in the face of unequivocal disconfirmation.
We must therefore, state a fifth condition specifying the circumstances under which the belief will be discarded and those under which it will be maintained with new fervor. The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.
His father, an embroidery manufacturer, had "left Russia a radical and atheist and remained faithful to these views throughout his life. It was at MIT that Festinger, in his own words, "became, by fiat, a social psychologist, and immersed myself in the field with all its difficulties, vaguenesses, and challenges. As Festinger himself recalls, "the years at M. Although the proximity effect or propinquity was an important direct finding from the study, Festinger and his collaborators also noticed correlations between the degree of friendship within a group of residents and the similarity of opinions within the group,  thus raising unexpected questions regarding communication within social groups and the development of group standards of attitudes and behaviors. He then moved to the University of Minnesota in , and then on to Stanford University in
Cognitive Dissonance Theory Discussion After , Cognitive Dissonance quickly became the new buzzword in social psychology. Dissonance research dominated most psychology departments for nearly twenty years after Festinger published his work. Today, it is still being studied and applied to real life situations in order to offer a cognitive explanation to complex behavior. The main benefit of Cognitive Dissonance Theory was its practicability. Psychologists conducted hundreds of experiments on thought processes and applied the findings to social situations. The kinds of hypotheses that no one would have dreamed of a few years earlier.
When Prophecy Fails
Riecken , and Stanley Schachter. The book gave an inside account of a doomsday cult led by Dorothy Martin given the alias "Marion Keech" to preserve her privacy , of Chicago. Martin claimed to have received messages from aliens forecasting a flood that would end the world on December 21, Festinger and his researchers took the chance to pretend to be a part of the cult in order to observe its behaviors and reaction when the flood failed to occur. Instead the group members would look for ways to justify their actions and maintain confidence in the cult. Those who stayed did not have weakened resolve.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Feb 01, Mike rated it really liked it Recommended to Mike by: Mark Shelves: failed-visionary-cults , thes This is an account of a small and relatively benign mid-century millenarian cult in Chicago. They believed that the world would end in a great flood on December 21st, , and that they would be rescued by a spaceship- but what happens after the leaders prophecy fails to come true? It turns out that while disconfirmation of the prophecy causes some members of the group to abandon their convictions, the convictions of others are strengthened- as is their desire to proselytize. One of the authors This is an account of a small and relatively benign mid-century millenarian cult in Chicago.