Dazu fiel mir etwas aus Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, von Carol Tavris und Elliot Aronson ein:
The Engine of Self-justification
ITS FASCINATING, AND SOMETIMES funny, to read dooms-day predictions, but it’s even more fascinating to watch what happens to the reasoning of true believers when the prediction flops and the world keeps muddling along. Notice that anyone ever says, „I blew it! I can’t believe how stupid I was to believe that nonsens“? On the contrary, most of the time they become even more deeply convinced of their powers of prediction. The people who believe that the Bible’s book of Revelation or the writings of the sixteenth-century self-proclaimed prophet Nostradamus have predicted every disaster from the bubonic plague to 9/11 cling to their convictions, unfazed by the small problem that their vague and murky predictions were intelligible only after the event occurred.
Half a century ago, a young social psychologist named Leon Festinger and two associates infiltrated a group of people who believed the world would end on December 21. They wanted to know what would happen to the group when (they hoped!) the prophecy failed. The group’s leader, whom the researchers called Marian Keech, promised that the faithful would be picked up by a flying saucer and elevated to safety at midnight on December 20. Many of her followers quit their jobs, gave away their homes, and dispersed their savings, waiting for the end. Who needs money in outer space? Others waited in fear of resignation in their homes. (Mrs. Keech’s own husband, a nonbeliever, went to bed early and slept soundly through the night as his wife and her followers prayed in the living room.) Festinger made his own prediction: The believers who had not made a strong commitment to the prophecy – who awaited the end of the world by themselves at home, hoping they weren’t going to die at midnight – would quietly lose their faith in Mrs. Keech. But those who had given away their possessions and were waiting with others for the spaceship would increase their belief in her mystical abilities. In fact, they would now do everything they could to get others to join them.
At midnight, with no sign of a spaceship in the yard, the group felt a little nervous. By 2 A.M., they were getting seriously worried. At 4:45 A.M., Mrs. Keech had a new vision: The world had been spared, she said, because of the impressive faith of her little band. „And mighty is the word of God,“ she told her followers, „and by his word have ye been saved – for from the mouth of death have ye been delivered and at no time has there been such a force loosed upon the Earth. Not since the beginning of time upon this Earth has there been such a force of Good and light as now floods this room.“
The groups mood shifted from despair to exhilaration. Many of the group’s members, who had not felt the need to proselytize before December 21, began calling the press to report the miracle, and soon they were out on the streets, buttonholing passerby, trying to convert them. Mrs. Keech’s prediction had failed, but not Leon Festinger’s.
When Mrs. Keech’s doomsday predictions failed, for example, imagine the excruciating dissonance her committed fllowers felt: „I am a smart person“ clashed with „I just did an incredibly stupid thing: I gave away my house and possessions and quit my job because I believed a crazy woman.“ To reduce that dissonance, her followers could either have modified their opinion of their intelligence or justified the „incredibly stupid“ thing they did. It’s not a close contest; it’s justification by three lengths. Mrs. Keech’s true believers saved their self-esteem by deciding they hadn’t done anything stupid; in fact, they had been really smart to join this group because their faith saved the world from destruction. In fact, if everyone else were smart, they would join, too. Where’s that busy street corner?
None of us is off the hook on this one. We might feel amused at them, those foolish people wo believe fervently in doomsday predictions; but, as political scientist Philip Tetlock shows in his book Expert Political Judgement: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?, even professional „experts“ who are in the business of economics and political forecasting are usually no more accurate than us untrained folks – other than Mrs. Keech, for that matter.
Siehe auch: Was darf es heute sein?