Convictions Are Greater Foes Of Truth Than Lies pt. 3

Commitment Consistency Bias.

So why are convictions such strongly held beliefs and why are they unassailable by the truth?

(I do realise this series of vignettes seems to be in an odd order but I’ll piece it all together nicely someday).

Well funnily enough I read something today that may help explain it (how great is coincidence!)

So in Cialdini’s book – Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion. He describes in Chapter 3 – Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind, an experiment by two prominent social psychologist Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard. They selected a sample of college students who were shown sets of lines of undetermined length. Students were divided into three distinct groups: one would write down their estimates on paper before handing their guesses into the experimenter. A second group would write down their results on a etch-a-sketch like device and would erase their estimate before it was seen by anyone else. The last group would just keep their estimate inside their head.

So the first set of students committed themselves to their answers publicly, privately and not at all- respectively.

When new dis-confirming evidence was introduced to suggest that their initial estimates were false the three groups responded differently.

The sample that only held their estimate in their head were most likely to be convinced of their mistake with their original estimate and therefore change their results. The group which had publicly committed to their estimate were unlikely to change change their views, their public commitment had hardened them into the most stubborn of all the groups. Most interestingly for me though, was the sample of people who had committed themselves privately, that is only written down their estimates briefly to themselves, not revealing them to anyone else. This group was also significantly less willing to change their minds when presented with dis-confirming evidence, this slight change had caused them to resist the new, more accurate data and remain identified and consistent with their original decision.

So how this relate to our hypothesis? Well here we see three groups, the most convicted, those a little convicted (committed) to their answer and those who just hold a false belief (lie) in their head. When met with the correct, more accurate answer (the truth) we see how they react.

The most convicted are unswayed by this revelation of the truth, those a little convicted become less likely to change their false beliefs, and lies are easily dispelled by the appearance of the truth.

So it is revealed that convictions are more dangerous foes of the truth than lies.

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