With a little bit of observation it is easy to see the principles in this
book explain far more about the society around us than what one may think from
the original scope of their research. This website is about making those
Most of the first two pages of the book are below. This is sufficient
to explain the thesis and allow you to see the behaviors in others.
Specific examples from modern day life are given in the links/buttons above.
A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you
disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions
your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong
conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his
belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with
which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed
through the most devastating attacks.
But man's resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief.
Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further
that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions
because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence,
unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will
happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but
even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.
Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other
people to his view.
How and why does such a response to contradictory evidence come
about? This is the question on which this book focuses. We hope
that by the end of the volume, we will have provided an adequate answer to the
question, an answer documented by data.
Let us begin by stating the conditions under which we would expect to
observe increased fervor following the disconfirmation of a belief.
There are five such conditions.
- 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. In general, the more important such
actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the
individual's commitment to the belief.
- 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.
These five conditions specify the circumstances under which increased
proselyting would be expected to follow disconfirmation.