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When Prophecy Fails Paperback – February 25, 2011
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And the writing style is lucidly accessible and the detailed characterizations of the people involved and action unfolding are compelling enough for even the casual reader. I've always been a fan of Leon Festinger's work, but no matter one's personal givings about dissonance theory, it is tough not to appreciate the laborious efforts of this tireless and dedicated research team in producing this study. I admire those who are able to foresee real-world applications of their ideas in advance so as to be able to properly test them as the real-world events unfold. Festinger et al. were brilliant in this regard. A must-read for anyone interested in solid research methodologies and applied learning.
This is an interesting theory, and the book opens by providing a series of brief historical examples of cults and religious movements which appear to have followed just such a trend. But as the authors quickly point out, the data available from the historical record lacks the necessary depth to allow for any rigorous scientific conclusions to be drawn. And with that, we move on to the bulk of the text: a direct study of a small group of individuals, at one time convinced that the world was imminently doomed... except for those who would be saved by spacemen riding flying saucers.
The authors initially discovered the group in question through a newspaper article. After some quick research determined that the believers met the necessary criteria to test the authors' behavioral hypothesis, they commenced direct and organized observation of the group's activities. And thus, the majority of the 250 pages of the text is dedicated to recounting their entire experience following this little doomsday cult for a period of about two months.
The book does eventually make a decent case in support of the original theory, however I found getting there a bit of a chore.Read more ›
"Cognitive dissonance" is a useful lens to view movements and even examine the stresses in one's own life when one finds oneself holding two contradictory "cognitions."
It is hard to understand how intelligent people could act like the subjects in When Prophecy Fails. Ultimately, the book is a tragedy about people's need to believe.
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This book is so relevant today - the determination of the massive Global Warming cult exposed and explained
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Read the first printing...marvelous book! Was involved with social research at the time..so especially enjoyed
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