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Here's an experiment in social psychology that I'd like to see performed (or that I'd like to read about if something like it has already been performed):

Post a statement in various groups on Facebook, attributing that statement randomly to either of two well-known advocates, then measure the positive and negative responses to (or defenses of/attacks on) both the statement and the persons it’s attributed to.

For example, the experiment might be to post the following statement and attribute it randomly to either Adolf Hitler or Jesus:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Of course, there would have to be a way to screen out those who recognize that statement as actually being attributed to Jesus (Luke 14:26 in the New Testament). But once that was controlled for, I wonder if people who were told that Hitler said it would automatically see the statement as one of Evil while those who were told that Jesus said it would find a way to see it as Good. My working hypothesis is that those who thought the statement belonged to Hitler would immediately see it as Evil and that those who thought it belonged to Jesus would rationalize it as Good. Why?

I believe that most of us, most of the time, believe what we want to believe and then we find ways to rationalize that. So, since most people believe of Hitler that he was Evil, they will rationalize whatever he said as being Evil. Since most people believe of Jesus that (at least) he was Good, then they will find a way to interpret whatever he said as Good as well. After all, a Good person wouldn’t say Evil things, so if the words a Good person says appear to be Evil, then the words must be being interpreted incorrectly. Correctly interpreted, the Evil words become Good.

I’d say that, given what I see on Facebook, people re-interpret all the time the words others say, in order to make those words match the prior opinion people have of others. Good people can’t possibly mean the Evil things they say, or so some would have us believe……

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What leads up to "I believe that most of us, most of the time, believe what we want to believe and then we find ways to rationalize that"?  I'm asking, what then, is the reason for the initial impulse of belief? Perhaps this also is fraught with an alarming lack of clarity. Which leads me to ask, why continue with any advocacy?.. - See more at: http://arzone.ning.com/forum/topics/a-proposed-experiment-on-the-ap...

"I believe that most of us, most of the time, believe what we want to believe and then we find ways to rationalize that."  ~  Absolutely! 

I don't know of this experiment ever having been performed, officially, before, but a quick glance at most Facebook groups would indicate that it's being played out every day, in so many ways! 


Advocacy has value when it helps creates a space in which like-minded people can work to find practical solutions to real problems of importance to them. That most advocacy is "preaching to the choir" isn't necessarily a bad thing (especially when you realize that very few outside the choir are able to listen anyway). That's because it is true that a relatively few individuals can make change happen. How can advocates create change if most people believe what they want to believe and then rationalize that? Advocates can create change by, first, realizing that "talk is cheap" and to a large degree useless when it comes to creating change and, second, by identifying and working to change those social, political, and economic structures that support the status quo. It is by changing the material conditions of the taken for granted reality that advocates can create change - it is not by trying to get people to change their "hearts and minds".


Richard McMahan said:

What leads up to "I believe that most of us, most of the time, believe what we want to believe and then we find ways to rationalize that"?  I'm asking, what then, is the reason for the initial impulse of belief? Perhaps this also is fraught with an alarming lack of clarity. Which leads me to ask, why continue with any advocacy?.. - See more at: http://arzone.ning.com/forum/topics/a-proposed-experiment-on-the-ap...

I love your discussions Tim. And I often agree with you. I suspect you commonly catch a lot of shit, but I want to disagree with you today, but, admirably so. So I can now comfortably ask..why would any any advocate quote a vilified historical figure?

Advocates are to work amongst the workable confines of our peoples shared mythologies.  Hitlers out, Gandhi's in. And would it not be wonderful at this time, to be cherry picking Ronald Reagan? 

Its not unreasonable, nore unworkable as it goes, to work within such societal constructs. Just remember, at this moment... quote Banksy.

Hi Richard,

I quoted Jesus....


Richard McMahan said:

I love your discussions Tim. And I often agree with you. I suspect you commonly catch a lot of shit, but I want to disagree with you today, but, admirably so. So I can now comfortably ask..why would any any advocate quote a vilified historical figure?

Advocates are to work amongst the workable confines of our peoples shared mythologies.  Hitlers out, Gandhi's in. And would it not be wonderful at this time, to be cherry picking Ronald Reagan? 

Its not unreasonable, nore unworkable as it goes, to work within such societal constructs. Just remember, at this moment... quote Banksy.



Carolyn Bailey said:

"I believe that most of us, most of the time, believe what we want to believe and then we find ways to rationalize that."  ~  Absolutely! 

I don't know of this experiment ever having been performed, officially, before, but a quick glance at most Facebook groups would indicate that it's being played out every day, in so many ways! 

I apologize for the latency in reply Carolyn. I'm aware of  recent thinking that human tendency is to look for reinforcement of a previously held viewpoint. but what could change for advocacy, given this situation?  It is, what it is. 



Tim Gier said:

Hi Richard,

I quoted Jesus....


Richard McMahan said:

Probably the the best choice. But when your numbers hover around 2 to 3%, who knows!

I love your discussions Tim. And I often agree with you. I suspect you commonly catch a lot of shit, but I want to disagree with you today, but, admirably so. So I can now comfortably ask..why would any any advocate quote a vilified historical figure?

Advocates are to work amongst the workable confines of our peoples shared mythologies.  Hitlers out, Gandhi's in. And would it not be wonderful at this time, to be cherry picking Ronald Reagan? 

Its not unreasonable, nore unworkable as it goes, to work within such societal constructs. Just remember, at this moment... quote Banksy.

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