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Psychological reason behind 9/11 truth denial, false beliefs

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Psychological reason behind 9/11 truth denial, false beliefs

Postby Scepcop » 29 Aug 2009, 09:43

Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs

( -- In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry,
sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004
presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein
was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda,
but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.
The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of
health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.
The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated
beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was
maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.
Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo,
says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which
suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular
belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.
"The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information,"
he explains.
While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush
administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case
was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of
"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.
"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality,
irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been
supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when
you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."
The survey and interview-based study was conducted by Hoffman, Monica Prasad, Ph.D., assistant
professor of sociology at Northwestern University; Northwestern graduate students Kieren Bezila and Kate
Kindleberger; Andrew Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill; and UNC graduate students Kim Manturuk, Andrew R. Payton and Ashleigh Smith Powers (now an
assistant professor of political science and psychology at Millsaps College).
The study addresses what it refers to as a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice that results
when citizens with incorrect information cannot form appropriate preferences or evaluate the preferences of
One of the most curious "false beliefs" of the 2004 presidential election, they say, was a strong and resilient
"Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs." 21 Aug 2009.
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belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Hoffman says that over the course of the 2004 presidential campaign, several polls showed that majorities
of respondents believed that Saddam Hussein was either partly or largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, a
percentage that declined very slowly, dipping below 50 percent only in late 2003.
"This misperception that Hussein was responsible for the Twin Tower terrorist attacks was very persistent,
despite all the evidence suggesting that no link existed," Hoffman says.
The study team employed a technique called "challenge interviews" on a sample of voters who reported
believing in a link between Saddam and 9/11. The researchers presented the available evidence of the link,
along with the evidence that there was no link, and then pushed respondents to justify their opinion on the
matter. For all but one respondent, the overwhelming evidence that there was no link left no impact on their
arguments in support of the link.
One unexpected pattern that emerged from the different justifications that subjects offered for continuing to
believe in the validity of the link was that it helped citizens make sense of the Bush Administration's
decision to go to war against Iraq.
"We refer to this as 'inferred justification,'" says Hoffman "because for these voters, the sheer fact that we
were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.
"People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war," he says.
"One of the things that is really interesting about this, from both the perspective of voting patterns but also
for democratic theory more generally, Hoffman says, "is that we did not find that people were being duped
by a campaign of innuendo so much as they were actively constructing links and justifications that did not
"They wanted to believe in the link," he says, "because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So
voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is
good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity."
Source: University at Buffalo (news : web)
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, no part
may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
"Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs." 21 Aug 2009.
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: Psychological reason behind 9/11 truth denial, false beliefs

Postby Nostradamus » 29 Aug 2009, 12:48

Excellent post. I will look for other info along these lines.

An interesting situation I encountered years ago was traveling through Marfa, Texas and realizing I was passing through a place where mysterious lights have been seen. When I stopped off at one of the preferred viewing areas I met a number of people pointing out the mystery lights. They looked like cars to me so I got out some good quality binoculars and saw that in fact the lights being pointed out were in fact not mysterious. I think it is reasonable to consider that there are unexplained lights near Marfa. Unfortunately, the other observers were so wedded to the notion that mystery lights are everywhere that every light became a mystery. I even offered my binoculars for others to use and no one accepted my offer. I spent a few hours looking for the lights that night, but saw none. It would have been a better search effort if more eyes had been looking for unusual lights that night. The more that people look the better the chance of finding something. Too bad that night everyone else seemed to be awed by the normal traffic passing by.

Again excellent post.
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