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ciphergoth comments on Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs - Less Wrong

41 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 December 2007 11:08PM

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Comment author: ciphergoth 20 May 2011 10:19:20PM 4 points [-]

Prophecy Fail: What happens to a doomsday cult when the world doesn't end? Vaughan Bell, Slate.com, May 20, 2011:

When Prophecy Fails has become a landmark in the history of psychology, but few realize that many other studies have looked at the same question: What happens to a small but dedicated group of people who wait in vain for the end of the world? Ironically, Festinger's own prediction—that a failed apocalypse leads to a redoubling of recruitment efforts—turned out to be false: Not one of these follow-ups found evidence to support his claim. The real story turns out to be far more complex.

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In fact, so many studies have been conducted on unfulfilled prophecies from religions large and small that they were compiled into a fascinating book from 2000, Expecting Armageddon. None of the groups described reacted to the unexpected persistence of the world with a zealous drive for new members, and most made just minor adjustments to their beliefs.