Why people believe stories

Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 12:00 am
What are the primary factors that determine to what degree any given story is accepted as true, or doubted, or seen as false propaganda?

Is the number of times a story is repeated a primary factor?

To what degree, if any, are facts and credentials factors?
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Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:06 am
The primary strength of a story is credibility, and that often relates to common sense. Common sense is often wrong--for example, hot water freezes faster than cold water, no matter what your "common sense" tells you. But people who thrive on stories and lies know that plausibility and an appeal to common sense are their best allies in getting others to "buy" their stories.

Repetition can only be a factor if the story has initially been accepted by at the least several people--otherwise, of course, it won't get repeated. Although appeals to authority are often successful, it might be useful to you to know that it can also be a logical fallacy.

The argumentum ad numerum is a fallacy in which someone tells you something must be true because a large number of people believe it. That is not a reason to believe something however--as Anatole France put it: "Because fifty million people believe a wrong thing--it is still a wrong thing."

The argumentum ad populum fallacy is often used to describe what is simply the argumentum ad numerum fallacy. But, in fact, strictly speaking, argumentum ad populum (which means, in Latin, appeal to the people) usually relies upon a claim that most people believe something, and often has the implication that "smart" people, or "people in the know" believe something, so it must be true. Once again, that is not a reason to believe something. This is also known as "the bandwagon" effect, in which people seek to show that they are "smart" too, because they subscribe to a popular idea. There is a line in Tolkien's second volume of the Ring series in which he describes people who hear something false, but are persuaded by the skill of the speaker that it is wisdom, and who wish to appear wise themselves by their swift agreement. That is what is happening with the bandwagon effect.

Finally, there is a simple appeal to authority. This is a case of someone stating that something must be true because this really smart guy said so. That is not a reason to believe something. If someone who has special knowledge states that something is true, and makes a plausible explanation, then it might be worth believing. But simply because someone claims to be an expert and says something is no good reason to believe it. That is known as ipse dixit (Latin, "he has said it") and sometimes as "speaking ex cathedra." Ex cathedra has a specific, theological meaning, but basically, when not used in that context, it is used to mean someone who says that something is so, and you must believe it because i speak from the "seat" of authority. (Ex cathedra in Latin means "from the chair," and the word cathedral to mean a large church comes from the fact that a cathedral is the "seat" of a Bishop or Archbishop.)

Repetition means a lot, but only if the story is plausible to begin with, and especially if it seems to appeal to common sense ("Come on, you know it's true, it just makes sense!"). Appeals to authority are very persuasive, too, but are often the part of one or another logical fallacy.

Ordinarily, i don't like to do people's homework for them. However, logic and rhetorical skills are so rarely taught in our schools that i thought this to be an exceptional case.
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Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:30 am
Obama wants to kill your children

pass it along
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Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:09 am
Everything on the internets is true.
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:15 am
Well . . . except for what Rex Red posts.
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ebrown p
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 08:26 am
Einstein wrote:
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

People are irrational beings.

We choose what to believe based first on what people around us want us to believe and second on what is convenient to our life style.

If you want people to believe your story, first make sure it has a good narrative based on the prejudices of the people you are targeting your story to. The point about repetition is absolutely correct. Strong emotions are also great-- stories about killing grandparents are far more likely to be accepted as "true" then stories about the size of carrots.

There are myriad examples, from nukes in Iraq to the death of Mikey. People's beliefs generally have nothing to do with facts or reason. It is really all about how the story confirms their prejudices.

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Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 08:08 pm
Get ready folks...have you ever dreamed of walking on the moon....I know I have. Well now is your chance.

Perhaps you remember from high school science, that our moon has what is called an eccentric elliptical orbit, { I didn't remember either, I had to look it up myself...lol} this means that the moons orbit varies a great deal when compared to the average orbit of the other bodies located in our solar system. The moons orbit runs on a 6,000 year cycle, with its maximum perigee falling early this winter, marking 2010 as the year when it completes its full cycle.

What makes this years approach extra special, is due to a combination of the suns position, as well as a partial alignment of the planets, producing a severe gravitational, or a super-tidal effect on the moon. On Jan 9th the moon will make it's closest approach ever, even greater than the last full cycle which was described by Archimedes as "being close enough to touch with a pole of great length, from atop the great pyramid of Egypt"....scholars often thought this was just an exaggeration, but recent discoveries have proved this to be a somewhat accurate description.

The moon will pass so close to the Earth that they are preparing the Sears Tower in Chicago for a near miss. Not to let a gem of an opportunity pass....after the large antenna is removed, spectators will be allowed on the roof to literally reach out and touch the moons surface...bring your own glove. Those of us that are brave enough may attempt {after paying a small fee} to transfer themselves right to the surface, via trampoline, cannon, or simply using a step ladder. McDonalds Corp, has said in a press release that they will be there, with a full menu, and diner will be served during the ride to NY City, where passengers will be required to jump off onto the Empire State building.

Officials were hoping for a second trip, a Trans-Atlantic, NY to Paris crossing, but the deal has fallen thru.
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