The psychological advantage of unfalsifiability: the appeal of untestable religious and political ideologies.

  title={The psychological advantage of unfalsifiability: the appeal of untestable religious and political ideologies.},
  author={Justin P Friesen and Troy H. Campbell and Aaron C. Kay},
  journal={Journal of personality and social psychology},
  volume={108 3},
We propose that people may gain certain "offensive" and "defensive" advantages for their cherished belief systems (e.g., religious and political views) by including aspects of unfalsifiability in those belief systems, such that some aspects of the beliefs cannot be tested empirically and conclusively refuted. This may seem peculiar, irrational, or at least undesirable to many people because it is assumed that the primary purpose of a belief is to know objective truth. However, past research… 

Figures from this paper

Perceived Knowledge and Defense of Political Attitudes
PERCEIVED KNOWLEDGE AND DEFENSE OF POLITICAL ATTITUDES by MATTHEW H. GOLDBERG Advisors: Cheryl Carmichael & Curtis Hardin Three experiments tested if perceived knowledge about a political issue
Religious Believers Do Not Distinguish Good from Poor Reasons for God’s Existence
ABSTRACT Can people discriminate good from bad reasons for their beliefs about God? Research shows that religious believers favor intuitive processing, suggesting they may be less discriminating than
Compensatory control and the appeal of a structured world.
It is suggested that people will respond to reduced control by affirming structured interpretations that are unrelated to the control-reducing condition, and even those that entail otherwise adverse outcomes (e.g., pessimistic health prospects).
Motivation for aggressive religious radicalization: goal regulation theory and a personality × threat × affordance hypothesis
It is proposed that ARR is rewarding because it can spur approach motivated states that mask vulnerability for people whose dispositions and circumstances would otherwise leave them mired in anxious distress.
The epistemic condition for moral responsibility : an examination of the searchlight view, George Sher's alternative, and a pragmatic view
Kangassalo, Mikko : The Epistemic Condition for Moral Responsibility – An Examination of the Searchlight View, George Sher’s Alternative, and a Pragmatic View Master’s thesis Tampere University
Does think mean the same thing as believe? Linguistic insights into religious cognition.
When someone says she believes that God exists, is she expressing the same kind of mental state as when she says she thinks that a lake bigger than Lake Michigan exists⎯i.e., does she refer to the
Science demands explanation, religion tolerates mystery
Varieties of Ignorance: Mystery and the Unknown in Science and Religion
Abstract How and why does the moon cause the tides? How and why does God answer prayers? For many, the answer to the former question is unknown; the answer to the latter question is a mystery. Across


Compensatory Control
We propose that people protect the belief in a controlled, nonrandom world by imbuing their social, physical, and metaphysical environments with order and structure when their sense of personal
Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence
People who hold strong opinions on complex social issues are likely to examine relevant empirical evidence in a biased manner. They are apt to accept "confirming" evidence at face value while
On the malleability of ideology: motivated construals of color blindness.
The authors propose that the content of certain sociopolitical ideologies can be shaped by individuals in ways that satisfy their social motivations and examine implications of the present perspective for understanding the manner in which individuals compete over the meaning of crucial ideologies.
On the perpetuation of ignorance: system dependence, system justification, and the motivated avoidance of sociopolitical information.
The authors suggest that ignorance-as a function of the system justifying tendencies it may activate-may, ironically, breed more ignorance in the contexts of energy, environmental, and economic issues.
The role of stereotyping in system‐justification and the production of false consciousness
Although the concept of justification has played a significant role in many social psychological theories, its presence in recent examinations of stereotyping has been minimal. We describe and
Negative illusions: conceptual clarification and psychological evidence concerning false consciousness
The concept of false consciousness is reviewed from a historical perspective and discussed in light of recent theoretical advances in socialist and feminist political philosophy. False consciousness
A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo
Most theories in social and political psychology stress self-interest, intergroup conflict, ethnocentrism, homophily, ingroup bias, outgroup antipathy, dominance, and resistance. System justification
Political Extremism Is Supported by an Illusion of Understanding
The evidence suggests that people’s mistaken sense that they understand the causal processes underlying policies contributes to political polarization.
Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to see the way things are as the way they should be.
It was demonstrated that this motivated phenomenon increased derogation of those who act counter to the status quo and theoretical implications for system justification theory, stereotype formation, affirmative action, and the maintenance of inequality are discussed.
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in today's world. Harris offers a vivid historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in