William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Extremism In Public And Private: False Perceptions About The Majority View

The comment was made:

"I came across this article, and based on this board, and others I've participated in, this rings so true. In my recent observations as submitted by some posters are we too extreme as well as other websites?

For many people — more than you might think — public and political dialogue seems dominated by extreme views that don't resonate.

A new study suggests a possible reason: People with extreme views seem more willing to share their opinions than others, but only if they believe, even falsely, that their views are popular.

However, the research looked at only a narrow topic range and involved just college students, so more study would be needed to reveal whether the findings apply broadly to other age groups and beliefs.

Still, the findings are intriguing.

The upshot of the research: Students who held extreme views on the use of alcohol on campus were more likely than others to voice their views. The key to their bold approach, scientists found, was that they tended to believe their views actually represented a majority, when that was not in fact the case.

That situation can set up a self-feeding cycle that promotes the voicing of extreme views on one side of an issue and causes moderate and even extremists on the other side to stay relatively quiet


Could it be that I may be opening a can of worms?"

To which I responded:

Intriguing indeed. A similar principle, in my opinion, is that people are more comfortable holding views which they believe are held by others in their social circle. This helps to explain why so many erroneous views in the LDS faith are perpetuated from one generation to the next. Dissenting views are generally silenced and scorned, or relegated to the fringe realms (i.e., anonymous board discussions like this one), whereas dogmatic and more established views (many of which pre-date modern science) have free reign to find their way into general conference, sacrament meeting, Sunday school, behind the closed door of the bishop's office, and conflicts in a marriage.

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