Tag Archives: Social Psychology

If First You Don’t Succeed, Prophesize Again: In the Face of Dissonant Followers, Camping Sticks to his Tune

By P. Getty

May 21st has come and gone, yet we are all still here. Are you as shocked as I am? OK, maybe I’m not really surprised that another “Judgment day,” prophesied by a kooky religious leader, has come and gone with little interruption to my usual Saturday morning routine of Looney Tunes and Captain Crunch. What does seem a mystery, however, is why on earth Harold Camping, the self proclaimed professor of Bible truth, head of Family Radio, a multimillion-dollar Christian organization, and author of this nonsense is sticking to his story that last Saturday truly was the beginning of the end.

“Judgment Day on May 21 did come, “ but in a more spiritual sense, Camping proclaimed in a recent article published on christianpost.com.

Camping further stated that his previous end-times prophecies where also correct, but again it was in a spiritual sense.  The newest new deal is that, according to Camping, Judgment Day is more like five months of Judgment days. Apparently, there are so many of us in need of judgment, his god won’t be able to finish the trials until October 21st, the day Camping now predicts for the rapture, when the chosen go with Jesus, and the rest of us, and the world, will make like John Edwards and cross over, but in a fiery blaze of pain and anguish.

In light of the work of Festinger and his infiltration of a doomsday-cult back in the 50s, as was eloquently discussed by Dr. Duke in his resent post, there is most definitely a case for cognitive dissonance at work in the wake of this failed prophecy. While the dissonance might not lie with Camping per se, his new prophecy is likely intended to combat the growing dissonance among his flock. It would seem that the observation made by Prus (1976) who noted that religious groups, and especially ones who make wild claims about end times, must come up with cleaver ways to ease their followers dissonance if they are to maintain and expand their ranks.

In the end, we can be sure that there is nothing shocking about an old quack distracting his followers with smoke, mirrors and promises. And those followers will likely eat it up. They simply have too much of their time, money and selves invested to turn back now.

Christian Post article on Harold Camping’s latest quackery

Dr. Duke’s article

Prus, 1976

Finding a Human In-group in the Wake of a Ravaged Japan

By P. Getty

Much of the research tackling questions regarding our shared human identity seems to focus on the infra-humanization and de-humanization of out-group members (Paladino & Vaes, 2009, for example), or how human norms effect our reactions to victims and perpetrators generally and more specifically in the context of historical atrocities (Greenaway & Louis, 2010). While these research programs are vital to understanding “the human element” of inter-group attitudes, I think they ignore an even more elemental phenomenon that I like to call spontaneous human-in-group affiliation (Getty, in progress). While we are hopelessly bound to humanity, people rarely, if ever, name humanity as a salient in-group. In fact, Lickel, Hamilton and Sherman (2001) studied lay theories of groups and found that the abstraction of group extended only as far as loose affiliations of interests (e.g., Coltrane fans). Not once did they suggest that species-level affiliation was seen as a viable in-group. However, studies of de- and infra-humanization showed that strong identifiers from diverse groups report believing that their in-group posses more human-like qualities than out-group members (Castano & Kafta, 2009). What does this mean? It could be that our species-level affiliation is simply a distant, abstract concept concealed in our allegiances to in-groups, but present nonetheless. The question I’m tackling, then, is, when do we shed our lesser in-group identity and spontaneously identify as “human beings” when being human is not a salient self-categorization?

One clue to answering this question might have been revealed in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes and following tsunami that ravaged much of the northeastern coast of Japan. While there is little to report about the details of the disaster that goes above and beyond the facts already reported in the media, there does seem to be an interesting phenomenon that might be related to my concept of spontaneous human-in-group affiliation. If one were to follow the link below to the Web site discussing the disaster they would find at the bottom a number of posts (one of which is mine) from concerned and empathetic people from around the world. Some of these people come from countries that have had historical conflict with and mistrust of Japan  (China, for example). Even still, for one reason of another, these folks have been compelled to take the time to write and express their concern for the suffering of others who would normally be out-group members, if not for their human ties.  I commented on this observation: “It is amazing how human beings from around the world, despite strong in-group affiliations and histories of conflict with each other, find their humanity in situations of suffering. We find our human in-group and that, I think, is a fragile good that comes from these situations.”

I still have much work to do to answer the question of spontaneous human-in-group affiliation. My own personal good to come from this disaster, however, is a testable hypothesis: Spontaneous human-in-group affiliation occurs in the wake of natural disasters (Getty, now in progress). You will have to wait for the “why” of this hypothesis when the manuscript is done.

In closing, there is little to say other than to express my sincerest empathy for my fellow humans suffering in Japan. I hope those of you who read this, and are able, will join me in following the link below to contribute to the American Red Cross, who is equipped to help those suffering in Japan, or contribute to other charitable organizations that can do the same.

Follow link to donate funds for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief via the American Red Cross

Follow link to VOA news and comments about the Japanese disaster.

Paladino & Vaes, 2009

Greenway & Louis, 2010