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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20431

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Fiedler K, Armbruster T, Nickel S, Walther E, Asbeck J.
Constructive biases in social judgment: experiments on the self-verification of question contents.
J Pers Soc Psychol 1996; 71:(5):861-73


Merely thinking about a proposition can increase its subjective truth, even when it is initially denied. Propositions may trigger inferences that depend not on evidence for truth but only on the semantic match with relevant knowledge. In a series of experiments, participants were presented with questions implying positive or negative judgments of discussants in a videotaped talk show. Subsequent ratings were biased toward the question contents, even when the judges themselves initially denied the questions. However, this constructive bias is subject to epistemic constraints. Judgments were biased only when knowledge about the target’s role (active agent vs. passive recipient role) was matched by the semantic-linguistic implications of propositions (including action verbs vs. state verbs).

Adult Female Humans Internal-External Control Interpersonal Relations Judgment* Male Personality Assessment* Prejudice* Semantics Social Perception*


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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909