Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 22nd, 2021

Colorful backlit oak leaves

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During our sunny morning circuit of Balcones District Park on December 8th, which led to pictures of bright ash and cedar elm trees, I also noticed a few colorful oak trees along the trail. While I don’t know what species they were, I do know that their leaves looked richly colorful with the light passing through them and the blue sky beyond them. Notice the leaf miner trail in the second leaf.

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A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.

But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.

So begins the 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, by Leon FestingerHenry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. They studied cases in which a person felt inspired to issue a prophecy, only to have the prophecy fail to materialize at the predicted time. The “prophet” then typically rationalized and explained that the prophecy was valid but there had been a mistake of some sort in its interpretation. Nowadays we’d say the person “doubled down.”

While the cases in When Prophecy Fails are extreme, it’s a sad truth of human psychology that easily verifiable facts often fail to change people’s opinions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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