What Is The Illusory Truth Effect?

Repeated Exposure

Psychologists now recognize that repeated exposure to ambiguous statements tends to increase people’s belief in them — a phenomenon known as the illusory truth effect. For example, research has shown that even hearing a claim that seems difficult to accept (e.g., one that 80% of people believe is untrue) for a second time makes people give it a little bit more credence. It’s not that they suddenly buy the information totally, but people weren’t quite a quick to reject it after the second go-round. As one might expect, repetition’s effect on beliefs not only hold true for adults, but for children as well.

Indication of Likelihood

This illusory truth bias happens because the brain uses the case with which we can retrieve something from memory as an indication of its likelihood. If you’ve seen or experienced something before, it’s easier to recognize, and thus seems more likely to be true or to happen again. And, the more times you see or hear it, the truer it rings. It’s easy then to imagine the power that daily or weekly recitations of creeds and prayers can have on belief.


How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion
David DeStano

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