Why the illusory truth effect works

Repeating lies makes people believe they are true, show studies.

  • Two recent studies looked at the illusory truth effect.
  • The effect describes our propensity to start believing untrue statements if they are repeated.
  • The phenomenon is a universal bias linked to cognitive fluency but can be counterbalanced.
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To overthrow a tyrant, try the 3.5 Percent Solution

A study of 323 uprisings against repressive regimes yields stunning insights.

  • No democracy movement has ever failed when it was able to mobilize at least 3.5 percent of the population to protest over a sustained period
  • At that scale, most soldiers have no desire to suppress protesters. Why? Because the crowd includes their family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
  • With a population of 327 million, the U.S. would need to mobilize about 11.5 million people to assert popular, democratic power on the government. Could that happen?
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Insiders and outsiders keep democracy alive: Whistleblowing, civil disobedience and discourse

From the Revolutionary War, to Rosa Parks and #MeToo, whistleblowing and civil disobedience are in America's DNA.

  • The first U.S. whistleblower protection law was passed unanimously in 1778 in response to the misconduct of Navy Commodore Esek Hopkins.
  • Whistleblowing and civil disobedience are tools of discourse that keep elites honest and protect democracy.
  • The difference? Whistleblowers are insiders who expose improper conduct to the authorities or to the press. Civil disobedience starts with outsiders whose actions slowly gain popular support, which then catalyzes change.
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Herve GLOAGUEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

What does it take to overthrow a dictator? Reflecting on this question in exile, Leon Trotsky wrote in History of the Russian Revolution (1930):

There is no doubt that the fate of every revolution at a certain point is decided by a break in the disposition of the army … Thus in the streets and squares, by the bridges, at the barrack gates, is waged a ceaseless struggle – now dramatic, now unnoticeable – but always a desperate struggle, for the heart of the soldier.
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No, Mr. Putin, liberalism is not dead

Когда рак на горе свистнет.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated that liberalism has "outlived its purpose."
  • Research suggests, however, that liberal ideals — among them, democracy, individual agency, and economic freedom — are not only on the rise but improve the wellbeing of people living in countries that support them.
  • Recent challenges to liberalism are serious but have not overpowered the liberal tradition.
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