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When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger
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When Prophecy Fails (1956)

by Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, Stanley Schachter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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An excellent study of what people do when they have believed in a prediction that has not come true. One of the most readable sociological studies on any topic that I've run across. ( )
  aulsmith | Nov 26, 2013 |
I read this as research for my next novel in which I'm planning to write about an end of the world cult. Strangely I'd written an essay on Festinger for my very first assignment in my Open University degree some time in about 1994. Years later when a friend told me about cognitive dissonance theory I didn't make the connection. Even stranger, it was on December 21st 2012, when everyone was talking about the Mayan calendar so called end of the world ( http://www.aquarius-atlanta.com/articles/?issue=06-2012&i=1460&article=2... ), that I was looking up end of the world cults and discovered this book. The ultimate irony is that the people Festinger was writing about were predicting the end of the world on December 21st 1954 exactly 59 years to the day that the Mayan calendar apparently predicted the end of the world. Of course that's a coincidence but let's not get into all that coincidence nonsense right now.

So the book was a fascinating read. There was a vast amount of information on the cult itself and the way the people behaved. I'm going to have to develop my ideas quite a bit as the material is so good that, had I not read this my version of the cult would have been very flat indeed. From an academic point of view I'm not so sure. I saw another book listed at the same time as this that appeared to claim that Festinger's case was in some way flawed. As a psychology graduate half a century later I would imagine that the methodology would be questioned by everybody from ethics committees to general academics who would suggest that you simply cannot collect data in this way without contamination.

On the whole it was a fascinating read, a real eye opener and well worth the effort and I really hope my version of these totally bonkers people will be even half as entertaining. ( )
  JackBarrow | Apr 15, 2013 |
I heard the contents of this book described when I was in high school and tried to identify and find it for decades afterwards. It was well worth the quest: one of the most interesting and entertaining non-fiction books I have ever read. a classic of participant observation.
  booksaplenty1949 | Nov 20, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leon Festingerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Riecken, Henry W.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Schachter, Stanleymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Aronson, ElliotForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuman, JacquelineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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