I don’t have any stats to back that up but it’d be interesting to investigate, wouldn’t it? Maybe someone qualified will consider tracking that after May 21st. If researchers go back into the lives of people fleeced (and possibly bankrupted) by Harold Camping’s latest idiocy, I wonder how many of them would have a history of monetary risk taking, or risk taking in general.
I found an article at the Vancouver Sun noting work done in the 1950s by a psychologist named Leon Festinger, who had an opportunity to study a different end times cult. I can’t recall if his name ever came up in my university Psych classes but I was also in the habit of ditching them for coffee with a friend instead so who knows. Anyway, he and his team determined that cognitive dissonance had a big part to play in a person’s ability to buy into beliefs anyone else might scoff at. Why? Because when those beliefs fail to deliver the expected results, hard-core followers don’t usually conclude that they’ve been betrayed. They’ll find a way to rationalize it, turn it around, and stay positive. Again, and again, and again. It’s not even limited to prophecies. People rethink and reanalyze this way on a daily basis to justify any number of bad/sudden decisions.
Which is why I thought about problem gamblers who expect their luck to turn “any minute now” rather than conclude the game is rigged for failure and quit playing. Maybe playing this prophecy game is evidence of impulse control issues, too. Studies done with rats have found links between good decision making and serotonin levels, comparable to what humans experience in gambling situations.
Believing we stand at the end of the world is a hell of a gamble and it’s not going to pay off for anyone.