The Psychology of Conviction: A Study of Beliefs and Attitudes

By Joseph Jastrow | Go to book overview

I
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CONVICTION

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A NOTABLE contribution of the world convulsion of 1914 and thereafter is to the psychology of conviction. It has been made plain as never before that the strength and directions of men's convictions -- authoritatively formulated in loyalties -- furnish the decisive motive power of the world's energies. Under this stimulus the need of inquiry into the mental processes that generate and direct convictions becomes increasingly imperative. There can be no question where beginnings lie. The original source of conviction is emotion. In terms of the world's crisis, the modus vivendi of nations is still expressible in Mr. Wells's phrase: a "convention between jealousies," and jealousy is an intense and disturbing emotion. The initial factor in the genesis of conviction is the rivalry between reason and emotion. Convictions are commonly and rightly considered as products of rational consideration; they testify to the distinctive quality of the human mind -- conceived and glorified as the instrument of thought, the creator of civilization. In this view the progress of science unfolds as the triumph of reason. Fundamentally it is true that the pattern of conviction is designed and wrought of reason's thread, but not simply so. The design deviates, the workmanship is irregular, as thinking is emotionalized and favors the desired conclusion.

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