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Kuran points out on page 33 that numerous psychologists, such as Freud and Maslow, have shown that humans have a legitimate need to be honest about themselves. Preference falsification has negative psychological effects. Kuran discusses some religious views on preference falsification.

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Both Judaism and Islam have doctrines that allow for people to publicly deny their religious faith during times of persecution. However, the faithful were expected to maintain as much of their religious practice as possible while in private. During the Protestant Reformation, Catholics debated the principle of pretending to be Protestant while hiding one's Catholicism.

The Church's official stand, though, was always to reject such practice pp. According to the Bible, Jesus said, ""Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" Mt. Kuran notes that whenever people have tried to maintain a secret religion, they have usually abandon their faith entirely in due time p. Psychologically, it is difficult to maintain inner belief while publicly denouncing that belief.

There are serious social effects of preference falsification also. Kuran uses communism as an example of a time when the majority believed differently than their public personas led others to believe. The result was that social change was stifled for decades. When a trigger finally made people feel comfortable in publicizing their beliefs, communism quickly fell.

Affirmative action is another issue, according to Kuran, where public personas are often different than private. Anonymous polls routinely show that most Americans are against affirmative action. Yet, the practice persists because few people are willing to endure the horrendous social attacks from the minority who demands the programs.

People like Jesse Jackson quickly label as racist those who oppose affirmative action. Recently, the new president of Harvard University found himself in a heated public relations battle. One of the chief complaints against the president was that upon entering office, he did not immediately release a statement praising affirmative action policies. Suddenly, even silence was enough to be branded racist.

Kuran notes that the tremendous amount of resources spent defending against claims of racism leads many reasonable people to simply support affirmative action in public. Because so many people are unwilling to take positions seen as unpopular, there is a role for activism. Kuran states that activists are people who are willing to go against the prevailing norms.

Their expressive or intrinsic utilities are enough to allow them to endure social stigma, loss of jobs, and other attacks. Activists make people aware of alternative views.

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Sometimes, activists create an environment where being honest becomes safer. And activists can actually lead people to change their minds on issues, possibly leading to social change. Pledge takers are encouraged to share publicly with their networks about taking the Pledge, asking others to hold them accountable—thus deliberately increasing the risk of negative consequences of sharing fake news.

Likewise, the Pledge asks signees to hold others accountable, requesting those who share fake news to retract it. Public figures—politicians, journalists, media figures, CEOs, academics, ministers, speakers and others—get additional benefits, in line with the research. They have the opportunity to share a paragraph about why they took the Pledge and provide links to their online presence. The paragraph is then sent around in the Pledge newsletter and posted on social media, as a way of providing a reputational reward for committing to truth-oriented behavior.

Public figures also get their public information listed in a database on Pro-Truth Pledge and can post a badge on their own Web sites about their commitment to the Pledge, providing clarity to all about which public figures are committed to truthful behavior. These rewards for public figures will grow more substantial as the Pledge becomes more popular and well known, creating a virtuous cycle. The more private citizens and public figures sign the Pledge and the more credibility it gets, the more incentives other public figures will have to sign it.


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Whereas these early adopters will be most committed to honesty, behavioral science suggests that later adopters will be more likely to do so out of a desire to gain a reputation as honest, and thus will be more likely to cheat. To address this problem, the Pledge crowdsources the fight against lies. One of the volunteer roles for the Pledge is monitoring public figure signees. If a volunteer suspects a public figure has made a false statement, the volunteer would approach the person privately and ask for clarification. If the matter is not resolved, the volunteer would then submit the case to a mediating committee of vetted and trained Pro-Truth Pledge volunteers.

They would investigate the matter and give the public figure an opportunity to issue a retraction or explain why the statement is true. If the public figure refuses to do so, the mediating committee then assumes that the public figure lied—meaning a deliberately false statement was made, and rules the person in contempt of the Pledge.

This ruling triggers a substantial reputational punishment. The mediating committee issues a media advisory to all relevant media venues that the public figure is in contempt of the Pledge and puts that information on the Pledge Web site. The committee also sends an action alert to all Pledge takers who are constituents to that public figure, asking them to tweet, post, text, call, write, meet with and otherwise lobby the public figure to retract their statement.


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A public figure who intends to lie is much better off not taking the Pledge at all. Will the Pledge work to tilt the scale toward truth? Rolled out in late March, the Pledge has over 1, signees so far and has already had some positive mainstream media coverage. The Pledge takers include a number of politicians , talk show hosts , academics and public commentators who expressed strong enthusiasm for the project.

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What about behavioral change? A retired U. Michael Smith, a candidate for Congress in Idaho, took the Pledge, and later posted on his Facebook wall a screen shot of a tweet by Donald Trump criticizing minority and disabled children. The evidence so far shows that the Pro-Truth Pledge has the potential to protect our democracy from the tide of lies.

Preference falsification - Wikipedia

Whether it will succeed depends on how many people go to the Web site sign the Pledge, spread the word, lobby public figures to sign it and monitor those who do. The early results look promising. The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. He spent over 15 years in academia, including as a professor at Ohio State University's Decision Sciences Collaborative and published over 30 peer-reviewed articles and two peer-reviewed monographs. You have free article s left.