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"What I Tell You Three Times Is True." (Lewis Carroll)

1682 words - 7 pages

"What I tell you three times is true." (Lewis Carroll) Might this formula - or a more sophisticated version of it - actually determine what we believe to be true?Repetition is our way of learning knowledge. Repetition is drilling something to memory, reinforcing the idea in our heads. It is the key to reflexive use (use without conscious thought). Your mind "learns" by repetition and reinforcement. Repetition and its effects on what we believe to be true, play a major role in the way that we accumulate general knowledge.The formula implies that repetition is equal to truth, when really repetition is just repetition. Repetition does not make a statement the truth. But a statement, if repeated ...view middle of the document...

In Straight and Crooked Thinking, R.H. Thouless states that: "If statements are made again and again in a confident manner, then their hearers will tend to believe them quite independently of their soundness and of the presence or absence of evidence for their truth" (Thouless, 1974, p.111). Similarly, in Nietzsche's On Truth and Falsity in an Extramoral Sense, Nietzsche asserts that "truth" is a metaphor fixed by repetitive usage. According to Nietzsche, truth comes from repetition.Many research studies have illustrated that there is a tendency to believe statements based on repetition instead of on actual evidence. This phenomenon has several names. The mere exposure effect is when the repeated exposure of an individual to a stimulus results in the enhancement of their attitude towards that stimulus (Zajonc 1968). The repetition-validity effect is defined as an increase in the belief of truth due to repeated exposure. The frequency-validity effect is the idea that the rated truth of a stimulus is determined by how often that stimulus is repeated (Brown & Nix, 1996). The repetition effect is the notion that repeated statements are rated to be truer than new ones (Bacon, 1979). Finally, the truth effect is defined as the repetition-induced increase in judged validity (Message Repetition, website).The philosopher Francis Bacon suggested that two mechanisms operate the truth effect: recognition and familiarity. When the individual recognizes those statements as having been repeated before, those statements increase in validity. Familiarity gained by repetition also increases validity. The first time we see or hear something, it is new to us, and unfamiliar. But the second time there is recognition. After that, there is familiarity.Emotion can influence our perception of truth. We may distrust some information when we hear it for the first time, but when we hear it repeatedly from different sources, we may eventually accept it. Furthermore, when a statement is repeated by an authoritative source, we think less to question it. We find it easier to believe it to be true. In the research studies, it was found that participants agreed with sources of higher reputation and authority, even when they disagreed with the information being given to them by these sources (Hovland and Weiss 1951).As I have discussed in the previous section, many research studies have shown that repetition inclines us to believe a statement to be true, even if the statement is false. There are several instances in which these effects occur in everyday life.Eyewitness reports are an example of an everyday situation in which these effects can occur. The "misinformation effect" occurs when misleading information is given to a witness after the event in question has taken place. While eyewitnesses initially possess memory for the event, the false information they receive can alter or impair their memory, causing them to report what is untrue. The more that the repetition of...

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