Chapter 2

Science and Belief

A Nervous Romance

But the best demonstration by far is experience.

—Francis Bacon1

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings Our meddling intellect

Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things We murder to dissect

—William Wordsworth

In Chapter One, we saw that we believe things (or not) partly due to the presence of peripheral cues—“peripheral” meaning that they are aspects of the situation that are irrelevant to whether or not the message is really true (for example, the attractiveness of the speaker or the length of the message). Although we are seldom aware that they influence us, these cues have an impact even when we consciously try to evaluate the logic and factual basis of a persuasive message. We also saw that we ...

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