"We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers."--Daniel Kahneman
Communal reinforcement is the process by which a claim becomes a strong belief through repeated assertion by members of a community. The process is independent of whether the claim has been properly researched or is supported by empirical data significant enough to warrant belief by reasonable people. Often, the mass media contribute to the process by uncritically supporting the claims. More often, however, the mass media provide tacit support for untested and unsupported claims by saying nothing skeptical about even the most outlandish of claims, such as that a ballroom dance instructor or a telephone operator hears clips from another dimension that are messages from ghosts.
Communal reinforcement explains, in part, why about half of all American adults deny evolution occurred and believe that Abraham's god created the universe in six days,* that he made the first man and woman out of clay, and that a snake talked the woman into disobeying an order from Abraham's god thereby causing all our problems. Every cult leader knows the value of communal reinforcement combined with isolating cult members from contrary ideas.