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Inferred justification is a specific strategy to cope with cognitive dissonance which "infers evidence which would support the respondent’s beliefs". Specifically, inferred justification is a kind of motivated reasoning, which describes a class of strategies for dealing with cognitive dissonance.
In short, motivated reasoning means that one is motivated to arrive at a certain conclusion. In the context of cognitive dissonance, the motivation is to support a pre-existing belief. Inferred justification is a specific coping strategy in which the individual infers justification for their belief based on the belief itself.
"Inferred justification operates as a backward chain of reasoning that justifies the favored opinion by assuming the causal evidence that would support it."  The individual begins with the belief and then asks, "What must be true for this belief to be correct?" The answers to that question are themselves assumed to be true facts.
The term is relatively new and was first coined in 2009 by a group of sociologists at the University at Buffalo who were studying why so many citizens continue to believe there is a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11 despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.[notes 1] According to the paper, a majority of those interviewed essentially stated that there must be a link because there must be a good reason we invaded Iraq because invading Iraq was the right thing to do.
In other words they inferred justification for their belief, "invading Iraq was the right thing to do", so any claim that would support that belief was accepted as true despite evidence to the contrary.
Cognitive dissonance itself a well accepted phenomenon, but "inferred justification" as an important and substantial coping strategy has yet to be proven. Currently, the term is used in a single paper based interviews with 49 individuals. Of those 49, 7 were identified as using inferred justification to relieve the cognitive dissonance created by counter-claims that assaulted their belief that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9-11.
- ↑ Not the least of which are statements by George W. Bush and others who first posited such a link later denying there was a link.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Prasad, Monica, et. al. "There Must Be a Reason": Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification; pages 11,14
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