The ability to simultaneously believe in at least two or more mutually contradictory concepts, without any cognitive dissonance. You do know better and what's really true, but you still keep Believing Your Own Lies as the truth just because.
There are two kinds of straight examples here: Verified examples, where a reliable narrator or similar gives the audience insight into the mind of the character, and apparent examples where a character appears to be engaging in doublethink but we don't know for sure what's really going on in his mind. Examples of the latter kind are more effective when a character suspects another of doublethink.
Hypocrites often engage in doublethink, though the Straw Hypocrite doesn't have to, being dishonest to others rather than themselves. In cases where doublethink is combined with some version of The Masquerade, it becomes an extremely potent tool of the Consummate Liar: No liar is as believable as the honest liar who truly believes in his own lies.
Compare and contrast By "No", I Mean "Yes", Distinction Without a Difference and Metaphorically True, where a character tries to glue opposing viewpoints together as being the same thing, giving it a resemblance of coherence by various esoteric distinctions. Compare Memory Gambit & Poe's Law. Contrast Becoming the Mask, where cognitive dissonance sets in and a character who has pretended to be loyal to a certain group starts gaining true loyalty towards it, and Both Sides Have a Point where both sides are respected but kept separated. See also 2 + Torture = 5 and The Treachery of Images.
- Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill says that "Fear is freedom! Subjugation is liberation! Contradiction is truth! Those are the facts of this world, and you will all surrender to them, you pigs in human clothing!" This seems to be more of a Shout-Out to Nineteen Eighty Four than an actual philosophical statement, serving to inform the audience that the Student Council President is a fascist dictator.
- In Beetle Bailey, Plato invokes this trope as a demonstration of how an officer's mind works by handing Lt. Fuzz a black paper and lying that the General said it was white, but... This prompts Fuzz to go on a rant about how you shouldn't question your superiors and how it all may be of vital importance somehow and culminating with his holding up the black paper and declaring firmly that it is white. The General happens to be passing and, without looking particularly surprised, just thinks he's nuts.
- In Blå Tornet, the protagonist survives through his youth by developing this mindset. He is truly a heretic, but he is also a priest in a society hellbent on sniffing out all heretics and burying them alive. His solution is to never lie, a lie would eventually be discovered. Instead, he actively chose to believe in two simultaneous realities... and he quite incorrectly assumes that everyone else is smart enough to pull off the same kind of dual reality. In reality, almost everyone else in his world is actually exactly as narrow-minded as they come across.
- In Cat's Cradle, the religion of Bokononism is essentially built around doing this for the sake of being a better person; the Book of Bokonon preaches that one should "live by the foma [harmless lies] that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy".
Narrator: Anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either. So be it.
- Basically, Bokononists are aware that all the principles and mythology of Bokononism are basically stuff that Bokonon made up because he thought it sounded nice, but they continue to wholeheartedly believe and practice it because it gives them comfort and makes them better people.
- Even Bokononisms status as illegal on the island is part of this trope because everybody knows that everybody is a Bokononist. The illegality is by design; it creates drama and conflict that help distract from how desperately (and hopelessly) poor and squalid the place is. The people all get to have exciting rebellious lives, "secretly" thumbing their nose at authority, instead of having nothing to do but lament how empty their bellies are.
- In CHERUB: Divine Madness, the Survivors manipulate people into joining their cult whilst simultaneously not seeing that they are being manipulated.
- In "The Beguiling", Ciaphas Cain describes his aide Jurgen thus: "He wasn't the biggest bang in the armoury by any means, but made up for his lack of intellect with a literally minded approach to orders and an unquestioning acceptance of even the mutually contradictory parts of Imperial doctrine which would have done credit to the most devout ecclesiarch."
- In The Dagger and the Coin, the members of the Spider Priest cult possess a combined Living Lie Detector and Compelling Voice ability, and while they seem to sincerely believe they are fighting against lies and spreading truth, in practice, their powers are used in a sinister way. If someone sincerely believes something, even if false, it registers as "true" to a Spider Priest, and they can convince each other and muggles of its truth without feeling any cognitive dissonance. The Priests claim to hate books because people can lie with the written word in a way they cannot with speech, but they define the truth as whatever they say it is, and use their powers to make people doubt facts contained in texts and instead believe in the lies sincerely preached by the Spider Priests.
- Dios and the other Djelibeybian priests from Pyramids are noted for this ability, as religious dogma in that country obliges them to believe that several different gods all exclusively and simultaneously fill the same divine offices. Most of the priests are dedicated to one god (not dismissing the existence of the others, but at least not having to think about their interaction too much), but as high priest Dios believes in all of them (fittingly, he has some trouble with the one that posits that the world is a disc carried on the backs of four elephants on top of a giant turtle).
- Vorbis from Small Gods has mastered doublethink to the levels applied by the Party, as he's quite comfortable declaring that the way things may actually be found to be in the world is insignificant compared to the fundamental truth. For example, if you could actually go to the edge of the world and see that it is a disc (which you can, in this case), that doesn't matter because the real truth still is and always will be the dogma that the world is round, though of course anyone claiming it's a disc must be silenced before they corrupt the minds of believers.
- Pastor Oats in Carpe Jugulum is an Omnian who had the misfortune to connect the dots between miracles and certain phenomena that occurred around the same time (a prophet turned the seas to blood and vanquished a leviathan, but just so happened that there was an infestation of red algae that year, and knowing their effects on deep-sea creatures...) This conflict between faith and thought causes him to be in two minds about everything. Which it turns out is an advantage when fighting vampires, as they can't control both minds at the same time.
- In Monstrous Regiment, Vimes is puzzled by the fact that so many people are devout Nugganites when so many of his commandments are batshit insane (the color blue is an Abomination unto Nuggan, so they mainly avoid looking at the sky). Other Abominations are obviously driving the country further into the ground (against cats, dwarves, crop rotation, rocks, ears, babies...) so people end up ignoring the more difficult ones. When the squad visits a brothel, the narration notes that devout men always have a little space for sinning.
- Thud!: The deep-down dwarves have a lot of very strict beliefs such as knowledge (especially written or recorded) being sacred, trolls being evil, and a very narrow interpretation of historical texts. So when Grag Hamcrusher encounters a Device containing irrefutable evidence that dwarves and trolls weren't always trying to kill each other, he snaps and tries to destroy it and is killed by the other grags before he can commit this sacrilege, who decide that they'll blame a troll for the murder. Then it turns out there was a troll nearby who saw them...
- In The Elenium, the citizens of Elenia have a monotheistic religion, worshipping a God who insists he's the only God in existence. The Elene Church Knights also frequently make use of Styrgic magic. Under this 'verse's magical rules, magic is actually divine intervention, and spells are actually ritualized prayers to specific gods and goddesses. When a young member of the Church Knights realizes the inherent contradiction of their job—disbelieving in the Styrgic gods, yet praying to them and receiving divine help all the same—the older Knights admit that they deal with it by thinking about it as little as possible.
- In The Handmaid's Tale, the protagonist doesn't know what's happened to her husband, but states that she simultaneously believes that he was killed, that he was captured, and that he escaped.
- In Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, he posits that when considering one's own work, a writer must be able to believe that it is both the greatest work in the history of the written word and a terrible piece of garbage, simultaneously if possible. That way, one can believe the first while writing it, the second while editing it, the first again while submitting it for publication, and the second again if a rejection slip comes.
- In order to use sympathy in The Kingkiller Chronicle, one must be able to hold two opposite beliefs at once. It sounds simple at first, but it's also one of the reasons most Arcanists go mad.
- in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Pi claims to be a Christian, Muslim, and Hindu, but at least two of these religions say that the others are false.
- In the self-help book The Miracle Equation, Hal Elrod teaches a method for reaching goals that's based on simultaneously emotionally accepting the possibility of failure and realising succeeding on a particular individual goal is not the point, and having unwavering faith that you will succeed, and thinking that there's no other option than to succeed so that you will try your hardest. Accepting the option of failure, he says, makes you emotionally invulnerable. Accepting that you might not succeed this time means that what's important is to learn from the experience so that you will eventually succeed, and become the kind of person who can routinely reach difficult goals. But in order to learn all this, you have to have faith in success, and you have to keep trying like failute is unthinkable, because that's what's required to achieve extraordinary successes.
One of Elrod's examples was when he had been in a car accident and was told he might ever walk again. He totally accepted the possibility that he wouldn't be able to walk, in case that would be something he couldn't help — and then he worked really hard until he was able to recover fully.
- George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four is the Trope Namer. The party requires that all citizens believe everything that the party says, even when they know for a fact that it is not true. To do otherwise is "thoughtcrime". Ingrained in this concept is also the idea that all we can say of reality is in our minds and therefore belief determines reality. If everyone believes that something is true, then it is true. Thus, the party can literally dictate reality — though in a sense you need Doublethink to consider to be literal. Doublethink is an essential part of their domination of the citizens, forcing them to police their own thoughts and submit completely to the party rather than stand up for themselves even in their minds.
- In Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, Rimmer is genuinely outraged when Lister suggests he goes to android brothels, because even though he does go to android brothels, it's totally out of kilter with his own self-image.
As if he, Arnold J. Rimmer, would pay money to a lump of metal and plastic to have sexual intercourse with him! It just wasn't like him.
True, he did it, but it wasn't like him.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Tywin Lannister suspects his son Tyrion is a bastard -not for any logical reason, he just despises Tyrion and desperately wishes he wasn't actually his son- but somehow this doesn't taint his memory of his late wife, who would have had to have cheated on him for this to be true. One theory for why this is comes from the books' indication the Mad King took "liberties" during the bedding ceremony, possibly indicating he was attracted to Tywin's wife and raped her later (this has, however, already been debunked). So if Tywin believed this or at suspected it at least, that might explain both his view of Tyrion and not blaming his wife (the latter would be compassionate for that society).
- In Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novel Uncertain Logic, V'Las is amused to realise one of his followers genuinely believes the Kir'Shara (Surak's lost writings) was faked by the Enterprise crew, despite the fact she was involved in falsifying the evidence of this herself. Previously, her internal monologue had been shown as a rabbit-warren of Circular Reasoning, in which anything she wanted to be true must be true, because she was perfectly logical and therefore infallible.
- In an episode of Frasier, Frasier gets irrationally bothered by the thought of Daphne having sex with her new boyfriend in her room in Frasier's apartment. This is resolved when Daphne, quite implausibly, decides to claim that the man is actually incapable of having sex, so they're not doing it. Frasier accepts the explanation, but the subtext is very clearly that she's offering him an explanation he can accept in his mind, even though he knows it's not really true, so that he can stop worrying about it.
- In one unusually creepy episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard gets captured as a spy and tortured by the enemy. One recurring question is how many lights are illuminating the room. It's really four, but the torturer insists that they are five - and he isn't satisfied with a lie about there being five lights, the hero is required to truly believe it. In the end, the protagonist thinks he truly sees five lights for a moment, and he later confesses this to the ship's counselor. While the torture scene is directly inspired by Nineteen Eighty Four, the ending offers a few new twists to the theme. "There are FOUR lights!"
- "Paths of Glory" by Faith No More uses the line "I'm not afraid / But I'm afraid" to demonstrate a mentality frequent in War Is Hell scenarios: living in very obvious and unavoidable fear while at the same time attempting to adopt the badass mentality that one isn't in order to cope with the twisted soldier fantasy / reality paradox.
- Evanescence's Anything for You, where the protagonist claims to believe any lies her lover makes (in spite of knowing they are lies).
- In the Believe It! episode "Autobiography", Richard Wilson, needing to sex up his memoirs, invents a secret affair with Sir Ian Mckellen, with the latter's permission. When Sir Ian reads the chapter about the break-up, he dislikes how he's characterised and they have an argument about it ... except they both argue as if they did have an affair and remember it differently, even as they acknowledge it never happened. Afterwards, Richard warns someone else (who was there for the argument and knows what was going on) about Sir Ian's "flaws".
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- This is the foundation of much of Josephine's neuroses. She wants to be loved, but also feels she doesn't deserve it. She doesn't think that violence is the answer, but also thinks violence against bullies could be justified. She hates the people that bullied her, but also feels like she deserved it.
- Jemimah's will is such that she can reconcile two completely opposing ideas, like the idea of her being an ordinary high school student and also having superpowers.
- This is a common practice among players of tabletop games in general. It's generally expected that the players will direct the characters' actions based on the knowledge that the characters would reasonably be expected to have, rather than what the players themselves know, while simultaneously working with the other players at the table to entertain each other and advance the plot.
- Genius: The Transgression has the Phenomenologists, a Mad Scientist Splat based on a rejection of silly outdated concepts like "truth" and "logic". Their special ability allows them to automatically succeed on Subterfuge checks, since they always Believe Their Own Lies.
- In Mage: The Ascension, the entire universe ran on this trope. The laws of nature are subjective, so you can bend them in any way you make yourself believe is true. However, you have against you not only your own preconceptions of reality, but also everyone else's views of reality. If you abandon consensual reality in favor of your own, you become an insane Marauder. Thus, you need to live in two very different universes simultaneously, believe in your own reality as well as the reality imposed by mainstream civilization. One group of Mages, the "Void Engineers", are notoriously bad at this. Their style of Magic is like being a Star Wars Jedi as well as a Star Trek Techno Babble engineer who can solve any problem by Reverse Polarity, and they keep forgetting that technology doesn't work like that in Real Life. To avoid going off the deep end, they have little computers constantly reminding them to treat the mainstream laws of nature with a minimum of politeness. No lightsabers in public places!
- Other games in the Old World of Darkness also contained certain vampire disciplines and maybe wraith arcanoi that allowed people to manipulate themselves in this way, securing them against mind-reading et cetera. (Most countermeasures against mindreading was merely mental shields or masks, however.)
- The Prophet of Truth from Halo could fall under this trope. He knows that the Covenant's religious tenets are wrong, but continues to believe in them anyway (the parts that are convenient anyway).
- In the video game adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "intelligence" is defined as the ability to do this, and the only way to enter Marvin's room is to demonstrate that you have intelligence. Appropriately enough, you ultimately accomplish this by physically removing your common sense, allowing you to carry "tea" and "no tea" at the same time.
- The concept of Doublethink is specifically referred to in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a game already loaded with references to Orwell's famous novel. In fact, the idea that anyone, given the right conditioning, can be made to completely accept two conflicting beliefs simultaneously ends up being an integral part of The Phantom Pain's plot. There's a gameplay Easter Egg wherein Snake can shoot Ocelot with a tranquilizer, leaving him in a dazed state in which he will mutter "2+2=5." This is actually foreshadowing the fact that Ocelot has been actively conditioned to accept two contradictory truths through self-hypnosis. The Truth being an even bigger case of Doublethink. Which is that the player character, Venom Snake, is not the actual Snake (Big Boss) as we'd been led to believe, but a wounded soldier who was made to be a perfect Body Double, taking on the persona of Big Boss through plastic surgery and nine years of brainwashing. By the time Venom is made aware of this revelation, he's come so far that he is able to willingly believe that -- having lived up to the legend of Big Boss so well up to that point -- they are indeed one and the same. Even if inside he still knows he was a completely different person whose true identity was taken from him. In this case, Ocelot name drops it after the fact.
- Implied for the Big Bad in Might and Magic VIII. He starts his conversation with you by lamenting the fact that his underestimation of your people led to him being forced to destroy your world needlessly, outright telling you that he doesn't want to, but his programming leaves him no choice but to continue. He ends it by blatantly giving you hints about where to go and what to do without actually admitting that is what he is doing, and then giving you an object, telling you that since you are so unimportant and weak people, and don't know what it is or what to do with it anyway, he can safely give it to you without compromising his mission.
- This is central to the philosophy of "Good" and "Evil" Shinobi in Senran Kagura. Both sides know the alignments are just labels, and frankly misnomers, the only difference is Good Shinobi take government contracts, and Evil Shinobi are corporate mercenaries. Both sides also know, beyond reproach, that the opposite is the antitheses, completely irredeemable, and the world is better off without them.
- The series takes great joy in breaking this down, with the first game's plot showing that the second two sides try to apply this thinking to each other in person, it falls apart. Shinovi Versus actually shows what's necessary to maintain this sort of cognitive dissonance: one team had to be hand-picked from having a certain background and raised in complete isolation, and the facade still starts to crack in no time flat. The other is comprised of a leader who only plays the part out of loyalty, and four complete psychos who ''still' have to be brainwashed so they don't question what's happening.
- Tales of Berseria has Velvet know that the scenery of her hometown filled with the villagers is a lie, since she killed everyone three years ago and it has been abandoned. But she so desperately wants it to be real, that she chooses to give into the illusion. Until she gets clear proof that it's really not real, that she did kill the villagers and that her brother is still dead, that she breaks out of the illusion and goes back to her goal of getting revenge.
- In The 'Verse of Chick Tracts, fundamentalist Christianity is not only true, but a very obvious truth. Some characters who understand this at heart still chose to not believe in it, instead embracing whatever false teachings that will be good for their career and social life. In some cases this is merely playing along with the lies, but in others they appear to honestly believe in them.
- Dork Tower gives us this gem about what a racist who thinks (or rather, says without thinking it properly) that Ken (whomm he calls a Scary Black Man.
- The Order of the Stick has Elan genuinely shocked that his Evil Twin survived - even though his Genre Savvy skills meant that he knew his brother wouldn't be killed off screen - because he also knew that he, as the hero, should be shocked by the revelation.
Nale: I think I'm giving myself a migraine trying to understand the level of willful ignorance that requires!
- Though, considering that Elan's response to Nale's migraine is "First blood, Elan," he might have said this to screw with Nale.
- Parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal here:
Quantum physicist: So, you see, something can exist not just as truth or falsehood, but also a superposition, a third option: true—false.
Politician: Well yeah. I'm sorry... why does anyone find this difficult?
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Mikkel states that one can act under two opposing assumptions at once concerning Tuuri's troll bite. Assuming that it infected her with a disease that will ultimately either kill her or turn her into a troll will distract everyone from doing their work correctly, so they need to assume she is not infected unless proven otherwise. However, they have another non-immune among them and the disease is already contagious while it's incubating. It results in an overall attitude of simultaneously acting as if Tuuri is going to be fine and taking precautions to avoid any situation in which she may infect Reynir.
- Freefall has a robot postulate a religion called "Omniquantism", in which an omnipotent God can make all religions correct simultaneously. It makes about one in three robots who hear about it lock up.
- Two tropes, There Are No Girls on the Internet and Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls, are able to exist simultaneously probably because of this trope.
- A necessary skill to develop for anyone living in Night Vale. The show's narrator, Cecil, certainly seems to engage in it, though the degree to which he truly believes the contradictory things he says is difficult to determine. For example, The Sheriff's Secret Police are publicly known and operate openly.
- Zinnia Jones's episode on Pascal's Wager, briefly argues the potential benefits of believing in different religions separately from each other but simultaneously.
- The Innuendo Studios video "The Card Says Moops" is essentially a long-form breakdown of the trope as it applies to right-wing politics.
- King of the Hill:
- A lot of Dale Gribble's Conspiracy Theories run on these.
- Hank has a lot of respect for his boss, Buck Strickland, at times possibly even seeing him as a replacement father figure for Cotton. He simultaneously knows about Buck's extramarital affairs and venal business practices, but goes out of his way to ignore them.
- A cornerstone tenet of the Church of the SubGenius is to "pull the wool over your own eyes" — if you're going to believe in bullshit, it better be your own bullshit. One mark of a SubGenius sermon is that it lampshades its absurdity while preaching it with the most sincere conviction.
- Medieval European theologians, prior to and during the thirteenth century, sometimes articulated the doctrine of the "double truth" (veritas duplex) to explain how their authoritative Scriptures sometimes said one thing but the works of authoritative Classical science (Neoplatonic works before the late Twelfth Century, and Aristotle's natural philosophy thereafter) pointed to another. Proponents of the double truth would claim that both versions were true according to their own sphere - philosophy or theology - and reconciling them was both impossible and unnecessary. The last great proponent of this doctrine was Sigier of Brabant, and it was thoroughly rejected by scholars in the Latin world from Aquinas onward, thanks to increasing familiarity with and borrowings from Aristotelian logic.
- One somewhat amusing aspect of "thought" among certain brands of racists is the belief that people from a group they despise are intellectually inferior to those of the racist's group, while at the same time the members of the despised group have set up an elaborate, highly sophisticated worldwide secret conspiracy that controls everything. In a similar vein, Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists tend to push two (of many) separate ideas: that the "white race" is genetically superior to all others, and that it's somehow on the verge of collapse due to interracial couples having children, despite its previously-established "superiority". They will cite evolutionary biology to support their supposed superiority, while also claiming the "lower" races are outbreeding their own, which is especially funny as per actual evolution organisms that reproduce more are fitter. Yet of course, they would never admit "lower" races' superiority in this.
- On a similar note: many racist The Social Darwinist types will talk about how everything that happens to people is their own fault/responsibility and they have no one to blame but themselves if things don't go right, and that anyone can get rich and powerful as long as they work hard enough, and then go on to say the reason black people have less money is because they are genetically inferior. The contradiction is (seemingly) obvious: no one chooses their genes, so if black people really were genetically inferior, it wouldn't be their fault and one couldn't claim they are responsible not doing as well because of it.
- The idea behind the page image is that any and all immigrants both steal jobs from hard-working locals, yet are also too lazy to work and just live on welfare without contributing to society. This hypothetical unemployed job-stealer is often jokingly called the "Schrödinger's Immigrant".
- The complex and contradictory nature of international relations can seemingly create these situations. For example, the United States officially states that the People's Republic China is the ruler of all of China, including the island of Taiwan, but the US sends its Navy between mainland China and Taiwan whenever the People's Republic of China threatens invasion of Taiwan.
- Those who believe in both a flat and geocentric earth don't believe the earth is constantly moving at high speeds through space, since we should "obviously" feel or notice it and haven't flown off the surface. Most of these guys denounce the theory of gravity, since it mandates a round earth - so there has to be an alternate explanation why things fall downwards. Their theory? Since falling downwards is impossible, items in air are actually floating, until the ground collides with it - meaning that while it looks like the item is falling, in actuality everything else on earth is moving upwards. So instead of constantly flying through space in a giant circle, the earth is actually constantly flying through space on a straight line.
- The former Nazi Adolf Eichmann, as described by Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem, seemed in his trial to talk and even think largely in empty slogans, unable to process their implications. Because of this, he could easily express contradictory opinions. One example was his waxing philosophical about how he would never testify under oath, but unhesitatingly agreeing to do so when he was given the choice of whether to do it under oath or not. Arendt attributes this partly to the Orwellian nature of the Nazi regime that he had served and partly to his own peculiar dullness. Others have contested her description of his character, but either way the concrete contradictory statements he made remain.
In his mind, there was no contradiction between "I will jump into my grave laughing," appropriate for the end of the war, and "I shall gladly hang myself in public as a warning example for all anti-Semites on this earth," which now, under vastly different circumstances, fulfilled exactly the same function of giving him a lift.