Suspended Disbelief: Are Utopian Cities Possible If We Just Care To Do So? Includes Related Examples, Quotes, Humour, Magical Effects of Music

WHAT IF we devoted ourselves to building Utopian cities? Not Doo Buy just because we can afford it. We mean the real thing, preferably evolving research entities featuring the latest in eco friendly design, conceived, engineered, ideally built by the neglected multitudes who are pining for something meaningful to do, a life worth living, giving and sharing.

Anything is possible if we're prepared to put in the creative effort and smart investment.

But first, we may need to accept the seemingly impossible as possible. We need to suspend our disbelief.


Suspension of Disbelief
According to Wikipedia

The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. The term was coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Suspension of disbelief often applies to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, and horror genres. Cognitive estrangement in fiction involves using a person's ignorance to promote suspension of disbelief.

The phrase "suspension of disbelief" came to be used more loosely in the later 20th century, often used to imply that the burden was on the reader, rather than the writer, to achieve it. This might be used to refer to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises. These fictional premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and theories.

Suspension of disbelief is often an essential element for a magic act or a circus sideshow act. For example, an audience is not expected to actually believe that a woman is cut in half or transforms into a gorilla in order to enjoy the performance.

According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is an essential ingredient for any kind of storytelling. With any film, the viewer has to ignore the reality that they are viewing a two-dimensional moving image on a screen and temporarily accept it as reality in order to be entertained. Black-and-white films provide an obvious early example that audiences are willing to suspend disbelief, no matter how unreal the images appear, for the sake of entertainment. With the exception of totally color blind people (See: Achromatopsia), no person viewing these films sees the real world without color, but they are still willing to suspend disbelief and accept the images in order to be entertained. Suspension of disbelief is also supposed to be essential for the enjoyment of many movies and TV shows involving complex stunts, special effects, and seemingly unrealistic plots, characterizations, etc.

Coleridge's Original Formulation

Coleridge coined the phrase in his Biographia Literaria, published in 1817, in the context of the creation and reading of poetry. Chapter XIV describes the preparations with Wordsworth for their revolutionary collaboration Lyrical Ballads (first edition 1798), for which Coleridge had contributed the more romantic, gothic pieces including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Poetry and fiction involving the supernatural had gone out of fashion to a large extent in the 18th century, in part due to the declining belief in witches and other supernatural agents among the educated classes, who embraced the rational approach to the world offered by the new science. Alexander Pope, notably, felt the need to explain and justify his use of elemental spirits in The Rape of the Lock, one of the few English poems of the century that invoked the supernatural. Coleridge wished to revive the use of fantastic elements in poetry. The concept of "willing suspension of disbelief" explained how a modern, enlightened audience might continue to enjoy such types of story.

Coleridge recalled:

"... It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth on the other hand was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us ...

The notion of such an action by an audience was however recognized in antiquity, as seen particularly in the Roman theoretical concerns of Horace, who also lived in an age of increasing skepticism about the supernatural, in his Ars Poetica.

Examples in Literature

Suspension of disbelief is sometimes said to be an essential component of live theater, where it was recognized by Shakespeare, who refers to it in the Prologue to Henry V. (See Wikipedia for minimal)

Example in Politics

It was used by Hillary Clinton during the United States' 2008 presidential election preliminaries. She apparently considered General Petraeus' reports on Iraq to be unbelievable or not factual, and used the phrase "suspension of disbelief" loosely, in this case, implying such to be a requirement to accept his statements.


Psychological critic Norman Holland points to a neuroscientific explanation. When we hear or watch any narrative, our brains go wholly into perceiving mode, turning off the systems for acting or planning to act, and with them go our systems for assessing reality. We have, in Coleridge's second, more accurate phrase, "poetic faith". That's why humans have such trouble recognizing lies: they first believe, then have to make a conscious effort to disbelieve.

Only when we stop perceiving to think about what we have seen or heard, only then do we assess its truth-value. If we are really "into" the fiction – "transported", in the psychologists' term – we are, as Immanuel Kant pointed out long ago, "disinterested". We respond aesthetically, without purpose. We don't judge the truth of what we're perceiving, even though if we stop being transported and think about it, we know quite well it's a fiction.

Suspension of disbelief has also been used within a mental health context by Frank DeFulgentis in his book Flux. It is an attempt to describe the phenomenon of forgetting irrational thoughts associated with cases of OCD. In the book, the author suggests 'suspending disbelief' as opposed to forcing ourselves to forget; similar to how one would put a virus in quarantine. We can thereby allow ourselves to be absorbed in the activities around us until these irrationalities vanish on their own accord.


Aesthetic philosophers generally reject claims that suspension of disbelief accurately characterizes the relationship between people and "fictions." Kendall Walton notes that, if viewers were to truly suspend disbelief at a horror movie and accept its images as true, they would have a true-to-life set of reactions. For instance, audience members would cry out, "Look behind you!" to an endangered on-screen character or call the police when they witnessed an on-screen murder.

However, many of these criticisms simply fail to notice that Coleridge's original statement came in a restrictive clause. The formulation "...that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith," of necessity implies that there are different sorts of suspension of disbelief and specifies that poetic faith is one instance of a larger class. One need not choose to believe that a character in a horror film is a real person in order, for example, to choose to believe that the character is looking at the building seen in the following reverse-shot. More often than not, both beliefs would be equally false.

Not all authors believe that suspension of the disbelief adequately characterizes the audience's relationship to imaginative works of art. J. R. R. Tolkien challenges this concept in his essay "On Fairy-Stories", choosing instead the paradigm of secondary belief based on inner consistency of reality. Tolkien says that, in order for the narrative to work, the reader must believe that what he reads is true within the secondary reality of the fictional world. By focusing on creating an internally consistent fictional world, the author makes secondary belief possible. Tolkien argues that suspension of disbelief is only necessary when the work has failed to create secondary belief. From that point the spell is broken, and the reader ceases to be immersed in the story and must make a conscious effort to suspend disbelief or else give up on it entirely.

See Wikipedia for references and expanded details...


Examples in Film and Animation:

Who among us has not reacted emotionally to a suspense or horror film? Why are children mesmerized by something as simple as a hand puppet? Such is the power of suspended disbelief!

Film First -

Early work on motion picture film and audience reaction at the Paris Exposition of 1895 is an excellent example of suspended disbelief. Read about audience reactions, legendary as they may be, in bold here below.

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1895)

Uploaded on May 27, 2006

Original Title: L'Arrivée d'un Train à la Ciotat
Directors: Auguste and Louis Lumière
Year: 1895

The first public exhibition of motion pictures occurred on 28th December 1895 when August Lumière and Louis Lumière (the Lumière Brothers) exhibited a selection of ten of their single-reel films to a paying audience at a Parisian cafe. 'Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat' is considered to be the first motion picture in modern history (although more an experiment from the Lumière-brothers to use their 'invention' of film, it shows a train arriving at a passenger station). Popular legend has it that, when this film was shown, the first-night audience fled the cafe in terror, fearing being run over by the "approaching" train.

Most of the cast were members of the Lumière family and employees from the Lumière factory.

Category: Film & Animation
License: Standard YouTube License

Animation -

Anyone alive today can still be mesmerized by the best of Loonie Tunes and Merrie Mellodies cartoons. In this entry here below, Mel Blanc reveals some of the magic that helps us plunge willingly into a state of suspended disbelief.

Mel Blanc, The Man of 1000 Voices [1981] - AMAZING TALENT !!

Published on Apr 10, 2012

Mel Blanc did over a 1000 different Voices in over 5000 CARTOONS ! - UNIQUE GENIUS!

Melvin Jerome "Mel" Blanc (May 30, 1908 -- July 10, 1989) was an American voice actor and comedian. Although he began his nearly six-decade-long career performing in radio commercials, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. during the "Golden Age of American animation" as the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, the Tasmanian Devil, and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoons. He later worked for Hanna-Barbera's television cartoons, most notably as the voice of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons. Having earned the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Voices," Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice-acting industry.

Category: Education
License: Standard YouTube License

A medical example...

Suspension of Disbelief | Essam Abadir | TEDxBroadway

Published on Apr 22, 2016

With the power of two little words, “What If,” you can experience magic through technology and innovation. Techie and entrepreneur Essam Abadir talks about the “internet of things” (IoT) -- which puts a computer into everything we own, from toys to toilets -- and how his firm Aspire Ventures is using it to change the future of healthcare.

Essam Abadir, CEO of Aspire Ventures, is an inventor, investor, and international expert in technology foundational to the Internet of Things (IoT). His passion lies in applying technology toward basic human needs. A MIT graduate and IP attorney, he founded several of the earliest and fastest-growing technologies and companies in digital advertising, cloud storage, video on demand, music streaming, and mobile app platforms, most recently appMobi, which exited its tools division to Intel in 2013.

Category: Nonprofits & Activism
License: Standard YouTube License

Here's an example of alternative reality as expressed in animation through puppetry.

Suspension of disbelief through puppetry | Dadi Pudumjee | TEDxIIMIndore

Published on Mar 31, 2015

Dadi Pudumjee, India's leading puppeteer explains the power of objects in depicting emotions that are often difficult to portray by human artists on stage. Besides being a medium of entertainment, puppetry has been a powerful agent in bringing social awareness and change, particularly in a country like India.
Recorded at IIM Indore on 1st March 2015
Organized by the Industry Interaction Cell, IIM Indore

India's leading puppeteer and founder of Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, Dadi Pudumjee believes in bringing change in people's lives through a collective art-form that is believed to have existed since ancient civilizations. Dadi Pudumjee is currently the president of UNIMA Interational(Union Internationale de la Marionnette - International Puppetry Association - founded in Prague in 1929). In addition to numerous local awards, Dadi Pudumjee's work has been acknowledged with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1992 and the Padmashree presented by the President of India in 2011.

Category: Nonprofits & Activism
License: Standard YouTube License


Suspension of Disbelief Quotes:

Courtesy of:

To believe that what has not occurred in history will not occur at all, is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man.
Mahatma Gandhi

It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society; it is belief.
George Bernard Shaw

We're getting to the point where we're impinging on democratic institutions in this country and I think, you know, it takes a certain - not a suspension of disbelief - but willingness to go along with other people to get the ship of state going forward. I'm not sure that happens in a [Donald] Trump presidency, frankly.
William Weld

Since the eighteenth century the immense expansion of the worlds wealth has come about as a result of a correspondingly immense expansion of credit, which in turn has demanded increasingly stupendous suspensions of disbelief.
Lewis H. Lapham

It is now life and not art that requires the willing suspension of disbelief.
Lionel Trilling

Every little thing that people know about you as a person impedes your ability to achieve that kind of terrific suspension of disbelief that happens when an audience goes with an actor and character he's playing.
Edward Norton

[Science fiction is] that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesised on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo-science or pseudo-technology, whether human or extra-terrestrial in origin. It is distinguished from pure fantasy by its need to achieve verisimilitude and win the 'willing suspension of disbelief' through scientific plausibility.
Kingsley Amis

I guess love is the real suspension of disbelief.
Melissa Bank

I prefer to think of faith, as Coleridge says of poetry, not as the taking up of belief but as "the willing suspension of disbelief". . . a willingness to be open, to explore, to investigate.
Sharon Salzberg

There should be a name for this, for the process whereby one knows one is being yanked and concedes it has been done successfully - that one is grateful to have been spun. In the theater, it is called the willing suspension of disbelief. That's what allows the play to make an impact on the audience: they have to be able to make believe that what's happening on the stage is really happening. Maybe to a degree it is a requirement for all political participation, all effective political communication, too.
Peggy Noonan



DISCLAIMER: UFF does not deny nor disrespect the right for religious expression, as long as it is not in service to terrorism and related suppression of human potential, including creative expressions such as humour. The below example of suspended disbelief is but an example of how one individual relates with a fictional heroic character.

Hari Kondabolu- Superman and the Suspension of Disbelief

Uploaded on Jul 13, 2010

Hari Kondabolu discusses having to believe that religion does not exist or have any impact in the Superman movies. Recorded at San Francisco's Punchline Comedy Club on May 18th, 2009.

Category: Comedy
License: Standard YouTube License

100 Most Hilarious Test Answers Ever, Very Funny!

Published on May 20, 2015

Funniest test answers ever! Very honest and accurate too!

Suspended disbelief anyone?

Music: Youtube library
Category: Education
License: Standard YouTube License


10 Magical Effects Music Has On the Mind
Courtesy of:

Effects of music include improving verbal IQ, aiding in heart disease treatment, evoking colours in the mind and even helping you see happy faces all around.

Every fan knows the tremendous effects of music and the power it can have over both thoughts and emotions.

Great music can transform an ordinary day into something magical, even spiritual. It can provide solace, release, strong sensations and more.

But the effects of music spread further still: right up from our genetic code, through our thoughts and bodies and out into how we relate in groups.

1. Improve verbal IQ

Practising the piano won’t just improve your musical abilities, it can also improve your visual and verbal skills.

A study of 8 to 11-year-olds found that, those who had extra-curricular music classes, developed higher verbal IQ, and visual abilities, in comparison to those with no musical training (Forgeard et al., 2008).

This shows the benefits of learning an instrument are not purely musical, but extend into cognition and visual perception.

2. Feeling the chills

Have you ever felt chills down your spine while listening to music? According to a study by Nusbaum and Silvia (2010), over 90% of us have.

How powerful the effects of music, though, depends on your personality. People who are high in one of the five personality dimensions called ‘openness to experience’, are likely to feel the most chills while listening to music.

In the study, people high in openness to experience were more likely to play a musical instrument, and more likely to rate music as important to them.

3. The happiness effects of music

One of the effects of music should be feeling the chills; if not, perhaps you should try a little harder.

A recent study contradicts the old advice that actively trying to feel happier is useless.

In research by Ferguson and Sheldon (2013), participants who listened to upbeat classical compositions by Aaron Copland, while actively trying to feel happier, felt their moods lift more than those who passively listened to the music.

This suggests that engaging with music, rather than allowing it to wash over us, gives the experience extra emotional power.

4. Singing together brings us together

Since music is often a social activity, making it together can help bring us together.

A study of almost one thousand Finnish pupils who took part in extended music classes, found they reported higher satisfaction at school in almost every area, even those not related to the music classes themselves (Eerola & Eerola, 2013)

Explaining the results, the lead researcher Päivi-Sisko Eerola, said:

“Singing in a choir and ensemble performance are popular activities at extended music classes. Other studies have established that people find it very satisfying to synchronize with one another. That increases affiliation within the group and may even make people like each other more than before.”

5. Effects of music on heart disease

Music can help deal with the stress and anxiety associated with having treatment for coronary heart disease.

A review of 23 studies covering almost 1,500 patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients (Bradt & Dileo, 2009).

6. Why sad music lifts you up

‘Mood management’ is the number one reason people love music.

And, all music fans know that music can have a cathartic effect. But, it’s still odd that, for some people, sad music can, under the right circumstances, improve their mood. Why?

According to a study by Kawakami et al. (2013), sad music is enjoyable because it creates an interesting mix of emotions; some negative, some positive.

Crucially, we perceive the negative emotions in the music, but don’t feel them strongly.

7. Seeing happy faces

One of the effects of music is that it can make you feel different, but as little as 15 seconds of music can change the way you judge the emotions on other people’s faces as well.

A study by Logeswaran et al. (2009) found that a quick blast of happy music made participants perceive other’s faces as happier. The same was true for a snatch of sad music. The biggest effect was seen when people looked at faces with a neutral expression.

In other words: people projected the mood of the music they were listening to onto other people’s faces.

8. The colour of music

Music naturally makes people think of certain colours. Across different cultures, people pair particular types of music with particular colours.

In a study by Palmer et al. (2013), people from both Mexico and the US showed remarkable similarities in connecting duller, darker colours with sadder pieces of music and lighter, more vivid colours with happier music.

A follow-up study showed that these music-to-colour associations were seen because of the emotional content of the music.

9. Could music bring back your vision?

In 60% of people who have a stroke, the visual areas of the brain are affected.

This leads to ‘visual neglect’: the patient loses awareness of objects on the opposite side to where the brain has been damaged.

But, studies have found, when patients listen to their favourite music, some of their visual attention is restored (Tsai et al., 2013).

So, the effects of music can be an important tool in rehabilitation for stroke patients.

10. Babies are born to dance!

Infants as young as five-months-old respond rhythmically to music and seem to find it more interesting than speech.

In a study by Zentner and Eerola (2010), the babies spontaneously danced to all different types of music, and those that were most in time also smiled the most.

Maybe the effects of music really are in our genes!


UFF Food For Thought:

Why and how does music contribute to and enhance suspended disbelief in most if not all movies?


Thematic Music:

Such an appropriate title!

Circa Survive - Suspending Disbelief

Uploaded on Jan 28, 2008

Circa Survive - Suspending Disbelief


Twilight army*
Coming home.
Armor made of stone.
He who recollects, forgive us.
He who recollects, forgive us.
On the way down, we understand what it means to break down.
On the way out you decide you believe that on the way out its too late.
It's the same.
All lines you all used to know,
It's the same.
All lines you all used to know.
Trembling with no limbs, crow skin; a perpetual startled breed.
The ache, no one to fight
The writing was still traced and shy and never really aimed to show you.
We understand what it means to break down.
On the way out you decide you believe that on the way out its too late.
All lines you all used to know,
It's the same.
All lines you all used to know.
Still watching you rolling on what's good for
Mistaken but you were always once before you know.
We understand what it means to break down.
And on the way out you decide you believe that on the way out its too late.
It's the same.
All lines you all used to know,
It's the same.
All lines you all used to know.

Category: Music
License: Standard YouTube License

Music can propel us through the deepest waters until...

Peter Gabriel - Here Comes The Flood

Uploaded on Sep 6, 2006

Peter Gabriel - Here Comes The Flood, from the Growing Up Live tour, Milano 2003

Category: Music
License: Standard YouTube License


Suspended disbelief can help us escape, transcend our troubles and worries through various aspects of entertainment. It can also be a vehicle through which we accept systemic social/political/economic myths.

How can we best utilize suspended disbelief in service to humanity? Discuss...


R.E.M. - Losing My Religion (Official Music Video)

Published on Jul 1, 2011

The GRAMMY Award-winning "Losing My Religion" from R.E.M.’s critically-acclaimed, 1991 album, "Out Of Time"

Category: Music
License: Standard YouTube License


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