7 Days of Perception - 3/7 - on Cognitive Dissonance

October 27, 2018

What is Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance Map

From SAGE Glossary of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The condition that emerges when one simultaneously holds two contradictory thoughts or beliefs or when one’s beliefs are inconsistent with one’s actions. It can also refer to the attempts one makes to reduce the emotional discomfort brought on by this condition.

The go to example given is when people’s knowledge and known facts doesn’t reflect in their behavior.

From Encyclopedia of Social Psychology

You have a friend named Jeff who likes to smoke cigarettes regularly. After attending a lecture on the grave cause–effect relationship between smoking and cancer, he quits. Why?

Well, that’s not dissonance. But if Jeff doesn’t quit (which is usually the case), it’s an example of dissonance. But i believe that is a bad example. Nicotine is addictive and now we’re in the realm of addiction and its related neuropsychology.

But going back to the origins of the concept would help us with a more useful example:

The theory of cognitive dissonance was first articulated in 1957 by the social psychologist Leon Festinger. Festinger was led to announce his theory by research conducted while writing his book When Prophecy Fails. While studying a doomsday cult whose leader had predicted that the earth would be destroyed by aliens, Festinger observed that after the projected date of destruction passed without incident, the cult’s followers not only refused to renounce their beliefs but actually intensified their attempts to win new converts.

Aha. Cult behavior again! The religious patterns are hard to avoid. Festinger continues:

Festinger’s theory stated that two contradictory cognitions—in this case, the believers’ confidence in their leader and the failure of his vision to come to pass—serve as an impetus that drives the mind to invent new beliefs or modify existing ones so as to reduce the friction between the two ideas and, hence, the sense of inner division that the dissonant beliefs have generated.

Yes. We are LESS likely to change our attitude and behavior in face of contradicting facts. Religions are notorious for this procedure and reimagining fundamentals rules of a religion to match the new world is a time honored tradition in every major religion. Don’t fall in the “oh it’s only religion” hole though! Religious behavior is human behavior. Be it god or whatever on top of your value hierarchy.

So one thing i like to think about sometimes is the question: “Are there any true materialists?”

This is akin to the smoker problem, but doesn’t deal with addictive chemicals. Free will is the go-to problem of a materialist point of view and easily be explained by a complex net of psychology, biology, sociology, and outside input. In other words there is no free will. But is there anyone who really acts upon this belief?

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