Sunday, June 01, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance is Alive and Well


Going through books deciding what needs to go and what might stay, I came across a fun one from my days at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Psychology of Religion class): Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World (1956).

The most important thing about When Prophecy Fails, besides acknowledging a lot of eccentric beliefs and faiths in the world, is noting the gap between specific prophecies and statements and empirical reality that often results in cognitive dissonance -- rather than believe an original idea is wrong, false, not true even in light of new counter-revelations, followers recalibrate behind a new faith statement that weirdly reaaserts the old one.

In modern terms, after existence of threatening Weapons of Mass Destruction were "proven" to be in Iraq (thereby giving the primary stated rationale for the US-Coalition of the Willing invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003) but then, upon closer inspection, found not to be there, what happened? Furthermore, on the supposed connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein that never materialized, what happened? Why do so many people, particularly of the FoxNation variety, still insist on their essential correctness even in the face of facts? "Oh, there were WMD, but they were hidden or taken out of country." "Oh, there was a connection, but all evidence has been erased." Yeah, all evidence in an alternate universe, perhaps.

Cognitive dissonance -- an interesting series of thought processes. As for me, I prefer cognitive dissidence, using my mind to dissent against what I perceive as sheer lunacy and idiocy. However, I'm also happy to shift my thinking in light of new evidence. An example from this year: I first supported Hillary Clinton but, after observing the long primary campaign, have come to the conclusion that Barack Obama is a better, stronger Democratic candidate, partly because of the skillful way he's handled his campaign and partly because of outrageous statements and actions made by Hillary and Bill Clinton.

In a nutshell, there comes a point where people become fanatics, impossible to reach through rational discourse. Unless they calm down a little, these are people to be wary of.

Today's Rune: Partnership.

12 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I teach about this incident in my classes. I should get this book and brush up on the story again for next year. Very fascinating.

t said...

I vote with my gut often, and my gut wasn't feeling Hillary, and sure was not feeling many Republicans.
Bill Richardson, who I perceived as logical, rational, adaptive, endorsed Obama so I guess he's alright ;)

Lana Gramlich said...

You do cognitive dissidence very well. Keep up the good work. ;)

Anonymous said...

Cognitive dissidence - very clever, Mr. Bond! Better than cognitive diffidence, no doubt...

-JC

the walking man said...

Hey the aliens spared the planet, ergo a new set of "facts" were called for. Sheesh.


I was wondering when we were going to start blog politik from the half voiced land. So which part are you casting your vote for Barack or Obama?

Personally, Erik, I am not convinced by any of the candidates that they have the issues of the nation in hand. Which one has stood against the corporate structure that STILL robs the non gentry class? Which has gone beyond a slogan to look specifically at MI, the state that leads the nation in all statistics bad?

You would think that, like a last ranked ball team, MI would be a priority to the pols. But because there is nothing here that will generate income for them. they feel it safe to ignore. I feel it safe to say that NONE OF THEM will be my president, regardless of who gets their self a little deeper into the public trough.

Obama wants me to volunteer, ok no problem, but what is he going to do? I find jingoism and slogans, you can say the word "change" a hundred million times but it still remains, simply a word.

McCain wants to continue a culture of fear and intimidation, always looking outward from these shores to other places, but the focus now needs to be internal, also nothing there to benefit my home.

Clinton is repackaging ideas from a day just passed. they may have worked when the great penis was in the seat, he had credibility, but does she? She may talk of her long experience but in fact when it comes to elected office and actually driving the ship of state, she is a two term senator who carpet bagged her way into NY office. What Arkansas didn't want her back or did she think she couldn't take an incumbent seat there?

Nope I really don't see any reason to support any candidate, but because I live here, have gone to the military for this nation, made a living in the economy, I will stay interested, but I will not begin again to spend my resource or capital on this madness.

ELECT NOBODY! or at the most half a body.

Peace

rohit said...

hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

you are fantastic!!!

a kiss for you, my dear friend!

god bless u dear

can we exchange our link

r u ready to do?

rohit said...

hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

you are fantastic!!!

a kiss for you, my dear friend!

god bless u dear

can we exchange our link

r u ready to do?

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your writing and perspective Erik. I make sure to read and catch up on your blog weekly. Well written, MW

Erik Donald France said...

Thank you all for the comments.

Charles, that's a fun class, I'm guessing.

Tosin, gut feeling is a good balance to mind thinking. Bill Richardson is decent, not sure if he could take the full weight of the presidency yet, but he's fine.

Lana, ah shucks ;->

JC, yeahdawg! I thought Robert Fripp or Brian Eno quipped about it once, but can't find the reference if they did. Adrian Belew?

Walking Man/Mark: I feel in my guts it's time to take a stand and deliver. McCain and cohorts are predatory assholes plain and simple -- Supreme Court, foreign policy . . . (i.e. aggressive warring, no diplomacy)

Rohit, are you for real? Nice shoes ;->

MW, thank you tons, much appreciated.

Ooorah! Cheers all!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Erik,
Beware of the Dirt Man, aka MW. I car pool with him. He's a free thinker and nonBush supporter, more along the lines of Fieger-the-Tiger. I do agree with him though--you've had some really thought provoking posts. Keep at it!

Get ready for the Obama train coming through.

the walking man said...

Predatory? Aye the Republicans are overtly that, but when was the last Democrat who also was not the same in their own way?

I am not going to sit this one out but I would like to be convinced that along with getting way deep into the public trough & guaranteeing himself a lifetime of super wealth, Obama actually will "change" government.

Personally if this is going to be an other year of self serving pols, I would prefer them to just say it. That would get my vote unconditionally.

Peace

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)