Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cognitive dissonance

Might not be a phrase you are familiar with however the behaviour it describes is familiar to many of us

You believe that you are a good person, say, yet you know you have done a bad thing.

There is dissonance.

You resolve it by deciding that the bad thing was not that bad.

The worse your behaviour, the harder you will try to twist it around in your head until you can reconcile it with your view of yourself.

It is commonly believed that we have theories and that they are tested by the facts.

The opposite is true.

We have theories and then we strive mightily to fit the facts into them, ignoring those that don't quite work or reinterpreting them if we have to.

The more we have at stake emotionally, the more pressing this task becomes.

Cognitive dissonance explains a great deal.
When groups like the police, medics, politicians, social workers, barristers, judges the legal apparatus - get together, convinced of their own righteousness, the facts are in cases of cognitive dissonance completely ignored.

They are certain that they are right, certain they are just and often, you know, they really are.

But when they are not, they will never ever admit it, digging themselves in more and more deeply.
There's only one way out.

That is to allow others, those without a stake in the righteousness of anyone, to examine what went on.

Sadly in many cases this is not done
Even worse those involved deny that there is any need for such a review
On a personal level if you do this then time to get real
Telling others you are right when all the evidence says you are not is a big big problem
On a simple level we might call it lying however it is indicative of a bigger problem
Look at yourself and consider if your behaviour warrants attention
And if it is your friend then be aware that cognitive dissonance does not take care of itself
Cognitive dissonance an unusual phrase for a sadly all too common condition


Anonymous said...

So you mean one has to speak up? If it is a friend? Is that what you mean? That otherwise the situation will not solve itself?

Antony said...

People of this nature seldom change so yes if this person is in your life and the behaviour frustrates you then either a) stop seeing the person or b) be clear that the behaviour is not acceptable
Question would a real friend use you in this way. Is that friendship or abuse of the relationship?