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Author Topic:   Cognitive Dissonance and Cultural Beliefs
Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(6)
Message 30 of 102 (671202)
08-23-2012 6:26 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by saab93f
08-20-2012 6:51 AM


Cognitive Dissonance In Politics
Would this fit under the topic?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...ape-rarely-causes-pregnancy

I see this as a continuum from the ideology that good girls don't get raped and/or the victims somehow brought that upon themselves.

It's an excellent example of a frequent type of cognitive dissonance and its resolution. What happens is, when someone is confronted with two ethical/political principles, each hard to abandon, and which come into conflict only in some particular case, then the cognitive dissonance may be removed by denying the existence of the case. (For it is easier for a man to ignore a fact than to change his principles.)

So in this case, we have:

Principle 1: Abortion is murder and must never been condoned.
Principle 2: It is manifestly unjust that a rapist should be able to impose on his victim, beyond the rape itself, a pregnancy which is unwanted, embarrassing, psychologically disgusting (for who would want her rapist's baby growing inside her?) and which carries the usual risks to her health, and that she should have absolutely no say in the matter, which is not her fault and was against her will.
Solution: It is impossible for rape to result in pregnancy.

This works perfectly. We have two ethical principles that conflict only in one given case. All we've got to do is deny the existence of the case, and the whole problem goes away.

Or consider homosexuality. Two principles, one ancient and one modern, come into play:

Principle 1: The book of Leviticus is unquestionably the word of God, and tells us to discriminate against homosexuals, in fact to kill them.
Principle 2: But according to our modern mores, there is little more shocking and stupid than to discriminate against someone based on what they cannot help, e.g. the color of their skin, or their gender.
Solution: One's sexual orientation is a choice. Why, if I wanted, I could decide to be sexually attracted to small pieces of gravel, I just don't want to.

Or ...

Principle 1: Government regulation is bad.
Principle 2: For the economy to crash into depression is also bad.
Solution: The subprime crisis was actually caused by a piece of government regulation (the Consumer Credit Act) passed in 1977 rather than by the unregulated orgy of fraud, greed, and stupidity in the financial sector which immediately preceded it. I know this because while I have no understanding of economics as such, I do listen to the Rush Limbaugh show.

Principle 1: Nothing must stand in the way of rich people getting as rich as possible.
Principle 2: It would be best if America was governed for the good of all Americans rather than for the benefit of a tiny oligarchic elite.
Solution: Trickle-down economics works!

Principle 1: America is good.
Principle 2: Theocracy is good.
Solution: The Founding Fathers were all devout theocrats, and the concept of separation of church and state was invented some time in the 1960s by atheists. Here, let me lend you this book by David Barton.

Principle 1: Our children should have the finest science education in the world.
Principle 2: They must also be taught nothing which conflicts with my understanding of my pastor's interpretation of my favorite book (which one day I will get round to reading).
Solution: Scientists are completely wrong about science. Even I can tell you that, and I have no scientific training whatsoever. They must be idiots. (Alternative solution: scientists overwhelmingly support creationism.)

I could go on all night, I can think of half-a-dozen other examples off the top of my head. The point is that it is apparently easier to believe something contrary to fact than to revise one's opinions about what's right and wrong. Those are set in stone; reality is mutable.

Or of course the other thing one could do, but which is rarely done, is to learn to live with the ambiguity. In the case of rape, for example, the pro-lifers, however hard-line, could at least have the grace to say: "Actually, that really is a tough one. According to our principles, there is no way for us to be just and fair to all parties concerned, and the very best we can to is make an agonized choice between two evils." But these people are not good at living with ambiguity.

---

Addendum: It strikes me that these are all examples from the right. Dear me, am I being partisan? That's not like me, is it? Let me try to make up for it.

Similar things might happen on the left. For example someone who maintained that racial/religious profiling wouldn't help catch terrorists would I think be sacrificing facts to reduce dissonance between on the one hand, the principle "We should prevent terrorism" and on the other hand "profiling is wrong". But I don't see liberals who oppose profiling doing that; rather they live with the problem, and say things like: "This is the price we pay for living in a civilized society." That is, in the crunch, they tend to (rightly or wrongly) sacrifice one principle to the other, and admit it, rather than sacrificing the facts to the principle. (Or maybe all my friends are the smarter type of liberal, and I am experiencing sampling bias.)

A better example would be from back in the day when certain sections of the left were more doctrinaire and were inclined to be apologists for communism. On the one hand, communism was good because it was left-wing; on the other hand, human rights are also good. Ergo, there were no human rights abuses in Stalin's Russia. And since science is also good, there must (they said) also be something to be said for Lysenkoism, which surely could not be merely the drivelings of a crackpot who succeeded in imposing his worthless opinions by means of political maneuvering rather than by virtue of their scientific merit.

But nowadays the problem at least in my experience is predominantly on the right, as the left have become more pragmatic and the right more ideological.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 32 of 102 (671210)
08-23-2012 7:54 AM
Reply to: Message 31 by RAZD
08-23-2012 7:24 AM


Re: Cognitive Dissonance In Politics
Principle 1: It is bad to immigrate illegally especially when people are waiting to do it legally
Principle 2: Farmers and factories need immigrant labor to meet their production needs, preferably with low pay workers
Solution: temporary work cards or some kind of "work to citizenship" program that would sign people up to work say 4 years, and learn english and get a GED in night school, with cit test at the end.

Well, that's not an example, because the solution is an attempt at a pragmatic compromise. For it to be an example of what I'm talking about, the second principle would have to be a principle rather than a statement of fact, and the solution would have to be something along the lines of: "Farmers need no such thing, if there were no migrant workers those vegetables would practically pick themselves."


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(2)
Message 37 of 102 (671267)
08-23-2012 8:43 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by Dr Adequate
08-23-2012 6:26 AM


Re: Cognitive Dissonance In Politics
In a fine illustration of the mind resolving dissonance, Huckabee has attacked Republicans who condemned Akin for being "not rational". Now, back in the real world, it is actually rational to say things that are true and to abstain from saying things that are false.

So what does Huckabee mean by rationality? He means, in effect, reducing dissonance. The reason Republicans are "irrational" to condemn Akin, is, as he explains, that the GOP is "a Party that supposedly stands for life". Rationality, he thinks, consists of accepting or at least not publicly criticizing those falsehoods which make it psychologically less troubling for hardline pro-lifers to maintain their point of view. To him, that's what rationality means: not that one's opinions should be consistent with the facts, but that if it comes to the crunch you should believe falsehoods consistent with your opinions.

OPf course, Huckabee is not only a conservative but also a Southern Baptist minister ...


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 42 of 102 (671360)
08-24-2012 1:57 PM
Reply to: Message 39 by RAZD
08-24-2012 10:20 AM


RAZD
No, you are wrong.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance theory clearly has a meaning. It is the idea that when someone holds two ideas that seem to be in conflict, they will come up with a third idea that will reduce that conflict.

The canonical example is of people paid to perform a boring task and then bribed to tell others that it's interesting. If they accept the bribe, they will then reduce their dissonance by genuinely believing that the task is interesting.

I have no idea what you mean by "cognitive dissonance" except that you seem to be suggesting that people are suffering from "cognitive dissonance" whenever they think they're right and you think they're wrong. Which would not even be a situation that would induce cognitive dissonance.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 44 of 102 (671366)
08-24-2012 2:55 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by Stile
08-24-2012 2:08 PM


Re: Understanding CD
Perhaps you could expand a bit on this?

Is your result simplified and meant to generalize only in most cases? Or is this an all the time thing?
I mean, it's possible for someone to know that the task is boring, but accept the bribe and just lie to others about it being interesting just to get the bribe.

Yes, but the point is that after receiving the bribe and telling the lie to the people whom they were bribed to lie to they are more inclined to believe themselves that the task was interesting, and to say to people without bribery that it was interesting.

What they are doing is this:

(1) I did this stuff. And I am not a liar. And I certainly wouldn't go about telling lies to people about how interesting is is just because I got $10 for doing so.
(2) I told a bunch of people that what I did was interesting, having accepted $10 to do so.
Solution: The task I performed was really interesting.

And if you examine them, they really think that the task they performed was interesting.

And here's a twist: the less you pay them to lie, the more the liars believe that the task was interesting.

As I say, this is the canonical experiment on cognitive dissonance. That's how it goes down. You may present other experiments.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 46 of 102 (671368)
08-24-2012 2:57 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Straggler
08-24-2012 2:55 PM


Re: detecting cognitive dissonance
Genuine cognitive dissonance requires a degree of self awareness and examination ...

No.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 48 of 102 (671372)
08-24-2012 3:29 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Straggler
08-24-2012 3:03 PM


Re: detecting cognitive dissonance
OK.Then what does induce it if not the conscious awareness of believing contradictory things?

The counterfactual belief in a falsehood.

I think I've made this clear.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 50 of 102 (671392)
08-24-2012 7:13 PM
Reply to: Message 49 by Straggler
08-24-2012 5:28 PM


Re: detecting cognitive dissonance
I think you are conflating contradictory thinking with cognitive dissonance.

Then you are wrong.

You are loudly crying that the shoe fits you. But in fact I did not have you in mind when I displayed the Big Shoe Of Stupid. I don't even think that it fits you. You are being over-sensitive.

Those who live in blissful ignorance of the facts or who never make the connection between facts and belief may have all sorts of issues. But they are unlikely to suffer from cognitive dissonance.

Yeah, you've missed my point entirely, haven't you? Along with the definition of "cognitive dissonance". I think you may have a problem, and it may even fall under the category of cognitive dissonance, but it is not the syndrome that I just described at length and in detail.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 54 of 102 (671588)
08-27-2012 5:50 PM
Reply to: Message 53 by Straggler
08-27-2012 4:52 PM


Re: detecting cognitive dissonance
I didn't actually take anything personally or assume you were talking about me particularly.

Well, it did remind me of things that you have actually said in the past.

I simply took issue with your statement that cognitive dissonance was caused by "The counterfactual belief in a falsehood".

I didn't; I gave instances where the dissonance was caused by conflicting imperatives and resolved by a falsehood.

Can we detect congitive dissonance in such cases? I think we can. Take my example of "homosexuality is a choice":

Principle 1: The book of Leviticus is unquestionably the word of God, and tells us to discriminate against homosexuals, in fact to kill them.
Principle 2: But according to our modern mores, there is little more shocking and stupid than to discriminate against someone based on what they cannot help, e.g. the color of their skin, or their gender.
Solution: One's sexual orientation is a choice. Why, if I wanted, I could decide to be sexually attracted to small pieces of gravel, I just don't want to.

Now, the loons who insist that homosexuality is a choice do invariably believe something like principle 1. And, being modern Americans, they are more or less bound to believe principle 2, or at the very least pay lip service to it.

And their adherence to principle 2 is shown by the fact that they find it necessary to argue the "homosexuality is a choice". Why not say to their opponents: "It doesn't matter a damn whether homosexuality is a choice, or, as you and all those scientists say, innate. God still hates it. As St. Paul says, God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned, so even if God made you gay, that's just his way of showing that you're not one of the elect."

Now it is clear that the proposition that "homosexuality is a choice" does take away the dissonance, since it allows belief in both propositions at once.

Is that why people believe it? Probably, because that is the only thing that would recommend it to anyone, because it is obviously silly. Introspection would convince one that one's sexuality is not a matter of choice; common sense would convince one that no-one would choose to be gay if they had the option; and the testimony of gay people is also fairly clear on this point. A sincere and objective search for the truth would never lead anyone to a conclusion so obviously wrong.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 62 of 102 (672681)
09-10-2012 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 61 by bluegenes
09-10-2012 1:09 PM


Re: Bump.
I've seen the phrase "cognitive dissonance" being used elsewhere on the board in a way that shows that it's easily misunderstood. Perhaps some of the examples on the thread might help.

Would anyone like to think up any more?

Well, for example, one might go like this. "My bank accidentally put $5,000 which I didn't actually earn into my bank account. I want to keep the money. Also, I am a good moral person and not a thief."

Now, if someone in that situation wants to keep the money, 'cos they really want it, then how are they to justify it to themselves? How do they reduce the cognative dissonance between" I am not a thief" and "I am going to steal this money"? Well, they might start thinking to themselves that the bankers are all thieves anyway and that banking is an immoral rapacious system for stealing from the poor, and that stealing from a thief is no crime.

This is an idea that would probably never occur to you, but it's very attractive to someone who really wants to keep the money.

A great example of this sort of thinking is the "Freeman-on-the-Land" nonsense, again about banks (among other things, like everything). For example, they don't want to pay off their mortgages, 'cos they don't have the money, and they don't want to have their houses repossessed, for obvious reasons. So they construct an elaborate pseudolegal theory whereby they don't owe that bank any money, because it cost the bank nothing to lend it to them, and so they owe the bank nothing. Now, the reason why I say this is an example of cognitive dissonance is that (1) with a few minutes' research, or thirty seconds' thought, it's obviously stupid; (2) you never find anyone who's paid off their mortgage explaining this. This halfwitted pseudolegal theory only appeals to people who can't pay their mortgage but want to keep their houses.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 65 of 102 (672687)
09-10-2012 3:32 PM
Reply to: Message 63 by Straggler
09-10-2012 2:54 PM


Re: Bump.
Let's say that I have just had a load of money somehow land in my account in the way you describe.

I was going to tell the bank of their error. I didn't have a particular problem with telling the bank of this error. But having just read what you say above about bankers and banking being an "immoral rapacious system for stealing from the poor" I've decided not to tell them.

I might give some of the money to charity. Or I might not. I haven't decided yet.

Am I suffering from cognitive dissonance do you think? If so how have you decided that this the case? I don't feel particularly conflicted.....

Well, if you have already thought of banking being an "immoral rapacious system for stealing from the poor", then you may possibly be wrong about that, but it's not a way of reducing cognitive dissonance.

But if that position concerning bankers only starts to appeal to you after you have this opportunity to steal from them, and take it, then probably you are just reducing cognitive dissonance. Suddenly you acquire a new idea about what the banking system is all about, and instead of thinking of them as honest custodians of our money, you start thinking of them as wicked thieves. Then it is likely that you are just resolving cognitive dissonance.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 79 of 102 (672734)
09-10-2012 10:44 PM
Reply to: Message 72 by Straggler
09-10-2012 7:15 PM


Re: Bump.
The scenario you paint could be a sign of cognitive dissonance.

And I would argue that it probably is. If you suddenly acquire a belief that most people don't have and that you've never held before just at the point when it becomes convenient for you to believe it, then although "post hoc ergo propter hoc" is a formal fallacy, it is also a good rule of thumb in cases like these.

Thus I put it to you that most of those who believe being gay is a choice do so not because they are seeking to resolve cognitive dissonance but because they haven't really thought about it, have no dissonance at all, and just accept the stance taken by the media, their family, their friends and the others that they listen to on such matters.

I think that that is so, yes. It resolves the cognitive dissonance of the homophobic community as a whole, but obviously they don't each have to think of it, they can just be brought up to believe it.

But no-one would have thought of it in the first place, or believed it after more than five seconds' thought, if it wasn't so extraordinarily convenient. I agree that maybe there are some people who don't give as much as five seconds' thought to any given proposition, and so are incapable of feeling cognitive dissonance, let alone resolving it, and has just taken it on the nod like they believe in talking snakes, but the idea exists to resolve cognitive dissonance, otherwise it would have no greater currency than: "Maybe the reason I keep losing my socks is that leprechauns eat them". I've given my arguments for thinking this, so you can address them.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 80 of 102 (672737)
09-10-2012 11:11 PM
Reply to: Message 76 by Straggler
09-10-2012 7:48 PM


Re: The "fuckwitted" and "wanker" groups
Because my initial instinct (i.e. give the money back) was an unthinking response. After thinking about it, and being inspired by the comments of others bashing bankers, I decided that it would do less good in the hands of a bonus-ridden-banker than pretty much anyone else I could think of.

Where is the contradiction in my thinking that has caused CD?

That would be the conflict between your "initial instinct" not to steal, and your other initial instinct to keep the money 'cos you want it. Now that you have modified your opinions so that it's OK to steal from the "bonus-ridden-bankers" whom you imagine to be your worthy victims, you can keep the money and you can keep your high opinion of your morality. You have not committed a misdeed, indeed in your own small way you are taking a just revenge against an egregious social wrong. Hurray!


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 85 of 102 (672833)
09-11-2012 4:56 PM
Reply to: Message 82 by Straggler
09-11-2012 8:12 AM


Re: The "fuckwitted" and "wanker" groups
Actually I gave the money to charity.

is that still an example of CD in your eyes?

What difference does it make what you spend the money on? --- the question is whether you were conflicted about taking it and what you did to reduce the inner conflict.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16102
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 88 of 102 (672879)
09-12-2012 7:36 AM
Reply to: Message 86 by Straggler
09-12-2012 6:05 AM


Re: The "fuckwitted" and "wanker" groups
It matters because that will decide whether there is any conflict or not.

No, that would be decided by whether there is any conflict or not.

Absolutely. That is exactly the question. That is my point. Without any conflict any diagnosis of CD is misplaced. [...] I didn't do anything to reduce any inner conflict because there wasn't really any inner conflict in the situation as I have detailed it.

And I gave an example in which there was, in fact, conflict, and therefore the diagnosis is quite properly placed.

Really, I don't see where you're going with this. I say that an elephant would be an example of a mammal. You reply excitedly: "Yes, but suppose it wasn't an elephant! Suppose it was a hat-stand! Then it wouldn't be an example of a mammal!" Well, quite. This is why I gave an elephant as an example of a mammal, rather than a hat-stand.


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