Saturday, July 10, 2004

On cognitive dissonance

I came across a most wonderfully written passage describing how cognitive dissonance develops, strangely enough in a novel I'm reading by V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River.
...Each day's drive was like an achievement; each day's achievement made it harder for me to turn back. And I couldn't help thinking that that was how it was in the old days with the slaves. They had made the same journey, but of course on foot and in the opposite direction , from the centre of the continent to the east coast. The further away they got from the center and their tribal area, the less likely they were to cut loose from the caravans and run back home, the more nervous they became of the strange Africans they saw about them, until at the end, on the coast, they were not trouble at all, and were positively anxious to step into the boats and be taken to safe homes across the sea
Cognitive dissonance as used by the politicos is usually in the context of why people hold on to their beliefs, no matter if they are presented with overwhelming evidence saying otherwise. The gristly evidence is that the larger the discrepancy between beliefs and reality, the harder it is for people to change their beliefs.

Social psychologists have tried their damnedest to figure out just how and when cognitive dissonance works. While they've developed some parameters on this beast, I still think the whys and wherefores have yet to be determined. I'm afraid the limited nature of psychological research will never figure out what really makes cognitive dissonance tick.

A brief overview of cognitive dissonance.

What bugs me is that there has been little advice from the social psychologists on how to bust cognitive dissonance.