Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance has been defined as the perception of contradictory information. I have written about the importance of cognitive dissonance before. In fact, I would argue that it is essential for a healthy evolution of the mind. If you hear an opinion that contradicts the view of the world you hold there are three options:

  1. Keep your existing view and reject the new ideas
  2. Change your view to accommodate the new ideas
  3. Keep both views in your mind simultaneously

Option 3 results in cognitive dissonance but it also allows you to consider the ideas and incorporate them into your world view without rejecting them out of hand. You will often find that the new ideas doesn’t actually contradict your world view but modifies and enhances it. In The girl with the X-ray eyes, I mention that Richard Wiseman was quoted on the program as saying that “… if we were to accept such phenomena as Natasha Demkina’s as being true; we would have to throw out all our current scientific theories”. In other words, he had to reject these ideas because otherwise it would produce a cognitive dissonance in him. Of course it would also have allowed him to adapt his world view to incorporate these ideas but he was not prepared to do that.

With this cognitive dissonance there is an awareness of holding the contradictory arguments in you head at the same time, There is, however, a type of this where the person is completely unaware. The alcoholic who denies they have a drinking problem, the person who gets angry and is intolerant but claims they are always calm and listens to people, and so on. In these instances there is a conflict between what is said and what is done. There is also, usually, a complete absence of awareness of the contradiction.

And then there is a third type of cognitive dissonance where the evidence contradicts the ideology but the ideology holds strong. In a way this another example of simply rejecting views that contradict your world view but the ideas are not rejected. For instance, I’ve heard of many examples of people who reject any idea of spirituality and of forces that are outside of what they call science. They will willingly report experiences that are unexplainable in their world view but instead of questioning their world view they will simply say that because they are an Atheist, they they are unable to explain the experience. To them the Atheism is unquestionable.

Phil Braham 27 July 2021



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