The world and humans for students and their parents

What is cognitive dissonance?

From the book by Andrey Sokolov and Tatiana Sokolova "The world and humans for students and their parents".

Cognitive dissonance.

During evolution, our brains have developed many automatic defense responses. Once upon a time, in the African savannas, these reactions helped our species survive. However, now these same reactions are often the source of problems for modern man.

One of these reactions is cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is an emotional outrage that has a well-defined material, physiological and mental component - “new is dangerous”.

Tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago, "stability" and "familiar" meant "survival." And everything “new” was fraught with a possible threat, the reaction to which was “fight”, “run” or “hide”. Automatic and subconscious, in fact, reflex decision-making meant saving life when meeting a new predator, snake or insect. And this reaction has survived to this day.

From the point of view of modern psychology and physiology, our indignation and desire to “dislike”, to “ignore” or “ban” are caused by a similar mental reaction - cognitive dissonance - a state when something happens that we do not agree with. And often we do not agree with the new and unusual. If there is no cognitive dissonance and everything is familiar, then we like it.

The trick here is that learning, development, learning new things are inevitably associated with the emergence of cognitive dissonance. And what is "newer", "more unusual", i.e. the “really cooler”, the stronger the dissonance. That is why everyone who said something new, different from the mainstream, fell under the "bans" and "dislikes". History is full of such examples. The best known to us, of course, are the examples of Christ, Giordano Bruno or Socrates. But both before and after them, history is replete with examples. Simply because our psyche wants to "like" only the usual "cats", thus creating information noise and garbage and "rolling into the asphalt", "dislikes" and "bans" everything new, interesting, progressive. Suffice it to recall how Hitler was "liked" in his time in Germany, and not only in Germany. And what did these "likes" lead to?

Not always "ban" and "dislike" occur by "malice". The reaction of "indignation" to something new and unusual is a routine physiological and psychological reaction, it is simply a feature of the whole species of Homo Sapiens, and not a property of any particular group. But the stimuli for each group may be different. And the “newer” and “more unusual”, the stronger the indignation, the stronger the dissonance. And you need to be very good at mastering your psyche so as not to pounce on the "troublemaker." Which, however, does not in the least justify the aggressor. The “indignant” only “outrages”, while the actions of the aggressor are aimed at destruction. And the potential aggressor has free will to choose - to rush at the troublemaker with his fists or not.

It is not so easy to cope with cognitive dissonance, to control oneself, to refrain from aggression, since ancient defensive reactions are triggered instantly, and they have to be blocked by rather slow volitional conscious nervous activity.

Difficult does not mean impossible. And if the text, thought or sound goes against your own opinion - this is not at all a reason for "ban" and "dislik". This is a reason to think. Analyze a different point of view, look at the "other side of the moon", sometimes even "look in the mirror."

In some successful cultures, people deal with cognitive dissonance mostly by "detachment". take the position of an impassive observer. From the outside, this may seem coldness, indifference or falsehood. However, this strategy allows you to slow down the instinctive response and gives you time to analyze the situation before "running, hitting or hiding." As a result, the uncomfortable situation has every chance of moving into the category of "learning" and "cognition", and in the end the person will acquire new skills. That will ultimately help him be more successful.

In less successful cultures, the reaction of "active denial" is more typical - "this can not be, because it can never be", which rather quickly leads to insults, and even physical aggression. Such tactics only lead to conflicts. Losing tactics.

Another variant of the reaction is "self-deception", when a person closes off to new or other information and begins to seek comfort in the sources that confirm his point of view. As a result, a person blocks his development, which ultimately ends in defeat.

There is another variant of the reaction to cognitive dissonance. And this method is the most successful. It consists of a surprising replacement for indignation.

The fact is that the reaction to the "new" usually consists of three stages: indignation, analysis, acceptance. Cognitive dissonance is typical "outrage." If a person is determined to learn, if he is surprised to discover and learn "new", then the stage of "indignation" is transformed into the joy of discovery. And the stage of "acceptance" leads to the fact that a person rises one step higher.