Monday, September 27, 2021

Heuristic: Cognitive Dissonance


The idea of "Cognitive Dissonance" was first defined in the peer-reviewed literature by Leon Festinger in the mid-1950s.

Like many significant ideas, the impetus for this idea was a "failed" experiment. In this case the experiment involved the amount of effort paid arguers invested in defending a position. The hypothesis was that the more you paid the debater, the more vigorously they would defend it.

The data showed that many test subjects who received a dollar defended the views they were told to defend with much greater vigor than many of the test subjects who were given $20.

Festinger then postulated that our minds HATE puzzles and will backfill with answers that resolved those puzzles.

The subjects who received $20 were able to solve the puzzle "Why am I doing this?" by rationalizing that they were being paid to do it.

The subjects who were paid the very nominal sum could not solve the puzzle that way. Rather than suffer the pain of cognitive unsolvable puzzle...their minds shifted to actually believing the proposition they had been paid to argue.

The highly paid debaters argued as hired help. The poorly paid debaters argued out of genuine, even if newly formed, sense of conviction.

Our minds  and values are far more plastic than most of us realize. How could we possibly know? Our yardstick is also constantly mutating.


The implications are enormous.

Not only can you "not buy loyalty" but to crassly attempting to pay for it will poison its development.

Undisciplined human minds will ALWAYS embrace the tidy, self-contained answer when offered. So will most disciplined ones.

People will simply not hear information that causes a mental puzzle because that causes mental anguish. People who trust the Media cannot hear information that throws their trust into doubt. People who do not trust the Media and Government cannot hear data that might support some of the agendas they are promoting.

The art of persuasion is not the drip-drip-drip of information. That can be tuned out. The art of persuasion is to submerge the listener in an irrefutable tsunami of information that cause more cognitive dissonance than the listener can endure. They will abandon their prior beliefs to stop the pain.


Festinger postulated that loyalty or oaths can be short-circuited by payment, threats or promises. Those are external forces that bypass the internal value map and allow the subject to rationalize their behaviors.

It is notable that the language for a "Guilty Plea" in many courts contain questions similar to:

  • Have you been paid by anybody to plead guilty?
  • Have you been promised anything to plead guilty?
  • Are you making this of your own, free will or have you been threatened or coerced to make this plea?
That is a glimmer of hope.

How many of the Leftist shock-troops are paid to protest?

How many have been promised positions or advancement?

How many have been pressured to fall in line with the outrage du jour?

They will be rats leaving a sinking ship when the tide turns.

1 comment:

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.