Cognitive Dissonance

migraine“Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.”

Cognitive Dissonance is something we all need to be aware of and try to figure out how to best overcome it. It is my opinion that Cognitive Dissonance is the #1 Enemy of Free Thought and the primary blockade preventing more people from becoming atheists.

I see it happen on Twitter all the time. You can see it in their responses. Everything is going smoothly, they are agreeing with things, and then you introduce the part where they need to confront their beliefs and suddenly they have excuses and cop-outs and special pleading and red herrings and deflection and dodges and often an itchy block finger.

It was interesting having a talk with a cousin of mine a while back and I could tell he wasn’t comfortable, but he brought up his own Cognitive Dissonance and admitted to how it was making him want to shut down. By being aware of this, he was able to keep discussing it and was able to keep an open mind to learn a couple things about a topic I clearly had more knowledge of. It was refreshing.

Learn what it is

Watch for its evil tendrils snaking into your brain.

Be scared of its mind-numbing powers.

Kick its ass. Kill it. Destroy it. Never let it win.

Think freely.

Until next time, keep drinking the Kool-aid.

Note: The image was plucked from google images. if you know the owner, feel free to let them know I’m using it and if they want it taken down, it’ll come down.

5 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance

  1. Wil C. Fry

    I wish I’d known this term when I was younger — during my theist/YEC days. I like to think just knowing it was “a thing” would have helped me confront my own cognitive dissonance earlier in life. For example, I once believed the Bible’s creation account, including the later chronologies that lead YECs to believe the Universe is about 6,000 years old. But at the same time, I believed that the speed of light was about 186,000 miles per second and that we can see light from stars more than 6,000 light-years distant (millions of light years, in some cases). These two contradictory beliefs shared my skull for a couple of decades, before I eventually confronted the fact that both cannot be true.

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  2. kukabur

    Am I the only one who thinks dissonance is a good thing? It’s psychologically and physically uncomfortable, right? That’s good! Don’t we want that to increase? Don’t we want that nagging feeling to overwhelm, to “win” and cause doubt? I think of it as the friend of free thought, a motivator to investigate and shift our beliefs.

    When you say to never let it win, it seems that we can pretty easily do that by deflecting and dodging and trivializing the contradictions, like the twitter folks you’ve been dealing with have done. You can’t feel cognitive dissonance if you’re successful blocking the information ever getting through and hand waving it away if it does.

    I think your cousin handled it well though. He let it win, in a sense, acknowledging the feeling and dealing with the conflicting ideas that caused it. Yay! I hope he’s still doing that.

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    1. Eh Post author

      When I say “Never let it win.” I mean don’t let it stop you from thinking. Don’t let it shut your mind off. You make some good points though.

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