Monday, September 19, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

I think one of the reasons so many students struggled with the article on Cognitive Dissonance is because cognitive dissonance, by nature, is confusing. When our beliefs are torn between logic, there is an inevitable increase in doubt and confusion. The effects can often be overwhelming, and it is always circumstantial when it comes to severity. For example, the aforementioned group who experienced their beliefs to be challenged when neither flying saucer nor flood appeared when expected is an extreme case and therefore all the more unique. The end result of the group of "believers" not abandoning hope vs the ones who were left to experience their own disappointment alone was particularly interesting, as it affirms not only humanity's avid willingness to believe whatever provides them the most comfort (in the case of the "congratulations, you saved the world without knowing it!" group) but it also has some profound undertones in regards to how mankind views religion and divine worship as a group activity.

However, I was a bit skeptical about the experiment listed at the end. Not only because the explanation left something to be desired (and at least a second read) but because the selection of test subjects seemed a bit unstable. One has to assume that any student studying Psychology at Stanford, even if it is an intro course and especially if they were made aware that they would be test subjects at times in their study, would be intelligent enough to automatically take on some type of agency in the experiments they participate in. Whether their intents were to sabotage or supplement the tested material remains to be seen, but I find it hard to believe that highly capable Psychology students did not take on some bit of personal motive when participating in this experiment. I feel it would be much better as a (completely) blind study, perhaps involving people of different age groups and walks of life, before tying in any significant determination about mankind's means of reacting to cognitive dissonance. As it stands, I think the experience the religious group had serves as a much better indicator to mankind's willingness to accept/avoid belief systems when cognitive dissonance is a factor.

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