Cognitive Dissonance

by LexIsFree 35 Replies latest jw friends

  • CalebInFloroda


    "Cognitve dissonance" is a hypothetical model currently under discussion and test in the behavioral sciences. It is not certain whether the state is genuine and, if it is, that everyone who is a state of denial experiences it before denial or accepting truth.

    However, being someone who witnesses a lot of this on a regular basis, I tend to believe that cognitive dissonance is very real. Be that as it may, "cogntive dissonance" means "mental disharmony."

    It is the state when a person has two conflicting situations in their minds, both of which they view as fact AND undergo distress, discomfort, pain, or other signs of emotional stress as a result.

    The Harry Potter books and films are famous for their CD-inducing formula in which we the audience see each story through the eyes of the protagonist, get fooled into thinking he has made the right conclusions, only to realize he is wrong. At this point Harry has to make a decision how to act, and we the audience are hooked. We have to know the truth and the answers ourselves, so we read on or keep watching, again hooked.

    Harry is a hero in that he never stays in his state of cognitive dissonance for very long. He immediately wakes up, ending the cognitive dissonance by decisive action which, because we see each story through his eyes is very satisfying to us.

    Note, the actions of Harry Potter after he learns the truth are never done in the state of cognitive dissonance. Harry has found a solution to dealing with two conflicting beliefs, albeit the right one. But the reality is that most people don't immediately respond to cognitive dissonance, and sometimes they stop the stress by denial. Harry is a hero because he does this immediately and always make the right choice in the end.

    Three other films baptize their audiences in cognitive dissonance very successfully, namely "Fight Club" and Hitchcock's masterpieces "Vertigo" and "Psycho." Most people describe these films as having "surprise endings," but in reality each ends up telling a completely different or foreign story in the end than the one you believed you started to watch. The cognitive dissonance that results is actually like a thrill ride, and each of these films is highly praised for their conclusion "payoffs." But the conclusions are only satisfying because they relieve the stress they cause.

    Cognitive dissonance is only a temporary state, but you are right that it will rise again if you don't stop falling for falsehood that keeps getting proven wrong. But it is still temporary stress, discomfort, a state that seeks immediate relief.

  • done4good

    CalebInFlorida-In the end, once denial is chosen there is no more dissonance as denial is a solution which brings relief.

    Yes, but an effort to avoid cognitive dissonance drives that denial decision. At some tacit level, the mental stress becomes unbearable and forces them to shut down, and go into that denial. A person not experiencing such pain would much more readily accept the dis-confirming information and simply adjust their thinking. The problem is, in order to do that, the whole belief system needs to go with it, and that they won't do. Very deep, (and usually existential), fears force the decision of maintaining belief and going into denial, once the cognitive dissonance brings that mental stress to their attention.

    Cognitive dissonance is deeply ingrained in human evolution. Animals flee potential danger, even if a more rational view of the potential threat meant that not running away would be safe. Animals don't reason, they react. This helps ensure survival of the species. Humans have evolved a conscience, that allows them to make rational and/or moral decisions when the evidence calls for it. When that evidence presents itself, (such as a person's religious views as being false), a strong, (however tacit), fear is usually experienced. This happens precisely because the new evidence is recognized as likely valid, and poses a threat to their beliefs. This is cognitive dissonance, and represents a mentally unstable state for a person to remain in. The fear is usually too powerful for them to overcome, so as such they go into shutdown/denial mode.

    The mental gymnastics described in the OP is what people will go through to justify their shortsighted decision to forego the cognitive dissonance, and investigate further. This causes long-term mental health effects in of itself, as has been pointed out.


  • John Aquila
    John Aquila
    LexIsFree 2 hours ago
    @disilussioned 2 I understand how you feel. My parents are in there 60s. At this point I don't even want them to wake up. It's all they know and it would shatter their world. I just want them to acknowledge that this isn't the "truth". It's just another religion. But what does it matter I guess.

    I honestly don't believe age has much to do with it. I learn ttatt in my 60s. I think it has to do with a person wanting to know the truth regardless of the outcome. I know people in their 20s that don't want to believe the WT is a false organization. And they won't listen to me talk about 1914, overlapping generation, etc. And I've read many experiences where some in their 70s-80s discovered ttatt. It wasn't easy, but it wast natural for them to accept the truth about the WT. I view it as a person to person thing. To many factors why some will not listen and others will.
  • diana netherton
    diana netherton
    Got it here mother handed me the brochure to read, and when I said I would read it if she listened to me about what is going on in Australia, she shut me down. I find it very interesting that they're so eager to push they're beliefs on you but when you counter, they just go into bean bag mode.
  • awake living free
    awake living free

    In a recent tc with my still in father (in his 70's) I asked if he had heard the term 'Guardians Of Doctrine' . He hadn't and when I explained GJ used it at the ARC referring to the GB, he too thought GJ was a non JW!

    I myself left JWdumb three years ago, the incongruence was unbearable. I am pleased to say my mental health has never been better .

    All the best...


  • CalebInFloroda


    Cognitive dissonance is not readily accepted in academia, the medical profession or behavior studies as fully established, let alone definitively defined and universally accepted.

    It appears to be a popular "panacea" or buzz word in Internet discussions regarding cults and ideological movements, but it is often used incorrectly.

    For those who know music and play an instrument, you are likely familiar with the word "dissonance" as the opposite of "harmony." As you can play a set of notes that "match" as a harmonious cord, those that "clash" to the ear are called "dissonant." Cognitive dissonance is the same, when you are faced with conflicting information that clashes.

    It ONLY refers to the time such cognitive clashing exists. If a person no longer accepts or pays attention to one of the subjects causing the clashing, the dissonance ends.

    It is just like playing a harmonious cord on a piano and adding one clashing note in the mix. If you stop or reject the use of the clashing note by releasing the key, the dissonant sound ends and harmony is restored.

    Cognitive dissonance is only that time that all conflicting or clashing thoughts are put into play at the same time. Once any of the "notes" that cause the clashing get released, the dissonance stops.

    Avoiding cognitive dissonance is the same as not having cognitive dissonance just as avoiding a clashing note on a piano is not having a dissonant cord. What I am trying to help people realize is that some misuse the term "cognitive dissonance" to refer to the denial state of many JWs. The fact is that if they were all put in a state that would cause the hypothetical CD state, if the studies are correct, they would be forced to make a decision one way or another. But being in the state of denial or simply believing a false doctrine is not the same as "cognitive dissonance."

    Just the fact that people keep debating with me on this point is in itself a demonstration of what is often termed as CD. People are having a hard time letting go of the misuse of the term so they defend and argue about it, some attempting to make it sound like it's universal behavioral science, and it is not.

  • flipper

    Bottom line is like Outlaw said- JW's are very adept at denial- so much so that in my opinion many JW's suffer from " Stockholm Syndrome " whereby they can totally support and be complicit with the crimes of their captors ( GB and WT leaders ) and not even blink an eye at the crimes of the WT Society regarding child abuse, no blood transfusions, virtually anything that WT leaders do- is acceptable to them.

    And THAT is where the danger lies. No limits on how far rank & file JW's will trust the GB even in spite of crimes they have committed. Can anybody say " Charles Manson " ? How about "Jim Jones " or " David Koresh " ? If rank & file JW's have supported the GB these last 136 years without questioning - how FAR will they go in that support ? And how FAR will the GB take advantage of that " support " or sticking the heads in the sand of the rank & file ? It's a sobering thought. More serious than a lot of people take time to consider

  • StrongHaiku

    CalebInFloroda - But being in the state of denial or simply believing a false doctrine is not the same as "cognitive dissonance."

    I would agree. Being in a state of denial or justifying a false doctrine would be more of a response to CD not the CD itself. Denial, justification, etc. are some of the typical responses to resolve the CD.

  • done4good

    Sorry, but there is no such thing as "universal behavioral science". Psychology is a soft science, built upon hard sciences, (such as mathematics, biology and physics), as well as other soft sciences, such as sociology. Dissonance theory is no less a valid area of study than most any other area of psychology. Actually, it is more "universally" accepted, than many other areas of psychology, since it does a very good job of explaining a complete picture of what is actually going on better than its competing theories.

    While what you state concerning the two conflicting thoughts existing at the same time is the dissonance, you are oversimplifying the contexts as to how and when this dissonance is experienced. Most of the time, it is not acute. It exists mostly at a subconscious level, and rarely causes much interference with normal life. Brief moments of discomfort are experienced, (such as watching a nature show on the reality of evolution, and stating "well I know that part is false"), and the dissonance resolved through that denial.

    There are times, (and pointing out a GB member's gaffs is one of them for sure), when acute CD is experienced. The discomfort is immediate, painful, and triggers a response that could only be described as absolutely illogical. The alternative at that moment is to either accept the possibility that one's belief system could be wrong, (and hopefully investigate further as to why), or shut down. The latter is almost always chosen, because very deep existential fears would need to be overcome instantly, and that is likely not humanly possible for most. Cognitive dissonance cannot save one from such a state, so denial is even more likely in this acute state of CD.

    I agree many ex-JWs misuse this term. I am not one of them. I think you use it correctly, even if your take on the science being somehow less valid than other areas of psychology is simply not true. Where I mostly differ with you, is in the black and white approach you are taking to when this dissonance is experienced. It is not "one and done". It is ongoing, (usually in the subconscious), and at times becomes acute, when evidence is directly presented to the conscious mind.


  • Vidiot

    "A lot of people pretend to be active JWs. This Brother Jackson you speak of is probably not an active JW."

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