Halloween has become the 2nd biggest holiday of the year. The question is why?
November 01, 2012
"I'm trying to lose weight but I love cheesecake."
Paradigms slugging it out, fighting for dominance in your consciousness—keeping you from fulfillment.
And sometimes, cheesecake.
You’ll be happy to know there’s a universal name for what you have: cognitive dissonance.
(Or maybe you're also unhappy to know since you don’t like being labeled.)
Cognitive dissonance again.
Now, the cognition part is simply an impressive name for bits of facts roaming around up there. Most of the time, cognitive irrelevance best describes cognitions. Since they have nothing to do with each other.
But when you have opposing attitudes on the same subject pulling you in different directions, that's where dissonance comes in.
This theory was first explored by social psychologist Leon Festinger, who appeared to have it, when he said this:
“Two opinions, or beliefs, or items of knowledge are dissonant with each other if they do not fit together; that is, if they are inconsistent, or if, considering only the particular two items, one does not follow from the other.”
What's good about knowing you have it, according to the experts, is that dissonance, being unpleasant, motivates you to do something about it.
At the risk of oversimplification, you either rationalize away one of the conflicting attitudes that's bothering you. Or, my current favorite—you introduce so many new cognitions you overwhelm the cognitions you have.
For example, "I took the steps instead of the elevator to my office, I just had a bag of potato chips for lunch, I didn't get enough calcium and cheesecake has calcium." Ergo: bring on the cheesecake.
Conflict resolved. Cheesecake consumed. You can now go on and feel wretched about something else until you tilt the cognitions in the directions you want.
How do I feel about all this?
Well, on the one hand, I think we might be more productive if we didn't have this little war in our brains.
Then again, our old friend Leonardo DaVinci advised people who want to be more creative to embrace paradox, which is the old fashioned name for the confusion that we now label cognitive dissonance.
But what was he really talking about? Diverse philosophies? Art vs. science? Or his version of cheesecake— a torrone, an ancient concoction made from honey, well-whipped egg whites, vanilla and almonds.
As you can see, I need your help in this matter.
So...how much dissonance do you have, cognitive wise in your life? Or are all your cognitions in agreement?