Mistakes Were Made

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Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:39 pm

Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me

Religion and Right Wing politics get mentioned a few times in this book, but mostly it is about the common human traits of self-justification and adjusting our memories to fit our view of ourselves. As one Amazon.com reviewer said, first you will say you know quite a few people who act this way, then that everyone acts this way, then you will realize you act that way.

The authors have worked on the subject of cognitive dissonance for years and are well versed, starting with Festinger and Milgram and on up through recent work. It is striking to realize how much thinking has changed on this topic just in my lifetime. The intuitive idea that people respond to rewards and punishments is challenged when you understand cognitive dissonance. As well as some other ideas you might find surprising.

It is not written in a technical format. The examples of cults and the “repressed memory” cases from the 1980’s put a very human face on these concepts. In the final chapter, they try to give some advice on how we can deal with our own cognitive dissonance, or what to do when we see in it others. Like when your Aunt Bertha is about to send a check to pay the taxes for the sweepstakes she just won, and will receive as soon as her check clears!

According to cognitive dissonance theory, the wrong thing to do at that point is tell her she is stupid. Not that you would speak that way to Aunt Bertha, but anything that attacks her sense of who she is will likely have the affect of causing her to justify her actions to resolve the dissonance you just caused. She will think, “I am a smart person, I figured out that this sweepstakes is real, therefore, it must be real.”

Normally, we come in at the point where the actions of others appear obviously stupid. We see in the news that a politician took an expensive trip, paid for by a corrupt lobbyist and can’t figure out why they did it. We don’t see the series of small steps, each one self-justified to resolve the dissonance. To get them to see it, we need to ask open ended questions like, “tell me about this lobbyist, how was he trustworthy?”

Another interesting application was the study of math skills in the US and China and Japan. Basically, it was found that US kids resolve the dissonance of not being able to do math by concluding that they are not innately good at it, and they quit trying. In China and Japan, it is expected that kids will fail at this at first, they are not praised as math geniuses if they get it quickly or shamed by their peers for not getting it on the first try. Consequently, more kids do what everyone knows you need to do to succeed at math, keep working through the exercises.

The applications to the discussion of science vs. religion were obvious, but barely mentioned in the text. A couple reviewers pointed out a left wing bias in the examples, but I haven’t seen one yet that mentioned an anti-Christian bias. Hopefully people who are resolving their belief in the supernatural via cognitive dissonance will read through this book.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Mon May 02, 2011 3:23 am

Before I read this book, I was acquainted with the term "psychologicalcognitive dissonance" [corrected 4 May 2011] but had only a rather vague notion of what it means. Having read the book, I have a better idea of what it means, and of the psychological research that is associated with it; but the book contains no satisfactory explanation either of what cognitive dissonance is or what cognitive dissonance theory is. The authors repeatedly say that cognitive dissonance theory predicts this and cognitive dissonance theory predicts that, but they never tell us what the theory is--an omission that diminishes not only the usefulness of their book but also the credibility of their argument.

Aronson and Tavris offer an explanation of the term "cognitive dissonance" at p. 13; but it is terribly inadequate. It reads:
Cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent, such as "Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me" and "I smoke two packs a day." Dissonance produces mental discomfort, ranging from minor pangs to deep anguish; people don't rest easy until they find a way to reduce it. In this example, the most direct way for a smoker to reduce dissonance is by quitting. But if she has tried to quit and failed, now she must reduce dissonance by convincing herself that smoking isn't really so harmful, or that smoking is worth the risk because it helps her relax or prevents her from gaining weight (and after all, obesity is a health risk, too), and so on. Most smokers manage to reduce dissonance in many such ingenious, if self-deluding, ways.
The authors cite the pair of thoughts "Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me" and "I smoke two packs a day" as an example of "two cognitions that are psychologically inconsistent." But it is not evident that there is any inconsistency at all between these two thoughts. Certainly they are not logically inconsistent: it is possible for both to be true. Nor is there any kind of probabilistic conflict between the two: it does not defy probability that both should be true. The authors say, in the paragraph immediately following the one just quoted, "Dissonance is disquieting because to hold two ideas that contradict each other is to flirt with absurdity . . ." But there is no contradiction between the two cognitions in the example.

The authors say that the two cognitions are psychologically inconsistent. But what is that supposed to mean? That no one can affirm both thoughts at the same time? But surely people can do so; if they could not, then this pair of cognitions could not be an example of cognitive dissonance! Wherein, then, is the "psychological inconsistency" supposed to consist? Perhaps in the fact that affirming both thoughts creates discomfort. But the discomfort was supposed to be the effect of a so-called psychological inconsistency. If the so-called inconsistency is nothing other than the discomfort itself, then the definition amounts to saying that psychological dissonance is the state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions that produce a state of tension--which tells us essentially nothing.

It is a dismal failing for a book to fail to give an informative explanation of the very concept that is at the core of its argument. We are left to figure out for ourselves what the concept is from the evidence of the use that the authors make of it.

One point about the concept that is clear, though the authors never explain why it is the case, is that, as they say immediately before the passage quoted above, cognitive dissonance is "the engine that drives self-justification." This, after all, is the subject of the book, according to its subtitle: "why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts." We justify, or attempt to justify, such things because it is difficult for us to accept that our beliefs have been foolish, our decisions bad, or our acts hurtful.

It is these negative evaluations of ourselves that are the source of the discomfort of which the authors speak. In the example quoted above, there is, as I said earlier, no inconsistency between the thoughts "Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me" and "I smoke two packs a day"; but the combination of those thoughts entails the thought "I do a dumb thing." That implication, and not any inconsistency between the first two thoughts, is the source of our discomfort. To reduce dissonance, we must do things, or rather think things, that will allow us to avoid accepting that conclusion.

It seems to me that all of the examples discussed by the authors fit under this explanation of the concept better than they fit under the explanation that they give. Further, it is evident that many cases that fit under the authors' definition will not illustrate what they mean by cognitive dissonance. Suppose, for instance, that I remember distinctly, or seem to remember distinctly, leaving a book in a certain place a short time ago, but that when I return to that place, I don't find the book there (and suppose also that I am alone in my room when this has gone on). This may cause me perplexity, consternation, irritation, frustration, and other unpleasant emotions, but it would give rise to what Aronson and Tavris seem to have in mind when they use the term "cognitive dissonance." Certainly it will not drive me to try to explain the non-appearance of the book in self-justifying ways. Rather, my reaction will most likely be first to look around to see if the book has fallen down somewhere, and then, if that does not lead to the discovery of it, to conclude that my memory is at fault: I must have put the book somewhere else and forgotten doing so. Yet here we clearly have a case of discomfort produced by an inconsistent pair of cognitions--"I left the book right here (and no one else has been around to move it)" and "The book is not here." There is no cognitive dissonance involved because the conflict between these two cognitions does not, or does not seriously, threaten my evaluation of myself. It does compel me to acknowledge the faultiness of my memory, but it will not be the first thing to have done that.

In sum, what the authors talk about under the heading of "cognitive dissonance" is not, as they say in their failed attempt at a definition of the term, an inconsistency between two cognitions, but an inconsistency between some body of cognitions and our estimation of ourselves.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Mon May 02, 2011 3:35 am

Nice catch.

To me at first blush it might seem as if a psychological inconsistency might come from holding a belief that one does or should act according to best information for one's health, while also holding the belief that smoking is harmful, and yet continuing to smoke.

Does adding an extra belief help ?
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Mon May 02, 2011 4:05 am

Karyn wrote:Nice catch.

To me at first blush it might seem as if a psychological inconsistency might come from holding a belief that one does or should act according to best information for one's health, while also holding the belief that smoking is harmful, and yet continuing to smoke.

Does adding an extra belief help ?
You can certainly derive a contradiction or inconsistency by adding an evaluative belief about oneself, such as (in the smoking example) "I am not dumb," or perhaps more to the point, "I do not do dumb things." But of course we all know and admit, in general terms, that we do dumb things; what is really hard and painful to admit is that this or that particular thing that we do is dumb. Anyway, it seems to me that this is just to express one's self-evaluation in the form of a thought. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but it may obscure the point that cognitive dissonance, at least as Aronson and Tavris operate with the notion, always involves such a thought. So the presence of a self-evaluative thought should be built into the definition.

On the other hand, after posting that long comment, I found a page on the topic of cognitive dissonance which seems to indicate that it is not intrinsic to the notion that it bear on self-evaluation. One passage reads:
Two cognitions are said to be dissonant if one cognition follows from the opposite of another. What happens to people when they discover dissonant cognitions? The answer to this question forms the basic postulate of Festinger¹s theory. A person who has dissonant or discrepant cognitions is said to be in a state of psychological dissonance, which is experienced as unpleasant psychological tension. This tension state has drivelike properties that are much like those of hunger and thirst. When a person has been deprived of food for several hours, he/she experiences unpleasant tension and is driven to reduce the unpleasant tension state that results. Reducing the psychological sate of dissonance is not as simple as eating or drinking however.

To understand the alternatives open to an individual in a state of dissonance, we must first understand the factors that affect the magnitude of dissonance arousal. First, in its simplest form, dissonance increases as the degree of discrepancy among cognitions increases. Second, dissonance increases as the number of discrepant cognitions increases. Third, dissonance is inversely proportional to the number of consonant cognitions held by an individual. Fourth, the relative weights given to the consonant and dissonant cognitions may be adjusted by their importance in the mind of the individual.
There is no mention of self-evaluation here, but it would be a contributor to the degree of dissonance in so far as it contributes to the importance to the individual of the pertinent cognitions. It may be that Aronson and Tavris merely happen to consider instances of cognitive dissonance that involve self-evaluation because they are interested in self-justification and it is only where the dissonance bears on self-evaluation that it drives us to self-justification.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Tue May 03, 2011 3:17 pm

Not really finding anything useful here, unless you plan to propose an alternate defintion I don't see any value in your analysis. If you can't find dissonance in a decision to do something that might be deadly, I don't know how else to define it to you. Your need to demonstrate logical inconsistency isn't helpful.

Isn't enough that it is not logically consistent? i.e.
1. Smoking can kill me
2. Therefore I should smoke

Not logically consistent or

1. Smoking can kill me
2. I smoke
3. Therefore it must be okay

The link you provided is based on Festinger, the same person that the book relies on heavily and the authors studied under, which is why it is consistent with the book. As it points out, most cognitions are irrelevant to each other. Maybe you are having trouble with the smoking example because it is not immediately relevant. Smoking won't kill you instantly, it might never kill you, the person who has the two pieces of information has to put them togehter and determine if they are relevant to each other.

1. Smoking can kill me
2. I smoke
3. Maybe there is something here for me to think about
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Tue May 03, 2011 3:52 pm

What logical or psychological inconsistency is there, with " Smoking can be or might be deadly to me", and "I smoke" ?
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Tue May 03, 2011 4:11 pm

It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Tue May 03, 2011 5:41 pm

Lausten wrote:Not really finding anything useful here, unless you plan to propose an alternate defintion I don't see any value in your analysis. If you can't find dissonance in a decision to do something that might be deadly, I don't know how else to define it to you. Your need to demonstrate logical inconsistency isn't helpful.
Provoked though I am by your dismissive remarks, I will try to reply to your arguments on their merits. Aronson and Tavris's definition was expressed in terms of inconsistency and contradiction between cognitions. I showed that their example does not exhibit any inconsistency or contradiction between cognitions. This is not some sort of minor infelicity of expression that can be waved away but a failure on the authors' part to explain the central concept of their book. To correct such a deficiency, one must either modify the definition, as I proposed, or identify the inconsistency, in this and in other examples, as you seem to be trying to do in the rest of your message.
Lausten wrote: Isn't enough that it is not logically consistent? i.e.
1. Smoking can kill me
2. Therefore I should smoke

Not logically consistent or

1. Smoking can kill me
2. I smoke
3. Therefore it must be okay
Now this puzzles me. In the previous paragraph, you dismiss what you call my "need to demonstrate logical inconsistency"--which, by the way, is a misrepresentation of my criticism: I demanded only that the authors show an inconsistency of some kind between the two cognitions in their example, and I argued that there is no inconsistency between them, logical or probabilistic, and if the authors have in mind some other kind of inconsistency, they have given no indication of what it is. Having dismissed the need to show logical inconsistency, you now propose, as I understand you, to show that there is a logical inconsistency in the example.

All right, then. You try to exhibit a logical inconsistency not by using the pair of cognitions used by the authors, but a different pair, "Smoking can kill me" and "I should smoke." (I can't tell what the "therefore" is doing there, or for that matter the "should." Is the second thought supposed to be inferred from the first one?) I can't understand why you would think that there is a logical inconsistency between these two thoughts. Logical inconsistency between two propositions means that both cannot be true. Yet both of these surely can be true. The same applies to the three thoughts in your second example. There is no logical inconsistency in the set of the three of them. So if these examples do illustrate cognitive dissonance, then cognitive dissonance cannot be explained as discomfort arising from an inconsistent set of cognitions--just as I was arguing in the first place.
Lausten wrote: The link you provided is based on Festinger, the same person that the book relies on heavily and the authors studied under, which is why it is consistent with the book. As it points out, most cognitions are irrelevant to each other. Maybe you are having trouble with the smoking example because it is not immediately relevant. Smoking won't kill you instantly, it might never kill you, the person who has the two pieces of information has to put them togehter and determine if they are relevant to each other.

1. Smoking can kill me
2. I smoke
3. Maybe there is something here for me to think about
I can't tell what this group or sequence of thoughts is supposed to illustrate. It doesn't look like an illustration of cognitive dissonance to me: it certainly is not an inconsistent set of cognitions. If we are going to maintain the definition of cognitive dissonance in terms of inconsistency, then to the authors' two thoughts "Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me" and "I smoke two packs a day" we need only add the thought "I don't do dumb things," as I suggested in my first post.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Tue May 03, 2011 5:45 pm

Lausten wrote:It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
And there is no inherent inconsistency to that , either.
The example can be used of a captured spy killing himself because it's the easier ( and reasonable in view of national security ) way out, and it is a somewhat patriotic or honorable ending.

In fact, the train of thought doesn't even have to make sense. It only has to not be inconsistent, in order to not be what the authors claim it is.. non sequiturs are not inherently inconsistencies.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Tue May 03, 2011 5:47 pm

Lausten wrote:It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
Maybe... and maybe not...
Although certainly the relationship between mans terrors , his desperate disappointments, the very unfairness of life, and the remarkably small number of humans who actually do commit suicide versus our often suicidal behaviors, overt and subliminal, certainly hasn't been accorded the attention it deserves.

However, I think you have left out something in your posits on human behaviors generally, particularly those that are emphasized as negatives in almost all religions, and certainly the Abrahamic faiths within which the list of tabus is rather astoundingly long.
And almost all of them directed against things that man WILL do despite godly or priestly objection.
(There is no commandment for instance that reads "though shalt not eat dog,," presumably because eating dog is a regional rather than a general proclivity of our species.)

You have failed to consider THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE.
Which does count.
Homo Sapiens just likes to feel good.
As in people do things that are sometimes actually dangerous but ALWAY excoriated from pulpits and emphasized in the various commandments that guide most religions, BECAUSE THEY FEEL GOOD.
Sort of like wearing silk or satin.... but much better.
.
Among the secular warning of imminent death and destruction: condoms and cigarettes, booze... and dishonoring one's parents.
Condoms are an impediment to pleasure, invasive, and clumsy...
Smoking is an palliative for anxieties, and self-consciousness.
Booze.... well, its been around forever... there are few cultures that don't have their easily available strong beverage of choice. that allow people to imagine themselves as other than what they are: less inhibited, braver, funnier, sexier... more desirable as a companion in revelry.
Poteen, for instance, not only made the Irish less vulnerable to their climate, but allowed them to think that life with both rocky soil of limited arability AND the presence of the cruel and implaccable British was possible. (And as you can imagine, the British outlawed it, and imposed punishments for not only making it, but drinking it ... punishments that exceeded the value of the crime.)
And of course our own relatively recent experiment with prohibition is a perfect example of how normally sedate grandmothers will behave when their liquor is taken away from them.
And dishonoring the old folks? Who hasn't had the experience, either in actuality or in dreams, of telling Daddy off, but GOOD?
Or thinking "Boy, would my mother freak out at who I would REALLY like to bring to dinner!!"
Let's talk about the other things that might feel good while we are doing them and for which an excessive price might have to be paid where staid and solid citizens aware of the consequences do them anyway:
Using the name of god in vain?
Godammit!! Holy Moses. but that felt good. And it allowed me postpone the impulse to garrote my wife or the plumber.
Coveting thy neighbor's wife can get you through a the worst hour of a bad day.
Adultery? The wages of adultery are so low, and the disasters that usually follow are so destructive, that that alone is a hint as to the short -term pleasure derived from both the act itself and the thumbing of the nose at society AND your mother that it entails.
Adultery, while not dangerous in the way of bungee jumping does suggest a variety of just that.
Committing murder? Readings in criminology suggest that must individual killings are the result of pent-up frustrations that are momentarily dissipated by actually indulging oneself.
Masturbation? The world's most universally enjoyed hobby?
And enjoyed despite that in most of the world not only is it punished by eternity in hell AFTER death, we will be blinded and grow hair on our palms in this one.
And still we persist.... these pleasures must have SOMETHING that Christian television and monogamy don't have.
And of course there is this: Drugs. From the benign (but variable) fruits of Cannabis to the promised horrors of the dread tender of the cocoa and poppy plants,, and from ancient Greece to the rigid puritanism of Soviet Russia,(and Iowa) .... the the pure unadulterated pleasure of drugs despite the dire warnings, the threats, and the visible examples everywhere of our fellow men and women laid low, debased, made physically repellant, and mentally impaired.... drugs remain a scourge of families, tribes and nations..
Because they feel good when you take them.
And feeling good is clearly a human desire that cannot be gainsaid.

More hints: overeating is an exaggerated extension of the idea of "comfort foods."
And of course there is always "picking at scabs" with which I am (metaphorically of course) doing by writing this.
Yummy.
Aaaaaah!

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Tue May 03, 2011 6:18 pm

^ I'm not sure what that was all about, but it did give me some tee-hees.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Tue May 03, 2011 6:23 pm

Karyn wrote:
Lausten: wrote: It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
And there is no inherent inconsistency to that , either.
The example can be used of a captured spy killing himself because it's the easier ( and reasonable in view of national security ) way out, and it is a somewhat patriotic or honorable ending.
And we're off. I could have said, "a person who is not threatened or has no generally accept reason to die using a weapon capable of deadly injury, etc. etc." but that would have been obvious. Well, to most of us anyway. Instead I said "your" head. That is not a personal threat, but I assume you are not a captive spy. Or maybe you are, maybe you are sending me secret code to ask for help. It might explain your posts that don't make sense.

Attempted suicide is considered mental illness (and don't bring up death with dignity, again OBVIOUS). Smoking is legal, so we just call it crazy or stupid. Both fall under the definition of cognitive dissonance, i.e. thoughts that are not in harmony. You have redefined dissonance to mean "inherent inconsistency" and then said the definition is wrong.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Tue May 03, 2011 6:30 pm

Kritikos wrote:If we are going to maintain the definition of cognitive dissonance in terms of inconsistency,
I'm not maintaining that. I'm satisfied that "smoking is bad for me" and "I smoke" are dissonant. Logically inconsistent, in the way you are using it, is not relevant. Whatever it is you are tyring to accomplish doesn't change how you approach the topic.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Tue May 03, 2011 7:08 pm

Lausten wrote:I'm not maintaining that. I'm satisfied that "smoking is bad for me" and "I smoke" are dissonant. Logically inconsistent, in the way you are using it, is not relevant. Whatever it is you are tyring to accomplish doesn't change how you approach the topic.
What I am trying to accomplish is to establish a definite meaning for the term that lies at the heart of Aronson and Tavris's book. Your expressing yourself "satisfied" that the two thoughts mentioned are dissonant, while you cannot identify any inconsistency between them or propose an alternative definition of cognitive dissonance, reminds me of Justice Stewart's statement about obscenity: "I can't define what it is, but I know it when I see it." Such an attitude may satisfy you personally, but it falls short of scientific credibility. Don't mistake the lack of a critical attitude for mastery of a concept.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Tue May 03, 2011 9:07 pm

The burden is on you. Sorry to be so graphic, but if you can't see dissonance between the bullet that is moving really really fast and the brain, I don't know what to tell you. The difference with the smoker's dissonance is it is less immediate.

As the the link that you provided notes, there are a lot of thoughts rolling around in our head that our irrelevant to each other. Those thoughts are not logically consistent with each other either, but we just don't care. The problem is when we can create some seemingly logical consistency that leads to two conclusions that are inconsistent.

1. Smoking has been reported to be unhealthy
2. I prefer to be healthy
3. Therefore I shouldn't smoke

1. Smoking gives me a temporary boost and keeps me from eating too much
2. Temporary boosts are good for me and so is eating correct portions
3. Therefore I should smoke

A sane and rational person would do the next logical step three and say overall health is more important than temporary boosts, and I can control my eating in other ways. I'm simplifying somewhat, and of course there is physical addiction, but ultimately this up to the individual, their cognitive powers to make the choice for health.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Tue May 03, 2011 9:45 pm

Lausten wrote:
Karyn wrote:
Lausten: wrote: It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
And there is no inherent inconsistency to that , either.
The example can be used of a captured spy killing himself because it's the easier ( and reasonable in view of national security ) way out, and it is a somewhat patriotic or honorable ending.
And we're off. I could have said, "a person who is not threatened or has no generally accept reason to die using a weapon capable of deadly injury, etc. etc." but that would have been obvious. Well, to most of us anyway. Instead I said "your" head. That is not a personal threat, but I assume you are not a captive spy. Or maybe you are, maybe you are sending me secret code to ask for help. It might explain your posts that don't make sense.

Attempted suicide is considered mental illness (and don't bring up death with dignity, again OBVIOUS). Smoking is legal, so we just call it crazy or stupid. Both fall under the definition of cognitive dissonance, i.e. thoughts that are not in harmony. You have redefined dissonance to mean "inherent inconsistency" and then said the definition is wrong.
DearLausten:
Attempted suicide is only considered a mental illness if you survive your attempt.
Otherwise?
But to be absolutely serious, here in a serious venue, WHY is suicide considered mental illness?
Can you think of a reason,other than that most religions forbid it?
Given that it is the ultimate act of free will... which most religions agree you have (in order to explain why you are trying to commit suicide)?

Having hallucinations ... seeing what is not there, or is not seen by anyone else is the room, or in the city, is a sign of mental illness, yet looking for god, or claiming proof of having found him right there in the room with you, is a reason to be elected Pope or have your own cable TV Harangue Hour.
Fail at slitting your wrists and the punishment will be sharing a padded cell with someone who keeps blessing you.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Tue May 03, 2011 10:10 pm

Lausten wrote:
Karyn wrote:
Lausten: wrote: It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
And there is no inherent inconsistency to that , either.
The example can be used of a captured spy killing himself because it's the easier ( and reasonable in view of national security ) way out, and it is a somewhat patriotic or honorable ending.
And we're off. I could have said, "a person who is not threatened or has no generally accept reason to die using a weapon capable of deadly injury, etc. etc." but that would have been obvious. Well, to most of us anyway. Instead I said "your" head. That is not a personal threat, but I assume you are not a captive spy. Or maybe you are, maybe you are sending me secret code to ask for help. It might explain your posts that don't make sense.
I'd hold off on declaring which of us is not making sense, if I were in your ungainly position.
Attempted suicide is considered mental illness (and don't bring up death with dignity, again OBVIOUS). Smoking is legal, so we just call it crazy or stupid. Both fall under the definition of cognitive dissonance, i.e. thoughts that are not in harmony.
Neither of those ( suicide, smoking ) is a thought inherently "not in harmony".

Neither of them is even a thought. :lol:

You're funny.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Wed May 04, 2011 1:46 am

Lausten:
And we're off. I could have said, "a person who is not threatened or has no generally accept reason to die using a weapon capable of deadly injury, etc. etc." but that would have been obvious. Well, to most of us anyway. Instead I said "your" head. That is not a personal threat, but I assume you are not a captive spy. Or maybe you are, maybe you are sending me secret code to ask for help. It might explain your posts that don't make sense.

Karyn:
I'd hold off on declaring which of us is not making sense, if I were in your ungainly position.


LOL... But your own "positions" to the extent that you have mastered any, haven't exactly turned you into "the White Swan..."
Or "the Black Swan" either come to think of just HOW ungainly....

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Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Wed May 04, 2011 2:19 am

Smelly wrote:Gurgle
Pitiful stuff. Your paragraphs are a mess of incomplete thoughts, disconnected sentence fragments, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Wed May 04, 2011 3:55 am

Karyn wrote:
Smelly wrote:Gurgle
Pitiful stuff. Your paragraphs are a mess of incomplete thoughts, disconnected sentence fragments, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors.
LOL..... Um... Something has happened on the way to the Forum.
Among the blessings you dispense are the invaluable, ever reliable, and always constructive criticism that any lesser talent would sell her mother for....
Why, I feel... er...uh... so ... well.... lucky..
Perhaps when things calm down a bit, we can have an "incomplete thought" contest.... you and I...
However there is one area in which you excel, and any challenge to your supremacy would be foolhardy: I bow to you in the typing department.
You are clearly a winner... perhaps THE winner.
And who knows but that you aren't probably a Grade One file clerk, wherever you ply your trade, and where you might have learned to spell "Darwin." .
(Expecting you to have read the books would be .. I agree.. excessive.
And allowances must be, are in fact, made... so no need to trouble yourself.)

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Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Wed May 04, 2011 5:51 am

nmblum wrote:
Karyn wrote:
Smelly wrote:Gurgle
Pitiful stuff.
....[ :-x ]....
Norma Manna Blum
Was I talking to you ? :mrgreen: "Smelly" wrote "Gurgle".


They always advise not to wear a shoe that doesn't fit, don't you know.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Wed May 04, 2011 12:36 pm

Sherlock Holmes: "Obviously, my dear Watson, Kritikos and Karyn are smokers, and have provided clear examples in support uv the book's premise".

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Wed May 04, 2011 12:50 pm

JO 753 wrote:Sherlock Holmes: "Obviously, my dear Watson, Kritikos and Karyn are smokers, and have provided clear examples in support uv the book's premise".
:?: Please explain.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Wed May 04, 2011 1:10 pm

Smoking iz a contradiction for anybody who iz risking bad health and death who iznt otherwize self destructive. Your denial uv that showz that you are attempting to rezolve a conflict.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Wed May 04, 2011 1:48 pm

JO 753 wrote:Smoking iz a contradiction for anybody who iz risking bad health and death who iznt otherwize self destructive. Your denial uv that showz that you are attempting to rezolve a conflict.
Yes, I am trying to resolve the conflict between the definition of cognitive dissonance that Aronson and Tavris offer and the example that they give. The claim that I have been making, which seems to me so elementary and so obvious that I don't understand how you and Lausten can deny it, is that there is no contradiction, indeed no inconsistency of any kind, between the thoughts "Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me" and "I smoke two packs a day."

I don't see how my pointing out the failure of the authors to provide an example consistent with their definition itself constitutes an example "in support uv the book's premise," as you say.

I wasn't going to reply to Lausten's last comment, as it looked to me as though nobody else was following this discussion and it seems to me impossible to get him to see the force of an argument, but, having already replied to you, I am led to take up the task.
Lausten wrote:The burden is on you. Sorry to be so graphic, but if you can't see dissonance between the bullet that is moving really really fast and the brain, I don't know what to tell you. The difference with the smoker's dissonance is it is less immediate.
No, the burden to give meaning to a technical term is on the people who introduce the term. If you want to apply the word "dissonance" to the relation between a bullet and a brain, that is your privilege, but don't pretend to be using the word in the technical sense of "cognitive dissonance," which concerns a relation between cognitions, not between solid objects. If Festinger, Aronson, et al. had introduced that term by taking your line about its meaning, according to which there is no need to explain what it means because it is just intuitively obvious when it applies, the concept would (deservedly) never have been taken seriously in psychology.
Lausten wrote:As the the link that you provided notes, there are a lot of thoughts rolling around in our head that our irrelevant to each other. Those thoughts are not logically consistent with each other either, but we just don't care.
Either you don't understand the word "consistent" or you don't understand the word "relevant." If two thoughts are not relevant to each other then they cannot possibly be inconsistent with each other. They cannot be inconsistent with each other unless they are relevant to each other. To quote the page that I cited earlier:
People hold a multitude of cognitions simultaneously, and these cognitions form irrelevant, consonant or dissonant relationships with one another. . . .

Irrelevance simply means that the two cognitions have nothing to do with each other. Two cognitions are consonant if one cognition follows from, or fits with, the other. . . .

Two cognitions are said to be dissonant if one cognition follows from the opposite of another.
Two cognitions, A and B, are in relation to each other one of the following: (i) irrelevant (not bearing on each other in any fashion), (ii) consonant (one following from or "fitting with" the other--whatever exactly that means), or (iii) dissonant (one following from the "opposite" of the other--meaning presumably its contradictory). If A and B are inconsistent, their relation is one of dissonance. If they are irrelevant to each other, then they must be logically consistent with each other.
Lausten wrote: The problem is when we can create some seemingly logical consistency that leads to two conclusions that are inconsistent.

1. Smoking has been reported to be unhealthy
2. I prefer to be healthy
3. Therefore I shouldn't smoke

1. Smoking gives me a temporary boost and keeps me from eating too much
2. Temporary boosts are good for me and so is eating correct portions
3. Therefore I should smoke

A sane and rational person would do the next logical step three and say overall health is more important than temporary boosts, and I can control my eating in other ways. I'm simplifying somewhat, and of course there is physical addiction, but ultimately this up to the individual, their cognitive powers to make the choice for health.
Finally you produce an example of inconsistent cognitions, namely the pair "I shouldn't smoke" and "I should smoke." I doubt very much, though, that many people who smoke think that they should smoke. That is certainly not part of the example presented by Aronson and Tavris. The pertinent cognition is simply "I do smoke." So the inconsistency must obtain between that cognition and "I shouldn't smoke," though explicating wherein it consists raises difficult philosophical problems.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Wed May 04, 2011 1:59 pm

Finally you produce an example of inconsistent cognitions, namely the pair "I shouldn't smoke" and "I should smoke." I doubt very much, though, that many people who smoke think that they should smoke. That is certainly not part of the example presented by Aronson and Tavris. The pertinent cognition is simply "I do smoke." So the inconsistency must obtain between that cognition and "I shouldn't smoke," though explicating wherein it consists raises difficult philosophical problems.
Your word games aren't fun anymore. The question is now, "what is it you are smoking?" Whatever it is, I don't want any.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Wed May 04, 2011 9:05 pm

Wut the hell? The guy iz being polite, so why rezort to insults?

I understand your objection, Kritikos, but I think its based on not wanting to make an obvious connection. Its no quantum leap to fill in motive for the observation 'I smoke'. Thus, my Sherlock thing excluded terminally il and suicidal people, who woud hav no contraction between 'smoking iz bad' and 'I smoke'.

Your parameter for inconsistency iz too narrow.

If I am a top notch tool maker, a professional level that requirez meticulous attention to detail, fanatical adherence to proper proceedurez and a hi tolerance uv boring repetition, it iz inconsistent that I am also a slob at home, even tho the 2 thingz hav no direct interaction.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Wed May 04, 2011 9:53 pm

Wut the hell? The guy iz being polite, so why rezort to insults?
"word games" didn't seem like much of an insult, so no explanation needed. Also apparently we have different definitions of "polite". Agreed, no swear words were used and no angry tone seemed apparent, but that is a very low bar of politeness. I include "delibarately argumentative" and statements that imply I am having trouble getting it in my definition of impolite. Switching the topic to who started it would also be impolite. By my standards, this has not been a polite conversation from the beginning.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Wed May 04, 2011 11:33 pm

JO 753 wrote:Wut the hell? The guy iz being polite, so why rezort to insults?

I understand your objection, Kritikos, but I think its based on not wanting to make an obvious connection. Its no quantum leap to fill in motive for the observation 'I smoke'. Thus, my Sherlock thing excluded terminally il and suicidal people, who woud hav no contraction between 'smoking iz bad' and 'I smoke'.

Your parameter for inconsistency iz too narrow.

If I am a top notch tool maker, a professional level that requirez meticulous attention to detail, fanatical adherence to proper proceedurez and a hi tolerance uv boring repetition, it iz inconsistent that I am also a slob at home, even tho the 2 thingz hav no direct interaction.
Thank you for the constructive reply. I don't agree that what you have provided in your last paragraph is an example of inconsistency in any sense that can be relevant to the concept of cognitive dissonance. Actually, I don't think that it is inconsistency even in a non-theoretical, colloquial understanding of the word.
Lausten wrote:By my standards, this has not been a polite conversation from the beginning.
For the record, my first post in this thread made no reference, direct or indirect, to your first post, while your reply to it began as follows:
Lausten wrote:Not really finding anything useful here, unless you plan to propose an alternate defintion I don't see any value in your analysis. If you can't find dissonance in a decision to do something that might be deadly, I don't know how else to define it to you. Your need to demonstrate logical inconsistency isn't helpful.
No one could conceivably find anything impolite in my first post. I will let others judge of the politeness or impoliteness of your reply.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Thu May 05, 2011 1:45 am

Lausten answered with an oddly defensive and incoherent reply post. First, she said it was like "holding a gun to
your head". I understood this to mean it was like committing suicide. I replied, giving an example where it could be seen as reasonable, and not logically inconsistent, to commit suicide - under some circumstances.

Karyn wrote:
Lausten: wrote: It is very similar to holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
And there is no inherent inconsistency to that , either.
The example can be used of a captured spy killing himself because it's the easier ( and reasonable in view of national security ) way out, and it is a somewhat patriotic or honorable ending.
However, Lausten then became "miffed", inexplicably. The strange reply follows
And we're off. I could have said, "a person who is not threatened or has no generally accept reason to die using a weapon capable of deadly injury, etc. etc." but that would have been obvious. Well, to most of us anyway. Instead I said "your" head. That is not a personal threat, but I assume you are not a captive spy. Or maybe you are, maybe you are sending me secret code to ask for help. It might explain your posts that don't make sense.
Last edited by Karyn on Thu May 05, 2011 2:05 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 2:02 am

I was just looking at the Wikipedia article "Cognitive Dissonance" and noticed this passage:
Wikipedia wrote:An overarching principle of cognitive dissonance is that it involves the formation of an idea or emotion in conflict with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as "I am a successful/functional person", "I am a good person", or "I made the right decision."
I wish that I had better authority for this claim than the dubious one of Wikipedia, but as far as it goes, it affirms the very point that I was making in my first post in criticism of Aronson and Tavris's attempt to explain the concept of cognitive dissonance:
Kritikos wrote:In sum, what the authors talk about under the heading of "cognitive dissonance" is not, as they say in their failed attempt at a definition of the term, an inconsistency between two cognitions, but an inconsistency between some body of cognitions and our estimation of ourselves.
(Bold type added in both quotations.)

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Thu May 05, 2011 2:23 am

Kritikos wrote:I was just looking at the Wikipedia article "Cognitive Dissonance" and noticed this passage:
Wikipedia wrote:An overarching principle of cognitive dissonance is that it involves the formation of an idea or emotion in conflict with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as "I am a successful/functional person", "I am a good person", or "I made the right decision."
I wish that I had better authority for this claim than the dubious one of Wikipedia, but as far as it goes, it affirms the very point that I was making in my first post in criticism of Aronson and Tavris's attempt to explain the concept of cognitive dissonance:
Kritikos wrote:In sum, what the authors talk about under the heading of "cognitive dissonance" is not, as they say in their failed attempt at a definition of the term, an inconsistency between two cognitions, but an inconsistency between some body of cognitions and our estimation of ourselves.
(Bold type added in both quotations.)
RIght
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 3:05 am

Karyn wrote:RIght
Thanks. It's good to know that someone reading my posts in this thread can appreciate the force of an argument and not simply dismiss it as "word games."

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Jeff D » Thu May 05, 2011 8:25 am

I agree with Kritikos that "cognitive dissonance" is more sensibly / accurately defined as a relationship between cognitions (thoughts or mental propositions) where one cognition is the opposite of the other or logically follows from the opposite of the other. I haven't read and I'm not likely to read the Aronson and Tavris book that Lausten has cited, and so I can't say how far and how deep the terminological errors run.
The claim that I have been making, which seems to me so elementary and so obvious that I don't understand how you and Lausten can deny it, is that there is no contradiction, indeed no inconsistency of any kind, between the thoughts "Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me" and "I smoke two packs a day."
No inconsistency between the thoughts, as Kritikos is defining "inconsistency," and therefore no "cognitive dissonance." But there can be inconsistency (even a gaping, dangerous chasm) between what a person thinks and says and what he or she does. We have other words for that. Like "hypocrisy."

I did find myself sorting through a fair amount of word salad before I concluded that I agreed with Kritikos. Word salad like this:
The pertinent cognition is simply "I do smoke." So the inconsistency must obtain between that cognition and "I shouldn't smoke," though explicating wherein it consists raises difficult philosophical problems.
"[T]he inconsistency must obtain" and "Explicating wherein it consists" might be a law professor's phrases, and it's unfortunate that phraseology like this has spread further and more widely in academia. Why not just say " 'I do smoke' and 'I should not smoke' do seem to be inconsistent, but precisely pinning down the nature of the inconsistency is a difficult philosophical problem"?

I think that the inconsistency between "I should not smoke" and "I do smoke" arises from the idea that the first statement is a normative statement about how rational people ought to behave, while the second statement is a simple description of how the speaker is behaving. If the speaker is lying when he says "I do smoke," then whatever we want to call the difference or the tension between "I do smoke" and "I should not smoke," I think we should not call it "inconsistency." The "inconsistency" or contradiction arises if the speaker says "I should not smoke" and truthfully adds "I do smoke." There, I think it's an inconsistency between normative thought (thinking that smoking is unhealthy or undesirable behavior) and action (smoking). Whatever we want to call it (hypocrisy, a confession of human weakness, etc.), I don't think this is "cognitive dissonance."

Aside: Kritikos uses "relevant" in a fairly ordinary sense of "having some relationship [to]" or "closely connected to or appropriate to the matter at hand." But in another field (the law of evidence and court procedure), "relevant" means "legally pertinent [to]," or having a tendency to prove or support a claim. "Material [to X]" is what a careful lawyer would use instead of "relevant [to X]," but there are many, many lawyers who (unfortunately) use "material" and "relevant" (or "immaterial" and "irrelevant") interchangeably, and thanks to police procedural and courtroom drama TV shows, this has spread throughout the culture.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Tom Palven » Thu May 05, 2011 11:08 am

Cognitive dissonance can be ameliorated by employing Orwellian Doublethink, which allows one to accept politically correct conventional wisdom such as:

1. The common knowledge that Muslims have no reason to dislike the US except for jealousy over our lifestyles, and at the same time knowing that:
2. The US routinely aids and abets dictatorships in the Mid-East such as those in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, and engages in such actions as Operation Ajax. http://911review.com/precedent/century/ajax.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Or:
1. Believing that deficit spending which increases debt with no end in sight is economically unsound both for individuals and nation states, but at the same time:believng that:

2. Taking away a person's credit card or imposing a debt limit on individuals or governments is injurious to them because it reduces their ability to incur more debt.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Thu May 05, 2011 11:48 am

From the beginning, Kritikos has said that smoking is not illogical. I can't take that seriously.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Thu May 05, 2011 12:06 pm

OMG, jess fcked
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Thu May 05, 2011 12:10 pm

He didnt say that.

He & Karyn also hav not denied being smokerz.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 12:45 pm

Lausten wrote:From the beginning, Kritikos has said that smoking is not illogical. I can't take that seriously.
The proposition "Smoking is illogical" has never been mentioned before now. For the record, I will say that I consider both it and its contradictory to be incompetent combinations of words. Logic concerns the relations of consequence (in deductive logic) and support (in inductive logic) between propositions. To say of an activity, such as smoking, that it is, or is not, "illogical" is simply a category mistake. It would make as much sense to say that a chair is, or is not, illogical.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Jeff D » Thu May 05, 2011 12:55 pm

Yes, it would be better to say "Smoking ['tobacco products] is an activity inconsistent with rational self-interest." But a certain widespread sloppiness (which I will blame, perhaps unfairly, on Gene Roddenberry) has caused "irrational" and "illogical" become confused and conflated in modern popular culture. And so "illogical" becomes over-used.
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