Mistakes Were Made

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 1:19 pm

Jeff D wrote: 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 grant you that my formulation was a bit ponderous could have been simpler, but to call it "word salad" is outrageous. It was a perfectly coherent and intelligible statement. Perhaps you have an eccentric understanding of the meaning of the phrase "word salad."
Wikipedia wrote:Word salad is a mixture of random words that, while arranged in phrases that appear to give them meaning, actually carry no significance. The words may or may not be grammatically correct, but the meaning is hopelessly confused. A famous example is Noam Chomsky's phrase, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously". The term is used to describe poetry and other literary works (as in Chomsky's example), but is also often used to describe a symptom of mental disorders or textual randomization in computer programs.
There was nothing of that description in anything that I wrote, and I strongly object to your implying that there was.
Jeff D wrote: 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."
This seems to me correct. It has occurred to me that Aronson and Tavris's example confuses, or at least involves, two forms of irrationality: cognitive dissonance and what the Greeks called akrasia, commonly called "weakness of will," i.e., the failure to act in accordance with one's own judgments or decisions regarding what to do. If they wanted to use such a complicated case to illustrate the concept of cognitive dissonance, they should at least have explained detail how that concept applies to it, as contrasted with the concept of weakness of will.
Jeff D wrote: 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.
Yes, and the word "relevant" is also used that way, or at least in a similar way, in the theory of logical fallacies. [Edited to insert: Oops! This is wrong! Correction posted below.] But I was following the use of the word "relevant" (or rather "irrelevant") in the page from the Ithaca College General Experimental Psychology Cognitive Dissonance Lab that I cited, where relations between cognitions are divided among (i) irrelevant, (ii) consonant, and (iii) dissonant. As this division is supposed to be exhaustive and non-overlapping, it is plain that two cognitions are irrelevant to each other just in case they are neither consonant nor dissonant with one another. The best understanding of this that I can come up with is that neither one supports or entails either the truth or the falsehood of the other.
Last edited by Kritikos on Thu May 05, 2011 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 1:21 pm

Jeff D wrote: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.
I always raise one eyebrow when I encounter that use of the word "illogical." :lol:

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Jeff D » Thu May 05, 2011 5:17 pm

Kritikos,

I hope you won't take personally my criticisms of your occasional use of "hyper-academic nomenclature" like "obtain between" and "wherein." It would not take me too long to search my own posts here on this Forum before I would find lapses of my own into ponderous or needlessly complicated verbiage.

And I'll concede that I use "word salad" a bit more loosely than the Wikipedia definition (It never occurred to me that Wikipedia would have one). I think of "word salad" as including not just zero-content incoherence hidden by masses of words, but also a message with some significant and interesting content that is made difficult to digest by a low signal-to-noise ratio. I did not mean for my "word salad" label to seem outrageous to you, and I can come up with much better examples of dizzying incoherence from other contributors here. Please accept my apologies.

Your use of "relevant" is definitely the common use outside of the legal profession.
I always raise one eyebrow when I encounter that use of the word "illogical."
Indeed, Commander.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 5:53 pm

Apology accepted, Jeff.

By the way, I think I made a mistake in my previous post when I said that "relevant" is used in the theory of fallacies in a way that is similar to the legal use of which you speak, i.e., meaning that proposition A is relevant to proposition B just in case A supports B. I'm pretty sure that that is incorrect, and that "A is relevant to B" in such contexts just means "the truth of A counts for or against the truth of B." The point is of little consequence, as it was merely made by way of concession, but I didn't want the error standing there.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Thu May 05, 2011 7:38 pm

Jeff D wrote:Kritikos,

I hope you won't take personally my criticisms of your occasional use of "hyper-academic nomenclature" like "obtain between" and "wherein." It would not take me too long to search my own posts here on this Forum before I would find lapses of my own into ponderous or needlessly complicated verbiage.

And I'll concede that I use "word salad" a bit more loosely than the Wikipedia definition (It never occurred to me that Wikipedia would have one). I think of "word salad" as including not just zero-content incoherence hidden by masses of words, but also a message with some significant and interesting content that is made difficult to digest by a low signal-to-noise ratio. I did not mean for my "word salad" label to seem outrageous to you, and I can come up with much better examples of dizzying incoherence from other contributors here. Please accept my apologies.

Your use of "relevant" is definitely the common use outside of the legal profession.
I always raise one eyebrow when I encounter that use of the word "illogical."
Indeed, Commander.
Indeed, indeed...
But i do feel compelled to add... fairness is very important to me as a delighted reader as well as a participant here.. that being able to raise one eyebrow is in itself somewhat of a skill.
And not to be dismissed frivolously
Hurrah for skills no matter how inconsequential that single one may be to those who have a lot of them!

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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 Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 8:31 pm

nmblum wrote:But i do feel compelled to add... fairness is very important to me as a delighted reader as well as a participant here.. that being able to raise one eyebrow is in itself somewhat of a skill.
And not to be dismissed frivolously
Hurrah for skills no matter how inconsequential that single one may be to those who have a lot of them!

NMB
I was an eager watcher of Star Trek as a boy—the original series was then in syndicated reruns—and it was very much under the influence of the examples of Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley that I practiced in front of the mirror until I was able to work my eyebrows independently of each other!

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Thu May 05, 2011 9:53 pm

Kritikos wrote:
nmblum wrote:But i do feel compelled to add... fairness is very important to me as a delighted reader as well as a participant here.. that being able to raise one eyebrow is in itself somewhat of a skill.
And not to be dismissed frivolously
Hurrah for skills no matter how inconsequential that single one may be to those who have a lot of them!

NMB
I was an eager watcher of Star Trek as a boy—the original series was then in syndicated reruns—and it was very much under the influence of the examples of Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley that I practiced in front of the mirror until I was able to work my eyebrows independently of each other!
Sometimes... especially when the eloquence and physical accomplishments of others reach their perigee at the same time, there are few words (at least in English) that can adequately express , backward, shy and klutzy is I am, and with two equally intractable eyebrows ....... how impressed I am at learning of your feat.
Norma Manna Blum .
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
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 Kritikos » Thu May 05, 2011 9:56 pm

I don't think I've seen a thread get this far off topic before. . . . :award:

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Thu May 05, 2011 10:46 pm

Then you havent looked.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Thu May 05, 2011 10:57 pm

Sumbudy famous sed sumthing like "geniusez hav the most persuasive demonz".

You dont hav to search long to find very smart smokerz.

After all the above wordsmithing, the contradiction between 'smoking iz bad' and 'I smoke' iz still perfectly crommulant and woud be instantly and plainly obvious to virtually anybody who speaks english.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Fri May 06, 2011 1:54 pm

JO 753 wrote:Sumbudy famous sed sumthing like "geniusez hav the most persuasive demonz".

You dont hav to search long to find very smart smokerz.

After all the above wordsmithing, the contradiction between 'smoking iz bad' and 'I smoke' iz still perfectly crommulant and woud be instantly and plainly obvious to virtually anybody who speaks english.
It's not a contradiction. Why cannot you understand that ? Do you not know what a contradiction is ?
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Fri May 06, 2011 6:22 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.
Contradictory motivez. Simple direct lojikl contradiction not required.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Fri May 06, 2011 7:06 pm

JO 753 wrote:
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.
Contradictory motivez. Simple direct lojikl contradiction not required.
Cognitive dissonance is supposed to be a response to an inconsistency in cognitions, not an inconsistency in motives. So either this case illustrates some other sort of dissonance or you haven't identified the pertinent inconsistency.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Fri May 06, 2011 8:23 pm

Thanks for the education, Kritikos. Wonderful explanations.
Blessings to you all.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Fri May 06, 2011 10:26 pm

Frum Websters.com:

Cognitive: of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)

Checkmate. Eazy wen your opponents think they are playing checkerz.

Now you hav to quit smoking! And, if you hav any honor, send me the money you woud hav been spending on cigarrettes for at least 5 yirz.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Fri May 06, 2011 11:00 pm

JO 753 wrote:Frum Websters.com:

Cognitive: of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)

Checkmate. Eazy wen your opponents think they are playing checkerz.

Now you hav to quit smoking! And, if you hav any honor, send me the money you woud hav been spending on cigarrettes for at least 5 yirz.
:blink: Eh? Me am confuse.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Sat May 07, 2011 12:04 am

Kritikos wrote:ognitive dissonance is supposed to be a response to an inconsistency in cognitions, not an inconsistency in motives.
So you are saying that there is an inconsistency in motives? Is that correct?
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Sat May 07, 2011 12:20 am

Lausten wrote:
Kritikos wrote:ognitive dissonance is supposed to be a response to an inconsistency in cognitions, not an inconsistency in motives.
So you are saying that there is an inconsistency in motives? Is that correct?
I suppose that it depends on what you take a motive to consist in. The term is rather slippery. In any case, the only essential part of my statement was the positive part. I probably ought simply to have said that cognitive dissonance is supposed to be a response to an inconsistency between cognitions and not a relation between motives.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Sat May 07, 2011 12:28 am

I'll try harder.

'Smoking iz bad'. A statement uv fact. We agree that the cognitator duznt dispute this.

'I smoke.' Also a statement uv fact by the same cognitator. We agree that he iznt lying.

Lets call our cognitator ed for brevityz sake.

Situation 1. ed iz a healthy guy, mentally stable (generally & relatively speaking), hiz life iz good and hez looking forward to a long, prosperous career and a long relaxing retirement. He jogz a few milez everymorning before work, goez to the gym a few timez a week, haz an attractive wife, drinks only occasionally and gets yearly checkups.

And he smokes 2 or 3 packs a day.

He wants to quit, but the nicotine iz stronger than he iz. That botherz him. How coud it not? Hiz active participation in hiz own debilitation and demize iz highly incongruent with hiz other habits AND hiz aspirationz. Highly incongruent, or you coud call it a contradiction. A blatant, ugly black bloch on an otherwize prestine wite background.

Situation 2. Same az above, except ed haz terminal schistosomiasis. Hez going to die this year. Stopped jogging, sum burbon and a line uv coke before work insted. Occasionally goes to the healthclub still, but only to look for chicks.

He haz no problem with the smoking. Wont hurt him at all. No cognitive dissonance.

Situation 3. Same az 1, except ed iz mentally unhinged; suicidal, in fact. He wuz never looking forward to a long happy life, so smoking iz not in conflict with hiz general motivation. All the healthy activityz he duz are just camo to hide hiz tortured soul. He shrugz off comments about smoking with 'I'm trying to quit' or wutevr. Its still socially acceptable, so he gets away with it.

Wont be too long now. Smoking cauzez no additional cognitive disonance.

Your objection iz merely an observation that smoking iz an activity whereaz 'smoking iz bad' iz knowledge and awareness uv consequencez uv the same activity. You fail to realize that all activity beginz and continuez with cognition.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Sat May 07, 2011 1:54 am

JO 753 wrote:I'll try harder.

'Smoking iz bad'. A statement uv fact. We agree that the cognitator duznt dispute this.

'I smoke.' Also a statement uv fact by the same cognitator. We agree that he iznt lying.

Lets call our cognitator ed for brevityz sake.
Can we suppose instead that Ed's first thought is "Smoking is bad for one's health"? "Smoking is bad" is terribly vague in meaning and makes Ed sound like Mr. Mackie on South Park. I am going to use the labels "A" and "B" for these two cognitions, thus:

A. Smoking is bad for one's health.

B. I smoke.

We are to understand these always as being in the mind of Ed, so that the pronoun "I" in B always refers to him alone.
JO 753 wrote: Situation 1. ed iz a healthy guy, mentally stable (generally & relatively speaking), hiz life iz good and hez looking forward to a long, prosperous career and a long relaxing retirement. He jogz a few milez everymorning before work, goez to the gym a few timez a week, haz an attractive wife, drinks only occasionally and gets yearly checkups.

And he smokes 2 or 3 packs a day.

He wants to quit, but the nicotine iz stronger than he iz. That botherz him. How coud it not? Hiz active participation in hiz own debilitation and demize iz highly incongruent with hiz other habits AND hiz aspirationz. Highly incongruent, or you coud call it a contradiction. A blatant, ugly black bloch on an otherwize prestine wite background.
(Bold type added.) You could call it chicken soup: that doesn't make it chicken soup. But f you are using the word "contradiction" according to the meaning that it has always had in logic, then you cannot apply it to such a case. In any case, whatever word you use, what you are talking about here is not a relation between the cognitions A and B, but a relation between those cognitions and various other elements of Ed's life--his desires, his habits, his hopes, and so on. If one has to make reference to such things outside the cognitions in order to identify the so-called cognitive dissonance in the case, then cognitive dissonance cannot be defined as a relation between cognitions--at least, not between such cognitions as A and B. This is the point that I have been making all along, or one of them, anyway.
JO 753 wrote: Situation 2. Same az above, except ed haz terminal schistosomiasis. Hez going to die this year. Stopped jogging, sum burbon and a line uv coke before work insted. Occasionally goes to the healthclub still, but only to look for chicks.

He haz no problem with the smoking. Wont hurt him at all. No cognitive dissonance.
Okay.
JO 753 wrote: Situation 3. Same az 1, except ed iz mentally unhinged; suicidal, in fact. He wuz never looking forward to a long happy life, so smoking iz not in conflict with hiz general motivation. All the healthy activityz he duz are just camo to hide hiz tortured soul. He shrugz off comments about smoking with 'I'm trying to quit' or wutevr. Its still socially acceptable, so he gets away with it.

Wont be too long now. Smoking cauzez no additional cognitive disonance.
Okay there too.
JO 753 wrote: Your objection iz merely an observation that smoking iz an activity whereaz 'smoking iz bad' iz knowledge and awareness uv consequencez uv the same activity. You fail to realize that all activity beginz and continuez with cognition.
No, I don't think that I have missed that fact. I proposed in my first post in this thread that one could explain cognitive dissonance in terms of a conflict of a set of cognitions with the subject's evaluation of himself or herself, though I now suspect that this only describes a specific variety of cognitive dissonance and not the entire range of phenomena to which psychologists wish to apply the term.

I think the fundamental problem is that the concept of cognitive dissonance is supposed to explain certain manifestations of motivation, emotion, and behavior, while at the same time being defined purely in terms of relations among cognitions. I don't think that that can be done unless some specification of the pertinent cognitions as pertaining to self-evaluation, self-conduct, or something of that nature is included in the definition.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Sat May 07, 2011 3:20 am

I found Leon Festinger's book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford University Press, 1957) on line at Google Books and read most of the first chapter before reaching the limit of my page-viewing allotment. In that chapter, Festinger tries to explain what it means for two cognitions to be dissonant.
Leon Festinger wrote:Let us consider two elements which exist in a person's cognition and which are relevant to one another. The definition of dissonance will disregard the existence of all the other cognitive elements that are relevant to either of both of the two under consideration and simply deal with these two alone. These two elements are in a dissonant relation if, considering these two alone, the obverse of one element would follow from the other. To state it a bit more formally, x and y are dissonant if not-x follows from y.
I find Festinger's use of the term "obverse" eccentric and obscure, but luckily he explains what he means by it in the next sentence of the quotation. This definition seems very clear. But look at where the author goes with it in the continuation of the paragraph:
Leon Festinger wrote:Thus, for example, if a person knew there were only friends in his vicinity and also felt afraid, there would be a dissonant relation between these two cognitive elements.
"These two cognitive elements," he says: what two cognitive elements? The preceding sentence specifies only one cognitive element: the cognition, on the part of our chap—for grammatical simplicity I'll assume that it's a chap, and I'll call him Ned—that there are only friends in his vicinity. The other element of Ned's mental life is simply his feeling afraid. If Festinger had written: "he was afraid that somebody would attack him," then he would have specified a cognitive element, namely the cognition "Somebody is going to attack me." But he says only that Ned "felt afraid." There is no indication of a cognition here at all.

Because of this, the definition that has just been given has no possible application to the example. If x is the cognition "There are only friends near me," then not-x would be "There are not only friends near me," or perhaps "There is someone near me who is not a friend." That is all very well. But what is y supposed to be? All we have is "feeling afraid." But this does not fit into the scheme of "x" and "not-x": the cognition "There are not only friends near me" cannot intelligibly be said to follow from Ned's feeling afraid. That is simply a category error. A cognition can only follow from another cognition. Whatever relation might obtain between a feeling of fear and the cognition, on Ned's part, that there are not only friends in his vicinity, it can't be the relation of following from.

In charity to Festinger, I will assume that when he uses the phrase "follow from," he does not intend it in the sense in which that phrase is used in logic. But what does he mean by it? I can think of three likely possibilities. One is the relation of making probable: not-x follows from y just in case the truth of y makes not-x probable. But this will not fit the case in which y is not a cognition. Another possibility is the relation of causation: not-x follows from y just in case having y causes one to have not-x. This might fit the example: a feeling of fear certainly might cause Ned to have the thought "There are not only friends around me." But I don't think that that is what Festinger means. I suspect that what he has in mind is rather some sort of relation of rational normativity: having y makes it rational to have not-x, or perhaps, more strongly, makes it irrational to have x. He would then be presuming a rule like the following: If you have a feeling of fear, then you are rationally bound to think that there is someone around who is not a friend.

Of course, there is no such rule. On this point, though, I think the example is just ineptly formulated. (Well, it is ineptly formulated in several ways; I mean that on this point the ineptitude can be corrected without drastically modifying Festinger's reasoning.) Ned may have perfectly good reasons for fear that have nothing to do with any potential threat from a person near him. He may be afraid that he is going to be fired from his job, or that he has a deadly disease, or that his child has been harmed, or that a tornado is going to blow through town, and so on. There are innumerable possible objects of fear that need having nothing to do with the persons in one's vicinity. (That is to say, these fears are, in the technical sense, irrelevant to the cognition on Ned's part that only friends are near him. They are, however, potentially relevant to other cognitions because, as specified, they each have a cognitive content.)

To find anything in the example that could plausibly be thought to fit the given definition of cognitive dissonance (under some interpretation or reconstruction), I have to assume that Festinger was imagining that Ned feels that he is in immediate danger of physical attack, or something of the sort. Without such a specification of his fear, it is senseless to suggest that there is cognitive dissonance between his fear and his awareness that there are only friends around him.

It could be the case that Ned feels a seemingly groundless and objectless apprehension: he feels endangered or threatened in some way that he cannot attribute to any specific objective danger. That is perfectly possible, and would make sense of Festinger's description of him as "feeling afraid," sans phrase. But as far as I can tell, it makes utter nonsense of Festinger's attempt to use the case as an illustration of his definition of cognitive dissonance. There simply is no cognition there for some other cognition to be dissonant with.

The lesson that I take from all this, apart from the extraordinary ineptitude of professional research psychologists in the handling of psychological concepts, is that when Festinger says that the "obverse" of one cognition, x, "follows from" another, y, what he means is that having y makes it irrational to have x. On this understanding, the notion of cognitive dissonance presupposes the notion of norms of rationality. Of course, there is no trace of the latter notion in Festinger's definition of the former. But I think that just reflects his failure to give an adequate explanation of his own technical concept.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by JO 753 » Sat May 07, 2011 7:58 am

I agree. bad example and incorrect use uv 'obverse'.

I dont know any psychologists, so dont want to generalize. Maybe you do and hav found them to be incompetent.

There iz a fundamental flaw with our educational system. If the founderz uv a discipline made mistakes in the very foundation, everything bilt upon it iz flawed. Class after class uv students will be indoctrictrinated with the mistakes, each student passed or failed based on how well they abzorbed the material. The wunz that did the best are likely to continue working in that field, possibly az professorz.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Sat May 07, 2011 12:19 pm

All we have is "feeling afraid."
I assume you have done some work with psychology. My wife does this with her groups too, when someone says "they think" when really they are reporting a "feeling" she calls it a thinking error. However this is unique to that situation. Festinger is not getting that technical. It is perfectly acceptable to equate thoughts with feelings.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Sat May 07, 2011 1:01 pm

Lausten wrote:
All we have is "feeling afraid."
I assume you have done some work with psychology. My wife does this with her groups too, when someone says "they think" when really they are reporting a "feeling" she calls it a thinking error. However this is unique to that situation. Festinger is not getting that technical. It is perfectly acceptable to equate thoughts with feelings.

http://www.alldepressiontips.com/depres ... elings.php
Then what thought does Festinger attribute to the person in the example when he says of him or her that he or she "feels afraid"?

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Sat May 07, 2011 7:03 pm

I went back to the text of A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance at Google Books and read further. Festinger offers some examples of what he means by one cognition's "following from" another. It seems to me evident that he uses that phrase with no precise meaning. He writes, just two paragraphs after the passage that I quoted earlier:
Leon Festinger wrote:It may be helpful to give a series of examples where dissonance between two cognitive elements stems from different sources, that is, where the two elements are dissonant because of different meanings of the phrase "follow from" in the definition of dissonance given above. (13–14)
This is inept. If a crucial phrase in the definition of a technical term is allowed to have different meanings, then the definition is ambiguous. It is, effectively, no definition at all, as there is no way to know which meaning the term carries in any given instance of its application. Festinger offers four examples, each of which is supposed to show a different meaning of "follow from," but does not explain why they should do so or whether these four are the only possible meanings of that expression. Thus, there is nothing but his or our intuitive sense of when the expression "follow from" applies or does not apply to determine the application of the term, and therefore nothing that objectively determines the application of the term "cognitive dissonance." We are back to the Potter Stewart rule—"I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

One thing that emerges clearly is that, despite what Festinger says, he is not talking about logical consequence. Here is his first example:
Leon Festinger wrote:1. Dissonance could arise from logical inconsistency. If a person believed that man will reach the moon in the near future and also believed that man will not be able to build a device that can leave the atmosphere of the earth, these two cognitions are dissonant with one another. The obverse of one follows from the other on logical grounds in the person's own thinking processes. (14)
I wish that psychologists would not use logical terms that they do not understand. Two propositions are logically inconsistent in the technical sense just in case they entail a contradiction. In a more intuitive sense, they are logically inconsistent just in case it is impossible for both to be true. On either understanding, there is no logical inconsistency between the thoughts "Man will reach the moon in the near future" and "Man will not be able to build a device that can leave the atmosphere of the earth" (as entertained by someone around 1957). The conflict between those two cognitions is not a matter of logic but a matter of empirical fact: as far as anyone could know at that time (or knows now, for that matter; but we are speaking relative to the time in which the example was formulated), there is no way for human beings to reach the moon without building a device that can leave the atmosphere of the earth. Logic does not and cannot rule out the possibility of alternative methods of transportation from the earth to the moon, such as a Star Trek-style transporter, a flying saucer from another planet, a magical pair of angel wings, and so forth. The inconsistency between the two thoughts in question is a matter of empirical fact, not a matter of logic.

Luckily, Festinger's formulation can be corrected. What he is calling "logical inconsistency" seems to be probabilistic conflict. In this case, if x is the thought (in the context of 1957) that man will be able to reach the moon in the near future and y is the thought that man cannot build a device that can leave the atmosphere of the earth, then not-x "follows from" y in the sense of being made highly probable by it (indeed certain, for all reasonable purposes). This seems to be what Festinger means by dissonance arising from "logical inconsistency."

I am going to skip Festinger's second example for now, as it raises a more questions than the others and deserves separate discussion. His third example is this:
Leon Festinger wrote:3. Dissonance may arise because one specific opinion is sometimes included, by definition, in a more general opinion. Thus, if a person is a Democrat but in a given election prefers the Republican candidate, the cognitive elements corresponding to these two sets of opinions are dissonant with each other because "being a Democrat" includes, as part of the concept, favoring Democratic candidates.
Once again, Festinger's formulation is unhappy. The phrase "these two sets of opinions" has no clear reference in the passage. Being a Democrat entails that as a rule one favors Democratic candidates for office. This is behavior, not opinion. Presumably, Festinger imagines the Democratic voter to entertain some such opinion as "Democratic candidates are to be preferred to candidates from other parties." The other opinion in the example would then be, "This candidate, who is Republican, is to be preferred to the other, who is a Democrat." The dissonance then obtains between a cognition of general purport and a specific instance that is counter to it.

Because the general cognition, at least as I have represented it, is unquantified—it says "Democratic candidates are to be preferred" not "In every instance, the Democratic candidate is to be preferred"—there is no contradiction between it and the particular cognition "The Republican candidate in this election is to be preferred to the Democratic candidate." But certainly the person who holds the former puts himself under a special burden of justification if he also holds the latter. The sense in which one of these cognitions "follows from" the negation of the other could be interpreted in the same probabilistic fashion as was proposed for Festinger's first example: "Democratic candidates are to be preferred to candidates of other parties" makes highly probable "The Republican candidate in this election is not to be preferred to the Democratic candidate." Other explanations of the dissonance may be possible, but at least we have one that makes sense of the example.

Festinger's fourth example reads thus:
Leon Festinger wrote:4. Dissonance may arise because of past experience. If a person were standing in the rain and yet could see no evidence that he was getting wet, these two cognitions would be dissonant with one another because he knows from experience that getting wet follows from being out in the rain. If one can imagine a person who had never had any experience with rain, these two cognitions would probably not be dissonant.
This is the first example that I have seen that is coherently presented. Festinger does not say explicitly what the two dissonant cognitions are, but it seems safe to presume that they are "I am standing in the rain" and "I am not getting wet." As he says, the dissonance between these two arises from experience. That is to say that it arises from other cognitions, in the absence of which there would be no dissonance. This example lends itself very well to the probabilistic explanation of the dissonance relation: one cognition makes the contradictory of the other highly probable.

So the understanding of cognitive dissonance that seems to make the best sense of these examples is that two cognitions are dissonant just in case one of them makes the other highly improbable. There is no need to adopt Festinger's explanation in terms of the contradictory (which he calls the "obverse") of one cognition "following from" the other. All three examples can be explained univocally in terms of the probabilistic opposition between the two pertinent examples.

Unfortunately, Festinger's second example, which I did not discuss, presents some special problems, but I will leave them for later.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Lausten » Sat May 07, 2011 8:22 pm

Then what thought does Festinger attribute to the person in the example when he says of him or her that he or she "feels afraid"?
Are you asking what it feels like to be afraid?
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Kritikos » Sat May 07, 2011 9:50 pm

Lausten wrote:
Then what thought does Festinger attribute to the person in the example when he says of him or her that he or she "feels afraid"?
Are you asking what it feels like to be afraid?
Is that a serious question, or are you just teasing me? If that is how you interpret what I wrote, then your inability to follow an argument, or even to understand a question, utterly defeats my powers of explanation.

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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Sat May 07, 2011 10:06 pm

Lausten wrote:
Then what thought does Festinger attribute to the person in the example when he says of him or her that he or she "feels afraid"?
Are you asking what it feels like to be afraid?
Wouldn't it be just a teeny-tiny bit more relevant to ask who has actually read the work of Festinger given that the last third of this considerable thread is based on this early contribution by someone who has taken on the name "Kritikos:"

"I found Leon Festinger's book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford University Press, 1957) on line at Google Books and read most of the first chapter before reaching the limit of my page-viewing allotment. In that chapter, Festinger tries to explain what it means for two cognitions to be dissonant."

"Read most of the first chapter, "eh? The first chapter of a book written in 1957? A contriubtion to a field which is almost daily subjected to revised inquiry and information?
And read with a speed that precludes the normal digestive process?
Googling and pasting, pasting and googling... it must be a hell of a lot of fun, and the possibility for doing it seems to be an international pastime..
But it doesn't often, if ever, especially when there is no real standard for either coherence or relevance, that can be applied to the results...
One wonders what the curious who still retain a jot of sanity think when they read this thread.....I am of course, (ask Karyn) hardly able to answer for any such crowd.
But I can tell you that I printed out a page or two of the entries here, exclusive of Jeff's attempts to restore dignity to the proceedings, and passed them out to an assembled breakfast party to read aloud, as if in rehearsal for a performance of a work resembling something by Samuel Beckett, perhaps entitled "Googling for Bolloocks."
In three minutes we were all, to a person, reduced to rolling around on the floor..
For perspective, I not so respectfully suggest that you try it...

NMB
P.S. And for extra fun, note the incomparable additional humor in Kritikos and Karyn repeatedly thanking each other for their contributions..
Back and forth, forth and back, like the tennis game in "Blow Up" but without the charm or the significance.
LOL... the mitigating factor to this insult to both the Forum in general and however it reached this really low point, is that "this too shall pass.."
And mercifully, be forgotten.
But of course, there is really nothing to stop it continuing other than shame, which apparently is in short supply.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Jeff D » Sat May 07, 2011 10:25 pm

If there is some continuum of mental processes -- or some number of distinguishable mental processes -- that vary according to the degree of "automatic" programming or "subroutines" involved, from "fully conscious thinking" at one end to "involuntary reflex" at the other end, how "non-automated" does one of these types or levels of mental process have to be before it is "entitled" to be labeled "thought" or "cognition" rather than "feeling"? I'm not sure that there is a clear dividing line, other than the line(s) that we subjectively choose to draw for our own practical and often biased reasons.

Supposedly, Blaise Pascal wrote something that usually is translated as "The heart has its reasons which the mind knows not." I have always believed there was a substantial kernel of truth in that aphorism: What we call "emotions" are probably complex mental processes (just as complex, perhaps, as many of those that constitute conscious "thoughts"), but we are only aware of the parts of those processes, those emotions, that we experience above the surface, at conscious levels.

"Fear" is generally regarded as an emotion, but when we say that a human being (or any other vertebrate) "feels afraid," we are saying something similar to what we are saying when we day that a human being or other vertebrate "feels hungry," or "feels sleepy," or "feels thirsty." It's that basic. We human beings can notice that we or our clan-mates are "hungry," "thirsty," "sleepy," or "afraid," and we can build all sorts of analyses and rationalizations on these basic feelings. But I suspect that from the perspective of just the brain and CNS and endocrine functions involved, these feelings are not significantly different in us than in mice or birds, or perhaps even frogs.

The mental processes involved in "feeling afraid" may be complicated, and the neurons, axons, and dendrites may be making the same electrochemical exchanges that they make when "conscious thinking" goes on, but I'd guess that the numbers and the locations of the neurons that are firing or active are different. And other than to note that some mental processes appear to be mostly or entirely "conscious" and other processes appear to be more "unconscious" than conscious, I don't think there is any obvious (and single "correct") way or location to draw a line and say "This here is thinking" and "This over here is feeling."

I feel constrained to add that I am disappointed to see that some relatively new contributors here have, on the basis of rather small sample sizes (i.e., direct participation in discussions here), decided to deride other contributors (with much longer histories here) for being dense, incapable of understanding, stinking, etc. I would prefer to address (and, if necessary, attack) the arguments that others make and the clarity with which they are made, but not to attack or insult the people presenting the arguments. Sometimes I slip up, but I keep trying.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by nmblum88 » Sat May 07, 2011 10:52 pm

I
feel constrained to add that I am disappointed to see that some relatively new contributors here have, on the basis of rather small sample sizes (i.e., direct participation in discussions here), decided to deride other contributors (with much longer histories here) for being dense, incapable of understanding, stinking, etc. I would prefer to address (and, if necessary, attack) the arguments that others make but not the people presenting the arguments. Sometimes I slip up, but I keep trying.
Jeff D
Yeah, Jeff.. for sure..
On the other hand not everything is an "argument."
Sometimes there is just babbling for its own sake... or ego... and everyone with time and a keyboard knows about that... the desire, and resulting attempt for instance to discredit Einstein's "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" based on an article in (an 1910) "Readers' Digest."
And who's to say that with a bit of googling and some imaginative pasting, (perhaps even in German), a few flies won't be attracted to the result.: "I read it on the Internet, so it certainly COULD be so. And if I tell it to someone who knows even less than I do, well, it could become Gospel sometime soon."
Isn't that the way the Gospels became gospel?

Maybe , every now and then, when things calm down a bit, and a version of "King of Hearts," is not being reenacted on the cyberpage,
there should, I think, some insistence on using agreed upon definitions for the words, and more, the concepts put into play.
Otherwise, perhaps, some kids should gracefully excuse themselves from playing with the adults....
And there ARE adults here... not necessarily based on seniority, either...
Young blood, as long as it isn't turgid or contaminated with excessive religious fervor , can add a lot of zest when sprinkled into conversation...

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Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
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 Lausten » Sat May 07, 2011 11:37 pm

Kritikos wrote:Is that a serious question, or are you just teasing me
I have been asking myself that same question from the very first time you posted. Like when you say things about beaming up to the moon.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by Karyn » Wed May 11, 2011 1:57 am

Jeff D wrote: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.
Sorry if someone already said this, but I'll add this anyway: I think there is a hang-up over the words "contradictory", and "illogical" "irrational", that could be partially removed by adding words like "contra-indicated" .


Smoking is contra-indicated for achieving a healthy lifestyle. Once that word is accepted for the relation, from there, getting to say "it contradicts", is a more challenging task.


What I think is happening is that those who argue that there is a contradiction between "smoking is harmful" and "I smoke", just know that there is a contra "something" that should be in there. There is, and so it's better to supply the word that does the trick, than to simply deny that the two thoughts need to be labeled "contra", or opposed in some way.

So if you know smoking is contra-indicated for making a healthy lifestyle, but you do it anyway, what do we call that ? It's not contradicting, quite. Suppose we say your doctor told you smoking was contraindicated for achieving healthy lifestyle and you should now stop. If you do not stop, It's not accurate to describe that as contradicting him - it's disobeying orders, maybe disregarding, or over-riding orders.
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Re: Mistakes Were Made

Post by zorba » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:57 am

Lausten:

I have read the book. Your review is thoughtful and very well done.
Kriticos wrote: 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.
Kriticos: I think you have summarized the main point very well. I will try to add some additional support to your viewpoint.

Many of the posts have been quibbling about the smoking example. The smoking example was a poor example in the way the author used it. Focus on other examples.

This book will give you some good insights about yourself. One of the most common shortcomings that most people have is the inability to recognize and admit (to themselves and to others) their own errors. When they do recognize they have made errors, most people have difficulty in taking responsibility for the errors and they often are unable to offer a real apology for their errors. [Example] But if you have this common problem, you will likely be unable to recognize that you have the problem and you will have difficulty in admitting to yourself and others that you have it.

Think of some of the times when you screwed up. How many times did you say flat out, "I was wrong," or "I really blew it." How many times did you minimize, justify, deny, rationalize, or excuse the error? Did you admit that you were wrong and then keep talking to prove that you were partly or mostly right (or that it wasn't really your fault or that it really wasn't that bad?)

When the authors defined cognitive dissonance in terms of contradictions, a lot of readers (and some who have posted on this thread) got confused and compared it to the concept of a logical contradiction. The authors' definition, explanations, and examples are confusing and misleading in this respect (although the definitions they use are pretty standard among psychologists who study cog. dis.) I wouldn't go back to read Fessinger's original explanations. The theory of cog dis has evolved since Fessinger wrote his first books.

Rather than thinking of cog. dis. as a logical contradiction, it is sometimes easier to understand it as inconsistencies with our image of ourselves, with our overall theories or myths about what is true, and with values, attitudes, and feelings. The inconsistencies are not necessarily logical inconsistencies. In a previous paragraph, the statement marked [Example] illustrates this. Yes, there are logical contradictions involved. But they are not the main cause of the feelings of the dissonance and anxiety. You have a self image of yourself as a fair minded person who tries to do the right thing. Becoming aware of your frequent failures to own up to your mistakes introduces an incompatible image of yourself which must be resolved. Think of it as trying to blend two different photographs. We "photoshop" the incompatible image so that it will blend with our self image.

Like Kriticos, I think the cog dis is mostly related to a conflict between our self image of ourselves as people who are good, smart, and competent and an event, fact, or perception which might undermine or weaken that self image. There is no logical contradiction between "I am a smart person," and "I did a dumb thing." But at a more emotional level, we feel that our self image is threatened. Sometimes it is not our self image that is involved, but our image of our group: like our family, our political party, our profession, our ethnic group, or our nation.

When we see that we did a bad or dumb thing, we need to find a way to maintain that positive self image. So we reframe or redefine the mistake. "It's not that I was acting dumb, anyone would have made the same mistake in the same situation." Or we will completely rewrite history and change our memory of what happened by adding things, leaving out things, and distorting things. Only as a last resort, will we consider the possibility that our positive self image is wrong: "Maybe I'm not really as smart as I thought I was."

Sometimes it's feelings and values that cause the dissonance. During a time of conflict, you may feel like you hate your mother, but at the same time, you know and feel that you love your mother. You also probably have a belief (or value) that you shouldn't hate your mother as well as a belief that you should stand up for yourself. In addition, you have a feeling of certainty that you are right. You will feel pretty churned up inside when you experience all of those feelings simultaneously. (Beliefs involving "should" have a value or emotional component.)

The book also explains examples of people with negative self images who feel cognitive dissonance when they succeed. They will often downplay the success: "Yeah, I won the trophy, but I really didn't play that well. My opponent had a bad day."

That's my take on one way to view cog dis without focusing on logical contradictions. Sometimes there are logical contradictions, but usually that's not the main component of the cognitive dissonance.

Of course, the theories presented in the book are generalizations about the way most people act most of the time. The generalizations won't fit every person and every situation every time. But don't focus on the counterexamples; they don't prove that this is not a good and useful theory.
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