Yeah I said it!

Ever heard of ‘Cognitive Dissonance’?



Case. In. Point.

Lots of you would have clicked on this blog entry with a vague idea of what it might be about. Mostly not though.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory was proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1956. In his book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Festinger explained, ‘Cognitive dissonance can be seen as an antecedent condition which leads to activity oriented toward dissonance-reduction; just as hunger leads toward activity oriented toward hunger-reduction.’

So what does that even mean?? Basically, ‘cognition’ is to do with your thought process, ideas or notions – and ‘dissonance’ is a lack of agreement or inconsistency between one or more things. So Cognitive Dissonance (CD) is the feeling that one experiences when they are presented with information that clashes with information they already have and hold dear.

An example of CD would be this…

Say a Creationist believes that God created the universe – at a time when the world believes the same thing. Time goes on… World opinion and society changes its mind. So now, according to modern science there was in fact a Big Bang; and this is what caused everything to come into existence; not a supernatural deity or Supreme being.

The Creationist experiences CD and tries to eliminate it as soon as possible. How so? Either by switching beliefs and going along with the status quo, or he could choose to deny this Big Bang Theory outright, clinging tightly to his Creationist belief…

A third option is this; – he could absorb this new information into his already held beliefs i.e. – ‘God created the universe. In the Bible, when He said, ‘Let there be light’ – the Big Bang was the light so yes – the Big Bang Theory is correct.’ You see what happened there? Rather than explore the new information and debunk it if necessary; this Creationist accepts and absorbs the new information, accommodating it by changing his own beliefs slightly. His beliefs still stand… AND he is still in line with modern science… Balance is restored!!!

I see nothing wrong with a little CD.

Cognitive Dissonance causes us to carve, shape and define our beliefs one way or another. Most of us don’t like the feeling of being unsettled mentally. We like to make sense of our thoughts because it makes us feel mentally strong and unwavering. We like to speak with confidence and assertion. We don’t like to have our paradigms shifted but if we value hard truth over comfy lies – we will endure the tough process of reviewing what we think we know.

Having a keen interest in Science, I remember learning in school what a ‘FACT’ is. A scientific fact must be the following:

  1. Observable
  2. Repeatable
  3. Verifiable

If we agree with the above definition on what a fact is – we quickly realise that there are very few facts out there. There are lots of opinions though. Some of these opinions hold heavy weight due to who’s they are i.e. specialists or qualified professionals; but still – if they are not facts, they are OPINIONS.

We live in an age where we only seem to value facts. People’s opinions mean less and less because we would rather trust cold, hard, empirical evidence than what a person reckons. I don’t think there is anything wrong with trusting people’s opinions. Trust (or faith) is what makes us human and not robots. Our intuition, our gut instincts, our perception – these are the things that make us uniquely equipped to make decisions without waiting for a computer read-out on the probability of what is going to happen next, according to what we decide.

If you want to believe something – fine.

Identify that thing as fact or opinion and stand strong in that. Know why you believe it rather than just going along with what everyone else thinks like a mindless sheep. For starters, any historical event can never be a ‘fact’. You can’t observe, repeat or verify it!!! So you can only decide to believe the evidence presented, one way or another.


Evidence is not proof. I can explain this simply… In a court of law, the prosecution presents something to back up their case; – evidence. Guess what the defence presents to back up their case… That’s right – evidence! So you can’t have two opposing sets of ‘proof’. Evidence is just evidence; – FAITH is the determining factor in a court of law. The judge/jury look at both sets of evidence and decide where they put their faith. The outcome 100% relies upon convincing them one way or another.

The next time you hear something you think is ludicrous like ‘the earth is flat’, or ‘the moon landings were faked’ or ‘the government is killing us via vaccinations’; – try asking yourself what you believe on the said subject and the reasons you have that point of view. If it’s simply that you’ve got that opinion because you were taught that way and everyone else thinks that way and it’s too big of a lie for so many people to believe; – try digging a little deeper.

You might be surprised at what you find.

The truth is stranger than fiction.