Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cognitive dissonance as a staple of modern culture

When was the last time that you had an argument with someone? Did either you or the other party end up changing stances by the end? Probably not. More than likely, this is what happened instead:

1. You introduced stance A.

2. They introduced stance B.

3. You provided a fairly sturdy argument for stance A.

4. They provided a fairly transparent argument for stance B -- even if, on the surface, it appeared to have some solidity to it due to its use of platitudes and memorized, regurgitated phrases.

5. The both of you went back and forth for a while, neither budging. Despite their stance being obviously flawed, you couldn't find a way to really hit them over the head and wake them up to this fact.

6. Finally, you introduced a poignant, concise meme which crushed the opposing argument directly and explicitly. The absurdity of the other party's argument was subsequently quite out in the open.

7. The other party replied with "You're starting to frustrate me. Why do you have to overanalyze everything? Can't we talk about something nice for once?"

8. The argument ended abruptly with no resolution and the prospect of such growing vanishingly small. The other party then appeared uncomfortable and confused.

What has just been described, I hypothesize, is the result of terrible parenting. The other party participating in the argument realized, in some recess of their consciousness, that your logic was sound, but another, more biologically beneficial part of their mind interceded.

What happened? Well, during childhood, your conversational partner had probably participated in similar conversations that went something like this:

"Dad, why can't we see god?"

"I don't know, son. That's just the way it is."

"But how can we know he's real if we can't see him?"

"He's testing us. It'll all make sense when you get to heaven. You'll be rewarded for waiting so long!"

"But... how do you know that?"

"Look, he's just real, okay? What's with these questions all of a sudden? I'm trying to watch the news. Why don't you go outside and play ball with the kid next door?"

Upon encountering the problematic "foreign object" within a logic chain, kids are programmed to switch routines and do something personally rewarding or pleasurable. Because our society is relatively affluent, everything from happy meals to high tech video games is almost always a few seconds away from the grasp of children, so there is zero incentive to do "the right thing" when immediate self-satisfaction can so easily be substituted in its place -- with no consequences or scoldings.

The mentality birthed during this period of development apparently carries over into adulthood, where it germinates until it becomes a contributor to the monstrosity that is our current situation.

This is absolutely unacceptable for adult humans in this day and age. We cannot continue to act like children.


  1. Yes, except it's probably more genetic than about parenting.

  2. Interesting. I think that genes do play a very important role in child development, but I'd like to know more about what you mean, exactly.

  3. Yeah, managing computer networks is low-level work and should be abolished by inventing better software and smarter machines. Let only the fit breed, say those with an IQ of at least 110 and we will have a society of Einsteins: in such a society, all work would be done by robots.