Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Cannot Cognitate

Everyone know what cognitive dissonance is? If you wanted, you could look up the real definition. I prefer to define it more philosophically than a dictionary would. I think of it like this: It’s the gift our brain gives us. It allows us to believe crazy things that we know aren’t true, but still lets us to think we’re being perfectly rational by believing them.

Wow. My definition sucks. Not only does it suck, it's most probably incorrect. Still, the universe is a weird place, and in order to survive, and even thrive in it, nothing says we have to understand it. So our mind allows us to believe contradictory things, it’s what makes a cult, after making a doomsday prediction that fails to materialize, grow in adherents after that failure is evident (a real phenomenon btw). 

The scary thing is that we all do it to a greater or lesser extent. Folks believe that science is a bunch of hogwash, but are blissfully unaware that playing angry birds on their smart phone is a miracle of quantum mechanics – well, that might have more to do with ignorance than anything, but still, the point stands.

So I’ve tried hard to identify this in my own life. What do I believe that contradicts other beliefs I have? I believe I’m the greatest writer of my generation - and at the same time a hack of unparalleled incompetence, and I don’t just vacillate between the two, I seem to hold both opinions simultaneously. But that isn't a very good example. When it comes to writing I am aware I'm a mess. 

Anyway, anyone else find that in their own lives? Are there any members of the flat earth society out there that also have circumnavigated the globe?


Laila Knight said...

Cognitive Dissonance: That doubt that scratches at the pit of your stomach and hints that all our beliefs are absurd. That's my definition. Yeah, I think we've all felt that. In reality, it follows us throughout our lives. You mentioned cults. Nothing defines this as well as religion...but I won't go there. Or, it could be as simple as believing our MC is flawless only to discover that it needs severe tweaking. I will add that we should maintain a tiny doze of cognitive dissonance. It's that small doubt that makes us ask questions and leaves room for improvement. If people think science is crap, that's only because they can't understand it. It's easier to believe what you know, but if you think about it quantum physics and metaphysics are no so far apart. Time, space, the makings of a complex human being, and the energy inside us...pretty compatible. :)

Rogue Mutt said...

Sure, we're all huge hypocrites. I think just about every writer has that arrogance to think he/she is great while at the same time being horribly insecure should anyone question said greatness. Which is what makes the critiquing and submissions processes so painful.

Andrew said...

I'm actually not very good at being dissonant. One of the things that makes dissonance so powerful is that people tend to believe the first thing they "learn" about something, even if it's wrong. (Yes, there have been studies on this.) When presented with the facts, they will reject them and cling to their initial belief no matter how overwhelming the evidence is that they are wrong. I'm not good at this behavior. Due to some very good teachers I had at the right time in my life, I tend to always question and re-evaluate. Modify my beliefs.

Besides, how can you be the greatest writer of your generation when I am? :P
You need to re-evaluate. >grin<

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Andrew's point makes sense. That's probably why it doesn't hit me. I'm skeptical enough I'll look for the truth.
You may not be the greatest writer ever, but you're far from crap! A genius lurks in your words.

Michael Offutt said...

Hmmm. I learned something today by reading your blog. This was really interesting.

M Pax said...

Interesting ... Is it like having a fear of zombies when knowing they aren't real?

Tonja said...

Zombies aren't real? You can't really be sure of that...can you?

Aleta said...

I've seen this type of behavior in friends and family. I call it the "bubble world" - because that's what they live in, whatever they believe in and to heck with reality. You can pop that bubble or shrink it... it's just "there" and the truth won't budge it either. Kind of amazing to watch, but disheartening as well. As for myself, sure, it's wondering if your gut reaction has any validity to it when the facts provide otherwise, yet you still go with the gut feeling.

Trisha said...

I'm a hypocrite in that I could never kill animals to eat, but I still eat meat that other people killed for me. ;) I do however believe in science, and not in the miracles of Jesus. Guess that's just me!

Stephen Tremp said...

I haven't heard of cognitive dissonance since college days residence when we spent quite a bit of time with it in negotiating sessions and project management exercises. Its really interesting topic and an eye opener to see internal faults we try to reduce dissonance through criticising something we might want but believe it is unattainable.

And I do believe in miracles, but that there is science behind them to explain what the heck is happening. I've blogged about it in the past. Hmmmm...... now may be a good time to resurrect the topic again.

Rusty Webb said...

Laila - Hey - your definition is pretty good. You should have wrote this post.

Rogue - No doubt. It's a pretty fragile confidence most writers have.

Andrew - I tend to think of myself as pretty rational. I think once I, and from what you said, you, get that icky feeling like something isn't right, then it's time to step back and see where the inconsistencies in our world views are. I think I agree with you about the roots of the matter too.

Alex - Agreed. I's skeptical too, I'm not sure we mean it in the exact same sense. But I'm right there with you. When stuff doesn't quite seem like it's right, it probably isn't.

Michael - If you learned something from reading that post, then I'm impressed... unless what you learned is that I'm a moron. In which case, I'm no longer impressed.

M Pax - I guess so. But Zombies could totally be real, so I'm not sure you can count that.

Tonja - Oh, I guess you and I think alike. Cool.

Aleta - I do see other people that hold views that are incompatible. But most of the time it's either religious or political in nature, and I try to avoid that as much as I can. I rarely challenge folks on that sort of stuff. Let them believe what they want.

Trisha - Me too, although I don't think that makes me a hypocrite, just a big sissy. But still, point made.

Stephen - Well said Stephen, I did meet a guy once, who made a pretty interesting argument regarding miracles and whether or not they must obey the laws of physics. I can't begin to get into it now, but like I said. It was very interesting.