Monday, August 31, 2009

The State of Cognitive Dissonance

'The state of cognitive dissonance is so uncomfortable that the subject may deny that she/he is in a moral dilemma (Festinger 1968). Denial is a strategy therefore that expresses psychological moral unconsciousness. At this point, the subject falls into circularity and blind belief (an idea that cannot be explained by another idea). When I confronted the diplomats with the illogic of bargaining lives with someone they considered un-reedemable, the three diplomats essentially offered a circular logic not based on a set of data: ‘children must die when hard choices have to be made because sometimes it’s necessary for children to die when hard choices have to be made’.

When an individual is unconscious to this extent, he/she is acting on behalf of others, whether it is a cult, an organization, a government, or a President, he/she has given over her power of reasoning, indeed the conscious self, to what is viewed as a higher authority and a superior holder of knowledge. It is assumed that the higher power simultaneously collects the facts, makes judgments, metes out either praise or punishment, and gives orders. It is assumed that the higher authority has the right to make those working on behalf of the authority, to feel guilty or ashamed if they are doing something contrary to its wishes, or if they question or even think critically about directives that are leading to genocide." From blogger's PhD thesis,


  1. Thanks again. Did not Scott Peck say something similar when talking about Vietnam?

    I would like to see psychologists analyse the psyche and behaviour of politicians who sanction violence. I mean, just because someone is functioning in politics does not mean they are "sane"!

  2. It takes a psychotic personality, able to split reality in two, to say on the one hand they believe in human rights and on the other hand, carry out the most despicable of acts.

    Conversely, do people who have to defend themselves through violent means, have a guilty conscience about attacking others, however justified? If they did, it would indicate psychological consonance rather than dissonance.