Why It Is Time to Retire Cognitive Dissonance Accusations

In recent years the concept of cognitive dissonance has been weaponized by those who choose to socially interact with bad faith and a sense of self-righteous superiority.

Those who would wield the complex psychological theory of Cognitive Dissonance like a rhetorical weapon against others seem to be acutely unaware that there are competing models with roughly equal evidence in their favor. Cognitive Dissonance (CogDiss) is not settled science, and psychological concepts and theories bear little in common with physical science’s ability to estimate accurate predictive models, which are often unfortunately mislabeled ‘laws’, albeit science is a continual process with no final answers. In short, not only has CogDiss never been proven conclusively, and since it is based on a particularly weak empiricism where even strong empiricism is not absolute, it is almost impossible that it ever could be.

Nonetheless those prone to intellectual bullying predicated on absolutist assertions continue to use the theory to browbeat others into submission and shame. And let us be honest here, nobody is accusing others of CogDiss in a helpful manner. Even if you attempted to point it out without ill will, it should be obvious that the recipient of such an accusation is likely to feel insulted in some way. To insult someone with a questionable accusation based on a limited set of information is to build your case on untenable ethical and intellectual foundations, and it appears that many people using CogDiss as a rhetorical weapon are poorly educated as to the veracity and/or complexity of that model of behavior.

There are several other competing theories, but for the sake of viewing the kinds of interactions in which I often see this behavior at play, I would like to contrast it with Self-Perception Theory. At the same time I would like to state right up front that both theories are far more complex than I will be treating them here in this rough sketch, and one should supplement this writing with their own research and make their own conclusions. My goal is not to present a broad and highly accurate picture, but to provide a framework for understanding how so many of our interactions (especially online) have grown so toxic in recent years.

Continue reading at The Dungherder.