Cognitive dissonance

Discussions about negotiating relationships between faithful LDS believers and the apostates who love them. This applies in particular to mixed-faith marriages, but relations with children, parents, siblings, friends, and ward members is very welcome.
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Cognitive dissonance

Post by Cnsl1 » Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:51 pm

We've discussed cognitive dissonance before, which can be described as holding conflicting beliefs, or believing a thing when evidence shows something else.

In the classic Fitzinger experiment, subjects, after completing a very boring task, were given either $0, $1, or $20 to lie to another person telling them how much fun the task was. They were then later asked how much fun the task really was. Most people think those that were paid more would have reported they liked it better, but they reported that they didn't really like it very much, with over all ratings statistically equal to the control group--those who were not paid to lie.

The idea is that those were were paid only a dollar to lie experienced cognitive dissonance--two competing beliefs in their head. One, the task was boring and I said it was fun. Two, why would I lie for a dollar. Ergo, the task must have not been so bad afterall. Those who were paid $20 didn't experience such dissonance because hey, it was boring, but I got $20 to say it wasn't.

This experiment has been replicated in other ways, showing that people often tend to double down, in a sense, when later information doesn't agree with an original belief. This idea has implications in religion as well. Example: I'm a rational and intelligent person who has a testimony of the first vision. New evidence shows there was multiple versions of the first vision, casting doubts on the veracity of what I've believed. Dissonance may occur. People tend to do one of three things. Consider the new information seriously and adapt/adjust belief. Rationalize or justify to make the new data fit old beliefs or vice versa. Double down, reject the new info flatly as false (i.e. I'm smart, what I believed is true, so anything that challenges the belief has to be false).

Festinger also studied people in a doomsday cult after their prophesied end of the world did not happen. These people obviously experienced cognitive dissonance. Those who were heavily invested in the cult, those that had left family and friends to join, became even deeper invested after the failed prophecy--believing that their prayers stopped the end of the world. Those who were less invested chalked it up to a dumb decision and went back to their old lives. We see this type of thing play out in politics as well--especially recently!

People also tend to seek information that they know well not create this uncomfortable dissonance, which then becomes confirmation bias.

I'm explaining in a rather cursory way, I know, but I want to get to this observation and question.

The effect of cognitive dissonance is often discontent, belligerence, and or avoidance. I've seen a lot of avoidance in my spouse regarding church. She doesn't want to quit. She doesn't want to talk about it. She wants to attend, but when we used to go for three hours, she left after one. I love to discuss religion and church stuff, and she typically does not. She does not want to hear about the things that embarrass the church, yet she also does not want to do all of the church things and observe all the commandments as typically observed by TBMs. She is clearly no longer TBM, but clearly conflicted in her belief. I think this might be explained by cognitive dissonance.

Has anyone else experienced similar stuff?

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Re: Cognitive dissonance

Post by Deepthinker » Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:32 pm

It is hard to know for sure what is going on with someone.

My wife is similar, sometimes says she hates going to church but still goes. For her, I think there are many things going on. She's committed to attending because of family, the comfortable nature of doing what you've always done your entire life, indoctrination, guilt of not participating, going for the social acceptance in a heavily populated Mormon town, and I'm sure other reasons.

I don't know enough to say that your wife is experiencing cognitive dissonance. If her level of avoidance of church has changed recently, then maybe, or it could be related to the pandemic which has reduced church participation. Maybe she's seeing that she doesn't need the church as much as she thought, but is not ready to let go of it completely.

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Re: Cognitive dissonance

Post by Corsair » Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:21 pm

Cnsl1 wrote:
Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:51 pm
Has anyone else experienced similar stuff?
The funny thing I have noticed about cognitive dissonance is that once I had a term for it and could spot it, the other cognitively dissonant items in my life became more evident. In some ways I made peace with them and the fact that I can say, "these are two things which completely do not work together. If either one is true then the other is largely or completely false."

The effects are that I treat the LDS church with indifference for things that I don't like and don't affect me. It leaves me to not worry about what my rather faithful extended family is doing in the church. I was able to give up most of the anger and frustration by just not participating in it. I think I got a lot better at avoiding talking about my church experiences to other believers. They enjoy their religious experience and truly have so little interest in mine or anyone else that is not in the LDS mainstream of thought.

It certainly has helped when processing politics especially with current events of 2020 and into 2021. I'm just not interested in being emotionally invested in the teams that the most popular political ideas are pushing. It's not that I don't care what happens on the national or international stage. I accept that I can't change any of it on the levels that CNN might report on.

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