Wednesday, February 25, 2015

So You've Thought a Thought, Now What?

cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance
  1. the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

I've been pondering the idea of cognitive dissonance as it relates to me and society as a whole. In the course of writing these posts I make a lot of claims about the way I think or the way I view things. The problem being is that when I take a step back and think about how those thought process and viewpoints affect the way I act on a daily basis, I really begin to question how much conviction I really have in those thoughts and viewpoints.

The two ways that I see of attacking this issue are as follows:
Firstly, at the thought level, where the solution would end up being something along the lines of me being more honest with myself and the thoughts I have and putting a more restrictive on the ways I let myself think and share those thoughts with others (I think presenting yourself in a dishonest way with others is pretty dejectable.)

Secondly, at the action level, basically continue to let myself think the way I think but do more on the action level to back those thoughts up. In essence, if I have a thought that I consider to be crucial, I would force myself (with the hope that eventually it would be less forceful, and more habitual) to back that thought up with some sort of tangible action.

Basically, when I go back and reread some of my posts (take for instance the one on mental health), I don't want to have the conclusion be so wishy-washy. I don't want to have myself be the type of person who has strong thoughts on a subject but doesn't do anything about it, and the reverse is also true, I don't want to just do things without taking the time to evaluate my motivations and reasoning for doing so.

Even writing this post has the massive potential in my life to further exacerbate the problem of cognitive dissonance. It's like it reaches a meta-level when somebody writes about their hatred for their own cognitive dissonance and then continues to be cognitively dissonant.

Now, I don't think that I'm alone in the world in not having my thoughts reinforced by the actions that I take on a daily basis. There's definitely a a certain overarching detachment in my generation of Americans from a lot of social problems. I look around my office and I see a lot of me-first thinking while being very willing to acknowledge a lot of socio-cultural problems that exist in the world. This fact alone doesn't excuse me more than it kind of points out a trend, we're so insulated that we don't see the problems and therefore don't feel obligated to do anything about them.

Put yourself in this situation: you're walking down the street and a 12-year old girl is abducted and thrown into sex slavery halfway around the world. Would you do something? Chase the attacker down? Get his license plate and inform police? This is an act that happens hundreds if not thousands of times a day around the world, but we don't see it, so we do nothing. In fact, somebody in your city is the person on the receiving end of that 'business transaction'. It's a growing epidemic in America, but we don't see it.

This to me is very similar to cognitive dissonance, your actions in some circumstances back up a thought process but aren't the same as your actions in other circumstances even given the same thought process.

Like a lot of things in life, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of all this, but it definitely warrants some more thought on my part, but it's almost midnight so I'm gonna sleep on it.

'Til Tomorrow

Tomorrow: The role and responsibility of media

No comments: