[ExI] Holding contradictory beliefs is very common
pharos at gmail.com
Wed Apr 5 17:47:57 UTC 2023
On Wed, 5 Apr 2023 at 12:05, Jason Resch via extropy-chat
<extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> This is a phenomenon we are all subject to and which we should all be aware of called cognitive dissonance. It can occur whenever our brains encounter information perceived as threatening to our existing beliefs, almost like an immune system for the mind. It has the effect of creating blind spots which literally hide information from conscious processing. We'll skip over a paragraph as if it wasn't there or invent a reason to stop reading. It's very difficult to realize when it is happening to us but it happens to everyone under the right conditions.
> I say this only to shed some light on a common occurrence which affects everyone, in the hope it might explain what can happen when we discuss ideas that threaten beliefs that are considered fundamental to one's own identity. When we are aware of this phenomenon we can better understand when it happens to others we are talking to or even when it is happening in ourselves.
Another feature of humans is that almost everyone holds contradictory
beliefs. This becomes evident if you ask the right questions.
How Your Brain Makes You Hold Contradictory Beliefs
Our brains’ penchant for efficiency means they aren’t great at syncing
our behaviors with our core principles in every context.
There’s a pragmatic reason for these contradictory beliefs. A core
principle that you hold and don’t want to have violated is called a
“protected value,” which you don’t even like to consider violating.
Observing other people violate one’s own protected values can cause
feelings of anger and even outrage. And when we contemplate violating
our own protected values, we feel guilt and shame.
In other words, if you learn some new fact that turns out to be
inconsistent with something else you know, there are no automatic
mechanisms in your brain that point out the inconsistency and force
you to resolve it. Instead, you simply end up with two different
beliefs that are not consistent.
It would be too much work for the brain to have to enumerate all of
the exceptions to the rules you believe in, so it does something
easier instead: It associates beliefs with specific situations and
makes it easier to retrieve those beliefs in the situations with which
they are associated.
One belief can happily coexist with other conflicting beliefs until
someone or something highlights the contradiction. The resulting
dissonance in some cases may lead to a careful reexamination of
values, or it may lead to an expedient rationalization and a quick
change of topic. All the same, we’re capable of effortlessly holding
disparate beliefs, even when they’re directly challenged.
“Do I contradict myself?” Walt Whitman wrote. “Very well then, I
contradict myself (I am large, I contain multitudes).” He was right.
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