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Re: Cognitive Dissonance

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  • David C. Hindley
    Off list, a gentleman asked me on what basis I made a distinction between rational & emotional responses to dissonance, and why it seems I estimated
    Message 1 of 11 , Nov 29, 2002
      Off list, a gentleman asked me on what basis I made a distinction between
      rational & emotional responses to dissonance, and why it seems I estimated
      rationality as good and emotion bad.

      I introduced the rational/emotional distinction because "[t]he strength of
      the pressure to reduce dissonance is a function of the magnitude of the
      existing dissonance." By "magnitude," I am taking Festinger to mean the
      emotional investment one has in an idea. Since these cognitive elements are
      grouped into complexes that are designed to reduce dissonance to a minimum,
      and "[t]he total magnitude of dissonance which exists between two clusters
      of cognitive elements (i.e., opinions) is a function of the weighted
      proportion of all the relevant relations between the two clusters which are
      dissonant," I am also supposing that the total desire to engage in the
      coping mechanisms outlined in G.1-12 are essentially emotion driven as well.

      The rational capacity of the human mind exists for some reason, and
      generally most Psychiatrists and Psychologists think that this facility
      developed in order to make effective use of the additional capacity of the
      brain to store information symbolically. In Freudian psychology, the
      emotional aspect of the mind is called the "Id" and the symbolic is the
      "Ego," and the mediating aspect is the "Super Ego." The latter concept
      roughly corresponds to the rational element of the human brain. It is in
      this respect that Festinger's theory will have some value to the historical
      critic, not only through the implications of the part of my outline labeled
      G.1-12, but even more so in recognizing the factors that also inhibit or
      enhance the effectiveness of dissonance reduction (cf. H.1-3).

      I do recognize that emotion is essential to motivate anybody to do
      something, whether for good or bad purpose. However, I also have concluded
      that the more rational thought that goes into the mediation the better, for
      everyone, is the result.

      Personally, my observations have caused me to conclude that many people act
      more on an emotional level than a rational level when exposed to new
      symbolic ideas. It also seems to me that there is a direct connection
      between symbolic ideas and emotional impetus, as if they somehow feed off
      one another. So what I really would like to do is see if members of the list
      would apply aspects of Festinger's theory to case studies derived from HJ
      research, and in the process try to measure how effectively critics have
      been at the task of rationally mediating between their emotions and the
      symbolic universe that makes up the vast bulk of historical evidence.

      Respectfully,

      Dave Hindley
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA

      G Practical applications:
      1 Postdecision dissonance may be reduced by increasing the attractiveness of
      the chosen alternative, decreasing the attractiveness of the unchosen
      alternatives, or both.
      2 Postdecision dissonance may be reduced by perceiving some characteristics
      of the chosen and unchosen alternatives as identical.
      3 Postdecision dissonance may be reduced by decreasing the importance of
      various aspects of the decision.
      4 If forced compliance has been elicited, the dissonance may be reduced by
      changing private opinion to bring it into line with the overt behavior or by
      magnifying the amount of reward or punishment involved.
      5 If forced compliance has been elicited, dissonance may be reduced by
      intensifying the original private opinion or by minimizing the (private
      opinion about the) reward of punishment involved.
      6 The presence of dissonance leads to seeking new information which will
      provide cognition consonant with existing cognitive elements and to avoiding
      those sources of new information which would be likely to increase the
      existing dissonance.
      7 When some of the cognitive elements involved in a dissonance are
      cognitions about one's own behavior, the dissonance can be reduced by
      changing the behavior, thus directly changing the cognitive elements.
      8 Forced or accidental exposure to new information which tends to increase
      dissonance will frequently result in misinterpretation and misperception of
      the new information by the person thus exposed in an effort to avoid (the
      resulting) dissonance increase.
      9 Dissonance introduced by disagreement expressed by other persons (with
      whom one associates) may be reduced by changing one's own opinion, by
      influencing the others (with whom one associates) to change their opinion,
      and rejecting (association with) those who disagree.
      10 The existence of dissonance will lead to seeking out others who already
      agree with a cognition that one wants to establish or maintain, and will
      also lead to the initiation of communication and influence processes in an
      effort to obtain more social support.
      11 Influence exerted on a person will be more effective in producing opinion
      change to the extent that the indicated change of opinion reduces dissonance
      for that person.
      12 In situations where many persons In situations where many persons who
      associate with one another all suffer from identical dissonance, dissonance
      reduction by obtaining social support is very easy to accomplish.

      H Effectiveness of attempts at dissonance reduction:
      1 The effectiveness of efforts to reduce dissonance will depend upon the
      resistance to change of the cognitive elements involved in the dissonance
      and on the availability of information which will provide, or of other
      persons who will supply, new cognitive elements which will be consonant with
      existing cognition.
      2 The major sources of resistance to change for a cognitive element are the
      responsiveness of such cognitive elements to "reality" and the extent to
      which an element exists in consonant relations with many other elements.
      3 The maximum dissonance which can exist between two elements is equal to
      the resistance to change of the less resistant of the two elements. If the
      dissonance exceeds this magnitude, the less resistant cognitive element will
      be changed in order to reduce the dissonance.
    • Steve Black
      Dave Hindley wrote... ... I am not sure this model really does much for us. It might be helpful on a personal level in sorting out personal motivations in
      Message 2 of 11 , Nov 30, 2002
        Dave Hindley wrote...
        > So what I really would like to do is see if members of the list
        >would apply aspects of Festinger's theory to case studies derived from HJ
        >research, and in the process try to measure how effectively critics have
        >been at the task of rationally mediating between their emotions and the
        >symbolic universe that makes up the vast bulk of historical evidence.
        >

        I am not sure this model really does much for us. It might be helpful
        on a personal level in sorting out personal motivations in attempting
        to achieve greater personal honesty intellectually. It might provide
        a window into why some scholars *might* reject and affirm what they
        do. But it certainly doesn't provide any thing that will help us
        actually evaluate any given argument.

        Cognitive Dissonance can be generated by faulty (or at least
        questionable) ideas as well as by sound ones. As Peter Berger said,
        'imaginary sticks can draw real blood'. An emotional reaction may
        tell us about social/intellectual location, but it will tell us
        nothing about factuality or non-factuality.

        An example...
        I might experience Cognitive Dissonance when I hear about alien
        abductions, the shroud of Turin, out of body experiences, and so
        forth. My reaction doesn't say anything about the reality or
        non-reality of any of these. To say something regarding that, I will
        need *arguments*. Why I draw the arguments that I do might (or might
        not) reflect an attempt to deal with Cognitive Dissonance, but that
        still says nothing about the actual arguments.

        Another example...
        I suspect that NT Wright comes to his conclusions because of
        theological commitments - that he suppresses what is essentially
        Cognitive Dissonance to achieve his construction. Now if this is true
        (and it may not be - it is merely my hunch) it still doesn't say
        anything about what he says. The only relevant question is if he
        makes a good case or not. Because he never says anything like "this
        is true because I want it to be" - but proceeds upon evidence and
        interpretation, we can now look at his work and judge whether he has
        made his case or not. His motivations might be interesting, but
        hardly significant to our "verdict".

        So it seems to me that the Cognitive Dissonance model might help us
        achieve better honesty, but beyond that, I am not sure it has much
        more to offer.
        --
        Steve Black
        Vancouver School of Theology
        Vancouver, BC
        ---

        I was blind
        all the time
        I was learning to see

        -Robert Hunter From "Help on the Way"
      • Andrew Lloyd
        ... true ... like this ... has ... us ... Steve, you really think that motivation is so inconsequential? What if motives (or, more widely conceived,
        Message 3 of 11 , Nov 30, 2002
          --- In crosstalk2@y..., Steve Black <sdblack@t...> wrote:
          > Another example...
          > I suspect that NT Wright comes to his conclusions because of
          > theological commitments - that he suppresses what is essentially
          > Cognitive Dissonance to achieve his construction. Now if this is
          true
          > (and it may not be - it is merely my hunch) it still doesn't say
          > anything about what he says. The only relevant question is if he
          > makes a good case or not. Because he never says anything
          like "this
          > is true because I want it to be" - but proceeds upon evidence and
          > interpretation, we can now look at his work and judge whether he
          has
          > made his case or not. His motivations might be interesting, but
          > hardly significant to our "verdict".
          >
          > So it seems to me that the Cognitive Dissonance model might help
          us
          > achieve better honesty, but beyond that, I am not sure it has much
          > more to offer.
          > --
          > Steve Black
          > Vancouver School of Theology
          > Vancouver, BC

          Steve,

          you really think that "motivation" is so inconsequential? What if
          motives (or, more widely conceived, cognition) play a constructive
          and properly "substantial" part in inquiry? It seems relevant to me
          to discover that what you say about NT Wright might be true, for
          example. Further, your assertion that your hunch about NT Wright
          tells you nothing about his arguments is false. It tells you he
          regards them as something you could, and should, be convinced by
          when playing the academic historical Jesus game. As it goes, I
          myself am not sure the inquiry can be configured that leaves motive
          out of the mix and this, in turn, because I'm not sure that the
          constituents of inquiry can be separated out in anything except
          interpretive/rhetorical terms. Such constituents, I submit, are not
          discrete. Indeed, if "being determines knowing" (the thought is that
          of Hal Childs in his "The Myth of the Historical Jesus and the
          Evolution of Consciousness", p. 73) then motivation and
          any "cognitive dissonace" are relevant to historical Jesus
          inquiries. In short, I would question your implicit assertion that
          the arguments of scholars are separable from those that originate
          them and submit that arguments are made by individual human beings
          for reasons specific to themselves (as opposed to being abstract
          inquiries anyone could have made). Thus, the scholar becomes a part
          of that which he or she studies and should be taken into account
          when addressing the positions said scholars take up. I oppose this
          holistic model to yours in which arguments can be taken as having
          neither mother nor father nor geneaology.

          Andrew Lloyd
          Nottingham, England
        • Steve Black
          ... I think maybe you misunderstood me. I consider it obvious that motives play a part in historical re-construction. I just don t think that one has dealt
          Message 4 of 11 , Nov 30, 2002
            >
            >Andrew Lloyd
            >you really think that "motivation" is so inconsequential? What if
            >motives (or, more widely conceived, cognition) play a constructive
            >and properly "substantial" part in inquiry?

            I think maybe you misunderstood me. I consider it obvious that
            motives play a part in historical re-construction. I just don't think
            that one has "dealt" with an argument merely by discerning the
            motive. One still has to address the argument itself. Just dealing
            with the motive is a cop-out for not actually addressing the proposal
            under question.

            > It seems relevant to me
            >to discover that what you say about NT Wright might be true, for
            >example. Further, your assertion that your hunch about NT Wright
            >tells you nothing about his arguments is false. It tells you he
            >regards them as something you could, and should, be convinced by
            >when playing the academic historical Jesus game. As it goes, I
            >myself am not sure the inquiry can be configured that leaves motive
            >out of the mix and this, in turn, because I'm not sure that the
            >constituents of inquiry can be separated out in anything except
            >interpretive/rhetorical terms.

            It is a good line of questioning to seek out what "work" the
            reconstructed Jesus is being asked to do. Is this Jesus being put to
            work for any specific agenda? Of course! Once again, having
            identified this, one still hasn't actually addressed the arguments in
            question. I for example really like the Jesus that Horsley creates -
            I think it is a "useful" Jesus, and it is quite obvious what his
            agenda is. I, for one, rather like his agenda. Yet I don't "buy into"
            his Jesus. The reason I don't go where he goes is because I don't
            find **his line of argumentation persuasive**.

            I think it is obvious that every one involved in HJesus has some
            reason/motive for doing so - I think we need to be aware of the
            illusion of thinking that we have actually addressed someone's
            thoughts by only in fact looking only at their motives. SO, in short,
            I am NOT saying that motives aren't important, I AM saying that they
            play a secondary role to argumentation when it comes to the job of
            evaluating.

            >Such constituents, I submit, are not
            >discrete. Indeed, if "being determines knowing" (the thought is that
            >of Hal Childs in his "The Myth of the Historical Jesus and the
            >Evolution of Consciousness", p. 73) then motivation and
            >any "cognitive dissonace" are relevant to historical Jesus
            >inquiries.

            This is a great book by the way. I think it is one of the more
            important works on HJesus to have come out IMHO. It for me is a "must
            read".

            >Thus, the scholar becomes a part
            >of that which he or she studies and should be taken into account
            >when addressing the positions said scholars take up. I oppose this
            >holistic model to yours in which arguments can be taken as having
            >neither mother nor father nor geneaology.

            Of course this is true, but besides the rather dubious attempt to
            discern others motives, my concern is more about evaluating various
            proposals. This is not done by weighing motives but by weighing
            arguments. It is not that motives aren't important, and any person
            doing HJesus work worth their salt knows full well the importance of
            motive - yet still the issue for discussion must be the quality of
            argumentation.

            --
            Steve Black
            Vancouver School of Theology
            Vancouver, BC
            ---

            I was blind
            all the time
            I was learning to see

            -Robert Hunter From "Help on the Way"
          • Andrew Lloyd
            ... think ... proposal ... I don t buy into his Jesus. The reason I don t go where he goes is because I don t find **his line of argumentation
            Message 5 of 11 , Dec 1, 2002
              --- In crosstalk2@y..., Steve Black <sdblack@t...> wrote:
              >I think maybe you misunderstood me. I consider it obvious that
              >motives play a part in historical re-construction. I just don't
              think
              >that one has "dealt" with an argument merely by discerning the
              >motive. One still has to address the argument itself. Just dealing
              >with the motive is a cop-out for not actually addressing the
              proposal
              >under question...It is a good line of questioning to seek out what
              >"work" the reconstructed Jesus is being asked to do. Is this Jesus
              >being put to work for any specific agenda? Of course! Once again,
              >having identified this, one still hasn't actually addressed the
              >arguments in question. I for example really like the Jesus that
              >Horsley creates - I think it is a "useful" Jesus, and it is quite
              >obvious what his agenda is. I, for one, rather like his agenda. Yet
              I >don't "buy into" his Jesus. The reason I don't go where he goes
              is >because I don't find **his line of argumentation persuasive**.
              >I think it is obvious that every one involved in HJesus has some
              >reason/motive for doing so - I think we need to be aware of the
              >illusion of thinking that we have actually addressed someone's
              >thoughts by only in fact looking only at their motives. SO, in
              short,
              >I am NOT saying that motives aren't important, I AM saying that
              they
              >play a secondary role to argumentation when it comes to the job of
              >evaluating.

              Steve,

              I think I'm taking the "motivations" concerned a little more
              seriously than you are. That is to say, I'm not hanging loose of
              them in the way you appear to be. If I read you right (what a
              concept!), you are part of a phenomenon I have observed amongst
              historical Jesus scholars (since that's where I've especially been
              looking) where said scholars wish to recognise motivations
              concerning, and scholarly involvements (attachments) with, their
              study, only in some way to offset their effects, belay their impact
              or downplay their effectiveness. (A great example is another book in
              the "must read" category, Arnal and Desjardins (eds.), "Whose
              Historical Jesus?) At the end of the day you think you can deal with
              a historical Jesus scholar's arguments simpliciter in a way that I
              simply don't. (Thus, you talk about "the argument itself". Yet
              arguments have contexts which are constitutive of the arguments.
              There can be no form/content [or argument/motive] distinction.) Of
              course, this is not to say that everything boils down to motives or
              that dealing with motives is dealing with arguments. As I said
              before, I accept no such simple distinction nor do I know of any
              persuasive way in which these two are so easily disentangled. I
              point out again that the specific arguments of specific scholars are
              products of their own lives, including their emotions, reasoning and
              motives. Thus, the shape of this question is not one that admits of
              partial answers but, rather, one that concerns a whole.

              >Thus, the scholar becomes a part
              >of that which he or she studies and should be taken into account
              >when addressing the positions said scholars take up. I oppose this
              >holistic model to yours in which arguments can be taken as having
              >neither mother nor father nor genealogy.

              >Of course this is true, but besides the rather dubious attempt to
              >discern others motives, my concern is more about evaluating various
              >proposals. This is not done by weighing motives but by weighing
              >arguments. It is not that motives aren't important, and any person
              >doing HJesus work worth their salt knows full well the importance
              of
              >motive - yet still the issue for discussion must be the quality of
              >argumentation.

              And here we get to the far side of the same equation. Your own
              motives (I am not quite brave enough to say "psychological make-up")
              now come into play (with your own cognitive dissonances). I posit
              there is no simple way you can dispose of motivation, and that
              includes recognition of it (a common ploy)! Rhetorically you may
              wish to focus on arguments and that is the rhetorical object of our
              interest. However, the now ignored motivations are still both
              present and active, if silenced. So, in that case, why are attempts
              to discern ever present and constitutive motives "dubious"? Either
              they are constitutive (and thus relevant) or not. If relevance is
              established such interest in motive would seem no more dubious than
              asking after a given scholar's judgment on, say, matters of
              eschatology, 1st century CE cultural anthropology or favoured
              methods of biblical interpretation. Is it because such interest in
              motive doesn't fit your model historical Jesus study, where
              arguments are detached entities capable of discrete analysis and
              where we can discuss gospel texts and historical evidence "in
              itself" or "on their own merits", that you take up this position? If
              so, I don't think such things exist and would welcome your arguments
              to the contrary.

              Andrew Lloyd
              Nottingham, England
            • Steve Black
              ... Cool! Its nice to know that I m part of a phenomenon. ... How exactly do you suggest we would proceed on your model? Do I have to divine someone s motive?
              Message 6 of 11 , Dec 1, 2002
                >
                >
                >Steve,
                >
                >I think I'm taking the "motivations" concerned a little more
                >seriously than you are. That is to say, I'm not hanging loose of
                >them in the way you appear to be. If I read you right (what a
                >concept!), you are part of a phenomenon I have observed amongst
                >historical Jesus scholars

                Cool! Its nice to know that I'm part of a phenomenon.

                > (since that's where I've especially been
                >looking) where said scholars wish to recognise motivations
                >concerning, and scholarly involvements (attachments) with, their
                >study, only in some way to offset their effects, belay their impact
                >or downplay their effectiveness. (A great example is another book in
                >the "must read" category, Arnal and Desjardins (eds.), "Whose
                >Historical Jesus?) At the end of the day you think you can deal with
                >a historical Jesus scholar's arguments simpliciter in a way that I
                >simply don't. (Thus, you talk about "the argument itself". Yet
                >arguments have contexts which are constitutive of the arguments.
                >There can be no form/content [or argument/motive] distinction.) Of
                >course, this is not to say that everything boils down to motives or
                >that dealing with motives is dealing with arguments. As I said
                >before, I accept no such simple distinction nor do I know of any
                >persuasive way in which these two are so easily disentangled. I
                >point out again that the specific arguments of specific scholars are
                >products of their own lives, including their emotions, reasoning and
                >motives. Thus, the shape of this question is not one that admits of
                >partial answers but, rather, one that concerns a whole.

                How exactly do you suggest we would proceed on your model? Do I have
                to divine someone's motive? Am I supposed to await their self
                disclosure? Are we even then sure that they have rightly divined
                their own motives? Having rightly divined a motive (a questionable
                presumption in itself!) how do we now proceed?

                It might come down to what questions are being asked. My personal
                interests and thus questions are varied, but because this is a list
                focusing on historical issues, specifically around Jesus, I limit my
                interests in this forum to this. Thus the questions I ask here have
                to do with history. So I am not as interested *in this forum* in
                exploring the theologies of the HJ scholars as such - but how they do
                history. Can you explain to me how my uncovering someone's hidden
                motives (if such a thing is even really possible?) will help me in
                evaluating the merit of their historical reconstruction?

                To focus this more helpfully, how does the presence or non-presence
                of Cognitive Dissonance help us in evaluating someone's historical
                reconstruction? My original point was that Cognitive Dissonance is
                not a useful tool to help us evaluate someone's history. This is so
                because groundless speculation as well a solid "fact" can both
                generate Cognitive Dissonance. There is no inner reference with some
                eternal vantage point that is at the core of Cognitive Dissonance,
                but rather social/intellectual location. There is no infallible inner
                guide. The best we can do is evaluate the arguments. Noticing
                Cognitive Dissonance along the way will help us to achieve greater
                honesty, but does not provide an alternative to thought and argument
                and logic, etc.

                >
                >
                >And here we get to the far side of the same equation. Your own
                >motives (I am not quite brave enough to say "psychological make-up")
                >now come into play (with your own cognitive dissonances).

                But won't you have to assume this "bravery" for your model to be
                useful? Don't you need to be able to know all the ins and outs of
                someone's motives to truly utilize your "holistic" approach?

                >I posit
                >there is no simple way you can dispose of motivation, and that
                >includes recognition of it (a common ploy)! Rhetorically you may
                >wish to focus on arguments and that is the rhetorical object of our
                >interest. However, the now ignored motivations are still both
                >present and active, if silenced.

                Motivations are never ignored, they can't be. It is part of human
                interaction, hard-wired as it were. I am suggesting that your model
                isn't a practical or helpful one.

                To take our discussion as a example...
                You need (to use your model) to be able to divine why I am saying
                what I am saying. The strength of your argument will depend upon
                whether to guess my motives correctly. Even if you do so correctly
                guess, you now can merely tell me that I make this argument for XXX
                reasons. I would respond, "Yeah, so what?"
                I, on the other hand, need to do no such thing. Your motives are not
                something I am going to worry about, not because I don't have some
                hunches as to what they might be, and certainly not because I don't
                think they are important. You, by my model, have to merely present a
                solid argument in favor of your model. I will not be persuaded by
                your motive either way.

                My model uses less speculation and is more grounded upon the shared
                world of discourse that we both inhabit.

                --
                Steve Black
                Vancouver School of Theology
                Vancouver, BC
                ---

                I was blind
                all the time
                I was learning to see

                -Robert Hunter From "Help on the Way"
              • Rikk E. Watts
                ... Intriguingly, Clive Marsh once commented that of all the recent HJ researchers NT Wright seemed to be the only one who was aware of the problem of finding
                Message 7 of 11 , Dec 1, 2002
                  on 11/30/02 12:32 PM, Steve Black at sdblack@... wrote:

                  > Another example...
                  > I suspect that NT Wright comes to his conclusions because of
                  > theological commitments - that he suppresses what is essentially
                  > Cognitive Dissonance to achieve his construction. Now if this is true
                  > (and it may not be - it is merely my hunch) it still doesn't say
                  > anything about what he says. The only relevant question is if he
                  > makes a good case or not. Because he never says anything like "this
                  > is true because I want it to be" - but proceeds upon evidence and
                  > interpretation, we can now look at his work and judge whether he has
                  > made his case or not. His motivations might be interesting, but
                  > hardly significant to our "verdict".
                  >
                  Intriguingly, Clive Marsh once commented that of all the recent HJ
                  researchers NT Wright seemed to be the only one who was aware of the problem
                  of finding a Jesus who was all too commensurate with one's own vision of
                  what it meant to be human. Wright himself once remarked that the Jesus he'd
                  found was not very comfortable at all, challenging his (Wright's)
                  middle-class self-centredness at all kinds of levels.

                  Regards,
                  Rikk

                  Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
                  Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
                  Regent College
                  5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
                • Steve Black
                  ... Yeah I ve heard this before. I don t think *anyone s* Jesus sits particularly well with our middle-class self-centredness - Crossan s doesn t, Horsley s
                  Message 8 of 11 , Dec 1, 2002
                    >on 11/30/02 12:32 PM, Steve Black at sdblack@... wrote:
                    >
                    >> Another example...
                    >> I suspect that NT Wright comes to his conclusions because of
                    > > theological commitments - [snip.
                    > > Rikk wrote...
                    >Intriguingly, Clive Marsh once commented that of all the recent HJ
                    >researchers NT Wright seemed to be the only one who was aware of the problem
                    >of finding a Jesus who was all too commensurate with one's own vision of
                    >what it meant to be human. Wright himself once remarked that the Jesus he'd
                    >found was not very comfortable at all, challenging his (Wright's)
                    >middle-class self-centredness at all kinds of levels.

                    Yeah I've heard this before. I don't think *anyone's* Jesus sits
                    particularly well with our "middle-class self-centredness" -
                    Crossan's doesn't, Horsley's doesn't - fact I can't think of any of
                    the "modern" Jesus' that does. So this claim doesn't strike me as all
                    that unusual.

                    Wright's Jesus may "challenge" him socially and economically (which
                    are all very good things to be sure!!), but it doesn't do much
                    challenging on a "confessional" level as far as I can see. His Jesus
                    sits quite well on a confessional level in just about any evangelical
                    church. He *does* do a good job making his evangelical Jesus more
                    political. This is a good thing, in my mind.
                    --
                    Steve Black
                    Vancouver School of Theology
                    Vancouver, BC
                    ---

                    I was blind
                    all the time
                    I was learning to see

                    -Robert Hunter From "Help on the Way"
                  • David C. Hindley
                    ... personal level in sorting out personal motivations in attempting to achieve greater personal honesty intellectually. It might provide a window into why
                    Message 9 of 11 , Dec 3, 2002
                      Steve Black says:

                      >>I am not sure this model really does much for us. It might be helpful on a
                      personal level in sorting out personal motivations in attempting to achieve
                      greater personal honesty intellectually. It might provide a window into why
                      some scholars *might* reject and affirm what they do. But it certainly
                      doesn't provide any thing that will help us actually evaluate any given
                      argument.<<

                      Actually, I can also see its practical application in the study of the
                      psychological aspects that might have driven the progression of historical
                      events. For instance, it has been used to illuminate the process of
                      reinterpretation of prophesies in Jewish scriptures (_When Prophecy Failed:
                      Cognitive Dissonance in the Prophetic Traditions of the Old Testament_, by
                      Robert P. Carroll, Seabury Press, 1979, no review located; "Ancient
                      Israelite Prophecy and Dissonance Theory," Robert P. Carroll in _Theology
                      and Sociology : a Reader_, edited by Robin Gill, Cassell, 1996_, pp.
                      238-253; "Christian Missions and the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance" John G.
                      Gager, ibid, 276-292).

                      While Carroll applied it to prophetic literature proper, I can see it
                      employed in the analysis of the psychological motivations for mass religious
                      re-identifications, such as appears to have happened in the time of the
                      Maccabee rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and that which occurred
                      again within Judaism, including early Christianity, after the destruction of
                      the Temple and defeat of the Jewish rebellion between 66-73 CE. Grad
                      students looking for a dissertation subject might want to take note that
                      such concepts are wide open for future research.

                      >>Cognitive Dissonance can be generated by faulty (or at least questionable)
                      ideas as well as by sound ones. As Peter Berger said, 'imaginary sticks can
                      draw real blood'. An emotional reaction may tell us about
                      social/intellectual location, but it will tell us nothing about factuality
                      or non-factuality.<<

                      Cognitive Dissonance is generally studied from the point of view of a
                      subject *after* s/he has made a decision between alternative views (either
                      as a practical necessity, or due to the acceptance of a doctrinal system, or
                      due to imposition by authority figures). It is true, though, that the truth
                      value of the available choices is irrelevant to the issue of what behaviors
                      are employed to reduce the resulting dissonance.

                      >>An example ... I might experience Cognitive Dissonance when I hear about
                      alien abductions, the shroud of Turin, out of body experiences, and so
                      forth. My reaction doesn't say anything about the reality or non-reality of
                      any of these. To say something regarding that, I will need *arguments*. Why
                      I draw the arguments that I do might (or might not) reflect an attempt to
                      deal with Cognitive Dissonance, but that still says nothing about the actual
                      arguments.<<

                      But for most people accounts of alien abductions or the existence of the
                      shroud would not cause much in the way of dissonance. First of all, most
                      people do not feel compelled to choose alien abductions in opposition to
                      less extreme alternative explanations (astrophysical or psychological,
                      etc.). Now if you woke up one morning and had the unshakable feeling you had
                      been abducted, that would cause dissonance because the previous explanatory
                      complexes that might have mitigated against choosing an abduction hypothesis
                      might seem insufficient to explain a personal experience. It has become
                      *personal* and hence emotionally charged.

                      >>other example ... I suspect that NT Wright comes to his conclusions
                      because of theological commitments - that he suppresses what is essentially
                      Cognitive Dissonance to achieve his construction. Now if this is true (and
                      it may not be - it is merely my hunch) it still doesn't say anything about
                      what he says. The only relevant question is if he makes a good case or not.
                      Because he never says anything like "this is true because I want it to be" -
                      but proceeds upon evidence and interpretation, we can now look at his work
                      and judge whether he has made his case or not. His motivations might be
                      interesting, but hardly significant to our "verdict".

                      So it seems to me that the Cognitive Dissonance model might help us achieve
                      better honesty, but beyond that, I am not sure it has much more to offer.<<

                      Now you are talking. If we believe the biblical accounts are "true" but also
                      know that the everyday world casts doubt in the miraculous world the bible
                      is steeped in, we *should* experience dissonance. The difference between N.
                      T. Wright and a snake-handling fundamentalist of the Appalachian mountains
                      is that N. T. Wright has developed many relatively sophisticated, and
                      essentially rational, approaches in order to reconcile his complexes of
                      belief and those related to his acceptance of historical-critical method.

                      But I am more concerned with examining the means by which dissonance can be
                      reduced. Because they are essentially practical solutions, they can have a
                      distinctly Machiavellian aura about them. Approaches can range from very
                      reasoned to very knee-jerk or reactionary. For example, the theory predicts
                      that forced or accidental exposure to new information that tends to increase
                      dissonance will frequently result in *misinterpretation and misperception of
                      the new information* by the person thus exposed *in an effort to avoid
                      dissonance increase*. This is *serious business* if employed by a
                      professional critic or anyone who professes to employ the
                      historical-critical method. My opinion on this matter is that such
                      misrepresentation or misperception is more likely to occur in an emotionally
                      charged atmosphere than a rationally charged atmosphere.

                      Also, dissonance introduced by disagreement expressed by other persons may
                      be reduced by changing one's own opinion, or by influencing the others to
                      change their opinion, and by rejecting those who disagree. The first option
                      could be applicable if the alternative position proves persuasive, but also
                      if the compliance is induced. The second option can be as innocuous as
                      presenting a reasoned response, to as reactionary as immediately raising a
                      rallying cry against the opposing position. The third option is also
                      problematic, especially if the disagreeing opinion contradicts some sort of
                      consensus, since immediate marginalization of the proponent of the new
                      opinion arbitrarily cuts off criticism at the knees.

                      If anyone remembers it, A. Powell Davies provided some very interesting
                      observations on the early DSS controversies, including the sometimes
                      bitterly intense opposition to them on many grounds and the generally
                      extreme rejections of suggestions for their interpretation that went against
                      the hitherto prevailing consensus regarding the nature and theology of
                      Judaism around the turn of the Christian era (_The Meaning of the Dead Sea
                      Scrolls_, 1956, Mentor Books paperback).

                      It goes the other way as well. Galileo had one heck of a problem bucking the
                      consensus, but partly because he refused good advice to publish his theories
                      as hypotheses rather than matters of fact, and when forced to do so (on the
                      advice of his friend, the Pope) he did so by publishing his theory using a
                      fictive dialogue, in which the other party was a sarcastic parody of the
                      Pope as the embodiment of irrational dogmatism (who was not that way at all
                      in real life, and who henceforth refused to speak to Galileo after officers
                      of the Inquisition informed him of the parody).

                      Having chosen the Copernican model, which appealed to him on account of
                      reason, Galileo would have been experiencing dissonance since many of his
                      contemporaries, who he needed to interact with everyday but who were not
                      ready to let empirical evidence overrule accepted dogma, were quite opposed
                      to this kind of idea. While many of his astronomical ideas were quite right,
                      Galileo let his emotions rule the means he chose to propagate his theory,
                      and forced his opponents to react in an equally emotional manner, thus
                      guaranteeing his condemnation by the Inquisition.

                      The theory states that the effectiveness of efforts to reduce dissonance
                      will depend upon the resistance to change of the cognitive elements involved
                      in the dissonance and on the availability of information which will provide,
                      or of other persons who will supply, new cognitive elements which will be
                      consonant with existing cognition. Yet it is also proposed that the presence
                      of dissonance can lead to seeking of new information which will provide
                      cognition consonant with existing cognitive elements as well as to avoiding
                      those sources of new information which would be likely to increase the
                      existing dissonance.

                      Since the major sources of resistance to change for a cognitive element are
                      the responsiveness of such cognitive elements to "reality," as well as the
                      extent to which an element exists in consonant relations with many other
                      elements, it seems to me that the best way to approach new theories and
                      hypotheses is to emphasize the free availability of a variety of reasoned
                      opinions on any one topic. This is because the maximum dissonance which can
                      exist between two elements is equal to the resistance to change of the less
                      resistant of the two elements, the less resistant cognitive element will be
                      changed in order to reduce the dissonance when the dissonance exceeds this
                      magnitude. In time, the more reasonable opinions will tend to be adopted.

                      However, toleration of reactionary and knee-jerk evaluations of these new
                      ideas, not matter how authoritative the evaluator may otherwise be, is
                      counter-productive and actually dangerous to progress in any particular
                      field. It is not enough to assert that it is the logical fallacy of "Ad
                      Hominem Tu Quoque" to reject an opinion on these kinds of grounds alone. It
                      may be true that inaccurate or inconsistent opinions expressed by a
                      proponent of an idea do not invalidate the idea, it is not true that we
                      *have* to accept all ideas as of equal value. Is anyone here ready to place
                      J D Crossan or N T Wright on the same level as a Christian fundamentalist
                      apologist or a new age channeling theory proponent?

                      In summary, I would assert that an understanding of Cognitive Dissonance and
                      the ways that individuals or groups attempt to reduce dissonance can and
                      will help us be better critics, both in the way we look at historical
                      processes as well as how we evaluate the actions and reactions of critics
                      (including ourselves) in relation to the critical work they or we express.

                      I am aware of a more recent book on the subject of CD that should bring the
                      theory up to date for those interested: _Cognitive Dissonance: Progress on a
                      Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology_ (Science Conference Series) by Eddie
                      Harmon-Jones (Editor), Judson Mills (Editor) (Hardcover, March 1999).

                      Respectfully,

                      Dave Hindley
                      Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                    • Steve Black
                      ... Thanks for the clarification. I think I misunderstood you as saying something you were not saying. This above example is an excellent one showing how this
                      Message 10 of 11 , Dec 3, 2002
                        >Steve Black says:
                        >
                        >>>I am not sure this model really does much for us. It might be helpful on a
                        >personal level in sorting out personal motivations in attempting to achieve
                        >greater personal honesty intellectually. It might provide a window into why
                        >some scholars *might* reject and affirm what they do. But it certainly
                        >doesn't provide any thing that will help us actually evaluate any given
                        >argument.<<
                        >Dave Hindley wrote...
                        >Actually, I can also see its practical application in the study of the
                        >psychological aspects that might have driven the progression of historical
                        >events. For instance, it has been used to illuminate the process of
                        >reinterpretation of prophesies in Jewish scriptures[snip]

                        Thanks for the clarification. I think I misunderstood you as saying
                        something you were not saying. This above example is an excellent one
                        showing how this theory CAN be useful.
                        [snip]

                        >
                        >So it seems to me that the Cognitive Dissonance model might help us achieve
                        >better honesty, but beyond that, I am not sure it has much more to offer.<<
                        >
                        >Now you are talking. If we believe the biblical accounts are "true" but also
                        >know that the everyday world casts doubt in the miraculous world the bible
                        >is steeped in, we *should* experience dissonance. The difference between N.
                        >T. Wright and a snake-handling fundamentalist of the Appalachian mountains
                        >is that N. T. Wright has developed many relatively sophisticated, and
                        >essentially rational, approaches in order to reconcile his complexes of
                        >belief and those related to his acceptance of historical-critical method.
                        >[snip]

                        To paraphrase (and simplify) what I hear you saying here... We live
                        in a world with many "contrary" thoughts and ideas to our own - no
                        matter what our ideas might be. How we "deal" with these "contrary"
                        ideas reflects the integrity of our intellectual processes and will
                        determine the value of our "results".

                        >
                        >I am aware of a more recent book on the subject of CD that should bring the
                        >theory up to date for those interested: _Cognitive Dissonance: Progress on a
                        >Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology_ (Science Conference Series) by Eddie
                        >Harmon-Jones (Editor), Judson Mills (Editor) (Hardcover, March 1999).

                        I'll put this on my ever growing "to read" list.


                        --
                        Steve Black
                        Vancouver School of Theology
                        Vancouver, BC
                        ---

                        If you get confused, listen to the music play...
                        -Robert Hunter From "Franklin's Tower"
                      • Robert M. Schacht
                        ... David, Thanks for these references. ... Who sez? Dissonance will be experienced mainly(?) by those rationalists who are bothered by anything that they
                        Message 11 of 11 , Dec 3, 2002
                          At 09:39 AM 12/03/02, David C. Hindley wrote:
                          >...For instance, it has been used to illuminate the process of
                          >reinterpretation of prophesies in Jewish scriptures (_When Prophecy Failed:
                          >Cognitive Dissonance in the Prophetic Traditions of the Old Testament_, by
                          >Robert P. Carroll, Seabury Press, 1979, no review located; "Ancient
                          >Israelite Prophecy and Dissonance Theory," Robert P. Carroll in _Theology
                          >and Sociology : a Reader_, edited by Robin Gill, Cassell, 1996_, pp.
                          >238-253; "Christian Missions and the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance" John G.
                          >Gager, ibid, 276-292).

                          David,
                          Thanks for these references.


                          >If we believe the biblical accounts are "true" but also
                          >know that the everyday world casts doubt in the miraculous world the bible
                          >is steeped in, we *should* experience dissonance.

                          Who sez? <g>
                          Dissonance will be experienced mainly(?) by those rationalists who are
                          bothered by anything that they can't rationalize.
                          I was educated in logical positivism, and as such, I often experienced
                          cognitive dissonance, because the world refused to accommodate itself to my
                          preconceptions. But as a graduate student, I read a book by Robert McC.
                          Adams, who later became director of the Smithsonian. In the introduction to
                          one of his books, he wrote, "We must be able to develop a tolerance for
                          ambiguity," or words to that effect. I think what he meant was not that we
                          should become irrational, but that when two apparent facts existed in
                          contradiction with each other, we should hold that contradiction as a
                          reminder of the work remaining to be done.

                          Do physicists experience cognitive dissonance over the issue of whether
                          light is energy observed in waves, or a particle?

                          >...But I am more concerned with examining the means by which dissonance can be
                          >reduced. Because they are essentially practical solutions, they can have a
                          >distinctly Machiavellian aura about them. Approaches can range from very
                          >reasoned to very knee-jerk or reactionary. For example, the theory predicts
                          >that forced or accidental exposure to new information that tends to increase
                          >dissonance will frequently result in *misinterpretation and misperception of
                          >the new information* by the person thus exposed *in an effort to avoid
                          >dissonance increase*. This is *serious business* if employed by a
                          >professional critic or anyone who professes to employ the
                          >historical-critical method. My opinion on this matter is that such
                          >misrepresentation or misperception is more likely to occur in an emotionally
                          >charged atmosphere than a rationally charged atmosphere.

                          "Rationally charged"? Can you provide an example of a "rationally charged"
                          atmosphere that is not emotionally charged?

                          >...Having chosen the Copernican model, which appealed to him on account of
                          >reason, Galileo would have been experiencing dissonance since many of his
                          >contemporaries, who he needed to interact with everyday but who were not
                          >ready to let empirical evidence overrule accepted dogma, were quite opposed
                          >to this kind of idea. While many of his astronomical ideas were quite right,
                          >Galileo let his emotions rule the means he chose to propagate his theory,
                          >and forced his opponents to react in an equally emotional manner, thus
                          >guaranteeing his condemnation by the Inquisition.

                          Isn't this an example that Kuhn used as an exemplar of paradigm shift? I
                          thought you weren't going to go there.
                          (On the other hand, if we decline to discuss controversial theories, what
                          will we have left to discuss?)

                          >Since the major sources of resistance to change for a cognitive element are
                          >the responsiveness of such cognitive elements to "reality," as well as the
                          >extent to which an element exists in consonant relations with many other
                          >elements, it seems to me that the best way to approach new theories and
                          >hypotheses is to emphasize the free availability of a variety of reasoned
                          >opinions on any one topic. This is because the maximum dissonance which can
                          >exist between two elements is equal to the resistance to change of the less
                          >resistant of the two elements, the less resistant cognitive element will be
                          >changed in order to reduce the dissonance when the dissonance exceeds this
                          >magnitude. In time, the more reasonable opinions will tend to be adopted.

                          An irony of the Copernican revolution is that, from the perspective of ship
                          navigators, the system of epicycles was more "realistic" than the
                          Copernican model, because they were able to navigate more precisely using
                          it (I don't remember why; perhaps the details of Copernican orbital models
                          were not yet refined enough to provide better results.)

                          >...In summary, I would assert that an understanding of Cognitive
                          >Dissonance and
                          >the ways that individuals or groups attempt to reduce dissonance can and
                          >will help us be better critics, both in the way we look at historical
                          >processes as well as how we evaluate the actions and reactions of critics
                          >(including ourselves) in relation to the critical work they or we express.

                          Actually, I agree (except that I still want to use Kuhn's idea of paradigm
                          conflict.)


                          >I am aware of a more recent book on the subject of CD that should bring the
                          >theory up to date for those interested: _Cognitive Dissonance: Progress on a
                          >Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology_ (Science Conference Series) by Eddie
                          >Harmon-Jones (Editor), Judson Mills (Editor) (Hardcover, March 1999).


                          Thanks for this reference, too.
                          Bob
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