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Monday, December 26, 2005

O'Leary's new post at ARN: Cognitive Dissonance: Could Kong really be your sweetie pie?

O'Leary's new post at ARN: Cognitive Dissonance: Could Kong really be your sweetie pie?

Ever hear the term "cognitive dissonance"? This first year psychology concept refers to the ways we handle two different mental states that are in apparent conflict. For example, Joe likes to smoke but knows that smoking is bad for him. He could quit smoking. That's one way to handle it. Another way is to simply deny the evidence that smoking is bad for him and continue to smoke. A third way is to adopt the belief that smoking helps him control his weight. Or that his particular brand is less harmful than others. These strategies vary a great deal in the extent to which they agree with facts or common sense, but they all have one thing in common: They reduce the anxiety Joe feels around smoking.

A zoo story

Last summer, when urban zoos competed with the beach, the London Zoo staged a "daring" show. For four days, August 26 through 29, it put three male and five female humans on display in the wooded habitat on Bear Mountain as homo sapiens. Spokeswoman Polly Wills explained that the exhibit "teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate."

The exhibit actually demonstrated the opposite.

A label was coyly affixed to the display: "Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment."

Associated Press enthused, "At London Zoo, you can talk to the animals — and now some of them talk back."

Hmm. No surprise there. Conveniently for the humans, they were separated from our primate relatives by an electric fence. Why, I wonder?

[ ... ]

Now what happened here psychologically is that when naturalistic beliefs (humans are just like apes) conflicted with evidence (pins, swimsuits, flats in London), onlookers chose Joe's second option—they simply denied the evidence and continued to assert the belief.

Read more.

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