Cognitive dissonance in a knowledge driven cult.
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Thread: Cognitive dissonance in a knowledge driven cult.

  1. #1
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    Cognitive dissonance in a knowledge driven cult.

    My aim in this posting is to explore the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance and how it relates to the cult of knowledge breeded in the hacker subculture.

    First, the necessary definition of terms.

    Cognitive dissonance is a theory that was developed in 1957 by one Leon Festinger. This theory deals with the concept of cognitions, which for our purposes can be defined as a "piece of knowledge". This can be absolutely anything, such as the knowledge that you own a COMPAQ computer, or the scores of a highschool football game or even an emotion. This theory postulates that people hold many kinds of knowledge simultaneously, and that these cognitions can either be 1) irrelevent, 2) consonant or 3) dissonant. I will only be dealing with the last kind.

    Basically, when you gain a cognition that diverges from a previously held cognition, when it contradicts or conflicts with a belief of yours, your mind is affected by a peculiar tension known as "cognitive dissonance". This tension makes you uncomfortable much as it is uncomfortable to hold your pee in or not to eat for days. Your body is letting you know that there is something wrong, and therefore you are forced to take action to correct the situation.

    There are multiple things you can do to make things right once more. You can either change one of your cognitions, either the previously held one or the new one that's making you bonkers. You can add another cognition that rationalizes both conflicting ones, such that it brings order to tension ridden chaos. Lastly, you can alter the importance of either cognition so that it provides for less dissonance.

    Now, how does this affect our culture, you wonder? My view is that when one presents an idea that conflicts with a long held belief, it is much more trivial to either shoot it down or avoid it all together in hopes of avoiding cognitive dissonance. The steps to accepting a new idea are much less trivial than the ones required to shoot it down. This, in practical terms, means that you are more likely to 1) avoid the idea all together, 2) consciously read only part of the idea, 3) insult/bring down/discredit the person saying the idea in hopes that his idea will go down with him, or 4) form closer bonds (often subconsciously) with people who agree with you, and loosen bonds (again, often subconsciously) with those that support the new cognition. These are some of the most common courses of action.

    Now, if you're read this far (and I do hope you have), then how this applies to a culture which defines itself as knowledge driven will be clear. You are constantly bombarded with new cognitions. This lays the ground for much cognitive dissonance, and the unpleasant turmoil that comes along with it. It is my opinion that a member of this culture should be extremely aware of this often subtle psychological game, and make a conscious decision to wage a war against it by all means necessary.

    Accept the presense of uncomfortable "tension" much as one who's on a hunger strike would! Draw warmth in the fact you are on the frontlines of this cognition war, and that you are not yielding to the enemy that is dissonance! Take pride in your quest for Truth, no matter what ugly faces present themselves in the murky alleys which you are sure to cross. Be free!
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    *yawn*
    Ah well...I\'m back on AntiOnline!
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    The steps to accepting a new idea are much less trivial than the ones required to shoot it down. This, in practical terms, means that you are more likely to 1) avoid the idea all together, 2) consciously read only part of the idea, 3) insult/bring down/discredit the person saying the idea in hopes that his idea will go down with him, or 4) form closer bonds (often subconsciously) with people who agree with you, and loosen bonds (again, often subconsciously) with those that support the new cognition. These are some of the most common courses of action.
    This is very much true and explains the belief by some people in the whole Microsoft system. There are people who will not change and try something new(Linux, BSD, MacOS). Im glad someone is willing to have intelligent conversation here.
    Wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
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  4. #4
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    Have you read What is Philosophy by Dietrich Von Hildebrand?
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    Re: Cognitive dissonance in a knowledge driven cult.

    Originally posted by autumn regret
    Now, if you're read this far (and I do hope you have), then how this applies to a culture which defines itself as knowledge driven will be clear. You are constantly bombarded with new cognitions. This lays the ground for much cognitive dissonance, and the unpleasant turmoil that comes along with it. It is my opinion that a member of this culture should be extremely aware of this often subtle psychological game, and make a conscious decision to wage a war against it by all means necessary.
    Simply being bombarded by new cognitions is not by itself capable of producing cognitive dissonance. It must contradict an experience which has already taken place.
    An example:
    I could play softball as a child, and then witness someone do something with a soccer ball that I could never do with a softball. This does not create cognitive dissonance, it is a wholly new experience.

    I would disagree that cognitive dissonance leads to turmoil -- at least in those with a drive to learn. In these people, it drives them to determine how the circumstances may have been different. Most often what is first perceived as cognitive dissonance can later be accepted because the compared situations may have their differences.

    For example: People pick up clear glasses to drink with on a regular basis. Glass can look the same both searing hot and freezing cold. A person could have a hundred thousand experiences wherein they picked up a glass and drank from it. They would then experience a moment of disbelief (cognitive dissonance) when they pick up their trusty glass only to be badly burned. My usual reaction to this (after healing) is to attempt to determine WHY the glass burned my hand. Let's say that after investigating I found out that it had been sitting on a stove element which happened to be on(okay, not too much investigating needed there, but I think you can all make out the point).

    Simply having new experiences is what drives me to continue with life. After all, if we're always afraid of new experiences, why bother living?



    Originally posted by autumn regret
    Accept the presense of uncomfortable "tension" much as one who's on a hunger strike would! Draw warmth in the fact you are on the frontlines of this cognition war, and that you are not yielding to the enemy that is dissonance! Take pride in your quest for Truth, no matter what ugly faces present themselves in the murky alleys which you are sure to cross. Be free!
    I personally do not experience 'uncomfortable tension' simply from encountering something new, which clashes with my prior experiences -- rather, I try and determine any differences between the situations.

    All in all, a very interesting discussion, and highly applicable to the various computer fields (especially hardware, IMO).
    Chris Shepherd
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    \"Well as far as the spelling, I speak fluently both your native languages. Do you even can try spell mine ?\" -- Failed Insult
    Is your whole family retarded, or did they just catch it from you?
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    Simply being bombarded by new cognitions is not by itself capable of producing cognitive dissonance.
    This is absolutely true. What I meant to say (and I apologize for not expressing myself clearly) is that for people who make it one of their primary goals to seek new knowledge and ideas, for those who thrive on such behaviour, the sheer amount of cognitions that bombard them makes it all the more likely that they will be subject to cognitive dissonance.

    I would disagree that cognitive dissonance leads to turmoil -- at least in those with a drive to learn.
    That, of course, is the ideal, what we should all strive to achieve. If you yourself feel confident that you have reached this level, then pat yourself on the back as you've won an important battle in the persuit of truth.

    I have not been so lucky, and must deal with cognitive dissonance on an almost daily basis. I was arguying with a friend today about a particularly delicate social/policy issue. My mind was not fully made up on the matter and so I chose the opposing viewpoint to see if it could hold up under intense scrutiny. Having to seriously debate an issue when you don't even fully agree with what you're saying is hell (atleast for me). It came to a point where I could simply not take it anymore, and so I politely asked him to cease this argument as it was slowly eroding my mind. I escaped to my own thinking in order to give these issues more personal thought.

    I know that this is perhaps an extreme example, but I can testify that cognitive dissonance is indeed real (in my case, in the very least)

    Have you read What is Philosophy by Dietrich Von Hildebrand?
    Nope, I haven't had the pleasure of reading that. Does it have any bearing on this topic? If so, perhaps I should pick it up. My current to-read pile is stacked pretty high, but I'd be more than willing to add to it.
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  7. #7
    Old-Fogey:Addicts founder Terr's Avatar
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    Well, the best personal example of cognitive dissonance (or a similar phenomenon) is the 'I know the world' feeling.

    You feel that you are comfortable, you know how the stuff works, there isn't any real mystery, only things which you know exist but that you know you don't know...

    And then, pow. You find a problem or a situation and you really blank for a while, trying to think of a way to approach it that fits within your percieved 'world-view'. ('world' in the figurative sense)

    Sort of like reading all you can on TCP/IP, and then you hear about windows DDE communication, and you go "What? I've never seen a DDE protocol..."

    Well, that was a bad example... it's very hard to find a good one.
    [HvC]Terr: L33T Technical Proficiency
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    Re: Re: Cognitive dissonance in a knowledge driven cult.

    Originally posted by chsh
    Simply having new experiences is what drives me to continue with life. After all, if we're always afraid of new experiences, why bother living?
    INDEED! After all, if not for the presence of cognitive dissonance and the will of people's minds to overcome the possible tension that could result, instead of hiding behind the status quo, we would all be reading inked parchments by candlelight in our straw and mud homes.

    Which brings me to the question of theory affecting reality. Now that these things have been studied and theorized upon...C.D. being a prime example...does that somehow skew our perceptions of 'how things work'? Does the theory of cognitive dissonance create cognitive dissonance of its own just by our awareness of the theory?

    Hmmm...

    Ouroboros
    "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem"

    "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

    -Occam's Razor

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    i think autumn regret is using us (the hacker community) as a research area for a research paper ... just kidding. i enjoy the intelligent conversation.

    i have to agree with chsh. i don't feel turmoil from new ideas. i enjoy the challenge of new ideas, esp ones contradictory to my own... it makes life more interesting. that's what life is all about. change is inevitable. for me personally, an ever changing world is better than a static one. many people enjoy routine and the static life style. i on the other hand embrace the change. it spices things up
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    I don't tend to find myself in turmoil of learning things that differ from my own perceptions. The only case that I can think of when I do experience turmoil is when I am told something contrary to my own knowledge, that I know is true, but that the other person insists is false (or vice-versa), though you could argue this isn't exactly what you are looking for.

    I definitely agree with some of the other posters when I say I don't get bothered much by it. I don't think many "information seekers" would be affected by it because they are so used to absorbing new information and sorting out the truth on their own.

    -Wizeman
    \"It\'s only arrogrance if you can\'t back it up, otherwise it is confidence.\" - Me
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