Cognitive dissonance and how people manage it.

2012-05-13 10:17

The human brain is a complicated thing, and people have a lot of ego invested in thinking they are smart and correct.

What this means is that when people realize that they have made a mistake of some kind, the first thing they often do is very carefully not realize it. At this point, you start getting weird and erratic behaviors; the less-self-aware part of the brain knows what’s wrong, and knows that it’s going to be upsetting to think about it, so it becomes necessary to not think about it consciously.

When you find yourself thinking “that is so obviously wrong that it is impossible to explain why it is wrong”, the most likely answer is “actually it’s right and I’ll feel bad when I realize that.” For serious. If the only argument you can make against something is to highlight the things in it you don’t like, but you can’t articulate what’s wrong with them, the most likely thing that’s wrong with them is that they are a threat to your happy self-image.

The secret to long-term happiness is to be utterly ruthless about crushing your own ego in the short term. Be one of those people who always has to become right, not one of those people who always has to have been right at the start of the conversation.

Peter Seebach