2012-09-11

Cognitive Dissonance

A particular brand of cognitive dissonance has been on my mind lately: in some cases I use government issued decrees as confirmation that I am right (usually, in a way such that it's the only confirmation that I need), in others, the fact that the government says so is an indicator that something's wrong.

This came up for me in a recent discussion about obesity. There are folks out there who argue that the consequences of obesity are highly exaggerated. They use a couple of tactics to argue their case, one them being the familiar conspiracy theory: there is big bucks is claiming that obesity is a deadly disease.

When looking at certain websites, STOP Obesity Alliance, for example, it becomes clear that not every one has the poor fat people's interests at heart. Reading the PDFs it's pretty clear that STOP wants to finagle dispensations for employers and insurance companies. STOP is hardly a government institution though.

However, the government is not always right and the conspiracy theorists are not always wrong; the vaccine against the swine flue did, in fact, cause narcolepsy.

So, the conclusion must be to remain be critical, be wary of tendencies to vilify and sanctify, be honest about what you want the truth to be, look for arguments for and against and for criticisms of those arguments. Always, to the best of your ability, do the do diligence of research.

Sometimes everyone lies and exaggerates.

Wikipedia: Cognitive dissonance is the term used in modern psychology to describe the discomfort felt by a person seeking to hold two or more conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.

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