Cognitive Dissonance in American Culture
Muhammad Ali – Greatest of All Time! The Legend! Come on. Give me a break. How is punching a guy in the face over and over a great thing? That sort of behavior is a felony outside the boxing ring. O! But Muhammad Ali embraced a great religion! Get a clue. Religion is not a great thing. In fact, religion is stupid and dangerous. Nonviolence is the most touted claim about the most fundamental principal of Islam, yet every time we see a suicide bombing, we know right away that the bomber kills in the name of Islam. Religion is a crime against reality and is actually the greatest form of cognitive dissonance and self-deception.
Americans like to think of themselves as the greatest. Ethnocentrism is a powerful force; so is mendacity. Advocates of American Exceptionalism seem to take much pride in willful ignorance as though it is somehow a virtue. Willfully ignorant are we? How so?
Sure! We can clearly see (if we would only open our eyes of reason) very strong economic and scientific reasons for the United States to fully embrace the International System of Units, formerly known as the metric system. We know full well (if we would only do the math) that the cost of not using the International System is increasing with the trend toward globalization. It is abundantly obvious that failing to adopt the International System could result in the United States losing its competitive edge in science and technology and in continuing to create bilateral trade impediments with other countries.
At this point some of you may offer the excuse that going metric would cost too much or that it is too hard. Nations smaller than the United States (like Japan and Australia) have undergone metrication. Was it easy? No. Was it impossible? No. But the United States is too big to go metric, you might say. China and India are much bigger, yet they went metric in the face of much bigger obstacles. Are you saying that the United States is inferior to nations that have successfully undergone metrication? I hope not.
We feel psychologically uncomfortable every time a bout of cognitive dissonance pushes us to bury our heads in the sand when confronted with the reality that the dominance of United States companies is being challenged in the competitive atmosphere of globalization. Please consider the obvious economic benefits of global interoperability.
We complain about our sad lack of jobs, but we ignore an obvious remedy: Adopting the International System would likely result in the creation of many jobs and better prepare the current and future workforce of the United States to work in the international marketplace.
Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort an individual experiences by simultaneously embracing two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. Cognitive dissonance happens when performing an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values. We feel stress when confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
Leon Festinger has a theory of cognitive dissonance that focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency (dissonance) tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it. For example, the engine of your car starts to make an unusual noise, but rather than take it in to the mechanic, you just turn the music up so you cannot hear the evidence.
Grow up America! Swallow your pride, take it to professionals and crank down the façade of American Exceptionalism.