Cognitive Dissonance - smoking - but what else ?
On a tangent from some of my other posts, but summing up some of my thoughts for today.
This is a Thai anti-smoking advert, and indeed it is very powerful. Its simple premise is to highlight how all smokers know readily the dangers of smoking, and yet they seldom reflect on why they persist.
The whole notion of cognitive dissonance focuses on this disconnection between one set of knowledge and another. That is, not only do smokers know smoking is bad for them, but by the same measure they produce a conflicting set of arguments to support the fact that they do smoke.
” could get hit by a bus tomorrow”, “I will give up after I finish this exam”, “I am actually a very fit and healthy person”…
The classic tale of cognitive dissonance is Aesops fable of the sour grapes. The fox is unable to reach the juicy grapes so it decides to believe that the grapes must be sour in order to not feel too bad about what it has missed out on.
Cognitive dissonance actually permeates much of our modern lives. To use a simple random example, the film release of the ‘Lorax’. The sentiment of that book is directly challenging the vapid and mindless treadmill of consumption for consumption’s sake. Yet a big movie release, merchandise, DVDs and all the more, actually makes a mockery of the whole message.
In may respects our modern way of life is a daily act of political cognitive dissonance.
So in returning the the ‘sour grapes’ we must be robust enough to consider what our options are. Simply dismissing problems as not immediate enough, or someone else’s domain will ultimately exacerbate the problem.
I remember years ago being at a lecture on environmental science. The professor announced that we would never be able to solve the world’s environmental problems for the simple fact that we still have the same basic brain and biology of prehistoric human’s. Whilst we have been able to create vast amounts of technology, our own basic hardware remains the same. Therefore we are hardwired for simple physical concerns of existence and comfort, and ill equipped to deal with issues that pose a threat to our future generations.