Cognitive dissonance “reinvented”

Donald Trump phenomena allows us exquisite pleasure observing various types of intellectuals in their search for explanations. What amuses me is not so much if their statements make sense or not, but how they mask or unmask them. In general one can find two types of reactions to a disaster of biblical proportions:

Type 1: Overt statement that Donald Trump is such a pathetic figure that a decent person cannot and should not only vote against but also any serious analysis of his words and actions belongs to “no-go-zone”. This type asserts notion that already by analysing Donald Trump one commits a crime against reason and humanity. Type 1 analysts find Donald Trump as a mistake of apparently disoriented voters.  This mistake comes from their irrationality and is as such something that a decent person cannot take seriously. Such position is not only noticeable among many intellectuals, Hollywood actors and even among some business leaders, but goes wider. There is one restaurant in Hawaii that banned Trump voters to enter. Trump voters are seen as infected by “trump disease” that is so contagious that should be kept somewhere distant from the rest of the world. While it should be easy to fight against this type of analysts intellectually, history with Nacizm that performed same ban on Jews and some other stakeholders groups shows, that if such metal slips become prevailing, individual freedoms perish considerably. Irony is that those banning Trumpers (Trump followers) as Nazis in fact behave like Nazis.

Type 2: This type is far more interesting. It can be observed in articles like this one in The New Yorker. The position of such authors is objective-like. They would sincerely like to understand “what happened”. It seems like they would like to explain something to us, readers. But are they really? What if they use press space to heal their own cognitive dissonance? Unconsciously of course.

Mentioned article proves to be excellent example of Type 2. Why?

First reason is that it rests on couple of studies that are perfectly biased for they attribute “confirmation bias” to those that “are strong partisans” only. All mentioned studies attempt to understand reality as if there were two distinct groups of people. First one consists of individuals that are strong partisans and behave like savagesor even tribalists for the reason of confirmation bias. Then there is another group of individuals that  are rational, civilized and does not suffer from confirmation bias disease. Such studies thus prove that we (rational beings) understand why they (irrational tribalists) are underdeveloped in comparison to us. Type 2 position thus takes Type 1 as granted (Trump is idiot not worth to utter a word about) and at the same time explains why his voters support him. Since they have confirmation bias disease their irrational selection is explicable but of course not tolerated.

According to western doctrine of medicine, after we understand the origins and mechanisms of certain disease, we can start to eradicate it. In fact this article does not come to such obvious solution, but I would not be surprised if Universities that form large part of Type 1 would not open studies and propose treatments for those that are so seriously ill. Let us kick out confirmation bias out of poor tribal retards like we kick out cancer cells.

Second reason is that an article like this silently avoids long known and confirmed facts about cognitive dissonance. We know that cognitive dissonance is constituent element of all humans but autists perhaps. We all have this “disease”  regardless of gender, race, age, political belief or even education level. Scientists that explore yet undiscovered domains are perhaps the best examples.  Should they not have their a-priori vision that contradicts so far known reality, they would not have even thought about to break present prevailing theories. Scientific exploration is only the most perfect example of positive effects of cognitive dissonance, but one can find it in each human action, in each meme governed action. That is why I say that author of mentioned article in New Yorker. (Though her dissonance is no lower after she wrote it). She will suffer on for sure. She will never understand herself as being in cognitive dissonance while supporting Hillary Clinton.

Third reason is very personal. I was appalled by finding Steven Pinker as one of main protagonists of this article. He allegedly wrote:

Trump, Pinker said, won over pretty much the entire Republican Party, and all those who felt alienated from the left, by declaring himself to be opposed to the “establishment” and political correctness. And this all happened, Pinker wrote to me, “despite his obvious temperamental unsuitability for the responsibilities of the Presidency, his opposition to free trade and open borders (which should have, but did not, poison him with the libertarian right), his libertine and irreligious lifestyle (which should have, but did not, poison him with evangelicals), his sympathies with Putin’s Russia (which should have, but did not, poison him with patriots), and his hostility to American military and political alliances with democracies (which should have, but did not, poison him with neoconservatives).”

As all philosophers know one should be extremely careful in using “obvious”. Obvious for whom? Then to take free trade and open borders as inseparable entity is also very questionable, as I explained already in this post. One could namely easily imagine liberal free trade among different cultures separated by borders that keep those cultures distinct. And then the argument that he should not be the right person because of his sympathies with Putin is at the bottom possible level of argumentation. Ad hominem argumentation. Bljak.

I was appalled for Steven Pinker is one of few contemporary scientists that has something so say these days. His books belong to those few that not only reshuffle last year snow as being fresh powder. But this paragraph that exposes his undigested cognitive dissonance in full extend is not interesting for this reason only, but because it also gives a clue where Steven Pinker is short in all of his books. For a reason unknown to me he strictly avoids using memes as second replicators to genes to explain neuroscientific phenomena, neural diseases and language issues. He should have use meme concepts for he is top evolutionists in neuroscience. He is evolutionary linguist. Should he understand the power of memes as replicators, he would easily understand alleged dissonance between Trump words and Trump actions. By the use of evolutionary memology he could easily understand connection of hardwired genetically encoded human cognition with self replicating memes that serve as short term vehicles for individual adaptations and survival.




Andrej Drapal