The Transylvania Times -

Cognitive Dissonance


September 3, 2018

As my grandson Oli, 11, was preparing to return to Argentina recently, where he lives, I asked him if he was excited to get back home and see his friends?

Oli hesitated, “Yeah, but I am also sad to go. It feels sort of weird.”

Oli was describing a well-researched psycho-logical phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance,” which is based on our almost universal dislike of internal conflict. Torn between two feelings, we try to reduce that discomfort by rationalizing our positions.

As a psychologist, I believe that the theory of cognitive dissonance can explain a lot of political behavior.

In order to vote for Trump, many Republicans had to minimize the negative aspects of his personality. Many listened to his promises to revitalize America and to “make it great again.” He would bring back the coal industry, rebuild our infrastructure, stand up to other countries who were taking advantage of us economically. He would bring jobs, particularly for working class men who felt overlooked.

Many Trump voters are having to face the discrepancy between the man they thought they were getting and the man who is now disappointing them — creating cognitive dissonance. This theory predicts that the more risk one takes, and the greater investment one makes in a choice, the more strongly one tends to rate that choice — even knowing that it was a mistake. So, as the negative press about Trump accumulated, Republican voters actually increased their support of him, to the point that 90 percent of Republicans supported him.

Interviewed on a PBS program, one Trump voter said: “The reason he hasn’t been able to deliver on his promises is that the deep state is blocking him” — a re-interpretation that reduces the voter’s cognitive dissonance and allows her to keep Trump as a positive figure in her mind.

Gus Napier

Cedar Mountain


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