Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Emotional dissonance" - a term that needs more use?

I have briefly mentioned the phrase, as a parallel to "cognitive dissonance," with support groups and friends.

In a comment on a SkepticBlog post about The Amazing Meeting 9 and cognitive dissonance, I mentioned the idea there.
As cognition is not done as a sterile intellectual exercise ... I think we need to stress this more.
One person responded that s/he thought that "emotions" were included in cognition, and in cognitive dissonance. I responded:
Understood on what “cognitive” entails. That said, it’s my guess that the “average Joe/Jane” thinks “intellectual” when they hear the term “cognitive,” though, or may at the least think the “intellectual” is being emphasized to the degree of less to much less attention on the emotions.

And, that, in term, gets to the “image of skepticism,” if you will. My skepticism (or better yet, per David Hume, my empirical stance) is driven by the interaction of the passions and reason.

Obviously, emotions are visible when one is being a dick, rather than when one is not … but showing positive emotional reasons for skepticism is the “hearts” of the “hearts and minds” battle.
This person then, in my opinion, undercut her previous comment. I will quote this person:
“(E)motional dissonance” implies that emotions are to blame for poor reasoning, which is usually not the case.
I humbly but firmly beg to differ.

Look at the religious right segment of the GOP, which continually votes on emotion even though the party's corporatist leaders really don't care about it that much. Ditto on tea partiers letting themselves be astroturfed and not starting a third party. Many "moderate" antivaxxers who aren't into conspiracy theories let themselves be swayed by emotions even though they know, intellectually, that expert medical opinion is usually right.

Hume reminded us, after all, that reason needs to follow the passions, not the other way around. This doesn't mean that reason accepts what the passions within us say, but it does mean it accepts as a starting point what the passions are saying to us.

If we want to take "emotional dissonance" more narrowly .... it affects our decision making all the time. We're conflicted about going to a family gathering because we like some people but hate others. We're emotionally conflicted about taking a new job. Etc.

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