Rectifying Cognitive Dissonance in the LO LO29983

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 03/10/03

Replying to LO29980 --

Dear Organlearners,

Alan Cotterell <> writes under the
Subject: Peace and War LO29980

>Dear Jason,
>What frightens me is the way we are all 'programmed' to
>behave like lemmings. The following article displays a
>disturbing side to the human psyche: COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
>The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance relates to an individual's
>inability to accept new information. There is a threshold of
>resistance to be overcome, due to their cognition or 'world
>view', which has been built up over their lifetime.
>Bizarre behaviour, can be exhibited by people, who find their
>position untenable on some matters. In extreme cases,
>psychiatric patients have even been unable to actually hear
>particular words associated with their disabilities.
>The following example of cognitive dissonance cost millions
>of lives, as it led to World War 1. We experience cognitive
>dissonance in our daily lives, let us hope it never has such an
>effect again.

Greetings dear Alan,

Thank you for posting this important article, bringing up the issue of
Cognitive Dissonance (CD). I have changed the topic because i think we
have an important issue here to anticipate in any LO.

I agree with you that the "lemming syndrome" (what a descriptive name is
it not!) is frightening. We have had too much experiencess of it in South
Africa during the apartheid years.

The theory of Cognitive Dissonance was formulated by
   Festinger, Leon. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.
   Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Since then it has become one of the major theories of Social Psychology.

Cognitive Dissonance (CD) occurs most often in situations where an
individual must choose between two incompatible or contradictory
beliefs or actions. Fellow learners may study a nice summary of CD at
< >

CD manifests itself in learning as a kind of a mismatch between Individual
Learning (IL) and Organisational Learning (OL). When a person has to learn
something from somebody else which contradicts what that person already
thinks he/she knows and particularly believes in, he/she will likely
resist the new learning. Furthermore, should that person be humiliated
when such learning takes place, he/she will consider what has been learned
of little, if any, value.

There is a variant of CD known as Cognitive Tolerance (CT). In this case
the person learns the "other picture", but never integrate it with the
"own picture". For example, a person in Africa may use Western medicine as
well as traditional herbal medicine, thinking that both together will work
even better, but each still in its own way. Actually, we can think of a
continuum between CD and CT. In this continuum the entropic forces
decrease from CD to CT.

CD is particularly rampant in the religious, cultural and political walks
of life. It can easily shatter the peace so that strife and even war
erupt. How much is the pending war between the US&UK and Iraq not a case
of CD? Even in its 2000 years of history the church had not been spared of
it. For example, the Swiss Protestant theologian Emil Brunner has been
cited by Manfred Mezger as follows: "Emil Brunner has called the Church a
misunderstanding. From a call, a doctrine was constructed; from free
communion, a legal corporation; from a free association, a hierarchical
machine. You might say it became, in all its elements and in its overall
disposition, the exact opposite of what was intended."

Three ways are generally used to reduce CD into CT:
* reduce the importance of the one or both the dissonant beliefs
* add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant belief
* change the dissonant belief so that it is no longer inconsistent.
However, i think that the idea should rather be to seek Cognitive
Consonance (CC). It does not mean a syncretism between the
dissonant beliefs, but a thorough understanding and respect for
those once dissonant beliefs which one self still does not belief in.

This CC can be achieved by following a harmonious dance between the
bifurcative and digestive assymptotes (phases) of creativity. Creativity
is perhaps the most astounding example of a non-linear dynamical system.
Emergent learning is sought in the bifurcative phase where the entropy
production is high. It means that a new knowledge kernel has to emerge at
the ridge of chaos. In this emergent learning the experiences gained by
doing are of paramount importance. With such a new knowledge kernel the
dissonant information or behaviour are then carefully contemplated with
the digestive phase of learning. It ends when the entropy production is so
low that a state close to equilibrium is achieved.

How can this "the experiences gained by doing" be obtained? It is
here where the five ESCs (Elementary Sustainers of Creativity) play
a vital role. They are:
thoughts-exchanging (dialogue)

Another version somewhat to the above, but without the entropy
dynamics and the focus rather on mathematical theories of chaos,
"Social Processes as Dynamical Processes:
Qualitative Dynamical Systems Theory in Social Psychology"
which may be found at
< >

Alan, Cognitive Dissonance (CD) and the turmoil it causes often lash out
when expected the least. The article which you have made available gives a
fine discussion of this. However, the spirit of the LO (Learning
Organisation) is such that CD is minimised by knowing what it involves and
how to avoid it. On the other hand, CD often flourishes in OOs (Ordinary
Organisations) so that working in them becomes miserable.

The worst thing to happen to an OO is what Emil Brunner said of the
church. The OO may get such a misunderstanding of the LO that when it
claims that it is a LO, it is one only in its name, not in its doing.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous LO "consultants" selling the LO as a
"treasure map" are usually responsible for such a gross misunderstanding.
Perhaps i have to add ego-seeking CEOs also to the list.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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