Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You are a good person. You are kind to small animals. Sometimes you hold the door open for other people.

Once again National Public Radio has earned my membership dollars today.  They ran an incredible story called

Here is an excerpt from the article written by Shankar Vedantam:

"When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can't.
"But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president's control."

The article proposes that, for example, Democrats would feel the pain of inconsistency or "cognitive dissonance" if they thought Obama could do something about gas prices and chose not to.  Logic gets set aside by members of both political parties as we try to find some puzzle pieces that will actually fit together neatly in our brain.  

The proposed solution from Vedantam's story? 

" . . .researchers had voters think of times in their lives when they had done something very positive and found that fortified by this positive memory, voters were more willing to take in information that challenged their pre-existing views."

The article suggested the following morning mantra to protect one's self from bias.  (I THINK they were joking because they had a good giggle afterwards.)
 "I'm a good person. I am kind to small animals. Sometimes I hold the door open for other people."

OK - forget about getting rid of my OWN political bias.  How can I use this to my personal advantage?  This rings true to me.  If one were to say some kind and gentle things about another person's goodness to them before trying to get them to listen to your point, would that open the door and soften their cognitive dissonance defenses?

Of course there are consequences for the person using this approach as well.  When you say something nice to someone else your brain has to either logically determine that the things you are saying to the person are true or that you are a liar.  If your brain doesn't pick one or the other you will have cognitive dissonance unless you do a really good rationalization job and find a "C - none of the above" reason for saying those things.

So for example, Bob tries to manipulate Ted, getting him to lower the defenses around his political ideas, by telling Ted how good and kind he is.   As a result, Bob now begins to believe the kind words he said to Ted. A peaceful and loving world results.  Right?

PreachyPeacePants would love this! And it reminds me of the financial market,  a weird system where everyone working for their own personal good accidentally creates greater good for the world.

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