I’m personally sick of certain behaviors some people do in making political judgments. This post will be more on the brain-y side.
We always hear news about Lebanese political figures being involved in corruption. What if that piece of news was about the political figure you love most? What if it was a reliable piece of news? What would be the typical reaction to that?
Let’s start by talking some psychology.
If you take the time to read some psychology articles, there’s something you’re bound to realize: Our brains are not perfect. Although our minds can achieve a lot (with proper direction), we are limited by some weaknesses that can hinder our optimal performance. Knowing these weaknesses would get us a step closer to making the best judgments. In this blog post, I will try to explain one weakness (named Cognitive Dissonance) and how it can relate to political affiliation, without using a lot of scientific jargon. I will deal with another weakness (Social Desirability) in a future post.
It’s amazing how we unconsciously deal with contradictory beliefs.
Cognitive dissonance is related to our beliefs and judgments (‘Dissonance’ means ‘tension, or lack of harmony’). When you believe in two contradictory ideas at the same time, tension arises. Something must change in order to reduce this tension. To do that, we, more often than not, unconsciously convince ourselves of something that is not entirely true, in order to ensure our psychological happiness.
In other words,
For example, In 1954, there was a cult who believed that the world would end due to a huge flood and a meteor invasion on December 21st, and that a group of aliens would come and save the members of this cult. When the day came, and there were no signs of any meteors or floods, the members of the cult convinced themselves that the aliens pitied them and decided on saving the world instead.
All in all, in this cult, they believed that (1) the world would end and aliens would save them, but then on December 21st, they had the other belief (2) The world did not end and they were not ‘rescued’ by any aliens. The way they dealt with these opposite ideas was to unconsciously convince themselves that (3) the aliens decided to save the world instead. This is a better belief to have than to think “our faith is wrong” or “We’re stupid”. Cognitive dissonance, baby. You can read more about the evidence in favor of this theory here and here.
How can this apply to political affiliations?
Well, it inspires you to try to look at things objectively. For example, I’m gonna look back at some recent events. Let’s say you are (1) politically affiliated to male leader from a political party named March ‘X’. You think that leader is amazing. He is loyal and is not involved in any corruption. However, one day, (2) you encounter strong scientific evidence that indicates that that same leader was involved in illegal arms trade to a neighboring country. You now have two contradictory ideas. What would you do?
You would change one of these beliefs to better fit-in the general picture.:
Choice A – Stop supporting that leader. (high emotional cost)
Choice B – Doubt the scientific evidence, believing that it originated from an international conspiracy theory, in order to stay in-support for that same leader. (low emotional cost)
Guess which choice most supporters would most probably go for. My say is Choice B, easier to swallow.
I should state that this is in no way in support of the Lebanese political parties March 8, nor March 14. They got Lebanon in enough trouble already. I’m personally against these two groups, and looking forward for an independent alternative. My aim here is to help you be more aware of certain thought patterns, which can either re-enforce or deflate certain beliefs, if you are a proud owner of an open mind.
Next time you come across reliable information that indicates that your favorite political figure is not exactly as good as he/she claims, think objectively. Don’t be blinded by your previous beliefs.
It is not an easy thing to do, but it is definitely the right thing to do, for yourself, your country, and its future.
If you want to look into the damage March 8 and 14 did to the country, open your window. For some good info-graphics, look into the photos here.
PS: For a secular and independent political campaign aiming for a corruption-free parliament, join Take Back Parliament (via their website or Facebook page), and let’s make our voices heard in the 2013 Lebanese elections.