Collective Cognitive Dissonance

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The term Collective Cognitive Dissonance was created by Ulf Dunkel in the German Circumcision Debate in 2012. It describes the issue of cognitive dissonance for a group of persons, kind of "inherited" over generations.

General definition

Collective cognitive dissonance refers to a psychological phenomenon where a group of people hold onto beliefs or attitudes that are contradictory to their actions or experiences. This can lead to a sense of discomfort or dissonance within the group, but rather than change their beliefs or actions, the group may rationalize or justify their behavior to reduce the discomfort.

For example, a group of people who believe in environmental conservation may continue to engage in environmentally harmful practices such as excessive consumerism or driving gas-guzzling cars. Rather than confronting the contradiction between their beliefs and actions, they may rationalize their behavior by telling themselves that they're making small contributions to the cause, or that it's the responsibility of governments or corporations to make larger changes.

Collective cognitive dissonance can also occur in political or social contexts where a group's actions or beliefs contradict their professed values or principles. This phenomenon can be difficult to address, as it requires individuals within the group to confront their own contradictions and work towards changing their beliefs and behaviors.

Cognitive dissonance

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. (Wikipedia)[1]

The term was defined in 1957 by the American social psychologist Leon Festinger. His theory was confirmed since then in many experiments and empirically substantiated.

Development of dissonance

Four steps have to be done to develop cognitive dissonance:
  1. Behavior and attitude are felt as contradictory;
  2. the behavior happened voluntarily;
  3. physiological excitation occurs;
  4. the behavior is made responsible for the excitation.
    Translation: "Ulf Dunkel" (Wikipedia)[2]

Dissolution of Dissonance

Since dissonance is uncomfortable, people try to bring the cognitions in line (to make them 'consonant' in a relationship), to stop the negative emotional state. The dissolution of dissonance (also called dissonance reduction) can attach to each of the four development steps:
  1. The underlying problem is solved. Often it is necessary to change the point of view in order to identify new solutions. With the solution, the dissonance disappears.
  2. The desires, intentions or attitudes are abandoned or placed on an achievable and therefore less conflicting level.
  3. The physiological arousal is attenuated, e.g. through sport, by balancing activities, by rest, through meditation, through alcohol consumption[3], sedatives, tobacco or drugs.
  4. The physiological excitability is reduced, e.g. by adequate rest, avoiding avoidable stress, through sports and serenity.

Also apparent solutions, illusions and excuses can reduce stress:

  1. The excitation is attributed to other causes ("The hypocrisy of other people annoys me").
  2. The contradiction between behavior and attitude is played down ("My behavior isn't that bad, isn't it?")
  3. The behavior is represented as forced ("I had to act in such a way.")
  4. Not perceiving, denying or downgrading information
  5. Selective acquisition and interpretation of dissonance-reducing information
    Translation: "Ulf Dunkel" (Wikipedia)[4]

Collective Cognitive Dissonance

With reference to cutting the genital organs for non-medical reasons, one frequently hears a variety of arguments for circumcision from affected persons and those groups which they feel associated with, which serve to dissolve the cognitive dissonance. With apparently meaningful, but regularly refutable reasons they try to whitewash the circumcision.

If the social group, to which the affected person belongs, has many other affected persons, such illusory reasons with group relevance develop to even help the group to whitewash their own circumcision.

As soon as these illusory reasons are passed on by a generation to the next, they will justify the permanent repetition of the not justifiable act of circumcision to a part of the cultural property of this group and within the group.

Following Dunkel, Collective Cognitive Dissonance has three preconditions:

  1. Cognitive Dissonance of single affected persons;
  2. Cognitive Dissonance of the group which single affected persons with cognitive dissonance belong to;
  3. Cognitive Dissonance of the group, over generations.

The author of Unspeakable Mutilations, Lindsay R. Watson, calls this phenomenon the Circumcision coma if it refers to a single person who hasn’t realized this issue yet.

Bertaux-Navoiseau (2022) names this phenomenon "a collective and transgenerational madness (Stockholm and Münchhausen by proxy syndromes)".[5]

See also

External links