PSYCHOLOGY: Cognitive Homeostasis


(Excerpted from "Editors' Choice: Highlights of the recent literature SCIENCE, Volume 318, Issue 5851 dated November 2 2007") To hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function has been hailed as the mark of first-rate intelligence--and would also be likely to elicit a state of cognitive dissonance, which arises when beliefs and behaviors collide. Alas, ample evidence indicates that most humans are able and willing to alter their attitudes so as to bring them into line with how they have behaved, and thus to reduce the discordance between the two. In fact, three equally valued items (A, B, and C) can be experimentally manipulated--by asking a subject to choose first between A and B, and then by asking the subject to make a second choice between C and the unchosen item from the first round-to yield a greater than 50% preference for C over A or B. The explanation of this outcome is that the unchosen item has lost value by virtue of not having been selected, and thus suffers in comparison to C.
Egan et al. have adopted this paradigm, using stickers featuring various animals and a spectrum of colored M&Ms, to investigate the existence and resolution of cognitive dissonance in 4-year-old children and capuchin monkeys. They find that both subject pools behave similarly; that is, item C IS indeed chosen significantly more of the time (60%) when subjects have been enticed into a state of cognitive dissonance via a first-round choice of A versus B, and C is not selected more often when the subjects are simply presented in the first round with A or B as the experimenter's choice.
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Michael Bulatovich wrote:

I've had personal interaction with people who don't deal with it well. There is something that seems to be amiss with them... It's hard to describe, unless you regularly interact with people who can't reconcile their own behavior with their own beliefs. "Off" is the best way to describe it.
We have that experience with clients, too. They'll say we like this style and these ideas, but fall apart when confronted with the contradiction of their own desires. Often, we get accused of being arrogant architects who just want to do it our way. It's hard to get them to see that it's an impossibility to execute conflicting desires (the most common one is highly detailed construction for little money). Residential clients are the worst, business clients not so much of a problem.
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Are you an architect too? ; )
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THe last is just a matter of immaturity - it's similar to the toddler who, when given a portion of candies, stuffs them all into his/her mouth at once, and then cries because there are no more left.
It's not uncommon for "adults" to be immature in this manner, even well- educated professionals. Some people just seem to be unable to get past their arly-childhood belief in, or wish for, the fantasy that one really *can* "have one's cake, and eat it, too". SOme think that it's merely a matter of money, and seem unable to (?unwilling?) to look at the reality of their own wishful thinking.

Not surprising.
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Aaagh - don't get me started ... too late ... and Monday's coming up. They have worked it out over the weekend and now they are coming into the office to talk about it ....

The triangular rule = money / size / specification. If any two are determined, then the third is determined also.

Or is it the fault of all these motivational videos and empowerment gurus?
The one I meet most often is the cake in the matchbox problem. Little people stuff cakes in matchboxes and find that they don't fit, big mess, ok we learnt something here. They forget this when they are adults. "The house you want doesn't fit on the site you have chosen".

Ain't that the truth !!
"No - there really isn't 'some way round the problem' - It just can't be done ... "

Often the same in my 38 years of experience. Just the other day - "Yes you can get clients in and out (of the fast- food premises) but the largest supply vehicle you can handle is a 1 tonne van - and no customers arriving while you unload." In this case, no 'holding bay' either ...
A lot of this is to do with spatial reasoning ability, which is one of those skills becoming less common in urbanised motorised society. You'd think all this so-called 'virtual reality' would help but it doesn't seem to.
I was discussing this problem at a CPTED conference a few years ago with a lady from Virginia Tech - I think she was quite famous but her name escapes me. She was lamenting the fact that she had students doing Masters in Planning who had no spatial reasoning ability whatsoever. They could get from A to B in a car, but on foot? No chance apparently.
Ever do that student exercise where you stop people in the town centre and ask them to draw a map showing where they live, where they are now, etc? You get some amazing results ....
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differently, but not make it look like that, yes. As a regulator :-O I'm ultimately under a duty of care to say no when the answer is no, provide advice on appeal rights and precedents if they exist, etc.
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