THE BEANBAG PSYCHOLOGIST 14
Sour Grapes All Over Again!
So! Here we are, reading the newspaper post 21st December, 2012! The earth still sturdy beneath our feet, the breeze still unperturbed and cool on our face, and all the exams of the future steadily approaching us with crushing inevitability, no doomsday to the rescue! The 2012 phenomenon as the doomsday theory is being referred to has caused substantial panic among many throughout the globe. Numerous online discussion forums, blogs and videos on survival tips in case of cataclysmic earthquakes or hurricanes, hundreds of assurance-seeking questions addressed to scientist and space researchers over the last year are all testament to just how shaken many people were. But what is particularly interesting about this mass panic is many of us have been brought to consider hard facts as evidence that the world is not going to end! But once some of us come to believe in a tiny worm of an idea, it is a matter of time before it germinates to a stubbornly held belief that resists all evidence to the contrary.
The bunch of us who have always scoffed at the idea of the world ending may now be smirking. But what of those who truly and completely believed so? The contradiction between what they thought and what has come to be will cause what psychologist Leon Festinger called cognitive dissonance. All people are motivated to solve this dissonance and maintain consistency in their thoughts and beliefs to enjoy inner equilibrium. In one of his books, Festinger had written about the case of a group of people in a cult who believed that the world would end after a catastrophic flood on 21st December, 1954. The founding member of the cult claimed to have received the prophecy from a fictional planet. The prophecy continued to say that only true believers will be rescued by a flying saucer. The members who staunchly believed this left their jobs, families and possessions to leave on the saucer. The said flood did not come to be. Some of the members were so distraught that they started crying. To reduce the terribly disturbing dissonance between their belief and the thought that they were wrong about the flood, the group made a statement to the media that this disaster was averted owing to the faithfulness of the members!
The attempt at reducing dissonance can make us resort to maladaptive thoughts and actions such as when we know smoking is injurious and yet, contrary to this knowledge we still smoke. Many smokers resolve this by altering their attitudes about smoking instead of just quitting! Calling the grapes sour is not the best practice most times. It is important to rightly choose which attitude is best altered for resolution of dissonance.
SANGEETHA MADHU & JYOTHI RAVICHANDRAN, THE HINDU IN SCHOOL