Dissonance Theory

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There is something to be said for tension. Fruitful deliberation only occurs out of conflicting sentiment. This may sound rather counter-intuitive, but let me ask you a question: what do you consider as growth? Is growth a reification of the old under some new light, or is it a dismantling of the old – from which something entirely foreign can emerge?

Leon Festinger developed Cognitive Dissonance Theory in 1957. According to this framework, individuals have a tendency to seek consistency among their perceptions of the world-at-large. When misalignments abound, we look for ways to end the dissonance. However, there is a problem: our approach to ending this conflict tends to be ethnocentric in nature. That is, there is always a correct answer to-be-found. This is debilitating.

Interdisciplinarity teaches us that one approach is not always right. Rather, multiple perspectives are often necessary to get the full picture. Herein lies the synergistic quality of meaning: multiple viewpoints are not a deterrent. They only widen the lens from which an image can be seen.

Imagine two pictures of the same object, only taken from different angles. Are they not both of the same thing? Who is to say that the being encapsulated in one is different from that rendered by the other? That, my friend, is a matter of perspective. And who is to say that my image is better than yours? That, too, is a matter of perspective.

Cognitive dissonance. We look for ways to end the tension – validation that we were right all along. We look for ways to feed the spirit. We search for others who share our worldview, and we cling to them. This is not growth – it is stagnation. It is a false representation of beauty. Difference, now that is where the magic happens. That is where fruitful deliberation will occur. A dismantling of the old – of traditions that have brought us to this point – so that the new may take hold. Don’t just listen for the dissonance, live in it.

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