Perhaps the greatest lesson of dissonance theory is that we can’t wait around for people to have moral conversions, personality transplants, sudden changes of heart, or new insights that will cause them to sit up straight, admit error, and do the right thing. Most human beings and institutions are going to do everything in their power to reduce dissonance in ways that are favorable to them, that allow them to justify their mistakes and maintain business as usual. They will not be grateful for the evidence that their methods of interrogation have put innocent people in prison for life. They are not going to thank us for pointing out to them why their study of some new drug, into who development they have poured millions, is fatally flawed. And no matter how deftly or gently we do it, even the people who love us dearly are not going to be amused when we correct their fondest self-serving memory … with facts.
I should keep this in mind.
Another fine quote about reducing dissonance is from former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres: “When a friend makes a mistake, the friend remains a friend, and the mistake remains a mistake.” (See p. 226-227 of the book for the context of the quote.)
(I love the book jacket shown above. Too bad the paperback doesn’t have the same one.)