Cognitive Dissonance and a Fact-Driven Perspective on Why Conservatives and Liberals are at War in America

Cognitive dissonance is the stress and tension one feels when facts or reality contradict their personally held beliefs, core values, or self image. The intensity and combativeness in American politics today are the result of cognitive dissonance being magnified but never solved.


Here’s more reading on cognitive dissonance that would help understand the angles taken in this post. 

Cognitive Dissonance: What Happens When Reality Trumps Perception

Refer to the below graph..

This graph essentially is showing three ways people deal with dissonance (the green rectangles). As an example, we’ll use two minor political issues from both sides of the political spectrum.


Example 1. President Trump hasn’t released his tax returns as is taboo with presidents in the modern era.

Being a non political figure, his tax returns probably mirror the likes of others in the wealthy class with brilliant alternatives, yet legal ways of not having to pay the full amount. So here is how it is viewed for his supporters.

  • Action “Fact”: Trump has not released his tax returns and they will probably never be public. This is a decision he is making. He is choosing not to release them.
  • Belief: Trump is someone trustworthy enough to rule the most powerful nation in the world and we will follow his leadership.

The three proposed ways to solve this dissonance..

  • Change Belief: No longer trust Trump and don’t think he is fit for office.
  • Change Action: Trump releases his tax returns.
  • Change Action Perception: This would be everyone agreeing that whether Trump releases his tax returns or not is honestly no big deal and irrelevant to determine his trustworthiness.

Example 2. The notion to abolish ICE and have open or looser borders because immigration built America and we shouldn’t deny anyone a better life who wants to come here.

Recent data estimates 10,500,000 people in the United States are here illegally. Illegal immigrants don’t have to pay an income tax because without documentation and being a legal citizen, the IRS has no information or knowledge of your existence.

Traditionally, citizens of the United States pay taxes to pay for our government services, military (safety), law enforcement, public transportation, and generally maintain the high quality of life Americans experience.

Illegal immigrants in America get to enjoy the same high quality of life America offers without having to pay a large amount of their income to sustain it. A legal citizen who doesn’t pay taxes will have all of their processions taken from them. IRS stands for Internal Revenue Service and they have the right to legally take your stuff for not paying taxes. Illegal citizens don’t have to pay any taxes and get to keep 100% of their income.

  • Action “Fact”: It isn’t fair to  force willing, tax paying citizens to pay for the benefits and quality of life of someone who willingly refuses to do the same for them.
  • Belief: Desire to abolish ICE for deporting and using physical force to send illegal citizens out of the country. This agency denies people the American dream and should care more for the individual.

The three proposed ways to solve this dissonance..

  • Change Belief: Decide to appreciate ICE and believe in their existence as a government organization.
  • Change Action: All illegal citizens begin to willingly pay 25-30% of the money they make to the government.
  • Change Action Perception: This would be changing the way people think about illegal citizens and for tax paying citizens to accept and support continuing to pay for illegal citizens and moreover encourage and incentivize even more to come.

Cognitive dissonance is a core driver in stress, frustration, and general lack of happiness in one’s life. We as human beings are constantly trying one of the three solutions to all areas of dissonance in our life on a daily basis.

Let’s look at the three solutions to these political examples of dissonance.

Changing one’s belief is seemingly not an option anymore. Let’s look at two confirmed theories of psychology to understand why.

Confirmation Bias: (Wikipedia) Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.[1]

It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.
People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way.

The effect is stronger for desired outcomes, emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched-beliefs. Starting to make sense of what you see in the press?

There’s an identity to the political affiliation you have that goes deeper than we currently understand. As people develop a lifestyle and friend groups around ideas, every conversation they have further entrenches into their life the understanding that they are who they are. To change one’s political identity is to shatter everything built previously on it.

A great example would be to watch some of the more emotionally charged videos of the #WalkAway movement.

The issue lies in the fact that the goals of both sides are different. Facts and feelings are both meaningless inside a debate that doesn’t have a common goal. The lack of political discussion lies in the fact that there is no discussion on how to best accomplish one goal – the sides are torn on the goal itself and fundamental values entrenched in those goals don’t have room for accommodating the other side because it doesn’t want the same finite things.

So what?

This writer doesn’t know – but will go into a bit more of a look at what’s new in America – Liberals. Conservatives are fighting to keep America the same and a new opposing, liberal force demands change. Change. Why would one want change?


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