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The Peter Attia Drive

Sep 28, 2020

Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson are the co-authors of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), a book which explores the science of cognitive biases and discusses how the human brain is wired for self-justification. In this episode, Carol and Elliot discuss how our desire to reconcile mental conflicts adversely affects many aspects of society. The two give real-world examples to demonstrate the pitfalls in attempts to reduce mental conflict, or dissonance. The examples reveal that no one is immune to dissonance reduction behavior, how intellectual honesty can be trained and lastly, how to think critically in order to avoid engaging in harmful dissonant behaviors.

We discuss:

  • Carol and Elliot’s respective background, collaboration history, and their decision to write Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) [4:00];
  • The theory of cognitive dissonance, and real examples of dissonance reduction in action [11:15];
  • How Elliot advanced the theory of cognitive dissonance [23:00];
  • The evolutionary reason for dissonance reduction, and cultural differences in what causes cognitive dissonance [30:30];
  • The great danger of smart, powerful people engaging in dissonance reduction [35:15];
  • Two case studies of cognitive dissonance in criminal justice [39:30];
  • The McMartin preschool case study—The danger in making judgements before knowing all the information [43:30];
  • How ideology distorts science and public opinion [56:30];
  • How time distorts memories [58:30];
  • The downside of certainty [1:05:30];
  • Are we all doomed to cognitive dissonance?—How two people with similar beliefs can diverge [1:09:00];
  • Cognitive dissonance in the police force [1:21:00];
  • A toolkit for overcoming cognitive dissonance [1:27:30];
  • Importance of separating identity from beliefs, thinking critically, & and the difficulty posed by political polarity [1:30:30];
  • How to impart the lessons from their work into future generations [1:48:00]; and
  • More.

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