"A man with a conviction is hard to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point."Cognitive dissonance is why you should never argue with Tea Party members.
-- When Prophecy Fails
It is the established psychological phenomenon that, in the face of being shown to be wrong, many will cling to their error even more tightly, and shut out the conflicting information, to avoid the grating clash of having their core beliefs scrape against reality (hence "dissonance.")
“Presented with evidence unequivocal and undeniable” that a certain belief is mistaken, they nevertheless “frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than even before," wrote three psychologists from the University of Minnesota, Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter in their classic study, When Prophecy Fails.
Published in 1956, the book was written by researchers who infiltrated a cult led by an Oak Park housewife, Dorothy Martin, who believed -- and convinced her neighbors to believe -- that the world would end on Dec. 21, 1954, and she and her followers would be swept up to heaven by flying saucers.
The world didn't end, but Martin and certain of her crew believed even harder in the saucers, and in a doomsday that had been postponed. In fact, they worked harder to win new recruits. You can read my column about the Oak Park doomsday cult by clicking here.
Why? The personalities of many people are closely intertwined with their fallacious beliefs -- their faith, their prejudices, their extreme political positions are accepted as givens and beyond evaluation of question. On the other hand, the non-existence of angels, the desirability of a certain policy of the president's, the need for gun laws, are not ideas they can entertain, because to do so would threaten what they see as the core of their existence. It's a matter of pride, and maintaining inner harmony. They'd rather be wrong than admit to being wrong and adjust their attitudes.
This is why I stopped debating politics with a lot of people. I am not the Idiot Police, and if someone wants to cling to folly, that is their business, their misfortune. Sure, it's tempting to do otherwise—it's our misfortune too, since they often insist their error become our dogma. When you see someone posting on the dangers of vaccines, you want to say, "Surgery is dangerous, too. People die. All the time. Are you against surgery too? What about car travel?"
It gets you nowhere.
By the way, the flying saucer cult that Dorothy Martin founded, the Association of Sananda and Sanat Kumara, still operates to this very day, in Mount Shasta, California. Delusion takes on a life of its own. You can't stop it, you can only recognize it and try to give it a wide berth.