The Tell for Cognitive Dissonance, I

When you challenge someone's beliefs and rather than explaining why you are wrong, they explode with anger, that is an almost sure sign they are experiencing cognitive dissonance. Somewhere inside they know the challenger is correct, but they are deeply committed to the position that he is wrong. It is this tension that produces the outburst of anger: it is the only way to relieve the tension short of changing their stance, which they are not willing to do.


  1. Know is a strong word. They fear that the challenger is correct and/or that they are incorrect (and fear whatever the consequences of being incorrect are). They mask that fear with anger.

  2. Gene, a really, really damned good book on this subject is Catholic philosopher J. Budziszewski's 'The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man'. Budziszewski's thesis is simple, but profound if correct; we know by and large what is right and what is wrong, we just wish that we didn't.

    He takes things like this cognitive dissonance - when applied to things that have moral content (such as disagreements over homosexuality and other things) to be often indicative of a guilty conscience - of a moral intuition that is attempting to be drowned out by the Ego because it does not square away with the Ego's Secondary Reality.