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« Democrats, Horse Races, and John Edwards | Main | Defensiveness, Rationalization, Mulishness... What Does That Have To Do With Religion? Mistakes Were Made, Part 2 »



There's an important counterpoint to this—if you genuinely want to change someone's mind, it's important to let them rationalize. It may be just a polite fiction from your point of view, but avoid asking someone to admit that they were wrong.

Misinformed, hadn't thought it through properly, didn't understand the question, or whatever, but help them find away to dodge around the blunt "wrong" that wakes up all the ego defenses.


Looks like a fascinating book.

Nurse Ingrid

I can already feel myself meta-rationalizing. "Sure, I rationalize things, but everyone else does it's just part of what makes me human."

And I haven't even read the book yet.


I immediately said to myself "but I really really want a candy bar, after all it isn't the worst vice I could have" :)

It does look like a very interesting book.

the chaplain

Eclectic, I like your suggestion.

One of the most effective tools I've discovered for minimizing cognitive dissonance has been meditation. There's some interesting research on the effects it has on self-regulation of emotion and self-reflection, both of which tend to balance out cognitive dissonance. Check out the book "The Mindful Brain" for an overview of some of the research.

That also makes me think about your stance on woo. 30 years ago, meditation was seen as useless woo, other than by practitioners. Now we have evidence that it helps the immune system and enhances mental health. So I tend to think that one of the values of woo is that it questions the edges of our beliefs. Yes, a lot of it is crap, but 90% of everything is crap (according to Sturgeon's "Law", which I tend to agree with.) But some valuable stuff has come out of it, which I think is important to remember.

Patrick Salmon

On the strength of your review I rationalized my way into buying this book, even though my wife will be upset over me spending $'s on books again.

Patrick Salmon

Dammit. Now my wife is mad at me. I'm blaming you ;-)


"Just try to be aware of it."

I have created a sign that I've now posted onto my bulletin board (I work from home) that says:


It's a start. Excellant, btw.

(Long-time luker and fan)


It reminds me of progressive Christianity. They know that the Bible says premarital and homosexual sex (not to mention judgemental rudeness and homophobia) are un-Christian, but they mentally masturbate and say things like "we're all sinners, we all fall short of the glory.


As much as possible REMIND someone that they are wrong coupled with setting a right example - morality springs from there. Anyway, good compilation you have there, I will be reading a couple of them and let us see if I justify some "foolish" beliefs I have. Thank you for this.


Does the book address the question, "What about rationalizations that are justified?" I mean, just because we rationalize things to make ourselves feel better, it may be the case as often as not that what we did really WASN'T so bad, and that we are justified in rationalizing, that the rationalizations might in fact be true. You mentioned that the book addresses the fact that rationalizations are necessary to keep us from being "paralyzed with guilt and shame and self-doubt", but this relegates them to the status of heuristics or useful-but-false beliefs. I think that it might be the case that our rationalizations could in fact be true as often as not, that our guilt and shame and self-doubt are as much mental flaws as our tendency to rationalize is.

Or I could just be trying to make myself feel better.

 xtreme lean

I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

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