Cognitive Conflict

A Demonstration That Such Can Occur. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment

There has been Very much discussion in the last week about the study, and suggestions that because the participants were somehow encouraged or suggested to act in some particular way, that the study is no longer interesting or informative.

As I see it, this is a mistake.

The study is both interesting and informative, because it shows that with a couple of days and some appearance of authority people will do things they know are wrong to people they know are innocent.

That in its self is ridiculous and crazy informative and definitely worth talking about. And probably thinking more about how to avoid.

But instead there have even been suggestions that because the participants were coached the study is no longer pure, A similar criticism is leveled at Milgram’s pretend shock experiments. Yes, the study probably cannot say anything fundamental about human nature, or maybe it does. But the study is informative and interesting in any case, because such a situation can be created within even a week. Probably faster if one really trained in it.

This has serious implications for.. everything. Pretty much every leader follower relationship in the world. Teams, businesses, labs, cults, and the military. People with even pretend power (such as a research assistant or lab PI) can make people do things they might not otherwise do (e.g., Questionable Research Practices, beating people). Maybe it doesn’t hold so well because they were paid very well, but I am not sure.

 

tldr; the study shows that such a situation can be created even quite easily, and I don’t think this changes depending on coaching or what.

 

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Theory and Experiment in Social Communication

 

Attached is Festinger’s book on Social Communication, mostly a summary of the research done at the Research Center for Group Dynamics, with Kurt Back, Stanley Schacter, Harold Kelley, and John Thibaut.

Theory in social dynamics — HERE IS THE PDF 

 

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One thing is I like how simple the table of contents is. and interesting!

 

This book really set the stage for social psychology, and it is really an interesting demonstration just of how science should be done. Simply, theory driven, with large grants from the navy. 😀

 

hope you enjoy it, Festinger is one of my favorites, and happy to bring it here.

 

All Best,

Brett

The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis

This is Skinner’s first book, so far as I can see. Really quite interesting.

Really quite interesting, in its table of contents.

CHAPTER PAGE
I          A SYSTEM OF BEHAVIOR 3
II        SCOPE AND METHOD 44.
III       CONDITIONING AND EXTINCTION 61
IV       PERIODIC RECONDITIONING II6
V        THE DISCRIMINATION OF A STIMULUS 167
VI       SOME FUNCTIONS OF STIMULI 232
VII      TEMPORAL DISCRIMINATION OF THE STIMULUS 263
VIII     THE DIFFERENTIATION OF A RESPONSE 308
IX       DRIVE 341
X         DRIVE AND CONDITIONING: THE INTERACTION OF TWO VARIABLES 379
XI       OTHER VARIABLES AFFECTING REFLEX STRENGTH 406
XII      BEHAVIOR AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM 418
XIII    CONCLUSION 433
REFERENCES 445
INDEX 451

 

Basically it is about conditioning, he doesn’t come to drive until the end. He doesn’t mention person differences at all, in the table of contents at least. Also doesn’t talk about the biological basis, the neuron at all, so far as I can see. Nor anything about personality or etc, nor influence or really people beyond the individual..

It is also his first book, so far as I can see. Really quite long at 450 pages.

 

The full book is available here.

Defining Cognitive Conflict

Conflicts are meaning or expectation violations. These occur when you believe something about the world (broadly construed) and the world tells you that you are potentially wrong or lacking. This is a discomfort, potentially driven by the uncertainty of the outcomes. Uncertainty is bad for life because it is risk, which can mean danger or even potential death.

Expectation violations, or conflicts between yourself and the world, are primarily negative, but can also be positive. An expectation violation is the reason for every disagreement that has ever happened including all of the wars ever. What is a war except two (groups of) people had different understandings of the world and they have decided that the best way to decide who is right is to fight it out. Conflict is also when you are positively surprised, at, for instance doing better than you thought you would on a test or an individual doing something unexpectedly nice for you.

Conflicts can be about huge things like religion or politics, or they can be about small things like our favorite types of soda or music. But the largest and most important topics also elicit the most negative discussion; they are important aspects of how we think about the world. A link between importance of the topic and negativity is supported by situations where people actively avoid discussing religion and politics because they do not want to create conflict.

Most generally speaking, the reason we talk about things is because we disagree about them. More explicitly, if everyone agrees about something, we generally do not discuss it (e.g., the earth is round and goes around the sun). But note that 200 or 300 years ago, when there was much less consensus about these faces, they were much more discussed.

Conflicts are also when you realize that you don’t (or might not) know something, like that the earth is actually flat. This is like getting an answer wrong in class, or being confronted with a task that the individual does not know how to do (e.g., run a statistical model they know nothing about).

The key is that we rely upon meaning in order to move productively through the world (to meet our goals). This necessitates not only useful knowledge, but confidence in that knowledge. (did you see the ‘not’ and ‘but’, it is a lack, one needs both, conflict! :).

When the world tells us that the way we think about the world might be incorrect or incomplete, we don’t like this and it leads to certain predictable responses. If someone told you that Germany actually sucks, it would make it somewhat angry or unsettled somehow. How you react to this depends upon a myriad of things, but that there is a reaction is undoubted, I believe.

Notice that this conflict for you is not the same for everybody, the person who says Germany sucks probably believes it (otherwise why say it?). This is why we go to war. Or your god, or your values or perceived purpose in life, is not good enough. This is where disagreements come from.

The only way that the world changes is through conflict, every bit of change at the aggregate level can only happen at the individual level, by individuals talking and conflicting.

There are linguistic markers of this conflict. Read again this passage and circle the words that indicate conflict. Not, But. First sentence second paragraph the but represents the difficulty and different natures of conflict