Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › How cognitive dissonance can prevent otherwise reasonable people from accepting DBT's as valid [interesting!!]
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

How cognitive dissonance can prevent otherwise reasonable people from accepting DBT's as valid...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I just read a very interesting article illustrating how cognitive dissonance could prevent an otherwise reasonable person from acknowledging a clearly valid double-blind test. It's copied below, but the full link is here: cognitive dissonance - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com
[just a reminder, chiropractors are not medical doctors]
_______________

Psychologist Ray Hyman provides a very interesting example of cognitive dissonance and how one chiropractor dealt with it.Psychologist Ray Hyman provides a very interesting example of cognitive dissonance and how one chiropractor dealt with it.

Some years ago I participated in a test of applied kinesiology at Dr. Wallace Sampson's medical office in Mountain View, California. A team of chiropractors came to demonstrate the procedure. Several physician observers and the chiropractors had agreed that chiropractors would first be free to illustrate applied kinesiology in whatever manner they chose. Afterward, we would try some double-blind tests of their claims.

The chiropractors presented as their major example a demonstration they believed showed that the human body could respond to the difference between glucose (a "bad" sugar) and fructose (a "good" sugar). The differential sensitivity was a truism among "alternative healers," though there was no scientific warrant for it. The chiropractors had volunteers lie on their backs and raise one arm vertically. They then would put a drop of glucose (in a solution of water) on the volunteer's tongue. The chiropractor then tried to push the volunteer's upraised arm down to a horizontal position while the volunteer tried to resist. In almost every case, the volunteer could not resist. The chiropractors stated the volunteer's body recognized glucose as a "bad" sugar. After the volunteer's mouth was rinsed out and a drop of fructose was placed on the tongue, the volunteer, in just about every test, resisted movement to the horizontal position. The body had recognized fructose as a "good" sugar.

After lunch a nurse brought us a large number of test tubes, each one coded with a secret number so that we could not tell from the tubes which contained fructose and which contained glucose. The nurse then left the room so that no one in the room during the subsequent testing would consciously know which tubes contained glucose and which fructose. The arm tests were repeated, but this time they were double-blind -- neither the volunteer, the chiropractors, nor the onlookers was aware of whether the solution being applied to the volunteer's tongue was glucose or fructose. As in the morning session, sometimes the volunteers were able to resist and other times they were not. We recorded the code number of the solution on each trial. Then the nurse returned with the key to the code. When we determined which trials involved glucose and which involved fructose, there was no connection between ability to resist and whether the volunteer was given the "good" or the "bad" sugar.

When these results were announced, the head chiropractor turned to me and said, "You see, that is why we never do double-blind testing anymore. It never works!" At first I thought he was joking. It turned it out he was quite serious. Since he "knew" that applied kinesiology works, and the best scientific method shows that it does not work, then -- in his mind -- there must be something wrong with the scientific method. (Hyman 1999)
post #2 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmellyGas View Post
...article illustrating how cognitive dissonance could prevent an otherwise reasonable person from acknowledging a clearly valid double-blind test
Not quite. You're misunderstanding the term "cognitive dissonance". From Skepdic:

Quote:
The theory is that dissonance, being unpleasant, motivates a person to change his cognition, attitude, or behavior.
Notice how it doesn't cause one to believe stupid things. The issue is how competently the dissonance is handled by the person experiencing it. Blaming "cognitive dissonance" for a stupid belief is like blaming a bus because one of its passangers spat out the window.

Why some people respond to dissonance competently while others do so incompetently isn't explained in that article.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by b0dhi View Post
Not quite. You're misunderstanding the term "cognitive dissonance". From Skepdic:

Notice how it doesn't cause one to believe stupid things.
Um, yes it can, and the article provides several perfect examples - it's clear that you didn't read it very carefully at all because there's no way you could have missed them.
- there was the example of the UFO cult, in which followers believed a UFO was going to pick them up, and when it didn't (obviously), instead of realizing they were fools for believing in the UFO, they instead accepted the belief that God had spared them due to their unflagging faith
- there's the example of smokers who rather than believing that they are harming their bodies, will accept the belief that smoking is beneficial because it helps them lose weight
- there's the example I copied and pasted above, which relates to how chiropracters, rather than believing their (non-medically proven) theory of kinesiology and good/bad sugar was wrong, they instead accepted the belief that a double-blind test that completely failed to support their theory was faulty.

Quote:
The issue is how competently the dissonance is handled by the person experiencing it. Blaming "cognitive dissonance" for a stupid belief is like blaming a bus because one of its passangers spat out the window. Why some people respond to dissonance competently while others do so incompetently isn't explained in that article.
WHY some people respond to dissonance competently and others don't is irrelevant to my point - the mere fact that some people DON'T (i.e. they accept irrational beliefs to reduce dissonance) is sufficient. You might want to re-read the example about the chiropractor (pasted into my original post, scroll up). It more or less explains why ordinarily reasonable people aren't able to accept DBT's as valid because it causes dissonance with their existing beliefs (examples would be, they had spent lots of money on cables, or they have already established a position here or among their friends that cables make large differences, etc.). Very few people would want to believe that he/she spent a lot of money on cables that actually don't produce LARGE and EASILY-AUDIBLE differences - that would make them feel very foolish (= dissonance). It is much easier to believe that the blind tests that fail to show LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences in cables are actually invalid, just as the chiropracter did in the example above.
post #4 of 16
Edit: some clarification -

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmellyGas View Post
WHY some people respond to dissonance competently and others don't is irrelevant to my point - the mere fact that some people DON'T (i.e. they accept irrational beliefs to reduce dissonance) is sufficient.
Sufficient for what exactly? If it's with regard to what you said in the OP: "How cognitive dissonance can prevent otherwise reasonable people from accepting DBT's as valid", then no, it isn't sufficient (or even well defined). But now you're mentioning cables, which you didn't do in the OP, which seems to imply something other than what I interpreted your OP to mean. Please clarify what exactly your point is.
post #5 of 16
Haha, that example is fun.
post #6 of 16
I think you do have the definition of cog. diss. correct, but as others have argued in another thread, simple placebo effect might be more what is going on here.

PE = postive reinforcement (I want this cable to sound better, to prove I am a wise audiophile who knows how to spend money to tweak his system for the better), while CD= negative reinforcement (I must believe this cable sounds better, otherwise I am an idiot for spending so much money).

Having written that, I am now beginning to change my position -- I'll bet it is a subtle combination of PE and CD at work here.

As I reported elsewhere, I did a rock-solid blind test on myself (with a helper, naturally) of S/PDIF RCA cables using a B&O CD Transport with digital out and a Benchmark DAC (these were the two boxes connected with the cable; I had my Benchmark modded by ASi Tek to replace the BNC S/SPDIF input with a true 75-ohm RCA part), then taking the balanced output of the Benchmark to a balanced Beta 22 (built by YBM Audio) into a Senn 600 re-cabled with balanced moon-audio Silver Dragon cable. Source was a large classical choral piece that I am intimate with.

I compared a $1 radio shack video cable with a $1000-list ($600 street, I paid $300 on Audiogon) exotic digital cable. I could not tell the difference blind.

Today, sighted, I still think the exotic sounds better, even though I "know" it is not true.

PE + CD.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wavoman View Post
I think you do have the definition of cog. diss. correct,
Oh, it's correct. This is a pretty bread-and-butter usage of the concept.

Quote:
but as others have argued in another thread, simple placebo effect might be more what is going on here.
I think you and others are addressing a separate (and important) issue. The placebo effect (or the influence of positive/negative expectations on one's perception) can explain why people can listen to two identically-sounding cables (for example) yet report that the expensive/prettier/exotic/etc. cable sounds much better.

WHEREAS, cognitive dissonance can explan why intelligent people, who have spent a lot of money on cables and pushed their advice/theory on cable differences among their peers, can conclude that the published Blind Listening Tests that fail to corroborate the claimed of LARGE and EASILY-AUDIBLE differences among cables are actually invalid for [insert ridiculous reason here].

Part of the reason I was interested in seeing if any M.D or Ph.D.-researchers could read the blind listening test papers and STILL conclude that the methodology was invalid was that
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f133/t...-forum-447209/
by nature of their education/occupation, researchers will regularly and routinely read existing publications and critique the methodology, analysis, etc. I predict that because of this, no experienced researcher would be able to reject the validity of Blind Listening Tests based on the usual misconceived and asinine reasons that are typically given by people who do not ordinarily conduct scientific research.

Quote:
PE = postive reinforcement (I want this cable to sound better, to prove I am a wise audiophile who knows how to spend money to tweak his system for the better), while CD= negative reinforcement (I must believe this cable sounds better, otherwise I am an idiot for spending so much money).

Having written that, I am now beginning to change my position -- I'll bet it is a subtle combination of PE and CD at work here.
Yep!

Quote:
Today, sighted, I still think the exotic sounds better, even though I "know" it is not true.

PE + CD.
If a the placebo effect and cognitive dissonance can influence a world-reknowned and accomplished statistician, it can happen to YOU too!

(And just as an aside, many moons ago, I too believed that amps/dacs/cables made LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences in sound. I used to become irate when people suggested otherwise, just as people do here. One day, an electrical engineer friend of mine forced me to do a blind listening test of a DAC - and I could hear no difference. I then rationalized that well, the DAC looked really nice in my system, and maybe I needed to listen longer and to different music to hear the difference.

11 years ago, I read the Noussaine article http://www.nousaine.com/pdfs/To%20Tweak%20or%20Not.pdf that failed to show LARGE, AUDIBLE-DIFFERENCES in amps/dacs/cables. I remember becoming angry and frustrated. I tried searching for reasons why those idiot listeners couldn't hear anything. I thought that maybe one of the components was defective. I thought it was a scam. It wasn't until years later, when I started reading/analyzing published experiments and learning research methodology and analysis that I re-read the paper - and I realized that indeed, this was a valid study with valid conclusions. I then asked, were there other studies with similar results? And the answer is YES. There are many. So there you have it. My own cognitive dissonance story.
post #8 of 16
-person reads reviews, hears anecdotes and opinions from many people swearing large, night-and-day differences from Cable X
-person is influenced by these, and develops an expectation that the cable will sound a certain way
-person pays sizable sum for cable, further amplifying the expectation
-person sees serious looking and likely relatively heavy cable, further amplifying expectation
-person listens to the cable and hears what they expect to hear
-person is not aware that their perceptions, though they are real to them, have been affected by expectation and the differences they heard in the cable were in fact psychosomatic (in whole or in part).

Later on, when they find out that they and others can't pass a cable DBT, they experience CogDis. How can they eliminate the dissonance? This is where the real interesting stuff happens: the person at this point is choosing between trusting their very perception and trusting DBT tests. Most people are not aware of the realities of placebo, so the belief with the least importance will almost always be the DBT test. Hell, even when you're aware of placebo it's still very difficult to doubt your own perceptions.

Does this sound about right?
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
[deleted, duplicate]
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by b0dhi View Post
-person reads reviews, hears anecdotes and opinions from many people swearing large, night-and-day differences from Cable X
-person is influenced by these, and develops an expectation that the cable will sound a certain way
-person pays sizable sum for cable, further amplifying the expectation
-person sees serious looking and likely relatively heavy cable, further amplifying expectation
-person listens to the cable and hears what they expect to hear
-person is not aware that their perceptions, though they are real to them, have been affected by expectation and the differences they heard in the cable were in fact psychosomatic (in whole or in part).
so far, so good.

Quote:
Later on, when they find out that they and others can't pass a cable DBT, they experience CogDis.
Possibly. In the current discussion, these individuals are then presented with published blinded, controlled listening tests that consistently fail to demonstrate LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences in cables. The two dissonant beliefs are:

a) a lot of time/energy/money was spent based on the belief that cables make LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences, and if it is true that they don't, I would have just wasted a LOT of time/energy/MONEY on them!
b) blind listening tests have been performed and repeated and none of them show that there are LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences in cables

Therefore, in order to reduce the dissonance, a lot of people will alter belief b), and instead insist that blind listening tests are faulty and invalid. It is much easier to believe that blind listening tests are stupid/invalid/faulty (especially if you don't truly understand scientific research methodology) than to acknowledge that you just wasted a lot of time/energy/MONEY on cables that don't actually make LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences like you thought.

Quote:
How can they eliminate the dissonance? This is where the real interesting stuff happens: the person at this point is choosing between trustingtheir very perception and trusting DBT tests.
Not quite. The PLACEBO EFFECT alters perceptions. Cognitive dissonance alters BELIEFS. They are two completely different things.

To be strictly correct, you are probably describing a different and unrelated (but still important) instance of cognitive dissonance. The two beliefs you are describing are:

a) I can definitely hear big differences in cables through my well-trained audiophile "ear."
b) blind listening tests have been performed and repeated and none of them show that there are LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences in cables. This implies that I was "just hearing things" and that makes me feel like my exceptionally well-trained audiophile "ear" is faulty.

This is where cognitive dissonance comes in. An individual in this scenario might instead conclude that the blind listening tests are actually faulty/invalid/etc. since the alternative implies that he/she was fooled and actually does not have a critical audiophile ear.
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmellyGas View Post
...The PLACEBO EFFECT alters perceptions. Cognitive dissonance alters BELIEFS. They are two completely different things.
Very nicely put. CD vs PE.

However, when one (a) listens to gear in their own (non-test) setting, but with some experimentation as is typical in this hobby, (b) reads about cable and equipment tests and the opinions of others -- the DBT studies, the rejoinders, and the opinions on the forums, and (c) actually participates in tests ... well then perception and belief intertwine, and while they may indeed be very different things (like taste and smell), they combine and interact strongly to mold our reaction to what we hear, or think we hear, or what we make of claims by others, both scientific and anecdotal (just as taste and smell combine to influence our reaction to food).

It all bends back on itself. I read the DBTs, and I believe them. Now I might not hear a difference even if there was one!

A very persuasive dealer convinces you that this expensive interconnect sounds way better than the one that comes in the box with the CDP you are buying, using snake-oil techniques (FUD: fear, uncertainty, doubt; also invalid non-level-matched comparisons). So you spend a lot of money on it.

You take it home, and it sounds great. You lend it to a friend, and during that time you use the cable from the box, and it sounds bad to you. I claim this is a mix of three factors: PE (you thought it was going to sound worse, so it did ... as b0dhi says, maybe it even looks cheap and bad compared to the expensive cable!), CD (you cannot bear the thought that you wasted money so you must believe it sounds bad), and "YA" -- "yielding to authority", i.e. persuasion -- the expert told you this cable sounds worse, so it does.

YA is so stong sometimes that we have to take the expert tester out of the room in those cases where we can't be double blind.

All three, yes, mixing in strange ways. Belief influences perception. b0dhi makes this point very well -- I'm just echoing it.

Smelly however should get credit for making us focus on CD as well as PE.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wavoman View Post

A very persuasive dealer convinces you that this expensive interconnect sounds way better than the one that comes in the box with the CDP you are buying, using snake-oil techniques (FUD: fear, uncertainty, doubt; also invalid non-level-matched comparisons). So you spend a lot of money on it.

You take it home, and it sounds great. You lend it to a friend, and during that time you use the cable from the box, and it sounds bad to you. I claim this is a mix of three factors: PE (you thought it was going to sound worse, so it did ... as b0dhi says, maybe it even looks cheap and bad compared to the expensive cable!), CD (you cannot bear the thought that you wasted money so you must believe it sounds bad), and "YA" -- "yielding to authority", i.e. persuasion -- the expert told you this cable sounds worse, so it does.

All three, yes, mixing in strange ways. Belief influences perception. b0dhi makes this point very well -- I'm just echoing it.
Strictly speaking, cognitive dissonance may alter beliefs, and beliefs may alter perception, but the process of cognitive dissonance does NOT directly alter perception. Cognitive dissonance and placebo effect are distinct entities. Let me illustrate.

In your example (see bold), the fact that you "cannot bear the thought you wasted money" will be in conflict with another BELIEF that "blind listening tests demonstrate that cables probably do not have LARGE, EASILY-AUDIBLE differences," which implies you wasted money. The unpleasant conflict of these two beliefs (i.e. "cognitive dissonance") might cause you to change your belief about blind listening tests and replace it with the belief that blind listening tests are actually invalid/garbage. However, there is no direct effect on your perception of sound as you are listening to the cables.

Rather, your perception of the sound is influenced by our expectations ("the placebo effect"), which in turn is influenced by your beliefs regarding how the cables SHOULD sound. Since cognitive dissonance, in turn, causes you to change/deny one of your beliefs related to how cables should sound, this can indirectly alter your expectations, and therefore indirectly alter your perception (via the placebo effect).

So, strictly speaking, cognitive dissonance is occuring independently, but by changing beliefs, it can alter expectations, which can then alter perceptions.
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmellyGas View Post
Not quite. The PLACEBO EFFECT alters perceptions. Cognitive dissonance alters BELIEFS. They are two completely different things.
That's correct. I was describing the combination of expectation altering perception, which was followed later by CogDis acting on the belief formed by that perception. What I described is only one possible scenario ofcourse. The outcome of the dissonance is not something CogDis predicts directly except to say that it depends on the importance of each of the dissonant beliefs to that individual.

The scenario could also go thusly:

-person, who is a research scientist who understands that perceptions can be influenced by expectation, reads reviews, hears anecdotes and opinions from many people swearing large, night-and-day differences from Cable X
-person is influenced by these, and develops an expectation that the cable will sound a certain way
-person pays sizable sum for cable, further amplifying the expectation
-person sees serious looking and likely relatively heavy cable, further amplifying expectation
-person listens to the cable and hears what they expect to hear

Later, when they learn of various published DBT studies showing no audible effect of cables (or do a DBT themself and fail), their two beliefs conflict and cause cognitive dissonance, as in the previous scenario I mentioned:
A: I listened to Cable X and perceived clearly audible differences
B: Numerous published studies (or my own failed DBT) indicate that expensive cables don't actually sound audibly different

In this case however, this person has less importance placed on belief A.

So:
Quote:
There are three ways to eliminate dissonance: (1) reduce the importance of the dissonant beliefs, (2) add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant beliefs, or (3) change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer inconsistent.
Person tells themself that though they heard differences in the cable, their earlier perception of the cable was falsely influenced by expectation. Dissonance is resolved.

Again this is only one possible scenario out of many. The wasted time/money followed by negatively impacted self-image example mentioned by Smelly is another. The individual's specific beliefs as well as the importance of each of the dissonant beliefs will determine the outcome.

Also, I suspect in reality the dissonance is more complex than the example given here. I suspect wasted time/money/effort, negative imact on self-image, predicted impact of change of belief on opinion of peer group, etc. would come into play to some degree.
post #14 of 16
Maybe some of the experts here can chime in, but it is my understanding that CogDis not only causes individuals to reject evidence that conflicts with strongly-held beliefs, but that the introduction of that evidence usually reinforces those beliefs.

IMO, this explains the persistence of the cable "debate".
post #15 of 16
Smelly and b0hdi -- very clear discussion of CD and PE. I understand all the points you are making, and I now agree with the chain of reasoning you lay out.

Thanks.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sound Science
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › How cognitive dissonance can prevent otherwise reasonable people from accepting DBT's as valid [interesting!!]