Commitment and Consistency in Social Psychology

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Commitment and Consistency in Social Psychology

Postby Luck » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:10 pm

I am slogging back through Robert Cialdini's book "Influence" found the concepts of Commitment and Consistency interesting and thought I would post some of it here to see what you all think...

Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our commitment.


I don't think this is always a bad thing. This is probably one of the dynamics involved that allow us to have long term personal relationships with friends and families. But it does suggest that once the wide-eyed noob makes the choice to believe that ET exists, they will engage in interactions and activities to continue their perpetuation of this belief within their world view.

Inconsistency is commonly thought to be an undesirable personality trait. The person whose beliefs, words, and deeds don't match may be seen as indecisive, confused, two-faced, or even mentally ill. On the other side, a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength.

...But because it is so typically in our best interests to be consistent, we easily fall into the habit of being automatically so, even in situations where it is not the sensible way to be.


Cialdini goes on to explain that we are bombarded everyday by an avalanche of information. Instead of trying to weight the pros and cons of all this new information, blind consistency allows to circumvent analysis of new information by applying our earlier beliefs, words or actions to the current situation.

Again, this can be pretty useful. We use automatic consistency all the time when we drive. We don't analyze why we should stop at stop signs or traffic lights. We just do.

There is a second, more perverse attraction of mechanical consistency as well. Sometimes it is not the effort of hard, cognitive work that makes us shirk thoughtful activity, but the harsh consequences of that activity. Sometimes it the cursedly clear and unwelcome set of answers provided by straight thinking that makes us mental slackers. There are certain disturbing things we simply would rather not realize. Because it is a preprogrammed and mindless method of responding, automatic consistency can supply a safe hiding place from those troubling realizations. Sealed within the fortress walls of rigid consistency, we can be impervious to the sieges of reason.


This is part that I find most troubling, that people will actively work to avoid the information or ideas that may be in conflict their with their own personal world view. But it makes sense in light of the fact that sometimes the loudest critics are the ones whose world view would be most transformed if they were actually forced to sit down and truly think about the very thing they criticize. Instead, we have a bunch of people parroting memes and diatribes who are apparently unable to harbor an original idea lest their little heads explode.

And I see this not only with ufology and the paranormal, but a problem with our political climate as well.

How do you even begin to fight that?
I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)
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Luck
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