Wow. When I wrote my post about copyright violations I was expecting to produce some good cognitive dissonance in the comments but I got more than I could have hoped for.
If you’ve read anything about experiments to produce cognitive dissonance, you know this was the perfect setup. You can produce dissonance by putting a person in a position of doing something that is clearly opposed to his self image. Then wait for his explanation. The explanation will seem absurd to anyone who doesn’t share the dissonance. In this case the model that produced it was…
1. Good people are not criminals.
2. Criminals break laws.
3. I break copyright laws.
4. But since I know I am a good person, my reason why it’s okay to violate copyright laws is (insert something absurd).
The fascinating thing about cognitive dissonance is that it’s immune to intelligence. No matter how smart you are, you can’t think your way out of it. Once your actions and your self image get out of sync, the result is an absurd rationalization. You can see that in the comments.
The people who experienced the dissonance yesterday will have an angry/frustrated reaction to my post today. According to the psychologists, it wouldn’t be likely for anyone to say, “Oops. I now see that I was being irrational.” Instead, the more likely result is getting super pissed off at me for being, in your opinion, so incredibly stupid, not to mention greedy.
For fun, take any of the cognitive dissonance from yesterday’s comments and put them in a comment today. Only the non-copyright-violators will be psychologically equipped for this task. For example, one of my favorite absurd rationalizations for violating copyrights goes like this:
1. Information is free by nature.
2. When rich people cause Congress to create copyright laws, they are taking something from me that used to be free.
3. Therefore, I am not stealing. I’m just taking back what was taken from me.
And then there’s Mindy, who believes it’s not a copyright violation to republish other people’s work as long as she doesn’t charge for it.
I also enjoy the rationalizations from the people who say it is okay to violate copyrights whenever it’s cheaper than paying money. They argue that these violations will encourage greedy publishers to be more efficient, thus transferring wealth from recording companies to…Steve Jobs.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go steal some more pants from Nordstrom. I'm not a thief; I'm just trying to convince them to lower the prices. You're welcome.
What was your favorite absurd rationalization?