The idea of cognitive dissonance — that your brain will ignore what your senses are telling it in order to keep your beliefs intact — always seemed to me extremely interesting but deeply flawed.
For one, it sounds completely unbelievable that the brain would cheat itself. It’s like lying to oneself. Reality should be reality, and beliefs should be just words, just an embellishment over basic perception. On the other hand, Cognitive Dissonance is a scientific fact, a very well-documented and throughly tested phenomenon.
My (current) interpretation of Cog Dissonance is that our brain has never really been in charge, that all the important decision processes have been happening somewhere else, like in our viscera, the brain merely a “second opinion”, and the cognitive dissonance happens when something forces us to acknowledge this divide.
I’m trying to put into words something that is more of a feeling than a complete thought so, as stated, it is simply a misunderstanding of Cognitive Dissonance. All the tests usually pit a belief against another belief, not the general feeling and working of the whole being, but maybe that is part of the problem.
The importance of Beliefs is greatly exaggerated. (Or maybe: Can we ask ¿What is the importance of Beliefs? Are there reasons to take those as strongly correlated with our actions? Are we taking the importance of Beliefs as an unexamined assumption?). I fear this focuses all the attention into what are just a posteriori rationalisations, not so much into behaviour as into interpretation of behaviour. And, at that, into a behaviour we are particularly ill-located to interpret.
I recently found out that the nervous system inside the guts is particularly weakly linked with the central nervous system. In other words, our viscera have a “brain” of its own.
Last time i have been under the influence i found out i was continuously concerned about pissing or shitting, and although it could easily be explained away as a chemical reaction, it seemed to me that in some sense we are always all the time a digestive system with a brain attached, as much as we are a brain with a digestive tract attached.
Embryologically in the beginning we are pretty much worms, a digestive tract that moves if there ever was one. And the brain grows out of the skin of this wormlike embryo, not from its inside. Just like the most “conscious” and “central” parts of our subjective experience are related to the outermost layer of our brains, the cortex.
I began to suspect we are actually viscerocentric, we are centred on our viscera. Then experience and growing makes us reach beyond it. Just like we are very much egocentric and then learn to reach outside of ourselves. Just like we are Ethnocentric and gradually learn to shed our cultural biases.
Trying to go back to the point, no matter how many theories our brains creates, and the brain loves creating them, those theories are just an appendix to our overall system. When you overcharge this appendix one of the possible pathologies is that it will get lost into theories that refer only to other theories.
Since a theory is basically a linkage of stuff to other stuff, a theory is not itself a thing, it is totally necessary that there are theories about theories (generally speaking) and that most theories will only be connected to experience in an indirect way. But then the indirect linkage can become an absence of linkage.
Cognitive Dissonance then would be a theory that somehow becomes weakly linked to reality, and you find a way to try to reconnect it and the reconnection fails. That might be so because the theory was already disconnected, working by itself. The connection is not the most important part of the theory, considering the theory is an appendix to being. Thus Cognitive Dissonance is just an side-effect of the fact that we are not really rational beings but beings that amongst other stuff have reason capabilities.
The test of this would be something like: You create cognitive dissonance between a rational belief and a bowel sensation, if this badly cobbled together hypothesis is correct, the bowels should just keep on chugging along without recurse to the brain.