Congnitive Dissonance One Of Our Ego's Defense Mechanisms

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 0 comments

Ego Defense Mechanisms

Our ego goes to great lengths to defend itself, with the intent of protecting our mind and ourselves, or egos from anxiety and to provide ourselves with a refuge from a situation where we cannot currently cope.

One of the ways it does this is through cognitive dissonance, which is closely related to denial and rationalization, justification, and we do this all the time without ever realizing it. We need to feel in control of ourselves, so at times, it’s just easier to form the belief that we know the reasons for the things that we think and do.

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive Dissonance is when you have a conflict between your beliefs, opinions, values, and your behavior, or the uncomfortable tension we feel when we are holding two conflicting thoughts in our mind at the same time.

When this happens, it creates anxiety within yourself, and so you try to reduce the anxiety by either reducing the importance of your beliefs, opinions or values; try to form new beliefs, etc., or changes your beliefs, opinions, values or behavior.

A simple example of cognitive dissonance was told in one of Aesop’s Fables, “Sour Grapes”, where a famished fox happens upon a beautiful bunch of ripe grapes that were hanging from a vine that were was wrapped around a high tree branch. They were much higher than he could reach. The fox’s mouth watered as he gazed upon the grapes that looked like they were bursting with juice. He took several running leaps trying to reach the grapes, until he became exhausted. No matter how hard he tried, he could not reach those luscious grapes. Now he sat down looking at the grapes in disgust.

‘‘These grapes are sour, and if I had some I would not eat them." He proclaimed as he scornfully walked away.

We also use it all the time to justify to ourselves regarding choices and decisions that we have made. Blaming others and circumstances, is a prime example of cognitive dissonance. Excuses for being over weight, lying and the justifications we dream up for doing so, cheating, and I could write page after page of examples of where, when and how we use it. I bet you can come up with a lot of instances, if you are honest with yourself, when you have done it. Even in the cases were we have made immoral decisions, people quickly adjust their values to fit their behavior. Some people will go to uncanny lengths to evade the inconsistencies between their beliefs and the facts.

Human beings aren’t rational, we are rationalizing creatures, and we want to appear reasonable to ourselves and others, so our mind has a way of making us believe our own lies, better known as denial, or in this case cognitive dissonance.

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When Good People Turn Evil - The Stanford Prison Experiment

Sunday, July 06, 2008 2 comments

In 1971, psychologist Philip Zimbardo, PhD, of Stanford University; along with Craig Haney, W. Curtis Banks, and David Jaffe, a team of researchers; conducted the “Stanford Prison Experiment” with the intended mission of testing the concept, that the intrinsic personality traits of prisoners and guards were the key element to understanding prison situations that are abusive.

“Male college students needed for psychological study of prison life. $15 per day for 1-2 weeks beginning Aug. 14. For further information contact…”

After being given diagnostic interviews and personality tests, out of the more than 70 responses to an ad placed in the local paper looking for male college students, they chose 24 mostly white middle class males from the US and Canada, they believed to be the most psychologically and physically healthy. Determined by a mere flip of a coin, they appointed half of the parties as guards and the others as prisoners. Zimbardo was to play the part of the superintendent and David Jaffe, an undergraduate research assistance, was appointed as the warden.

They set up the mock prison in the basement of the Stanford's Psychology Department building, where they replaced some of the laboratory doors with specially made doors made out of steel bars, and installed an intercom system to make announcements to the prisoners, and to bug their cells so they could hear what the prisoners were saying, and they placed a video camera in a small opening to record the events. Each end of the corridor was boarded up, and this became, “the yard”. Other then when they were blind folder to go to the bathroom so they couldn’t find their way out of the prison, the “yard” was the only place that the prisoners were allowed, to be outside, eat, and exercise. Opposite the cells, was a small closet which was approximately 2’ x 2’ and very dark was deemed “the hole”, and was to be used for solitary confinement.

With the assistance of the local Palo Alto Police Department, the participants that were to play the part of the prisoners were arrested and handcuffed unexpectedly at their homes on a Sunday morning, in plain view of their unsuspecting neighbors, and charged with armed robbery and burglary. They were given their rights, and then subjected to the full booking procedures at the police station, including fingerprinting and taking mug shots, blindfolded and put into a holding cell, and then later transported to the mock prison where they were further subjected to a strip-search, deloused to make them feel as if it was believed that they had lice and germs, given their new identities, and met the Warden.

The guards were given wooden batons, mirrored sunglasses to inhibit eye contact, khaki shirts and pants and a whistle. The prisoners were given badly fitting dress type smocks with their numbers sown on them, no underwear, and had to wear women’s stockings on their heads to simulate having their heads shaved, and chains around their ankles. In a real prison, prisoners are humiliated and male prisoners are made to feel emancipated, so this attire was to help simulate this effect, and the chain around the ankle was placed there to remind the prisoners at all times, of the oppressiveness of their new environment, and they could only be referred to by both the guards and the other prisoners by their ID number with the intended purpose of taking away their individuality.

On the day before the experiment the researchers held a meeting with the guards where they were instructed that they could not physically harm the prisoners, however, Zimbardo has been quoted as saying, “You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they’ll have no privacy.” He stated, “We’re going to take way their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we’ll have all the power and they’ll have none.” Zimbardo had the intention of setting up specific conditions on the prisoners which he hoped would promote disorientation, depersonalize, and take away there sense of individualization.

The prisoners were subjected to several “counts” throughout the day and night, much like real prison, beginning at 2:30 AM, which was signaled by the blasting of whistles. The purpose of the “counts” was, in part, for the purpose of giving the guards an added opportunity to exert their control over the prisoners. These “counts” served as the first of a series of confrontations between the guards and inmates when the prisoners, still exhibiting their independence, did not take them too seriously.

Things soon began to get out of hand following the uneventful first day. Still exhibiting their independence; the prisons staged a riot on the second day, by placing their mattresses against the doors, ripping off their numbers, removing their stockings, and began to taunt the guards. This angered the guards greatly, and they volunteered to work extra hours to help the morning shift, along with the help of three other guards, that had been previously on stand-by, to solve the issue. After a meeting of the minds, the guards used fire-extinguishers to get the prisoners away from the doors, stripped them naked, removed their highly valued mattresses, and placed the prisoners that served as the head of the riot into “the hole”.

Since the budget did not allow for that number of guards to stay on duty, the guards decided to use psychological means to gain control over the prisoners, and set up a “privilege cell”, and the three prisoners that were determined to have the least involvement with the riot where given the special privileges of having their mattresses back and being allowed to wash and brush their teeth, were given back their smocks, and given special food, in plain view of the other prisoners who were forced to sleep on the concrete floor, and temporarily lost their eating privilege. After half a day of this, the guards confused them by switching the three prisoners with some three of the others.

This treatment served to break the solidarity among the prisoners. The prisoners soon became distrustful of each other, suspecting the new privileged prisons of informing. They had divided and conquered the prisoners while the guards became more united in their efforts. The guards became paranoid and believed the prisoners were troublemakers who were now out to get them, and might quite possibly cause them harm, so the guards began increasing their control, surveillance and aggression towards the prisoners.

Sanitary conditions declined rapidly when, as a method of degradation, the guards did not allow the others to use the bathroom, and often after the 10:00 PM lockup, the prisoners were forced to go to the bathroom in a bucket, that they left in the cell, and at times were not allowed to empty them. Another method of degradation was to subject some of the prisoners to sexual humiliation which included simulated homosexual sex. Push-ups which were a common means of punishment in the Nazi prison camps were a common use of punishment by the guards, and one of the guards stepped on their backs, or made other prisoners step on their backs while doing the sit-ups, for such offences.

Approximately one-third of the guards became increasingly cruel as the experiment went on, and the experimenters stated that they exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies. The treatment inflicted by the guards started leading to dangerously psychological situations, and many prisoners were emotionally traumatized, leading to two of the prisoners having to be prematurely released.

When prisoner #416, a replacement, expressed concern about the treatment of the prisoners, and they put him in “the hole” after he stated that he was on a hunger strike. When the guards then told the other prisoners that they would release him only if they were willing to give up their blankets and sleep on the floor, most of the prisoners opted to keep their blankets because they believed this prisoner was a troublemaker, further emphasizing the fact that the unity between the prisoners had been severed, and were reduced to a bunch of individuals that happened to occupy the same space and circumstances.

Prisoner #8612 began suffering acute emotional disturbance, exhibited by uncontrollable crying, rage and unorganized thinking. The guards believed he was faking, and used this behavior as a means of trying to be released early. As a result the prisoner was interviewed by the primary consultant who humiliated him and informed him about how he would have been abused by both the guards and prisoners if he had been placed in San Quinton, and offered to discontinue the harassment if he would become an informant. The other prisoner’s fear and reality of being imprisoned escalated after this prisoner told the others that they could not quit and leave. It took quite some time for them to realize the severity of the situation, even after he again began to go into an uncontrollable crying rage, and eventually released him.

When they feared that family members would take the prisoners home when they saw the appalling condition of the prison on visiting day, they decided to make the prison seem pleasant to them. They cleaned the prison, washed and shaved the prisoners, and went so far as to play music over the intercoms and have the visitors greeted at the registration desk by Susan Phillips, a Stanford cheerleader.

However, their good cheer was also taken under control when they had to register, and were instructed that the rules consisted of: having only two visitors per prisoner for a ten minute period, and that they had to be monitored by a guard during their visit. Even though they complained about these rules, they also complied. However, they were also subjected to psychological manipulation when some of the parents appealed to the superintendent when they saw how distressed their son was, where the blame was shifted onto the prisoners by Zimbardo, and asked what was wrong with their son, and addressed the father’s concerns by asking him if he felt his son couldn’t handle the situation.

Things continued to escalate as the drama continued. The next major obstacle took place when the guards overheard some prisoners discussing an escape after visitation. It had been rumored that prisoner #8612, which had been released, was going to assemble some of his friends and break into the prison and release the prisons. The guards reacted by turning to the Warden, the Superintendent, and Craig Haney, acting as one of the chief lieutenants to devise their counter plan. After an attempt to enlist the help of the Palo Alto Police Department once more, with the plan of having the prisoner transferred there, was turned down due to insurance reasons, Zimbardo became quite agitated.

Plan B was put into action. The new plan consisted of bringing in more guards to chain the prisoners together with bags over their head, transporting them to the fifth floor storage room, dismantling the make shift prison until after the break in was over, and Zimbardo planned to be sitting there alone when the perpetrators entered, and planned to tell them that the experience was over and there was no one left to rescue, followed by re-arresting prisoner #8612. They would then bring the other prisoners back and double security. There was no attempted rescue. The only dilemma Zimbardo was faced with was when Gordon Bower, a former Yale graduate student and roommate, showed up out of curiosity after hearing about the experiment, caused him to realize his own psychological transformation when he asked, "Say, what's the independent variable in this study?", after Zimbardo explained what he had been doing. He later came to become conscious of how far into his role he had sunk when he realized how angry he became with his colleague for not seeing the severity of the prison break he was facing, and the lack of cooperation of the Police Department.

In the mean time, the non-existent prison break attempt only angered him and the guards further, and there abuse of the prisoners escalated even further. The prisoners were subject to additional humiliation, including cleaning out the toilets with their bare hands and increasing the length of the “counts, which also consists of “lockdowns”, and a common form of punishment in a real prison.

They didn’t stop there. They continued the psychological manipulation and control when they brought in a real Prison Chaplain, who set about the task of interviewing each of the prisoners. This Catholic Priest was also well adapted to his roles of both Priest and Prison Chaplain, and had learned to talk a certain way to the prisoners, as well as holding his hands in a certain way. He went so far as to offer to call their parents and assist them in getting legal help.

Just the same as the other two prisoners that had been released earlier in the experiment, Prisoner #819 began crying desperately when he met with the Chaplain, after earlier complaining of feeling sick. They put him in a special room and then one of the guards proceeded to line up the other prisoners, and instructed them to chant, “Prisoner #819 is a bad prisoner. Because of what Prisoner #819 did, my cell is a mess, Mr. Correctional Officer” and “Prisoner 819 did a bad thing.” This caused the prisoner to cry uncontrollably, and when Zimbardo suggested that they leave, the prisoner stated that he could not leave because the other prisoners viewed him as a “bad prisoner”, and despite the fact that he was feeling sick, he wanted to go back and prove himself to the other prisoners. It was only after appearing shocked when Zimbardo stated, "Listen, you are not #819. You are [his name], and my name is Dr. Zimbardo. I am a psychologist, not a prison superintendent, and this is not a real prison. This is just an experiment, and those are students, not prisoners, just like you. Let's go”, that the prisoner complied.

Still the experiment continued, and the next stop consisted of fooling the some of the prisoners into believing that they had grounds for parole, and put them in front of a mock Parole Board, which was comprised of departmental secretaries and graduate students. During these meetings, much to the surprise of the researchers, of the prisoners stated that they would be willing to give up the pay that they were to receive if they were released, and returned to their cells afterwards, despite the fact that they could have just left.

The Chaplain had contacted some of the parents, advising them to contact a lawyer to have their children released, and on the fifth night they requested that Zimbardo contact a lawyer for them, which he complied with.

Zimbardo terminated the experiment six days after it began, on August 20 after coming to realize that the experiment was unethical, only after he himself became completely enthralled in his role as Superintendent.

According to Zimbardo, the experiment was ended because;

  1. Some of the guards were sneaking around in the night, when they believed that they would be undetected, and further degrading the prisoners with pornographic acts.

  1. After Christina Maslach, a recent Stanford PhD, and whom Zimbardo was dating and later married, conducted interviews of both the prisoners and guards and witnessed the prisoners being marched to the bathroom with bags over their heads, and chained together, became outraged.

Two months later prisoner #416 was quoted as saying, "I began to feel that I was losing my identity, that the person that I called "Clay," the person who put me in this place, the person who volunteered to go into this prison -- because it was a prison to me; it still is a prison to me. I don't regard it as an experiment or a simulation because it was a prison run by psychologists instead of run by the state. I began to feel that that identity, the person that I was that had decided to go to prison was distant from me -- was remote until finally I wasn't that, I was 416. I was really my number."

The experiment had later been used to illustrate the cognitive dissonance theory and the power of authority, and in psychology, the experiment is used to support the theory that the situation and not their individual personalities, is what determined the behavior exhibited by the participants, including Zimbardo himself, and that they internalized their roles.

Most of this article, pictures and videos were taken from the play by play account of the experiment, as shown here.

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What Do Emotions, Energy and DNA Have in Common?

Friday, July 04, 2008 1 comments

We all have our hidden expectations...our own view of the world and how it should be according to our perceptions and beliefs. The 60,000 thoughts that run through our minds each day, are forming what we want to be happening at that moment, what we would like to happen in our future, and either praising events or yearning for how we wish it had played out in the past. We dwell on things that don't go according to our plan. We all have regrets. We are in constant judgment of everything and everybody that is evolving around us, much of which is being done subconsciously. However, many of us blame all of our misgivings and unhappiness on those outside sources.

The "if only(s)". If only...they had/hadn't said this or done that, or if only...this had or hadn't happened. If only...all the pieces of the puzzle could all fit neatly together to form the beautiful picture I have created in my mind, my life would be perfect and I could find happiness. If only...

When people, including ourselves, don't behave or perform the way we would like, or events don't happen according to our vision, the ugly emotions start to emerge. We feel fear and frustration, anger and depression, resentment and jealousy...and these emotions create the stress and anxiety that are destroying our minds and body. Our vibration goes down, and we attract like a magnet more of the things we don't want in our lives, which only creates an endless cycle. Like attracts and gravitates toward like.

Many of us turn to chemicals as a quick fix to repair all of the damage these emotions are creating within us, or to escape from them momentarily. Nowhere in the creation of the Universe has there ever been a need for the chemical drugs that further destroy our minds and bodies. The Universe was created so that everything is provided for us, either on this earth or within ourselves.

Everything in the Universe is created by energy all vibrating at different frequencies. Our cells are made up of energy. Even our thoughts are made of energy. When there are people around us that are happy, we can feel that positive energy! Likewise, when someone walks in that is depressed or angry, we can feel that also. We don't have to look at their faces, and they don't have to say a word...we can feel the energy and vibration coming from them. We are all connected.

When we have negative or positive thoughts we are not only producing negative/positive energy that can be felt by the people around us. We are even affecting the energy of the objects we come in contact with, by our energy. But more importantly, we are also affecting the cells and DNA that create us. When we are in Love, we feel alive! We feel it in every cell! We Glow! And when we are unhappy our immune system goes down and we become ill. Dis-ease. Now, what do you believe your thoughts are doing to your cell production?

We have the power within us to change any emotion we are experiencing at any given moment. For example...what happens to the way you feel when you think of something that has happened that you are unhappy with in some way? You begin to feel the same way that you did when it happened originally. When you have a happy memory, you begin to smile or laugh. Give it a try.

No situation or person has the power to make us happy, depressed, angry...without our consent. The choice is ours...only we have that power. There is no one or no situation that is to blame! It all lies within ourselves and in our beliefs and perceptions, and how we choose to feel.

However, many times our emotions are serving a belief that we hold within us, without consciously knowing what that belief is. Our subconscious, however, does know and holds the answers to that question. If we are feeling depressed, for example, it is serving a belief. Subconsciously we are wanting something that we believe that we need, or our subconscious mind believes it is protecting us from something. Again, we may not consciously know what that is, or consciously understand why we are feeling or behaving the way we are.

The subconscious mind does not work on logic. That is what our conscious mind is for. The subconscious mind is in charge of our survival instinct, and our ability to react without thinking. It is in charge of taking care of everything we do unconsciously. It is what keeps us breathing, our cells reproducing. It stores all of our beliefs, values, habits and memories, many of which were formed when we were children and no longer serve us well. They were formed when we were too young and inexperienced to make sound beliefs and judgments, and many of them were taught to us by our teachers and parents based on their beliefs and perceptions.

Two powerful ways you can access the unconscious mind and find those beliefs and/or change them is through hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming. You can change how you react and the emotions your subconscious chooses to use on any given situation, and I will continue to show you how on this site.

To begin attracting the things we do want in life, we have to change our vibrational energy and begin to feel Love, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude. We have to concentrate on what we do want, instead of what we don't want, and it all starts with changing our mind!

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