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Posted December 21, 2007
The authors intended to explain our behavior when we justify, rationalize and insist we were right when faced with the embarrassment of publicity of unintentional harm [often backed up by intentional harm.] The phenomenon of ¿acting out of a need to protect their egos¿ is ubiquitous, and even a poorly written book on the topic will be beneficial by reminding us how corruptible we are. Nevertheless, the authors have selected an explanation called ¿dissonance theory¿ and insist that it can explain just about any corrupt behavior. The problems with this overzealous application of this theory are 1--the book lacks evidence in the form of references to research on dissonance theory--the few experiments described were not originally about dissonance theory, but the authors nevertheless cavalierly rework conclusions to make it seem as proof of their theory. Thus scientific evidence becomes merely anecdotal evidence. One example of this is explaining the behavior of subjects in Milgram¿s experiment that they justified to themselves each progressive shock they administered. The actual research shows no such thing in fact the subjects themselves self-reported that they actually believed they lacked the necessary authority to determine whether or not to administer shocks, and therefore they believed that the burden was on the mock researcher, not them, to justify these decisions 2--the book ignores conventional explanations for corrupt behavior, providing no evidence against them nor for their own explanation. An example of this is saying that people continue to cheat on tests in order to justify the initial decision to cheat on a previous test, rather than that people continue to cheat because they have discovered that the consequences weren¿t as bad as they had feared 3--a neglect of differentiating factors among the various behaviors and their self-justifications: whether they followed up with narratives of the behavior or more cases of similar behavior, whether the initial behavior or its consequences were intentional or unintentional, whether the error or wrongdoing was ever publicized, whether the justification was of oneself or of other members of one¿s group, etc. In comparing experimental psychologists [presumably the authors themselves] with therapists behaving unethically, they write that science, because it depends on research, is ¿a form of arrogance control¿, which is ironic, because this is an arrogant self-excuse to convince the reader that the authors would not overapply an explanation of symptoms--the very thing the authors accuse repressed-memory theorists of doing. Nevertheless, dissonance theory likely can be used to understand certain behaviors, and the class of events as a whole comprised of malicious behavior motivated by ego preservation is very important to study.
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Posted April 24, 2012
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