Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cognitive dissonance

The human behavior known as cognitive dissonance is terrible stuff... or maybe I should say terribly human stuff. The background for cognitive dissonance occurs when we screw something up because we've acted stupidly, or because we have stupid beliefs. Instead of admitting our stupidity, and deciding instantly to behave more intelligently, cognitive dissonance comes into action when we decide to defend and justify our initial stupidity by adopting a new approach that's even more stupid still. It's a matter of pushing stupidity to the second degree, as it were, because our first-degree stupidity didn't work. It wasn't stupid enough.

Let me give you a personal example, in which the stupid guy at the center of the cognitive dissonance is me. At Gamone, there's an irregular spring, up behind the house, which isn't really a spring at all, but simple a resurgence of subterranean water from time to time, usually after rain higher up on the slopes behind Gamone. Now, the waters of my spring are captured by a small concrete tank, and I could normally use that stock of water around the house. But I tend to forget that this water exists. Worse still, a couple of years ago, I burned off grass and weeds in that corner of the property, while totally forgetting that there was a plastic hose there, running down from the spring. OK, that was a silly error, but hardly a catastrophe.

Recently, the mayor of Choranche and the municipal employee suggested that it would be a good idea for me to drain away excess water from my spring, because water had started to seep out of the hillside with the possibility of endangering the stability of the roadway. That's where my cognitive dissonance got turned on. Instead of saying "OK, I'll install a new hose and bring the water down to my house", I started to argue absurdly: "No, the water that's seeping out onto the roadway is certainly not the same water that's piling up from my spring. They're surely two completely different underground channels. In other words, even if I were to install a new hose, water from the other channel would still seep onto the road."

The truth of the matter, alas, was that I was too bloody lazy to get into overalls, drag a ladder and tools up to the spring, cut away all the weeds and saplings, and install a new hose.

Finally, over the last two or three days, I pulled my finger out, as the saying goes, and performed the necessary work.

The hardest part of the job was climbing up onto the embankment and cutting away all the thorny vegetation that prevented me from getting near the spring.

I always have the impression that Sophia is happy to see me working outside, manually, instead of sitting in front of my Macintosh.

Once the spring water started to flow in the newly-installed yellow hose, about a hundred meters long, I had to do something with it, so I decided to start out by sprinkling my lawn... which doesn't really need to be sprinkled at all.

Above all, I'm obliged to admit that, as soon as water started to arrive down here at the house, the seepage onto the road up in the vicinity of the spring was reduced substantially.

Tomorrow morning, if I were a decent kind of a bloke, I would phone up the mayor and the municipal employee to inform them that I can be stupid and stubborn at times. But I'm sure they know that already.

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