Dissonance of the Day

Two very different takes on cognitive dissonance today in the New York Times, one about rationalizing decisions, the other counter-factual and emotional.

John Tierney writes, And Behind Door No. 1, A Fatal Flaw. It covers the Monty Hall problem, and the statistical and methodological problems of cognitive dissonance experiments dating back to the 1950s. Basically the experiments have discounted the fact that one’s initial choice changes the odds. You shouldn’t stick with Door #1 if Door #3 gets opened. A 1/3 chance (the original choice) gets changed to a 2/3 chance of winning if you switch to Door #2. As always, Tierney provides an entertaining piece, and has some good links to online experiments.

Harriet Brown writes, My Daughters Are Fine, But I’ll Never Be The Same, covering her emotional and internal reactions to life-threatening illnesses in her children. Why fall apart when things are finally going well? She tells us of speaking with a friend who had gone through something similar:

“Other parents worry about the worst,” she told me, “but they don’t really believe it could happen. We know better.” We know better. That was it, exactly. We parents throw everything between our kids and danger: bike helmets, seat belts, vaccinations, tooth sealants, self-defense classes. We are creating the illusion of safety as much as anything else, weaving a kind of magic circle of protection. Like all illusions, once broken it can never be made whole again.

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