Why You’re Biased About Being Biased – Facts So Romantic

In a classic experiment in 1953, students spent an hour doing repetitive, monotonous tasks, such as rotating square pegs a quarter turn, again and again. Then the experimenters asked the students to persuade someone else that this mind-numbing experience was in fact interesting. Some students got $1 ($9 today) to tell this fib while others got $20 ($176 today). In a survey at the end of the experiment, those paid only a trivial fee were more likely to describe the boring activity as engaging. They seemed to have persuaded themselves of their own lie.

According to the researchers, psychologists Merrill Carlsmith and Leon Festinger, this attitude shift was caused by “cognitive dissonance,” the discomfort we feel when we try to hold two contradictory ideas or beliefs at the same time. When faced with two opposing realities (“This is boring” and “I told someone it was interesting”), the well-paid students could externally justify their behavior (“I was paid to say that”). The poorly paid students, on the other hand, had to create an internal justification (“I must have said it was interesting for some good reason. Maybe I actually liked it”).

Kninwong

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