Cognitive Dissonance – Devaluing What Doesn’t Agree

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Whereas these experiments do not directly witness on the effect of music on human evolution, they testify to several fundamental problems.

First, every cognition or a piece of knowledge contradicts to inborn instinctual drives to some extent (otherwise instinctual drives would be sufficient for making decisions involving this cognition; this cognition would not be useful and it would not appear; the same applies to any pair of cognitions: if there is no even a minor contradiction among them, one of these cognitions is useless). In other words, useful cognitions always involve contradictions. The very process of thinking involves evaluating contradictory options.

According to the current understanding of cognitive dissonance, contradictory cognitions are devalued. Therefore accumulation of knowledge and ability to think requires a mechanism for tolerating (overcoming) cognitive dissonance. In view of importance of this conclusion, even a first step in this paper toward identifying a mechanism for tolerating cognitive dissonance is fundamentally important.

A second fundamental question addressed by our experiments concerns existence of cognitive function of music. As discussed, contemporary cognitive and evolutionary musicology faces great controversies in attempting to identify such a function for music. This question has been addressed by great minds for about 2,500 years, and the conclusion has been that it remains a mystery12. Tolerating cognitive dissonance and making thinking possible could be such a fundamental cognitive function of music.

In the present study, the experimental condition of “strongly worded condition” was presented without music, as it is assumed that this condition would not create any cognitive dissonance. However, an inclusion of the with-music treatment within this condition relative to the without-music treatment could strengthen the present findings; if there is indeed no dissonance, there should be no difference in changes of ranking with or without music for the strongly worded condition. Also, the evaluation of the arousal status of the participants after different treatments should be of importance as a complementary measure in helping resolve whether they did experience cognitive dissonance. Apparently, these are issues that are to be investigated in the near future.

Whereas these experiments do not directly witness on the effect of music on human evolution, they testify to several fundamental problems. First, every cognition or a piece of knowledge contradicts to inborn instinctual drives to some extent (otherwise instinctual drives would be sufficient for making decisions involving this cognition; this cognition would not be useful and it would not appear; the same applies to any pair of cognitions: if there is no even a minor contradiction among them, one of these cognitions is useless). In other words, useful cognitions always involve contradictions. The very process of thinking involves evaluating contradictory options. According to the current understanding of cognitive dissonance, contradictory cognitions are devalued.

Therefore accumulation of knowledge and ability to think requires a mechanism for tolerating (overcoming) cognitive dissonance. In view of importance of this conclusion, even a first step in this paper toward identifying a mechanism for tolerating cognitive dissonance is fundamentally important.

A second fundamental question addressed by our experiments concerns existence of cognitive function of music. Tolerating cognitive dissonance and making thinking possible could be such a fundamental cognitive function of music.

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