blogging, Mental Health

Why It is Hard to Change Opinions

In my past life, I was working as a Nurse in a Vascular ward of a large hospital. The ward was brimming with patients with Peripheral Vascular Disease, (PVD), a disease that often narrows the arteries and results from smoking. Without treatment, healthy tissues usually in the lower extremities are starved of blood and therefore oxygen, and die. The patient experiences tingling, numbness, pain or ulceration.

One patient I attended, let’s call him Mr Malley, required a below-knee amputation, due to occluded arteries and impaired circulation from P.V.D.

On removing Mr Malley’s lower leg in the operating theatre, surgeons found the arterial circulation, (blood supply to his lower leg), was so poor, it barely bled at all. Fearing a surgical wound with such impaired circulation would not easily heal, the surgeons made the decision to perform an above-knee operation at the same time, in order to maximise wound healing and the chances of recovery.

Smoking cigarettes was banned in the ward, (in those days, you could smoke outside in the corridor), and Mr Malley knew the consequences if he smoked. On more than one occasion, I found him smoking in his bed.

Despite the Doctors’ warnings, Mr Malley was dogmatic about continuing to smoke, saying that when he had tried to give up smoking, he had almost ruined his marriage.

Whilst I do not know him personally, I suspected Mr Malley used his matrimonial difficulties, however temporary, as an excuse to continue his nicotine habit.

Cognitive dissonance

Blogger Keith muses about how the US Republican Party allows issues such as climate change and gun control, to slip away untouched by policy or pro-activism. This, knowing that dealing with guns and or taking measures to mitigate climate change might be the right thing to do, (because no one in their right mind would not).

Are the big issues too hard for the GOP to deal with? Is sacrificing guns, votes, potential income and wealth too hard when lives are at stake?

Like Mr Malley, the GOP offers excuses to validate their behaviour. Instead of gun restrictions, they see a proliferation of guns, as the solution to mass shootings.

Cognitive Dissonance Driving Human Behaviour

Psychologist Leon Festinger, used the term Cognitive Dissonance to describe how people have an inner need to ensure that their beliefs and behaviours are consistent. Inconsistent or conflicting beliefs lead to disharmony, which people strive to avoid. Cognitive Dissonance can contribute to unhealthy behaviours or poor decisions.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A person who smokes might resolve this dissonance or internal conflict by:

– deciding that they value smoking more than they value health, so the behaviour is “worth it” in terms of risks versus rewards.

– minimising potential drawbacks. “The smoker might convince themselves that the negative health effects have been overstated. They might also assuage their health concerns by believing that they cannot avoid every possible risk out there.

– trying to convince themselves that if they do stop smoking, they will then gain weight, which also presents health risks.

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cognitive-dissonance-2795012

Mr Malley used explanations, (read: excuses) to reduce his own internal conflict about smoking and allow his to continue his detrimental habit without feeling tormented.

What is the GOP doing?

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63 thoughts on “Why It is Hard to Change Opinions”

    1. That is absolutely what I was trying to understand in this post, Happy Panda. The motivations of those who know differently but refuse to acknowledge that action is needed. It is a reaction based out of fear. But in a situation where it becomes more and more frightening, how that fear be placated to give people insight into how a different option might work?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Of course nicotine is also a physiologically addictive drug, making quitting even harder than just the mental challenge. I think there is also an added degree of complexity in changing widespread social behaviour cf personal behaviour. The weight of group behaviour influencing individual behaviour is very hard to shift.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In adolescents, peer pressure can be overriding. Would you say the larger a group size (irrespective of age), and the more the message of that group is proliferated and reinforced, the more difficult it becomes, Jane?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those (¤)s are trying their utmost to create a total schism in ‘the greatest country in the world’. Their love of guns is such that they’d welcome another “civil” war. Excuses ? – who needs ’em ?: gawd is on our side !!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Having lived in the USA, I would say yes fear is part but there is so much more. The embedded notion of the right to carry weapons, theoretically based on the constitution, is very strong. Taking away what someone considers their right is always hard.

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        1. Ah. Yes, viewing the issue as a removal of any perceived or actual civil right, (especially if enshrined theoretically in the Constitution), would be met with fierce resistance. Compare this tenacity with how quickly the right to abortion was rescinded.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. But is it possible that, weighing everything up, Mr Malley just wanted to keep smoking? He didn’t really need an explanation for that himself, but he felt the pressure to provide one for other people because his real explanation would seem so selfish and thoughtless to them. Likewise pro-gun/ climatescience deniers. They know what is best for the greater good, they understand the science and they are aware of the facts. But, weighing things up, they realise that personally their own position will be happier if the status quo is maintained. That is clearly not an acceptable explanation for others, so they need to invent another excuse. The more obvious the truth, the more ridiculous the explanation for ignoring it needs to become.
    That said, some of those people do start believing their own bullshit after a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Richmond, that is a good point. They just don’t care enough to be bothered to contemplate a change. Many resist change crying “If it ain’t broke….”

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      1. But it is broke. And the fact is that changes will make their lives worse in the short term. Carbon taxing or the like WILL put the price of power up, for example. And it will push the value of certain mining shares way down. You need your shares providing for private schools and BMWs, and you’d prefer cheap fuel for the 50ft motor yacht. . What they fail to acknowledge is that the price of power is already up – but you can’t measure the cost in dollars. That eventually it will cost us the whole planet.
        Not restricting the availability of deadly weapons WILL cost the lives of innocent children. But restricting them WILL cost votes. It’s just a question of choice.
        We all know what the right choice is, and the right choice, for some, is not the most attractive one. If you can make it look as unattractive to others as well there is far less chance of it being taken
        The people making stupid leadership choices are not stupid people, but they like to get stupid people on their side. It’s important to remember that.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well summarised. Especially your point about the leaders not being stupid, but that they like and seek out stupid people to support them. Stupid people I assume would be far easier to control.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Actually, I think many leaders are stupid. Trump falls squarely into that category. Boris too I’d say. What I find frightening is smart, nasty people supporting stupid but charismatic candidates. Then you get leaders who really don’t know what’s going on but rely on shadowy unelected advisors to tell them what to say!

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            1. It is a wriggly can of worms. You are correct that those two leaders you mentioned are in many ways, stupid. Charismatic? I don’t find them charismatic but I can see that others might? Charisma is also one factor that historians list that led to the public adoration of Hitler and other dictators, wasn’t it? It can be like casting a spell over voters.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Amanda, well said and thanks for the reference to my post. I love that you used an example with a bad habit like smoking. It resonates beyond politics. In America, the solution has to follow what happened in Australia last week and what happened in the 2018 midterms. Women voters said enough is enough. These zero-sum games of tribal politics make people cling to their beliefs because their tribal leaders say it. While I see overt lying to garner votes, they tend to believe stuff that should not be believed. Thanks, Keith

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    1. Keith, no worries. It was important to point to salient info. Politicians will always lie. Believing wild claims that beggar belief is another level up in spin and “bs.” Will people always believe the lies? I suppose it depends on how invested they are in the potential benefits those lies purportedly bring.
      Pity their ignorance.

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      1. Amanda, thanks. I would add while all politicians lie, some have it to a consistent art form. The former US president has consistently had a problem with the truth his entire life, eg. It was not a new phenomenon when he got elected or ran for office. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Amanda, that is part of his lying. While successful, he is not as successful as he portrays. After six bankruptcies on various projects and many other failed businesses he has less money than he portrays. I learned that in the history of the Forbes 400 wealthiest people, most people do not want to be on the list. There have been only two people over time who have politicked to be included – one of those people is Donald J. Trump.

            One more item which should have gotten more news time is how he got his money. Trump has said he got started with a million dollar loan from his father. That is not true. Per a New York Times report, Trump’s father transferred over $400 million to his son through various means tax free before he died. Just investing that money, he would have more than what he has now through his management of it. Perception is more important than reality – which is why he used to do press conferences in front of his plane. Keith

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            1. 400 million? Goodness me! Ridiculous. He could have done so much good in the world with that kind of money. Instead, he is a bankrupt disruptor and a wrecker. I wonder what his father would think of his doings?
              The plane set up sounds like our former PM. It was all about the presentation, not the substance.

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  5. Anger and fear are addictive, they cause an adrenaline surge. That’s a piece of this. There are dark forces controlling the Good Old Pervert party. There’s also a peer pressure for the less bat-shit crazy members to not say anything. They have a bunch of people hooked. More GOP people died of COVID-19 because they wouldn’t get vaccinated. One pod caster, accurately described it as the party of death.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Haha – yes I see the irony. To return to your point about the GOP having dark forces, I wonder firstly why they can’t see the historic parrellels of allowing dark and wild forces to proliferate unabated in the party machinery and whether it is too late to stop that slippery slide. It may just be their own undoing.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. They are currently controlled by a few extremely rich people, the most known of whom are the Koch family (massive amount of oil money with major financial links to the Kremlin and known to have been sympathetic to the Nazis) who have been working on eliminating safeguards and safety nets for the less well endowed over the past few decades. They manipulate rural, often poorly educated people through Fox media and the Sinclair broadcasting network to keep them angry and afraid. There are several cases where violence has been perpetrated by their minions. The January 6th insurrection is one but many shootings have been carried out by people who bought the propaganda, most recently the shooting in the supermarket in Buffalo New York. I hope it is their undoing but they have proven to be very adept at “the narrative” and they control six of nine members of the supreme court.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I have never heard of family Koch. They sound evil and it is disturbing that the majority of your Supreme court is in bed with them. Completely shocking and dangerous.

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  6. An interesting parallel. I think your commenter Richmond above has hit the nail on the head. People often behave in a way that suits them (makes their lives easier or pleasanter or both) but if that goes against the accepted norms or the beliefs of others they will create ‘reasons’ to justify their behaviour rather than simply say ‘I want to have a gun so I don’t want the laws changed’ which is the actual truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked the way Richmond summarised why it is so hard to change an opinion.
      “The more obvious the truth, the more ridiculous the explanation for ignoring it needs to become. That said, some of those people do start believing their own b..s.. after a while.” I think this is no more obvious than with Trump, the gun lobby et al. They are blind to any kind of questioning thoughts or realistic critical thinking. Why? And why so many?
      Are they so terribly insecure? Do they feel someone trying to exert control over or subdue them? If they don’t feel confident, having guns can make them feel stronger.
      As Xingfu alluded, the adrenaline rush can be addictive and in that heightened state, they do not think. The rush gives them a false sense of power and that sense of control that they seek. I have to believe that they inherently seek to make things right and wish to stop injustice, (as they see it), but they try to do it in the fastest and easiest and the most flawed and dangerous way. In verbal conflicts, perpetrators seek control by yelling because they feel weak, trapped, powerless or that no one is listening. Continuing to yell doesn’t help. In the same way, having more guns makes weak people feel stronger. This mentality only leads to more tragedy.
      To refer to Richmond’s comment, we have to make the better choice, (ie. gun restrictions), more attractive to them. How to do that? Could they buy back guns at ridiculously inflated prices? Impose taxes on gun owners? It probably would not succeed politically and without restrictions, more guns will be bought and used. Some states have recently lifted restrictions not increased them.
      I can only see awareness and education campaigns starting with young children, as the only thing that could begin to move opinion on such a large scale across all groups and that will still take decades to turn around. In the meantime, more will die.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Cognitive dissonance. Yep, I see conservative God-fearing people like that all the time here. And the problem is that they can’t stand the feeling of confusion created when they don’t follow the example set by Jesus, so they take the easy way out and shift into denial about what they’re doing. Just ignore it and the problem will go away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many of these God-fearing people (plenty of those where I live) actively disregard the example set by Jesus. They don’t help the poor, turn the other cheek, or be kind to strangers. They drive me nuts with their selfishness. (Nuts being an understatement of how they make me feel ;-)).

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It does seem contradictory that God-fearing people could be so hard-core about lethal weapons. Ignoring the problem is a way of resolving that conflict. Ostrich syndrome, it seems?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very interesting. I think smoking I one of the most ultimate selfish things one can do. One of my best friends died of second hand smoke a few years back. She had never smoked, not one cigarette, but her husband did.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hadn’t previously thought of smoking as being a totally selfish act, yet you are right. When my husband smoked, he smoked outside the house so that me and the kids did not suffer from the second hand smoke.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s an interesting way to look at this very serious issue. It’s hard to imagine how anyone with an ounce of empathy could sleep at night after taking money from the gun lobby. I think some just don’t care, putting their reelection above lives, and some make enough excuses to assuage any guilt they feel. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t care how they get through the day. They have blood on their hands and I want them out of office.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Any ethical individual would think as you do. How on earth do they manage to reconcile that dissonance? By feeling beholden to those interests, thinking there is no other donors who might be ethical. Is there public listings of donors to elected parties or representatives?

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  10. You pose excellent questions, and, yes, I see that cognitive dissonance in how the Republicans are framing gun control vs other issues such as abortion. To me, it all comes down to money and power. Those in power want to keep that power and the lifestyle that comes with it. Unfortunately, there are just enough individuals who are willing to buy their lies by voting for them. And, also unfortunately, the American people do seem to have a mean streak: racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc. While Barack Obama was president, I tried to ignore the signs of racial hatred bubbling up from the masses. Once Trump started being successful with his campaign, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It breaks my heart that my country can be so cruel to others as well as its own people. We can be better than this.

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    1. It is so ironic that the country that espouses freedom is now so divisive. Of course, there are still many good Americans. I assume that it is the hard-liners – those who are determined to get to positions of power who are leading the pack. Ironically, they appear terribly insecure and lack emotional intelligence. It would be heartbreaking, Marie and I have tried to think (from a position far away in Australia) how it could possibly be resolved and how to prevent it happening. That is hard, but American citizens have to try. Try and deal with mental health issues and try to campaign for gun restrictions. Don’t give up! America can be better than this!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Both smoking and guns were handled admirably in Australia. The buy-back of guns was hugely successful and deaths by guns dropped accordingly. You are a brave person to smoke in public and all tobacco products are forbidden to be advertised and only sold from locked cupboards clearly used to stigmatize the smoker.
    Of course the US is all about freedom which seems to include the freedom to shoot each other if you feel a bit off colour.

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  12. Here’s the thing in the debate. You might be referring to people who smoked when it was “good” for you. Then there is the crowd who use “reasons” as an excuse for their actions which is kind of sad. I fall into the later category because I started smoking in the Army as it was “good” for you, and encouraged. The next few decades proved that theory wrong as I can verify that smoking is not healthy given the state of my lungs from chemical scars from firefighting, and smoking, as the links were never looked at, even in recent times. There is a desire to not link the dots in some cases … ask my doctor who dislikes my rational. All this means for me is that I have a constant struggle with breathing and living a hugely reduced lifestyle which sucks as I benefit from 20/20 hindsight into what I should not have done in my youth despite the authorities telling me it was all fine, and in some instances, for the greater good. If you think this is just pandering then try struggling to breathe doing something trivial like washing yourself and having to “recover” from THAT activity. That might be a warning for those who live in the present with no idea of the past or potential future which is why I tell my son to never drink, smoke, take drugs, or indulge in dangerous activities like serving your country or bungee jumping. None of which have a good outcome over time for your health. At least the government pays me a veterans pension which is a small comfort in some regards but has nothing to do with my lungs and more to do with my back and legs. BTW my 16 year old son has the “benefit” of seeing his dad fade away day by day as my health degrades and I struggle with such things that most take for granted.

    The link to the GOP and gun control is nothing more than a backlash at recent events. America has problems that are historical and currently the fire is fuelled by those who have a different agenda. Sure there are problems but controlling firearms is the tip of the iceberg. Gutfeld summed it up well in that guns simply make these events more efficient for the killer. The core of the problem is never looked at and instead excuses are made on both sides, as are solutions.

    Australia is no shining example as illegal guns are the main thing in shootings which is on the rise currently here. Therefore gun control does not work as well as some would imagine it to. Despite any rehtoric this will never change, as arming yourself against a real or imagined threat is a part of the human condition throughout all human history. The one constant in history is what compelled people to do what they did given the social influences of the era. If you don’t belive me then consider what you would do when confronted by reality in and “us or them” situation if you were able to defend yourself. Poorly explained but the link between humanity and reality is there. This doesn’t excuse those who are mentally damaged and run amok, which is also historical when you look at it. History is full of lunatics who did terrible things and yet we embrace some of this history in some regards.

    The question is why is this such a commonplace event in America in modern times?

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    1. Your last question is what I am trying to understand. Why any sentient being would knowingly not wish to control the availability of assault rifles and such like.
      And yes I linked recent events with this discussion of attitudes and cognitive dissonance. If we are to change gun rules, we have to seek to understand the motives of the opposing views and what makes them tick.
      I am so sorry to hear that you suffer respiratory distress on a daily basis and that impairs you living a full life, and more distressing is the fact that this resulted from your service to your country. I was witness to a vicious dog attack today, and the canine victim had to be pts and was the only individual being physically injured. If that happened in America, where carrying a concealed weapon is now permitted in some areas, I wonder what the outcome would have been?

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  13. I see an example in the reaction in the U.K. to police incompetence and brutality at a recent championship football match held in France and involving a Spanish team – Real Madrid – and an English one – Liverpool Football Club.
    Watching the videos, it is clear that the latter’s fans were obliged to follow a complicated route to the stadium, and were then held at the turnstyles for hours. In the meantime, local youths without tickets were climbing in unopposed by the police who then began to use pepper sprays and tear gas on those queuing…including women and children. On their return from the stadium fans were set upon, beaten and robbed by local gangs…no police presence or intervention.
    English football fans have a certain reputation…and Liverpool in particular, after their fans were smeared by police as drunken hooligans who were responsible for the deaths of 97 people at the Hillsborough stadium in 1987. Only in 2012 did the courts quash initial verdicts of accidental death leading to a proper investigation of police incompetence and coverup. The smears remain, however, with people who were fed the police line for years.
    Further, the event happened in France. After Brexit, there is a considerable portion of the population which resents the result and refuses to hear any criticism of France.
    Given those two factors the reaction is to believe what the French minister of justice says…that the fans were unruly….rather than watch the videos and believe their own eyes.

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    1. When people throw mud, some of it sticks, Helen. It must be difficult for Liverpool to shrug off that hooligan reputation. Even for someone that doesn’t follow soccer, I have heard of the hooligans from Liverpool. This report does seem to be an example of this. Not even video evidence can convince people that they did not incite trouble. The local gangs seem to have a problem with forgiving and forgetting too. Hatred and divisiveness arising from a political decision seems to be perpetuated throughout society, even though Brexit should have nothing to do with sport. Sport is a game – not a way of life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I lived in France for more than twenty years…the Seine Saint Denis department where the Stade de France is situated has long been a no go area for the regular police…they would like to keep order, but the maires depend on the gangs to be voted back into power.
        Sport should be divorced from politics…but I remember the effect a sports boycott had on the South Africa of the apartheid era…

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