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Rationalization Trap

 

Explanations > Theories > Rationalization Trap

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When we act to reduce dissonance it can end up as a whole set of justifications and rationalizations that lead to ridiculous or even immoral actions. Like Pinocchio's nose, one defense leads to another until we are all out of shape.

The trick is to avoid unthinking reaction, tolerating dissonance for long enough to be able to decide on a more appropriate action.

Example

When President Richard Nixon got caught up in the Watergate scandal, his arguments and denials led to his eventual demise. Bill Clinton also fell down the slippery slope but managed to survive only through some embarrassing and very public confessions.

So what?

Using it

When people are seeking justification they are usually desperate. Give them straws to clutch at that lead them in the right direction or give them rope with which they hang themselves. You can even tip them into the need for rationalization in the first place.

Defending

Do you really need to go down that spiral of justification? For whom? Did you get there through the trickery of someone else?

See also

Attribution Theory, Cognitive Dissonance

References

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