Cognitive dissonance is the firewall that exists in most minds when confronted with a challenge to their basic beliefs about the world. As it is human nature to avoid admitting being in error or having been duped, for most humans the ego zealously flees the admission to oneself of significant error. Challenges to our worldviews or paradigms of belief are also quite jarring – they can unsettle our comfortable existence and lead us to question everything we held dear, and might even lead to psychological or spiritual crises when the consideration of being fundamentally in error is on the table.
As a result, the ego erects a series of firewalls to protect its fragility in order to maintain the schemas, or archetypal systems of symbols, that have been erected in the mind since birth. These structures, even if manifestly in error, are still mysteriously propped up by the mind or ego because of the psyche’s desire for order and meaning – “everything in its place,” to quote Radiohead. However, for those who enter arenas where the goal is to challenge these structures of belief, such as religion, philosophy or even alternative information, being open to the possibility of change is required.
In my experience, the process of continual learning has been the only path that resulted in true growth in understanding, while those who over the years were angered or frustrated by my own experiments in various paradigms became a thorn in the side. In my mind, this is a powerful vindication of the Dunning-Kruger effect, where the illusion of cognitive bias functions to give close-minded individuals an air of superiority, paradoxically unable to grasp how much they don’t know precisely because they presume to know. In such cases we have a powerful presentation of the ego point made above, that the fear of error and the unknown provokes the firewall reaction to prop up the existing paradigm lest the psyche undergo any tough transformation.