Aggression begets self-justification

The part about anger and catharsis (in Mistakes Were Made) is in chapter 1, about cognitive dissonance. The need to think well of ourselves means we always have to justify our bad shit. The discussion of catharsis theory is a branch of this.

Venting is especially likely to backfire if a person commits an aggressive act against another person directly, which is exactly what cognitive dissonance theory would predict.

When you harm someone, then you have a powerful need to justify that. How do you do that? Convince yourself that the person you harmed is a terrible person who deserves to be harmed. [Read more...]

As fish are unaware of the water

I’m reading Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Long overdue. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

There’s a bit on the idea of anger and venting or catharsis that I recognize from Tavris’s book Anger, which has always spoken to me. That’s because I’ve sat through so many work meetings where people “got their issues out into the open” and everybody talked piously about how this would make things so much better, and I always noticed that it did no such thing, it made them worse. When people vent their anger they don’t then sigh and smoke a cigarette and feel all happy and relaxed. They get more angry.

More on that later. First there’s a part where they’re talking about what I think is the fundamental attribution error but they don’t call it that. My long involvement in issue X makes me an expert; your long involvement in issue X makes you prejudiced. (Aka irregular verbs – I’m committed, you’re prejudiced, she’s a zealot.) [Read more...]