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Morning Must-Read: Barry Ritholtz: Cognitive Dissonance

Barry Ritholtz: Cognitive Dissonance: "Of all of the failings of human wetware...

...the one I find most intriguing is cognitive dissonance... [which] occurs in the mind of an individual when a theoretical belief system is confronted by factual evidence demonstrating outcomes contrary to what theories dictate should occur. Stated more plainly, when facts conflict with beliefs people find ways to ignore those facts, rationalizing them in a way that allows the disproven ideas to survive. John Kenneth Galbraith famously referenced cognitive dissonance before it was even called that, stating: 'Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof'....

Examples are many and varied.... Radical deregulation resulting in bad outcomes rather than the free market nirvana its believers espoused; Austrian economists warning of imminent hyperinflation and the collapse of the fiat dollar that never arrives. Rather than question the theory, the person suffering from cognitive dissonance ignores the facts in front of their very eyes and instead devises rationales for why any specific expected outcome never occurred. The blame is laid elsewhere.... It wasn't the wildly irresponsible behavior of non-bank lenders and junk mortgages securitized and rated AAA that caused the problems. Rather, it had to be something else, and if we can find a government entity to blame, so much the better.... There is a fine line between having confidence in your methodologies and living in your own private fantasy world. Like it or not, this is the human condition. Recognizing it at least gives us a chance to avoid getting caught in its pernicious grasp...

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