Ran across this while doing some background research for that book I’m writing (which is going very well, thanks for asking). Yea, I know, too much blogging, not enough writing. I’ll get back to it. This whole cognitive/blognitive dissonance thing has been fun to explore. What is happening in the physical realm of the brain is a willful act of self-preservation. Neurons that should, by all rights of logic, fire in a certain direction and with a certain amount of emotional weight, are re-directed to the trash bin (no attached emotional response) and no new, dissonant, memories can be formed from new information.
To see this in action, read some of varied conversations with the “Obama is not really an American” crowd. They can, somehow, completely ignore evidence presented directly in front of their eyes, and replace it with evidence that exists only in their heads (rumors and allegations vs. actual documents and sworn statements by public servants).
I find the physiological (electrical and chemical) aspects of this phenomena and the degree to which the brain tries to protect itself, fascinating. This is why I try and have patience when dealing with sufferers of the condition.
A good example of this behaviour in a great movie is the conversation that Andy Dufresne has with the Warden in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Andy has solid proof, and a sworn statement, that someone else committed the crime he was convicted of. The Warden will hear none of it, throws Andy in “the hole” and kills the witness.
Andy (Stephen King) nails the exact word I have used to describe this before, when he asks the Warden, “Why are you being obtuse?”
Well, Andy, there’s your answer. The Warden was doing it to protect himself and his livelihood. That’s a powerful motivator for a lot of people, and when all they have to do is ignore evidence and can find many others to bolster their assumptions, there’s a great deal of emotional baggage that must be overcome before progress can be made.
Most can’t make the journey, and cower in fear of the truth. Telling themselves all along they are walking the righteous path, and ignoring every street sign that says otherwise.
UPDATE: For a good example of this, read this thread.