If a general counsel thinks that early case assessment is hogwash, but his counterpart at his company’s biggest competitor praises it and offers proof, guess what the skeptic feels and does? People feel uncomfortable when their beliefs face a challenge, and they typically react by trying to ease the discomfort. The situation is one that psychologists term “cognitive dissonance.”
According to a website of Ithaca college, dissonance increases as the degree of discrepancy between the held belief and the challenging belief increases. The harder it is to square your beliefs with the opposition to it, there more there is cognitive dissonance.
Second, dissonance increases as the number of challenging ideas increases. Bombarded by opposing views, the general counsel feels more cognitive dissonance. “Third, dissonance is inversely proportional to the number of consonant cognitions held by an individual. Fourth, the relative weights given to the consonant and dissonant cognitions may be adjusted by their importance in the mind of the individual.” In other words, the stronger the belief we hold, the less cognitive dissonance gnaws at us; finally, we can game our own minds by backsliding or jutting out our jaws.
Cognitive dissonance theory predicts that the general counsel who doubts the value of ECA will belittle the explanations of the other general counsel, shrug off the examples as inapplicable, and end up possibly even more convinced of his views. Cognitive dissonance hinders all of us — we remain stuck in our beliefs and unwilling to consider new views.