05/15 2016

Median Incomes Still Lower In Spite of Our Cognitive Dissonance

“Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up”

Median Incomes have been rising over the last few years, but are still not as high under the present administration as they were under Bush.  We tend to see employment numbers, jobs creation statistics, and even the stock market touted as accomplishments, if not directly from the podium than on social media, and other media outlets.

How can literally hundreds of millions of people be wrong, and a few bloggers and writers be right?

Median Income Chart

The chart above shows that in 2003 and 2004 median income dropped to about $29,000 per year.  Taking out the spike in income in 2006 and 2007, then the numbers are still low and have not returned to those lows.

Cognitive Dissonance is a unique mental state very closely paralleling diseases of denial, like alcoholism, or addiction.  The human mind will not accept reality at best, and at worst, dissonance will not allow the mind even a modicum of logic or facts.  Powerful bursts of cognitive dissonance can go on for years, and also be a collective systemic condition.  Thus we have seen entire demographic groups who experience a disconnect, or view the world one way, when in fact reality is shouting loudly at them “I am here! Can’t you see?” * (see footnote below)

There is a long tradition of media inspired dissonance in the United States, we may even say the country was founded upon dissonance.  The phrase: “We the People” for instance, is not actually in the U.S. Constitution, it is in the Preamble.  The concept of a republic or democracy are ideals which masked the overall goal of creating a centralized government.  It took much cognitive resonance on the part of the Founders to create the Constitution, and much dissonance on the part of the average citizen to accept the document.

It is little wonder then that when we hear something repeated over and over that we begin to accept what we hear as the truth, when the opposite is the reality.  Truth becomes what we believe to be the truth, rather than the actual facts, which play no part in our thought processes at all!

Applying emotional triggers to demographics which are already in an emotional state is a momentum play.  Once the group or groups of persons have been activated to an emotional state they tend to stay there.  Neurophysics catalogues the emotional state of our minds at any given moment in a sort of oversimplification process.   For instance, the “need to get out” can be compared to “trapped” or “escape”.

It is virtually impossible to reverse an emotional state with the application of logic.  Another example is resentment.  We can all relate to that family member who, even after decades still holds a grudge against another.  Some will take that emotional state to their graves, never having forgiven the other party.   Thus the one word: resentment is the emotional state which precludes the forgiveness of another for a wrong or perceived wrong, a complex emotional state which we can put into one word.

If we cannot reverse emotionally driven cognitive dissonance, then why bother with logic?  Great question.   Ironic then, is the pattern of supporting a false claim with statistics and numbers!  For instance, Conservatives deny global warming exists in spite of numerous studies each year to the contrary.  Progressives want to believe that the economy is much improved, and unemployment is going down, in spite of studies to the contrary.     Both of these emotional states are irrational, ridiculous, immature and beyond the scope of reason or rationalizing them.

As an aside, (and likely a discussion for another article) where is the line drawn between propaganda and delusion?  One example of this was the White House blog that touted the unbelievably round number of jobs which would be created by raising the minimum wage.  According to the White House: “25 Million Jobs would be created by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour”.    The line is ever so blurred.  If we take the definition:  “official unchallenged dogma is propaganda” juxtaposed beside: “idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument” then the above White House blog post might be said to borrow from both delusion and state sponsored media.   The same could be said to occur on the right side of the aisle.  In spite of the fact that there could be no possible or rational explanation for raising the debt limit two trillion dollars, Congress did exactly that ~ rather than cut expenses, which it is empowered to do.   How can Congress claim to be fiscally responsible as it attempts to borrow it’s way out of debt?  Certainly the line is blurred between delusion, official announcements, reality and mental health.

When entire demographics are involved in cognitive dissonance, what are we to do?  It helps to understand the symptoms, the patterns, and to be an observer.  Taking a clinical measured neutral stance also improves our ability to get at the truth.  Understanding that media is laced with crafted narratives and false narratives, and that neutral journalism is a myth also helps us to see the world for what it is.   We cannot watch any network without first acknowledging that they have an agenda.  If we are not willing to admit that the faux news networks are tainted, then we are in a state of dissonance.

Applying the principles of emotional triggers in our marketing is a shrewd use of cognitive processes.  We can use humor, fear, greed, scarcity, and deadlines to compel measurable human daily results.   eBay and Amazon with little or no social pushback apply deadlines and scarcity to make sales.  Civilization clearly knows there is no lack of used items for sale, and we’ll never run out of electronics to buy, and yet we allow the use of scarcity and deadlines to influence our buying decisions.  Advertising and Marketing are laced with emotional triggers, many of them working off the underlying neuro programming of dissonance and resonance.

Politics has always been laced with highly charged emotional triggers.  The so called “Boston Massacre” was as much the colonists’ fault as the soldiers who fired on them.  The “Massacre” was clearly a masterstroke of propaganda that was used to incite an insurrection.  Modern day politicians would rather cut to the chase and get to the emotional meat.  Calling each other sexists, racists, enablers, haters, stupid, low info, creepy,  and every other manner of insults immediately puts their supporters into and keeps them in an emotional state.  Lost is any semblance of rational thought.   To hear a speech is to listen to barb laced adjectives and hyperbole.  This is dramatically amplified by social media, and the fast pace that emotions travel.

Maybe we can reduce the entire human experience of all peoples who’ve ever been born, or are alive today,  to a simple addage?   Wouldn’t that be the easiest thing to do:  Reduce Humanity to a quip?  Regardless of how you feel about cliche’s many of them have done exactly that, they’ve reduced the complex neurophysics of human behavior to one liners.

As we reflect on the reality of median incomes, cognitive dissonance, and collective disconnect,  boil it all down to:

“Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up”



Lonny Dunn owns Social N Worldwide, Inc, a nationwide media brand, and is Operations Director at Kellen Capital, Inc.  His Twitter is @PronetworkBuild  He specializes in funding large projects of $100Million to $5Billion, and has been a writer for twenty years.  You can reach out to him and complain about any part of the above article that you feel emotional about.  Call at 703-675-0593

*Leon Festinger (1957) proposed cognitive dissonance theory, which states that a powerful motive to maintain cognitive consistency can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behavior. http://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html In Short, when impressions about the world clash, we are uncomfortable.  Since we avoid uncomfortable realities, we adapt and are motivated to reduce or eliminate them, and achieve consonance. 

Another way of putting it bluntly is that we become dysfunctional, or rely upon flawed behavioral patterns which make us even more unhappy when we cannot accept realities.  Dysfunctionality at it’s core is defined as “blame, or the inability to accept responsibility for our own actions and flaws”  and of course an entire range of negative personality traits follow upon this base.  Can all cognitive dissonance then be the reason for so much dysfunctional behavioral patterns that society is undergoing?  Dysfunctional behavioral disorders can be overcome by admitting that they exist.  Unless we accept that half the world is dysfunctional, and the other half is in denial, we will not free ourselves from the cycle.  There are no sound solutions short of acceptance, vocalizing the fact that dysfunctionality exists in our families, in our government, and in society as a whole ~ not to mention our personal lives.  The more the word is used, the less power it holds over us.