The psychological processes which prevent people from facing facts when the unthinkable has become obvious can be explained by the models of social psychology called cognitive dissonance theory.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress and discomfort caused when important beliefs, attitudes or values, called cognitions, are inconsistent, conflicting or contradictory to each other. In the 1950s the psychologist Leon Festinger theorized that the mind spontaneously, continuously reduces cognitive dissonance to enable goal-directed functioning in a paradoxical, inconsistent, deceptive world. Festinger’s discovery founded a rich tradition of research which has demonstrated how the mind resolves contradictions. It provides a powerful way to understand why people can’t face what President Obama is doing to America.

Research has demonstrated countless times that cognitions do not have to be true to create dissonance, they just have to be believed. Barack Obama was elected to reduce the dissonance between the beliefs ‘America is the land of the free’, and the falsehoods ‘America is still racist’ and ‘President Obama will go a long way to solving the problem of racism.’ Because ‘America is racist” is false, its corollaries are equally false. ‘We must elect a black Democrat — not black Republican — because Republicans don’t emphasize America is racist. Obama is fabulous, no need to know much about him, or whether he can lead the nation. He will make us feel better about ourselves’.

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