Ben Franklin teaches us how to get along…sort of

05Oct11

Today I was introduced to an act of cognitive dissonance called the “Benjamin Franklin Effect“. Cognitive dissonance is when you hold conflicting ideas in your mind,  and to reconcile these conflicing beliefs, you change your attitudes or beliefs to make sense of the conflict in your mind.

The Benjamin Franklin Effect is but one example of cognitive dissonance. Briefly, this effect says that you are unlikely to do a favour for someone you dislike. Therefore, if you do do something nice for that person, it must mean that you actually like the person (or that’s how reconcile this strange act of kindness in your mind). As for why it’s named after 18th century polymath Benjamin Franklin…well, I suggest you read the article, as it does a fine job of telling that story, as well as relating to other aspects of everyday life.

The reason this article interested me is it provides a little “trick “for dealing with people who may not be very keen on you, which I think might come in handy for the teachers out there. By asking for a favour from those students who give you grief in class, this may change that student’s attitude toward you. Of course, this little trick alone is by no means a panacea for dealing with those students (and should certainly not be the first thing you try), it’s an interesting strategy to think about.

As an aside, the author of the blog from the article I linked to is releasing a book at the end of the month. Based on the articles from his blog (which focuses on the delusion and irrational thoughts we deal with every day) it looks like it’ll be fascinating. Here’s a trailer for the book, which summarizes a chapter from the book (and an article from his site) about procrastination.

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