Saturday, April 16, 2005


I have a lot of time that I wouldn't exactly call free (as I am obliged to spend it in Iraq), but I would describe as "idle". So I have been reading a lot between X-box games. One of the books I am reading right now is about a social pyschology theory called cognitive dissonance. Basically, when you perceive that an action or statement challenges a belief or ideal that you hold your mind will try to reconcile them. This led to years of experimentation. One researcher named Elliot Aronson was trying to use this principle to encourage college students to use condoms when engaging in casual sex acts. He finally succeeded with a "hypocrisy" experiment. After polling college students he found that there was a prevailing attitude that condoms were a good way to prevent pregnancy and reduce the spread of certain diseases. But almost no one polled regularly used condoms themselves. He found that the best way to encourage use was to point out the conflicting thoughts and actions. The best responding group was made to produce videos encouraging the use of condoms. Later, they were asked to take a survey asking about their condom use in the last few months. 93% of college students began using condoms regularly after this. Their brains were processing information that made them appear hypocritical to themselves and they therefore adjusted their personal behaviors to lessen this feeling. We could do the same thing to young people. Pick a noble, yet often ignored, cause. Make it a requirement during some part of senior English class to write a paper or make a presentation encouraging people to participate in this cause. Then run periodic questionnaires in Maxim and Cosmo. Start with the young and you could change the world. People would start using public transportation, start recycling, stop pissing on the floor in public restrooms, start bathing on a daily basis and using soap every time. The possibilities are endless.

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