Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A.O.C: Songs of Ourselves

Haley Scholar Reading Groups

By Danielle Hall

In Sheena Iyengar's The Art of Choosing, each section of chapter 3 expounds on notions of dissonance and the earlier concept of collective choices. The chapter title bears the name of Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself."

At one point, Iyengar discusses the parallels between Whitman's rhetoric of self contradiction as an organic and multi-layered concept. She suggests that ours is more complex when we are unable to or less likely to find balance or reconciliation within our multidimensional selves. Here, she states that many people enter into a state of "cognitive dissonance" when caught between conflicting forces, which are typically our beliefs and actions (97-98).

Even at the core of what we consider to be our own unique qualities and individualisms or what we understand about our path to self discovery are in fact interconnected by both internal and external relationships. Those relationships are related to what we believe about ourselves, the manifestation of our actions, and societal perceptions of who we are. These ideas, more or less, are malleable as we change and develop over time or on a daily basis, with whom and how we interact and navigate throughout various spaces or settings.

What are your responses to chapter 3, especially the idea of cognitive dissonance, the need to "create a consistent story about who we are," or "the evolution of choosing" as it relates to individual or collective decisions?


Joe Brown said...

The world changes, and we, as inhabitants of this world must change accordingly. Change can be unexpected, planned, self imposed, or imposed on us. But no matter how the world changes, it is our choice of how we will react. We can react in multiple ways. We can react according to our beliefs and morals, according to situational conditions and unconscious triggers, or even a mixture of these.

Having said that, when we are faced with a choice that tests our willpower, our determination to stick to our beliefs and morals, we do not always choose to follow those beliefs and morals. Once this choice is made we often must reconcile our actions and our beliefs, wheter this be through commiting to not repeat the action, by lying, or by incorporating it into our personal set of morals or beliefs. This is because of cognitive dissonance, through the idea that we like to make our perception of ourselves match our actions so much that we will lie, we will restrain ourselves, or that we will somehow change our perception of ourselves to make the contradiction go away.

I believe that if the world changes one must change with it, even if it is uncomfortable. But I also believe that one should stick to one's ideals as best they can as the world changes. To describe this more clearly, I will use the quote from Walt Whitman from the chapter, "Do I contradict myself, yes I contradict myself. I contain multitudes."

robertb said...

Interestingly I was just pondering this last night. I often find myself acting in accordance with both ends of certain spectrums. It makes it very difficult to try to define who we are, when we do this.
An example of this may be generosity versus competitive attitude. I like to define myself as a generous person, and I am conscious to comply with this desire to be that kind of person. However I often catch myself thinking very competitively, which is a selfish way of thinking, looking to advance my goals at the expense of others.
This contrast brings along the cognitive dissonance mentioned. It's upsetting to contradict your principles. I often find myself desperately seeking a justification for this hypocracy. Whenever this occurs I feel as though through this 20 or so years that I've been alive, I have failed to define myself. Perhaps though the reality is that one can't be defined so generally. We are instead defined by our reactions and decisions in very specific situations.. I'm not sure, but it's kind of an interesting thought.

Denita Campbell said...

This is a very interesting topic. The idea of cognitive dissonance is commonly seen in society. More than ever we live in a soceity where we are trying to embrace diversity and accepting everyone's differences, but in the midst we are complaining as a society about how the younger generations don't value the same things as before or have the same morals. I think the great benefit is to take a little from both change with society while maintaining your moals or values. I dont't really believe in conforming in order to impress the trends, but in order to better yourself.This deals with having a sense of self-control. One needs to be able to be their real selves. And they won't be lost in a society that is foerver changing. Finding yourself is the real issue.

Maame A said...

Prior to reading the text of chapter 3, I encounter everything that Sheena Iyengar discussed, but never thought about it. When Iyengar talked about cognitive dissonance and reducing dissonance, many different scenes of my everyday life came to mind such as saying that a test was impossible if I did badly on it, or saying that I do not want something after being denied it. However, what really stood out to me in this part of the chapter was the statement that once we develop and identity, we try to avoid dissonance by choosing things that reinforce it (Iyengar 98). This is incredibly true because I know that I tend to attract people that act, dress, look, and even sometimes think like me and I tend to try and befriend people that I believe act, dress, look and think like me, which leads me to the next interesting topic of this reading, everyone desire to be unique. These ideas are contradicting in my opinion because you want to have people surrounding you that share the same interest and beliefs, but yet you dare to be different. This also coincides to the idea of the “copy-cat” that no one want to be. Nobody want to have the same phone as the next or eat the same meal as the next and I think it is because humans like to believe that they are special in some sort of way and they also like to believe that they are the originator of their thought and choices when in actuality we do not choose what we really want, but instead are influenced by our surroundings and society.

Hilary Conrad said...

I think that Iyengar addresses an issue that everyone deals with- asking the question "Who am I" In today's society, especially young teens, struggle with finding themselves and defining who they want to be. As no one likes to feel like the odd one out, we also want to feel if we are somewhat unique. Finding this balance is what we all search for in life. Having this flexibility is very important in life. Wearing a nose ring and being rebellious is OK in personal life, but in a professional work setting it is inappropriate. Everyone has these kinds of struggles between the balance of who we want to be, and what society wants us to be.

Jaimie Belen said...

The idea in this chapter is very true. Cognitive dissonance occurs a lot even when we don't notice it.

For example, I'm sure everyone knows that people fought for freedom in the generations before us. Woman think that we should be treated as equal to men. However, when it comes to something like paying for the first date, women back off. They think about the old days when men used to always pay for dinner. But these women feel so strongly as to be equal to men. This is my greatest "cognitive dissonance" that occurs with me.

LaToya Bond said...

Everyone experiences cognitive dissonance at a certain point in their life and after reading the examples this book offered I was able to identify times in my life when I experienced this phenomena. Changing our preferences and beliefs to better ourselves and adapt to situations is alright in my eyes. We should think of our life as a book and the idea that usually our favorite character is the dynamic character because they are always changing, for the good and bad, but changing and being inconsistent at times helps us find our way. Sometimes we need to step outside of our shell, change what we stand for, and act inconsistently with what we believe in to evenutally find our way to being a more consistent that way you'll be able to truly figure out your beliefs and what you stand for.

Robin C said...

This chapter in my opinion in some ways describes life at SIUE. People tend to conform to different social standards as far as how they should dress, speak, and whom they should interact with. They way we judge these things are from our internal and external relationships.

Sometimes we get caught in situations that our actions contradict our previous beliefs and morals. This shows that many people's individualism depends greatly on outside sources like their friends or what is popular at the moment. It is our job to choose to stay true to our beliefs regardless of what societal norms are at the time.

Shawn C. said...

At an early point in my life I accepted Jesus, and have lived a very spiritual life. However, in the past few years as I advance toward my degree in biology, I find my passion for science clashing with my religion causing cognitive dissonance. At first this caused me great dismay, because I tried to use my religion to disprove some of the more outlandish things in science. While trying to do this I found out that it was almost impossible to do, making my belief in my religion slowly dwindle. Then every so often I would witness an occurance in science that were unexplainable, a miracle if you will, which made me think that religion would trump science. You can see how I would become trapped in the middle between these two polar opposite opinions,causing me to have a hard time deciding which side could I follow and truly make a happy decision. I so truly want to believe in the idea that I have known for all of my life of Chirst being the creator, but the competeing ideas of science in which I believe in always contradict this belief. In the end I believe we all must learn that we have to follow our first intuition of what we know, but we also must learn to adapt these feelings to incorporate our polar opposite belief to reach a state of equilibrium.

Tia baptist said...

This is a great topic to speak on. I feel everyone trys to convince themselves that many people do have a influence on you they are. many like to think that if we do say that some has influence they way are today then it means were not stayin true to ourselves. As a society were taught that we get to the person we are today thru just different experiences. This is very much true but also people tend to forget that some of things people say about us, we make it apart of us. For example, many people think of me as quiet, sweet, innocent girl that doesnt do anthing wrong. Hearing this constantly as made me become that person people think i were. This is apart of me even though those things are not true always. It has made me who i am but it is not only who i am. I feel thats what chapter three was trying to explain.

Alexis C. said...

I found chapter three to be thought provoking as a whole, but the idea of cognitive dissonance has really got me thinking. Iyengar said, "When we experience a conflict between our beliefs and our actions, we can't rewind time and take back what we've already done, so we adjust our beliefs to bring them in line with our actions." I don't think this is necessarily true for everyone, but I can understand that for the majority, it is difficult to admit when they are contradicting themselves.
Iyengar goes on to suggest that contradicting oneself should not be so taboo because we are constantly gaining knowledge and information to reshape our views. I completely agree and I know that my views and the views of many of my close friends have definitely changed since high school, just like the women who studied at Bennington as Iyengar mentioned. The way I see the world changes everyday as I experience more and will continue to change with the knowledge I gain.
We are all altered in some way by our experiences. Maybe we shouldn't fault a president for also changing views then, like Iyengar's example of John Kerry and his "flip-floppery" in 2004. This section of chapter three reminded me that we are all only human and humans respond to the world around them by choosing - choosing their actions and changing their minds.

Anonymous said...

I feel as though the topic of finding ourselves is very complicated. Being a freshmen coming into a new school being away from your parents or family members that you grew up with have it the hardest. They are probably living up to the norm of society of how people portray them to act. I some times realize that every now and then the norm of society will come out of me, but I am quick to catch my self to realize that's not who I am.
-Dino Anagbogu

Aurelia D said...

Change is something that we all deal with. No matter how far we get in life we are faced with the reality of a changing world around us and in order for us to stay on in "the loop" of things we must change with the ever changing environment.

I think that this issue that was brought up in the chapter is one that everyone, no matter if they admit it or not, struggle with. We try to mature and change our lives as we get older, however we also try to "stay true" to ourselves and our community, whatever that may mean.

When it comes to me, I believe that it is hard to decide how much of change is "good change" and when I have changed so much that I am no longer myself. I feel that there have been many times that I contradict myself simply because at one point in life I may have felt a certain way but as time goes on I faced situations that I never thought that I would and as a result I had to make a decision that I may have perviously may not have agreed with but being placed in the situation brought about a very different result.