Cartesian Logic & Cognitive Dissonance

by Zaheera Essop

Hi Guys,

I would really like your assistance when it comes to the above mentioned topics. I was hoping some one could give a more simpler explanation and how you would use this in the coaching practice.

Thanks a lot


Comments for Cartesian Logic & Cognitive Dissonance

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Apr 01, 2008
Zaheera's question
by: Sharon Frith

Hi Guys

Any further words of wisdom for Zaheera?


Mar 31, 2008
CL and CD
by: Bill Burridge

Hi there Zaheera,
I thought I would kick off a response to your posting as I have noted from self-test returns that the issues of Cartesian Logic and - to a greater degree Cognitive Dissonance - are frequently misunderstood by trainees.

Cartesian Logic... attributable to French philosopher, Rene Descartes. who died way back in 1650. It can be regarded as a means to arrive at the best solution by considering all possible outcomes associated with a line of action (X). So by asking the questions: "What would happen if you did X", "What would happen if you didn't do X?", "What wouldn't happen if you did X", "What wouldn't happen if you didn't do X?" you cover all the possible scenarios associated with the line of action being contemplated and thus encouraging the correct action.

Very often, in coaching, you will find that your client will resist taking a much needed course of action, either because of a misguided belief in their inability to succeed or because of a fear of the consequences of taking the action. The example in the manual is about losing weight.

Using the Cartesian Logic inspired form of questioning you can effectively shake the foundation of a belief that is not serving your client or you can help them examine the consequences of taking (and not taking) the needed action. This approach broadens their horizons and loosens their frame of reference around a perceived problem.

Cognitive Dissonance...
...If you do a Google search you’ll find a number of definitions of CD, all of which are subtly different. Here’s one I like: “Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas.â€

One often experiences strong dissonance when one believes something about oneself and then behaves in a way that is contrary to that belief. For example, if I believe I am good but do something bad, then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator which will often lead people to change one or other of the conflicting attitude/belief or behaviour. The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. To release the tension one can either:
- Change the behavior to align with one's belief(s).
- Justify the behavior by changing the conflicting belief.
- Justify the behavior by adding new beliefs.

A coach can use Cognitive Dissonance to effectively help their client change a behaviour or attitude (belief) that doesn't serve them.

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