ERIC Number: EJ871366
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 6
Cognitive Dissonance as a Strategy in Social Justice Teaching
Gorski, Paul C.
Multicultural Education, v17 n1 p54-57 Fall 2009
Some misunderstandings are remedied easily. But when new information collides with old prejudices--when new truths battle established beliefs for space in people's consciousnesses--they tend to respond with all manner of defense mechanisms. They employ these defenses in response to the psychological stressors that emerge from such inner-battles (Elliot & Devine, 1994). This is especially true when one's current beliefs place an individual in a privileged bubble, as the belief that "the United States was founded on Christian ideals and principles" does for White people, Christians, and White Christians in particular. It is in these moments, often described as "cognitive dissonance" (a term popularized in Leon Festinger's  study of a doomsday cult's stubborn belief persistence), when a learner finds her- or himself grappling with new information in light of old understandings. As a social justice educator, the author hopes to facilitate an environment in which students find themselves somewhere in the middle, in which they are willing to grapple with new ideas without accepting them blindly. In this article, the author discusses how to engage cognitive dissonance as a pedagogical tool in social justice learning and shares his experience in teaching about cognitive dissonance. An exercise in cognitive dissonance is presented.
Descriptors: Social Justice, Psychological Patterns, Defense Mechanisms, Multicultural Education, Teaching Methods, Tests
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
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