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Cognitive dissonance, for good or ill

I recently ran across this book chapter (thanks, Patti D!), and it has lots of good info for those who design adult education:

    Information is surprises. We all expect the world to work out in certain ways, but when it does, we're bored. What makes something worth knowing is organized around the concept of expectation failure. Scripts are interesting not when they work but when they fail. When the waiter doesn't come over with the food, you have to figure out why; when the food is bad or the food is extraordinarily good, you want to figure out why. You learn something when things don't turn out the way you expected.

I think this concept, which just feels right to me, is really under-used, at least in the adult ed I’ve participated in. The best "teachable moments" happen when we get surprised in some way. Then, we have to make connections to what we already know to see what went off the tracks, and why. And it creates a need to figure it all out. Beautiful.

Except when it's used for a less-than-good purpose. In her editorial for the March/April issue of Medical Meetings, Tamar Hosansky points out an example of cognitive dissonance being used nefariously by a continuing medical education provider to make docs unhappy with current treatments, so when the sponsor's drug comes up, it's the best thing since sliced bread. That's just nasty.

Planners, use your powers for good, not evil!

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