3-14. Separated by self-justification.
Illustration from Intertwingled by Peter Morville.
Excerpt available via UXmatters.
In Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), we’re reminded such honest admissions are refreshing because they’re so rare. The main problem isn’t that we aim to deceive others; it’s that we fool ourselves. The engine of self-justification is cognitive dissonance, the state of tension that occurs when we hold ideas or beliefs that are psychologically inconsistent. If a “good person” does a “bad thing” self-deception kicks in. And, if we're on opposite sides of a decision, time will tear us apart.
Imagine two students with similar attitudes and abilities who struggle with the temptation to cheat on a test. One yields and the other resists. How do they feel about cheating a week later? The first tells herself it’s no big deal, whereas the second decides it’s totally immoral. In time the two slide further apart, until the cheater and do-gooder can’t stand each other. They began together but were polarized by the pyramid of choice.