A Tale of Grapes, Politics, Cults, and Aliens: Why People Cling to False Beliefs

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Top Tier Gear USA

fox and grapes

The Fox and the Grapes fable by Aesop (circa 620-564 BC) illustrates a powerful example of the theory of cognitive dissonance. The Fox desires a bunch of grapes hanging high from its vine in a tree. After numerous attempts to get the grapes he “decides” that he doesn’t want the grapes. They are probably sour. The Fox rationalizes his failure.

Cognitive dissonance refers to the mental stress or discomfort experienced when we hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, perform an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or are confronted by new information that conflicts with our existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

Notice the pattern in the tale of the Fox: he desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces his cognitive dissonance (conflict) by criticizing it.

He can’t have the grapes, so he tells himself he didn’t really want them anyway.


It is human nature to dislike being wrong. When we make a mistake, it is hard to admit it.

We resort to mental gymnastics to avoid accepting that our logic – or our belief system itself – is flawed. Lying, denying, and rationalizing are among the tactics we employ to dance around the truth and avoid the discomfort that contradiction creates. We avoid or toss aside information that isn’t consistent with our current beliefs. Emotions trump logic and evidence. Once our minds are made up, it is very difficult to change them.

This is cognitive dissonance.

The theory explains why people make irrational choices, cling to ridiculous beliefs, and stand by political candidates – even when that candidate is clearly lying or contradicting themselves.

If you think you are immune to cognitive dissonance, you are mistaken.

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