Why Does Dissonance Provoke Curiosity in Some But Rejection From Others?

It has been a while since posting anything in my Question Quest but this question has been developing over the past few days.

Whilst at ULearn there was lots of discussion about the ideas being presented in keynotes, workshops etc. but also about educational ideas that have been shared over the year.

The most interesting conversations for me were about when people disagreed with the ideas being presented. When these ideas caused dissonance in people’s minds there seemed to be 2 main reactions: curiosity to find out more OR outright rejection of either the idea and/or of the person presenting those ideas.

I wonder why there is such extreme reactions to when our minds encounter dissonance? Is this linked at all with Growth vs Fixed Mindsets?


5 thoughts on “Why Does Dissonance Provoke Curiosity in Some But Rejection From Others?

  1. I think you have nailed it – Mindset. Some people personalise challenges. New ideas and methodologies are taken as statements that a person is not teaching well enough. Curiosity leads to analysis and hopefully the application of ideas in what ever setting we find ourself with students.

    I did not necessarily agree with everything said at ULearn but there was something in every workshop and key note that got me thinking. I started teaching in 1980 and I will retire at 65 or when my sense of curiosity about how I can teach more effectively dies.

  2. I was actually reflecting about this too. I think there was a resounding “but I’m already doing that” and for some people that meant completely switching off and shutting out to any possibility of reflection. Yes, there were some things said that weren’t “new” but sometimes hearing things again let you reflect on your thoughts on that topic at that moment in time. Our practice shouldn’t be fixed so to do this our minds need to be open to see it from a different perspective. We also need to realise that we are all at different places in terms of our development as teachers. Some people are seeing these things for the first time and this in itself is really important.

  3. You need the dissonance to learn. Hatchuel & Weil’s CK Theory looks at the role of such provocation as a requirement of strong learning, as does de Bono in lateral thinking. But provocation is also a mainstay in the creative world to get people thinking (and buying!). Why do people reject it? Sometimes the provocation is just bloody annoying (think of THAT ad that has that effect). Sometimes the credibility of the source creates enough doubt to stop it feeling worthwhile exploring further. Sometimes, fatally, both come together.

  4. Hey! I love this post! Creating dissonance and experiencing it are my favourite things. I always celebrate as a facilitator when someone in the room reacts in an “angry” way to what I have said as I know that dissonance is occurring. Some facilitators see that reaction as negative. When I experience dissonance, I can react both ways – sometimes I am super curious and have loads of questions and other times I have the “angry” disagree reaction. I believe that the latter is caused when someone has introduced something that is a step too far from my current understanding so I can’t make links to my current/prior understandings in order to build new understandings. A good facilitator/speaker/teacher will back up the truck at that point and help me to build the bridge (ZPD ring a bell?). A poor facilitator/teacher will tell me to get over myself and move on – leaving me behind in my old space to find other ways to build and learn. Either way, I always recognise that I experienced dissonance and I then make it a priority to figure out why and to learn more.

  5. Kuhnian Paradigm Shifts, Popperian verisimilitude and the conservation of energy all require dissonant responses. Information, thinking and data storage work best when we rewrite memories, memes and sectors. Genes, Chromosomes, Organisms hate change, threats, invaders and react to destroy it as an immune response to increase survival chances for the cell, organ and person. Dissonant information can be as quick, sharp and deadly as ebola virus, CJD prions or bacterial plasmids. A billion plus years of evolution seeks stability, uniformity, homoeostasis – thoughts memes and others are dissonant information. In a Zero Sum world where memes contest – they live by through and in us – like genes and info they struggle to exist, perpetuate and dominate all. To disagree, deny and deride is the natural order of all info, organisms and philosophies. The degree to which people, places and things agree with you are the degree of similarity between them. Propinquity, Prosperity and Providence comes from being one with the Meme. Dissonance is the recognition of difference and should be the first step in a contest of memes, genes and bytes. The closeness of the meme. gene or info to the observed reality, environment or state is the degree to which happiness, endurance and wholeness is seen. Memes are the Melange for the new millennium , Tradiotional Teachers are meme pushers, Schools are meme machines, Students are meme seekers.

    But I live in memes, I love memes, I live for memes. Memes are Me. Me (to the power of 3) So I love dissonance, discussion debate, discord, diversity, divergence. To me its the making of new memes, the creation of new ideas, people, places, things, dreams, wishes, hopes, ambitions, philosophies, paradigms, personalities, I love with an abiding passion information for its the raw stuff of memes. To me its air and food and water. I live for ideas and input and information.

    So maybe its my genes, my upbringing, my memes that make me so dissonant (or maybe its just another meme)

    cheers and thanks for the questions, the thinking and the mental memetic workout


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