In 1959 the psychologist Leon Festinger published a research article that supported his theory of cognitive dissonance. Although the term is used in public speech in many different ways today, Festinger defined it in a specific way – the aversive feeling that you experience when your public behavior is at odds with your private beliefs.

In Festinger’s study, research participants were asked to lie to another person by saying that a boring task was really very interesting. After telling the lie, the research participants soon began to believe in the lie. Festinger claimed that this was the outcome of dissonance:  The participants felt badly about themselves (I just told a lie) and they convinced themselves that the lie wasn’t that big (the boring task really wasn’t all that boring).

Now we have Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in a similar position. His public behavior (“I support Don Trump”) is at odds with his personal beliefs that racism is immoral. If Festinger’s theory holds, Ryan is likely feeling some discomfort and will attempt to reduce it.  Soon, it can be predicted, he will convince himself that racism is in fact moral (as long as it stops Clinton from winning the presidency).

This is exactly how Adolf Hitler came into power – he got people to engage in behaviors that they did not believe were moral, and eventually they changed their attitudes so that the immoral behaviors were seen as appropriate.

Speaker Ryan, stop now before it is too late. Disavow Trump and his racism.

Cognitive Dissonance and Paul Ryan