More on cognitive dissonance and abortion. Pregancy from rape is ‘something God intended to happen’ !

29 Oct

A few weeks ago I wrote about an American politician Todd Akin, and suggested that the somewhat bizarre views about rape and abortion that he had expressed might have been a product of cognitive dissonance. I’ve now come across a second example of what seems to be the same phenomena.

Richard Mourdock is a Republican candidate for an Indiana Senate seat who holds very firm views on abortion believing that there are no circumstances in which it should be allowed. However,  the interesting stuff began when Mr Mourdock was questioned about his views on rape. As any right thinking person would be said that he ‘abhorred rape, as did God’. When the discussion moved to his views about pregnancy as a result of rape you see the dramatic ‘problems’ caused by cognitive dissonance. Mr Mourdock was confronted with on one-hand his ‘abhorrence’ of rape (and presumable the view that it wasn’t part of God’s plan) and on the other hand his opposition to abortion under any circumstances. It seems to me that cognitive dissonance can be the only rational explanation for Mr Mourdock’s subsequent statement that pregnancy as a result of rape was ‘something that God intended to happen’.

Both Akin and Mourdock’s statements over the last few weeks seem to me to be great illustrations of quite how powerful an influence on the mind cognitive dissonance is. It’s all to easy for European liberals to dismiss such statements as being slight ‘mad’, but I think that seeking rational explanations for them is much more interesting.

Equally, this seem like another useful example to get students to think about differences between American and Western European culture. All to often students are prepared to uncritically accept evidence from the USA when these examples seem to illustrate another gaping cultural difference. It’s difficult to imagine a ‘mainstream’ British politician of any party making statements similar to those of Akin and Mourdock without seeing a rapid end to their political career.

3 Responses to “More on cognitive dissonance and abortion. Pregancy from rape is ‘something God intended to happen’ !”


  1. More on US Gun Laws (and my own biases exposed !!) « Teaching Rational Thinking - January 14, 2013

    […] seems like I need to work a lot more on a lecture on cultural differences. With this stuff and the debate around abortion that appeared during the US Elections last year there is a lot of material. Psychology’s own literature has quite a lot to say about cultural […]

  2. Reflections on teaching the ‘Psychology of conspiracy theories’ | Teaching Rational Thinking - March 8, 2013

    […] I’ve previously written about US Republican politicians getting themselves in all sorts of tro… as being a great example of cognitive dissonance at work. I had the chance in this lecture to show students the examples I’d collected. Both videos seemed to work well to illustrate what a very powerful effect cognitive dissonance can be. […]

  3. Reflecting on religion and psychology | Teaching Rational Thinking - November 24, 2013

    […] core beliefs. The best I could come up with at the time was ‘cognitive dissonance’. In the same way that some American politicians have made seemingly bizarre statements about abortion I wondered if what might be driving ‘anti-evolution’ was a need to reconcile the […]

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