I read a fantastic article about the Benjamin Franklin Effect which left me pondering about how I came to like and dislike certain things.
For those of you who are unaware of the Benjamin Franklin Effect, it is a psychological finding: you grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate people you harm. Take a look at these two links for more understanding: Wikipedia, You Are Not So Smart.
Benjamin Franklin had an enemy at his next election and he wanted to turn his hater into a fan. Franklin loved reading and knew his enemy had a rare and curious book. He sent a letter requesting to borrow the book and the rival was so flattered that he did send the book to Franklin. Franklin returned the book as promised with a thank you note.
The next time that Franklin and his enemy met, the enemy spoke to Franklin for the first time and maintained a friendship thereafter. How did Franklin do this?
The Benjamin Franklin Effect is the result of your concept of self coming under attack. The enemy went through the cycle of cognitive dissonance. It’s where a person goes through a painful confusion about who they are, so resolves their feelings by seeing the world in a more satisfying way. To explain this a bit better I want you to understand what happened to brains in a study where people were shown statements which opposed their political stance. Their brains literally started to shut down. When their ideology was threatened their brain could not cope.
When you do something you cannot find a logical, moral or socially acceptable explanation for, you ask yourself “Why did I do that?” and if the answer conflicts with your ideology and damages your self-esteem a justification is required. This is where you see the world in a different way and try to find peace within yourself.
A great example of cognitive dissonance is unpaid internships. People who work for free are proven to work harder as there are no outside rewards (such as pay) therefore these people create internal ones to justify their worth.
In Benjamin Franklin enemy’s case, he made himself believe that he actually liked Franklin as he wouldn’t have lent a rare book to a guy he didn’t like.