Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance Theory vs. Melanie Theory

Have you ever noticed the human mind is not consistent? I'm not talking about cognitive dissonance, although it could possibly apply in my case. I'm talking about the amount of thoughts the mind processes at once is inconsistent.

For instance, when someone says, "Okay, pay attention to this, it will be on the test," suddenly my mind is inundated with thought. Unfortunately they are rarely related to the topic at hand.

For instance, if the instructor says, "remember to always highlight before you instruct the computer to copy," my mind is thinking hundreds of thoughts. I won't name them all, but some of them are:

"highlight stuff"
"high and mighty"
"copy this down"
"what does that woman's sweatshirt say?"
"does that man know his hair is smooshed on the right side?"
"did I get gas this morning?"
"I have to remember to buy Tabasco sauce."
"how did that twenty something afford that brand new BMW?"
"what if he is the son of someone who invented something that sold really well and his parents are buying him the best?
"what if he never learns to rely on himself?"
"what if the invention is preempted by another invention in ten years and he has to rely on himself?"
"what is for dinner?"

All these thoughts take only seconds to bolt though the gray sieve. Most go no further.

And then, when it is time for the test, why are there no thoughts at all?

"Okay, what is the answer to the question "What must you first do before you copy on the computer?"
Tap tap tap.
"Okay, what is the answer?"
Tap tap tap.

Yesterday, at a Chevron station in Oregon, I had to wait for my gas to be pumped. You cannot pump your own petrol in Oregon; you must allow the employees to do so. While I waited, I noted all twelve spots filled with waiting people. One man got out and started filling his time by checking his tire pressure. Another stepped out and washed his windshield. Another got out and watched the one attendant scramble from one car to the next, grabbing the credit card, slipping the nozzle into the tank and flipping on the pump.

A woman pointed to the hose, "Um, I think it stopped."

"I'll be there in a moment," the attendant puffed.

And I waited.

The man ahead of me finished checking his tires. He eyed the hose, probably judging if he could get it into his tank and start the meter before the employee knew he'd done it.

Out of nowhere, another young man appeared, running up to my car at the same time the first employee jogged to the car in front of me. I handed out my credit card and asked him to fill it with regular. He grabbed the card and loped over to the pump, running the card through and shoving the nozzle into my tank. The first employee glanced up at him and glared, his hair wet with rain and sweat. "Where the heck have you been all this time?"

The young man trotted back to my driver's door and just as he held out my card to me, he yelled, "I had to go to the bathroom."

"Geeez, you sure took long enough."


Oh dear lord. A hundred thoughts crashed into each other as my fingers closed over the card.

The rest of the trip home I concentrated on not touching my face, my eyes, my mouth. I tried very hard to keep my hands on the same place on the steering wheel. I prayed I wouldn't sneeze. I swore I could feel swine flu symptoms start. I began mixing in symptoms of Legionnaires' disease and E. coli. Tsi tsi fly malaria even crossed through the jumble.

Maybe it would be best if I never read the news.

1 in three men do not wash their hands after using the toilet

I'm keeping disinfectant wipes in my car from now on.


  1. Now, see, my thoughts went in a different direction entirely when he answered, "Yeah." But I would also have been hesitant to touch anything.

  2. Hence the reason for self serve gas. Oregon and New Jersey the only two states that require and attendant to pump your gas.

  3. I'd think the constant gas fumes and gasoline drips on his hands would kill all the bugs quite effectively. Nothing to worry about... ;)

  4. Dale, I hesitate to ask in which directions your thoughts skittered.

    Ax, you aren't, by any chance, a lobbyist?

    Jenku, thanks so much. Perhaps if I hadn't just read that linked article the day before I wouldn't have stared at the credit card and considered telling him to "just keep it."
    Your thoughts are quite comforting. (grin)


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