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Post-decision dissonance. It is a condition in psychology in which people regret a decision or worry that the decision they took may not be the right one and continue to entertain or express doubts about the decision and to seek validation from people about the rightness of that decision even as the doubts persist.

Post-decision cognitive dissonance is a related condition in which people not only worry that they may have been wrong or that their decision is being challenged by unfolding events but also begin to act and say things things contrary to that worry in order to mask and compensate for the feeling that their decision may have been wrong.

A variant of post-decision cognitive dissonance entails not only acting contrary to the worry that you may have been wrong, in order to save face, but also, 1) lashing out at those who took the opposite decision so that they don’t tell you “we told you so,” and 2) irrationally defending the decision and its disappointing aftermath while inwardly praying that it is eventually vindicated, proved right.

It was my friend, Farooq Kperogi, who introduced this important concept in a recent conversation we had on the behavior of some Buhari supporters, who cannot bring themselves to even admit that the president is human, fallible, and capable of errors in judgment and errors of policy–supporters who irrationally defend the decisions and indecisions of the present administration even when they, the defenders, are disproportionately victimized by the actions/inactions.

Most of these uncritical supporters and defenders of the president suffer from post-decision cognitive dissonance, holding two mutually exclusive positions (doubt and regret about the decision to support and venerate Buhari as a messiah on the one hand, and vigorous public defense of the president as infallible on the other).

They should know that this is a self-created problem. There is absolutely no need to trap oneself in this condition. Decisions are made in the moment, given the information available, in the context of the choices available, and without the ability to discern the outcomes of those decisions.

In March 2015, the correct decision was to elect Buhari to replace a failed Jonathan administration whose profligacy threatened the very survival of the country. It is not a decision that immunizes Buhari from critical engagement or calls for regret or counterproductive, face-saving posturing. Even those who voted in the other direction could not have predicted how things would unfold. The decision should not induce regret, especially if the regret dulls one’s vigilance and capacity to critique those one voted into power.

Regarding that decision as some sort of binding sacred obligation to not criticize, reevaluate, correct, or modify one’s view of the subject of that decision is to imprison oneself in a psychological condition of post-decision cognitive dissonance.

What’s more, it leads to illogicality, to unconvincing defenses, untenable rationalizations, and makes one an enabler of misgovernance. It makes one abandon the sacred citizen obligation of speaking truth to power and holding leaders accountable.


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