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Organoleptic testing is a scientifically-valid analytical testing protocol that is amazingly quick, easy and economical. Put simply, you use your senses of touch, sight, taste or smell to inspect a substance for properties such as dryness or freshness.  Organoleptic testing is very common; If a jar of canned peaches is bubbly and smells bad, you wrinkle up your nose and throw it out. It doesn’t pass your “smell test.”

The “Cringe Test” is a simple and immediate way to test your individual and cultural values. If somebody says something, does it sit in your mind comfortably or do you experience a degree of cognitive dissonance? Do you feel some degree of discomfort in your gut, fear, or anger? The Cringe Test may tell you that your ideas are different from those of another person. It may even reveal that you hold, in your own mind, mutually-incompatible opinions.

Our minds are pattern-matching devices. We interpret input  from our senses according to what we have experienced in the past and, therefore, what we now expect in the present. People who do not have a word for a color are often unable to distinguish that hue. People with limited vocabularies are at a disadvantage to make subtle distinctions of nuance in complex thoughts. We are predisposed to hear, recognize, and agree with that with which we are already familiar.

Our preconceived notions make all of us easily prejudiced. The cure for this subtle bigotry is openness to newness and change, exposure to diverse experience and opinion, a predisposition to consider alternatives, and increased maturity in general.

Both external and internal differences of opinion are common. I used to joke that it was OK to talk to yourself and it was even to OK to argue with yourself but, if you start to lose those arguments, look out.

The fact of the matter is that we should pay attention to those little cringes when ideas just don’t smell right. They often represent opportunities to learn something new and useful. They often represent opportunities to straighten out kinks in thinking — to begin thinking about a situation more fully or with greater understanding.

This is an excerpt from “Family and Community Values in American Culture: Forming a More Perfect Union” to be published in 2014 by David Satterlee. Excerpts from other books of essays and short stories by this author are available at


If your first experience of something is uncomfortable, does this mean that:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    Blogging at - Find excerpts of published essays, short stories, and (published and future) books.

    by David Satterlee on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 06:10:12 AM PST

  •  Why would it be dissonant? (0+ / 0-)
    If somebody says something, does it sit in your mind comfortably or do you experience a degree of cognitive dissonance?
    Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort of holding conflicting ideas or beliefs in your OWN mind.  Like believing factory livestock production is wrong but still being angry that farmer's market meat is more expensive then your grocery store.

    Recognizing Urban Sprawl is destroying our environment while living in an outer suburb.

    If someone says something that does not sit comfortably in your mind the word would be disagreement at least or revulsion if it is more intense.

    Some tea-bagging clown spouting off about how poor people shouldn't get handouts or something causes no internal conflict of my beliefs or ideals.  It just repulses and angers me.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 06:50:13 AM PST

    •  Expanded recognition of dissonance (0+ / 0-)

      I am not an academic, but a well-read observer trying to make sense of my world and understand why people behave the way they do. I may not have matched a commonly-accepted definition of cognitive dissonance.

      However, it seems to me that we often experience things that surprise us. If we are introspective and thoughtful, these moments can reveal opportunities for expanded thinking.

      Other forms of surprise, including humor and tragedy, can also trigger reactions when their unexpected timing, juxtaposition or ideas, or obvious contradictions cause a dissonant experience compared to our expectations. Compare my essay How to Build a Joke (No joking, I’m serious.) where the response of a part of the brain (a two centimeter area of the left superior frontal gyrus, which is part of its circuitry for motor functions) is associated with both laughing and crying in surprise.

      Blogging at - Find excerpts of published essays, short stories, and (published and future) books.

      by David Satterlee on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 02:38:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Television cringe test (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, David Satterlee

    I have a three strikes and I'm out rule for television programs.
    If the program depicts action that makes me cringe more than twice... I'm gone.

    I can't make it through an episode of "Dexter."
    The actions portrayed are so out of line with my values that it repulses me.
    There are other programs that do the same thing.


    "Humankind cannot bear very much reality." - T.S. Eliot

    by fixxit on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 09:03:54 AM PST

    •  Inconsistent with values (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'll be looking for reference material that supports the ideas that a lot of emotional distress is related to people's behavior that is inconsistent with their values.

      It looks like you have developed a policy that protects your mental health by exercising personal discipline when you realize that your entertainment is dissonant with what you stand for. I approve.

      On the other hand, I am distressed by a common tendency to be intolerant of other people and ideas that are outside of a zone of comfortable experience.

      This train of thought leads to the concept that stress is not intrinsically bad. Stress may be bad when it wears down and produces degeneration and chronic exhaustion. Stress can be good when it stimulates a response that promotes healthy adaptation and growth.

      Blogging at - Find excerpts of published essays, short stories, and (published and future) books.

      by David Satterlee on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 02:50:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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