Why people love and hate Macs

Recently, I have been reading a bit about cognitive dissonance, and I am fascinated by it. For example, this video shows a great example of cognitive dissonance: if people get paid only a little for a boring task that takes an hour, they experience dissonance, and need to justify it for themselves. They will say they like doing the task. However, if people get paid more, they don’t need to justify it and will be honest about the task. There are many more examples of this, which are fascinating and sometimes very counter-intuitive.

I think Apple’s products also cause a lot of cognitive dissonance. Take, for example, the people who have never used a Mac, don’t own one and can’t get one (for example, they are .NET developers, or they can’t spend the money). I’ve seen many of these people criticize Macs. This follows the classical pattern, as described on Wikipedia:

This example follows a pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one’s dissonance by criticizing it. Jon Elster calls this pattern “adaptive preference formation.”

However, there is a second way in which cognitive dissonance manifests itself. People who buy Apple products have typically spent a large sum of money on it (often more than they would spend on a PC). These people then need to justify their decision as the right one. This might be one of the hidden reasons Apple has their cult-like following.

In all fairness, I own a few Mac laptops, multiple iPhones and an iPad, and I love them. I can argue why they are better, and have a number of good, rational reasons. However, I wonder which part cognitive dissonance plays.

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