Cognitive dissonance: Definition, effects, and examples

Cognitive dissonance: Definition, effects, and examples

However, new information such as “research has not proved definitely that smoking causes lung cancer” may reduce the dissonance. For example, thinking smoking causes lung cancer will cause dissonance if a person smokes. This is probably because dissonance would be caused if we spent a great effort to achieve something and then evaluated it negatively. Participants in the high-dissonance condition chose between a highly desirable product and one rated just 1 point lower on the 8-point scale. After reading the reports about the various products, individuals rated the products again. Female participants were informed they would be helping out in a study funded by several manufacturers.

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Cognitive dissonance, a psychological concept coined by psychologist Leon Festinger, refers to the state of discomfort or unease that arises when conflicting beliefs, ideas, or values are held simultaneously. When this discomfort sets in, individuals may rationalize their original belief system, ignore the information, or undergo a process of modifying their beliefs and behaviors. The latter, though more challenging, occurs less frequently because we don’t like feeling uncomfortable. To safeguard our worldview, we counter these threats by seeking out perspectives that reinforce it. Recently, I have experienced a significant amount of cognitive dissonance.

  • When you do something or behave a certain way that goes against your values, you may experience cognitive dissonance.
  • Being in a state of psychological distress and discomfort is EXHAUSTING.
  • Mismatches between your beliefs and actions can lead to feelings of discomfort (and, sometimes, coping choices that have negative impacts), but such feelings can also sometimes lead to change and growth.
  • Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts that influence how you see the world, how you feel, and how you act.

How to resolve cognitive dissonance

Introverts, on the other hand, experienced increased dissonance discomfort and were more likely to change their attitude to match the majority of others in the experiment. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person’s behavior and beliefs do not complement each other or when they hold two contradictory beliefs. It causes a feeling of discomfort that can motivate people to try to feel better. To deal with the feelings of discomfort then, they might find some way of rationalizing the conflicting cognition. For instance, they may justify their sedentary behavior by saying that their other healthy behaviors—like eating sensibly and occasionally exercising—make up for their largely sedentary lifestyle.

How Attitude Change Takes Place

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Leon Festinger first proposed the theory of cognitive dissonance, centered on how people try to reach internal consistency. He suggested that people have an inner need to ensure that their beliefs and behaviors are consistent. Inconsistent or conflicting beliefs lead to disharmony, which people strive to avoid. We experience cognitive dissonance daily, relating to a whole spectrum of tiny to huge things. Understanding it and developing a relationship to the discomfort or anxiety you feel when you’re experiencing dissonance can help you pause, investigate and have a think about what might be going on.

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It feels good knowing you’re able to uphold certain values, like the ones you learned from your parents and caregivers or the ones you’ve carved out for yourself based on your own personal experiences. A person who feels defensive or unhappy might consider the role cognitive dissonance might play in these feelings. If they are part of a wider problem that is causing distress, people may benefit from speaking with a therapist. Alternatively, they may reduce cognitive dissonance by being mindful of their values and pursuing opportunities to live those values.

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Your health and wellness is unique to you, and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment plans. Here’s what Top 5 Advantages of Staying in a Sober Living House you need to know about cognitive dissonance, and how to seek the proper care. Cognitive dissonance and the way we cope with it regularly affect our relationships, too, both positively and negatively.

  • The application provides a social psychological basis for the constructivist viewpoint that ethnic and racial divisions can be socially or individually constructed, possibly from acts of violence (Fearon and Laitin, 2000).
  • This can be a difficult and uncomfortable process and involves getting additional information.
  • If they are part of a wider problem that is causing distress, people may benefit from speaking with a therapist.
  • Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behavior in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance).

Cognitive dissonance is powerful because we are highly driven to eliminate it.

  • The underlying principle here is that people cannot ignore health protocols in the face of a killer disease so that ailment must be reinvented so they can go on with their carelessness without suffering cognitive dissonance.
  • Here’s what you need to do to go about reducing and reconciling the cognitive dissonance in your life.
  • Justifying attempts to resolve the feeling of dissonance by numbing, blaming, avoiding, or excusing the fact that we have a gap.
  • The effects may relate to the discomfort of the dissonance itself or the defense mechanisms a person adopts to deal with it.
  • It’s giving you the information you need to be at peace with your decisions and to understand why you made them.

Change Our Behavior to Line Up With Our Values

This is because they are set on their own beliefs and justify them, even though they are misguided and careless. A huge development as we end June and move into July 2020 are the easing of restrictions around lockdown leading to a huge sense of anxiety and unease amongst many of us. What we are seeing happening around us is, for many people, very different to how we feel things probably should be. The irony being is that life in early lockdown was in many ways much clearer when compared to the conflicting messages we are receiving now as restrictions are being lifted. Justifying attempts to resolve the feeling of dissonance by numbing, blaming, avoiding, or excusing the fact that we have a gap.

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Maybe the decision or commitment wasn’t as right for us as we initially thought, even if it means overcoming our “no second-guessing” bias and making a different decision. Admitting it, apologizing if need be, and moving forward can save us a lot of time, mental energy and hurt feelings. Alternatively, people may take steps to try to resolve the inconsistency. It is possible to resolve cognitive dissonance by either changing one’s behavior or changing one’s beliefs so they are consistent with each other. Sometimes learning new information can lead to feelings of cognitive dissonance. For example, if you engage in a behavior that you later learn is harmful, it can lead to feelings of discomfort.

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