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Cognitive dissonance Definition & Meaning

Cognitive dissonance happens when your values and beliefs are challenged by social pressure, learning new information, having to make a quick decision, or behaving in a way that doesn’t align with your beliefs, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Then, you feel guilt or shame because your actions are going against your core cognitive dissonance treatment beliefs or values. Hypocrisy involves a contradiction between a person’s supposed principles, beliefs, or character and who they really are or how they behave. Cognitive dissonance is the unpleasant mental state that may result if someone really does have certain beliefs but thinks or acts in a way that contradicts them.

what is the opposite of cognitive dissonance

There has been a great deal of research into cognitive dissonance, providing some interesting and sometimes unexpected findings. In other words, he could tell himself that a short life filled with smoking and sensual pleasures is better than a long life devoid of such joys. In this way, he would be decreasing the importance of dissonant cognition (smoking is bad for one’s health). When one of the dissonant elements is a behavior, the individual can change or eliminate the behavior.

Causes of Cognitive Dissonance

People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes unpleasant feelings of unease or discomfort. Cognitive dissonance can have an important influence on your behavior, decisions, and even your well-being. You can try to recognize these uncomfortable feelings when they arise and then look for effective and healthy ways to reduce conflict. Analyzing the information, making an informed decision, and sometimes even changing your belief or behavior are strategies that can help you make the right choices. Not everyone practices what they preach—and that could trigger poor mental health. Cognitive dissonance is the psychological conflict a person experiences when they hold simultaneous conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.

  • The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds.
  • However, this mode of dissonance reduction frequently presents problems for people, as it is often difficult for people to change well-learned behavioral responses (e.g., giving up smoking).
  • When the participants were asked to evaluate the experiment, the participants who were paid only $1 rated the tedious task as more fun and enjoyable than the participants who were paid $20 to lie.
  • Being paid only $1 is not sufficient incentive for lying and so those who were paid $1 experienced dissonance.

Festinger used the term “dissonance” to refer to the feeling of psychological discomfort and the discrepancy between cognitions. The idea is that feeling psychologically uncomfortable leads someone to reduce dissonance, which could be by avoiding certain information or rationalizing changes in beliefs. Cognitive dissonance – Occurs when two opposing thoughts reside in the same mind, generating inner conflicts and psychological distress. Alternatively, people may take steps to try to resolve the inconsistency.

Magnitude of dissonance

When things are psychologically unbalanced, it creates discomfort and distress. Cognitive dissonance can happen to anyone, and most cases resolve on their own. However, there are therapy options for people whose cognitive dissonance is severely affecting their relationships or the ability to live their lives. Cognitive dissonance describes the discomfort experienced when two cognitions are incompatible with each other. The effects may relate to the discomfort of the dissonance itself or the defense mechanisms a person adopts to deal with it. Throwing trash outside even when knowing this act is against the law, wrong, and could harm animals and the planet is cognitive dissonance, especially if the person feels bad after littering but continues to do so.

  • While cognitive dissonance is often described as something widely and regularly experienced, efforts to capture it in studies don’t always work, so it could be less common than has been assumed.
  • While the delusions of psychotic people may seen to be intractable, psychoeducation may ameliorate some of the cognitive dissonance that contributes to their psychotic ideation.
  • American psychologist Leon Festinger first developed the concept in the 1950s.
  • Avoiding, delegitimizing, and limiting the impact of cognitive dissonance may result in a person not acknowledging their behavior and thus not taking steps to resolve the dissonance.
  • Changing the conflicting cognition is one of the most effective ways of dealing with dissonance but it is also one of the most difficult—particularly in the case of deeply held values and beliefs, such as religious or political leanings.
  • 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.

He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology. By Kendra Cherry, MSEd

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the “Everything Psychology Book.” Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the “Everything Psychology Book.”

Who May Experience Cognitive Dissonance?

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. By using these types of explanations, the smoker is able to reduce the dissonance and continue the unhealthy behavior. There are a number of different situations that can create conflicts that lead to cognitive dissonance. If it all gets too overwhelming and you’re struggling to cope, or you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, seek help from a mental health professional or other counselor. Freud had a relatively psychologically uninteresting reason for the sofa, but research suggests that lying down influences psychological processes that may improve therapy.

A person might look for ways to rationalize their behavior, such as believing that since they engage in other health-oriented behaviors, their sedentary lifestyle won’t be as damaging. Discovering new information that conflicts with something that you already believe can create feelings of discomfort. For example, people who believe in doomsday prophecies may feel confused and upset when the predictions fail.

What do you mean by attribution theory?

For example, people may feel cognitive dissonance if they enjoy drinking alcohol, despite knowing too much may be bad for their health. For example, a 2019 study notes that dissonance-based interventions may be helpful for people with eating disorders. This approach works by encouraging patients to say things or role-play behaviors that contradict their beliefs about food and body image. Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions, and evaluations. Becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact the decision-making process is a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices.

  • Whether you’re looking for medical professionals, emotional help, or advice…
  • As a result of changing her behavior to fit what she believes makes her happy, she might actually become happier, Leikam says.
  • As a result she might start to feel grateful for and happy about those nights in, rather than beating herself up for being “lazy” or not sociable enough.
  • The dissonance between two contradictory ideas, or between an idea and a behavior, creates discomfort.

While cognitive dissonance is often described as something widely and regularly experienced, efforts to capture it in studies don’t always work, so it could be less common than has been assumed. People do not necessarily experience discomfort in response to every apparent contradiction in their thoughts and beliefs. To relieve the discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance, people can either change their behaviors or their attitudes. Cognitive dissonance is the uneasiness you feel when you have conflicting beliefs.

Social behavior

Why is it important to think about how cognitive dissonance relates to your own health and wellness? Because the mental or emotional distress it can cause can definitely affect your health and well-being. An example of cognitive dissonance is maintaining a sedentary lifestyle even after learning about how damaging it is to a person’s health.

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