Cognitive dissonance theory

The full text can be requested from the authors free of charge via the ResearchGate website. Sometimes the dissonant information appears to be important at first sight but can be diminished cognitive dissonance theory upon deeper reflection. They might decide to deny the evidence showing a link between sun exposure and skin cancer. © 2023 Healthline Media UK Ltd, Brighton, UK. All rights reserved.

What is cognitive dissonance in simple terms?

Cognitive dissonance, in psychological terms, describes the discomfort felt when your beliefs are inconsistent with one another or with your actions. (

While this can feel uncomfortable at first, it’s helpful to reflect on the reasons behind our behavior. In fact, it is a psychological mechanism that helps us perceive our world consistently. It is a mechanism that alerts us when we are not acting in line with our beliefs, attitudes, or plans. Imagine confronting a sunbather with the information that excessive sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer. The two thoughts – ‘sunbathing can cause cancer’ and ‘I am sunbathing’ – will cause the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.

Prompts About Cognitive Dissonance:

This is because if dissonance is related to, or in fact one form of, prediction error, dissonance is also pre-behavioral and thus capable of preparing efficient, successful and ecologically rational action in the long term. This might not be rational in the homo economicus sense (i.e., from the lens of rational choice theory), but can be generally “satisficing” . As discussed in Section “An Evolutionary Rationale for Cognitive Dissonance? For instance, as the amount of cognitions which justify dissonance-inducing behavior increase, the magnitude of dissonance (“D” divided by “D plus C”) is reduced. If we make a speech counter to our opinions, we must reduce the magnitude of dissonance by recruiting consonant cognitions. If we can rationalize our behavior by adding reconciliatory cognitive elements (e.g., “I got paid for this” or “I was forced to do this”), the amount of dissonance will diminish, as Festinger and Carlsmith argued.

If a voluntary experience that has cost a lot of effort turns out badly, the dissonance is reduced by redefining the experience as interesting. For example, when people smoke and they know that smoking causes cancer , they are in a state of cognitive dissonance. Think of an executive who is convinced that the product they are launching will succeed, and to avoid the painful realization that it may not, refuses to acknowledge the cries of his engineering team who claim that the product will malfunction. Likewise, many of us might reject evidence that our careers are not headed in the right direction, instead justifying our choice to keep on the same tracks and consequently forgo a more fruitful path. In communication, cognitive dissonance explains why some people may lie. Cognitive dissonance is when our thoughts and behaviors don’t align (which we don’t like) so we act in ways to alleviate this discomfort.

What is cognitive bias?

Yet some investors can be observed to make this kind of irrational decision. The study argued based on survey evidence that an individual trader’s future decision-making may be influenced by his previous investment decisions. As such, his future decisions, which may be contrary to his investing beliefs, are taken to reaffirm the amount of time and money he has invested in his previous ones. Talking to a coach can help you develop self-awareness and understand the source of your cognitive dissonance. Coaches are skilled at helping people navigate the stages of behavior change and resolve internal discomfort.

what is cognitive dissonance theor

Corrine Leikam, PsyD, a psychologist in Woodland Hills, California, says our instinctive reaction is to try to resolve the conflict and bring stability back to our lives. Relationships are typically built on shared attitudes, beliefs, and values. When our friends or partners act contrary to our beliefs and values, we perceive dissonance. They further presupposed that participants would be driven to reduce the dissonance by justifying their behavior. Since participants in the $20 condition had a more substantial justification already, they were further assumed to perceive less dissonance than those in the $1 condition.

How Brain Illusions Shape Your Body Image

Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behavior in harmony and avoid disharmony . Cognitive dissonance occurs when there is an uncomfortable tension between two or more beliefs that are held simultaneously. This most commonly occurs when our attitudes and behavior do not align with our attitudes – we believe one thing, but act against those beliefs. The resulting discomfort motivates us to pick between beliefs by rationalizing one and rejecting or delegitimizing the other.

In the following section, we discuss our own research on this topic. By nature, then, we may be rationalizing beings, ready to justify what we have done after the fact. This is often very difficult, as people frequently employ a variety of mental maneuvers. In all conditions, they then heard a very boring discussion about sex in lower animals. They were asked to rate how interesting they had found the discussion and how interesting they had found the people involved in it. The rub is that making a decision cuts off the possibility that you can enjoy the advantages of the unchosen alternative, yet it assures you that you must accept the disadvantages of the chosen alternative.