Cognitive Dissonance Examples: 5 Ways It Pops Up In Everyday Life

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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. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds.

Justification of Harmful Behaviors

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It helps people get started on the “psychological work” needed to reduce inconsistencies. Before they went on stage, they were told to think of a time when they didn’t exhibit that behavior. The participants felt like hypocrites — but their intention to take the positive action increased. As we mentioned earlier, many people know that smoking is harmful to their health — yet they continue to do it. Addiction is one of the most powerful causes of cognitive dissonance.

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He may reduce the discomfort by either downplaying the importance of weight loss, or engage in a rigorous exercise the day after. In both examples, the reactions show that they are justifying their irrational behavior. Leon Festinger first proposed the theory of cognitive dissonance, centered on how people try to reach internal consistency.

Adding More Beliefs to Outweigh Dissonant Beliefs

In the face of temptation (problematic desires), we need to dispute rationally our distorted reasoning and the judgments that follow. The importance of a sudden shift in attitudes needs to be appreciated. After all, it takes only a single moment of weakness during a high-risk situation for a recovering addict to reconsider drug use and relapse.

As such, no set of external signs can reliably indicate a person is experiencing cognitive dissonance. The dissonance between two contradictory ideas, or between an idea and a behavior, creates discomfort. Festinger argued that cognitive dissonance is more intense when a person holds many dissonant views and those views are important to them. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds two related but contradictory cognitions, or thoughts. The psychologist Leon Festinger came up with the concept in 1957.

This is particularly true if the disparity between their beliefs and behaviors involves something that is central to their sense of self. People make decisions, both large and small, on a daily basis. When faced with two similar choices, we are often left with feelings of dissonance because both options are equally appealing. 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 can erode trust and intimacy in a relationship.

Reducing the Importance of the Conflicting Belief

Alternatively, they may reduce cognitive dissonance by being mindful of their values and pursuing opportunities to live those values. A person who cares about their health might be disturbed to learn that sitting for long periods during the day is linked to a shortened lifespan. Since they work all day in an office and spend a great deal of time sitting, it is difficult to change their behavior.

  • When we do this by thinking up positives for our choice and negatives for the other option, it’s called the “spreading of alternatives.” Your brain feels better when you can align your behavior with your values.
  • The next step is to identify the cause of inconsistencies in our thoughts.
  • Cognitive dissonance can distort self-perception and perceptions of the partner.
  • The degree of dissonance experienced can depend on a few different factors.
  • Living with that dissonance probably means you’re fairly stressed out and angry every day.

They may include denying or compartmentalizing unwelcome thoughts, seeking to explain away a thought that doesn’t comport with others, or changing what one believes or one’s behavior. A man who learns that his eating habits raise his risk of illness feels the tension between his preferred behavior and the idea that he could be in danger. He might ease this feeling by telling himself that the health warning is exaggerated or, more productively, by deciding to take action to change his behavior. If a woman reads that her favorite politician has done something immoral, she could conclude that the charges have been invented by his enemies—or, instead, rethink her support.

cognitive dissonance treatment

A partner who often criticizes the other might convince themselves that their criticisms are constructive and meant for their partner’s benefit, thereby avoiding the guilt and responsibility for causing emotional harm. Festinger’s theory (1957) suggests that individuals alter their attitudes or beliefs to reduce the dissonance between their actions and their self-concept. Matz and his colleagues (2008) showed that our personality can help mediate the effects cognitive dissonance and addiction of cognitive dissonance. They found that people who were extraverted were less likely to feel the negative impact of cognitive dissonance and were also less likely to change their mind. 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. We also don’t like to second-guess our choices, even if later they are proven wrong or unwise.

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