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Cognitive dissonance: Definition, effects, and examples

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. When our friends or partners act contrary to our beliefs and values, we perceive dissonance. Therapy can help patients by reflecting on and taking control of their thoughts.

People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes unpleasant feelings of unease or discomfort. Acharya of Stanford, Blackwell and Sen of Harvard state cognitive dissonance increases when an individual commits an act of violence toward someone from a different ethnic or racial group and decreases when the individual does not commit any such act of violence. Research from Acharya, Blackwell and Sen shows that individuals committing violence against members of another group develop hostile attitudes towards their victims as a way of minimizing cognitive dissonance. Importantly, the hostile attitudes may persist even after the violence itself declines (Acharya, Blackwell, and Sen, 2015). 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).

The Right Operationalizations to Test the Theory

It would help the field if data were collected with fully informed standardized designs and were accessible, thus allowing researchers to reach a sufficient amount of observations to fully understand the process. We think therefore that the field would benefit from increased standardization. This standardization of the induction would rely on both a better operational definition of the manipulated variables, as we mentioned above, and also on the report of variables that are likely to influence the CDS, and thus its regulation. For instance, the hypocrisy paradigm has been investigated with very different topics and methods, and Priolo et al. (2019) found no evidence in their meta-analysis for the existence of a CDS.

Toolshero supports people worldwide (10+ million visitors from 100+ countries) to empower themselves through an easily accessible and high-quality learning platform for personal and professional development. In the end, you decide to start buying cage-free eggs and plan to replace one of your meat purchases each shopping trip with humanely raised meat or a meat substitute, like tofu or tempeh. This reduces your guilt and helps you bridge the gap between your love of animals and your diet. But you also enjoy eating meat, though you know some animals are kept in inhumane conditions before being used for meat.

Self-evaluative Process, Psychology of

For example, suppose a person values and desires a healthy body but continues consuming unhealthy junk food. The person is bothered by the difference in two attitudes central to the attitude system. We all face mental discomfort when we have opposing views or actions on the same topic. Your initial cognitive dissonance treatment attitude led to you acting in a way that then caused cognitive dissonance. When you’re in a state of dissonance, you feel conflicted, since your behaviors and beliefs don’t match. Because it’s impossible to go back in time and change your behavior, the only thing you can change is your attitude.

  • There can be many signs of cognitive dissonance depending on one’s beliefs and attitudes.
  • You may make a conscious effort to choose nutritious foods, try to avoid processed foods and soda, and shoot for eight hours of sleep every night.
  • The participants were asked to make a videotape discussing the importance of using condoms to avoid contracting AIDS.
  • According to Hafer and Gosse (2010), therefore, a number of situational variables likely influence the degree to which people pursue particular modes of BJW-defense because these variables determine the extent to which other motives (aside from preserving BJW) are also met.
  • People recognised cognitive dissonance and implemented revolutionary changes to have society’s values more closely match society’s actions.

Festinger recognized that people can be strongly motivated to resolve conflicts between their attitudes and behaviors. And this motivation leads people to favor their own behavior, when dealing with information that directly contradicts pre-existing beliefs, not by changing these beliefs but by adapting the beliefs to justify their own behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. It offers one explanation for why people sometimes make an effort to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash with each other. The expectation of shared beliefs, values, and attitudes from family members can additionally influence romantic relationships. If these don’t align, we might consider justifying our relationship or breaking up.

People Experience Cognitive Dissonance in Real Life All the Time

The CDT field is fruitful, with hundreds of studies covering a large array of tasks and topics. This number of studies is a strong argument for the conceptual validity of https://ecosoberhouse.com/ the theory. However, some of the core hypotheses of CDT have not been as thoroughly examined and, in their case, the field may benefit from an increased standardization.

Amy is well aware of the benefits of engaging in some form of physical activity. So she chooses to stick to her daily routine of waking up, glugging down a mug of cold coffee and driving her way to the office. She feels guilty about it every single day and decides things will change tomorrow. According to Festinger, there are a few ways that a person might resolve this dissonance.

Based on dissonance theory, Festinger correctly predicted that the subjects who were paid $1 for lying later evaluated the tasks as more enjoyable than those who were paid $20. The subjects who were paid $20 should not have experienced dissonance, because they were well rewarded and had ample justification for lying, whereas those paid $1 had little justification for lying and should have experienced cognitive dissonance. To reduce the dissonance, they reevaluated the boring task as interesting and enjoyable. Festinger was unsurprised by the sudden proselytizing after the prophecy’s disconfirmation; he saw the cult members as enlisting social support for their belief to lessen the pain of its disconfirmation.

  • From the PP perspective dissonance can occur at different hierarchical (or lateral) levels in the multi-level predictive hierarchy.
  • The three main causes of cognitive dissonance are forced compliance, decision-making, and effort.
  • This induces CD, since the man is well aware that there is no reason to fear this particular spot.
  • When BJW-threat was high, participants who were told the victimization took place in the recent past blamed the victim’s behavior more than did participants told the victimization was in the distant past.
  • Because there is a constellation of possible regulation strategies and many variables are supposed to influence them (McGrath, 2017; Vaidis and Bran, 2018), the absence or presence of any given mode of regulation neither confirms nor disconfirms the presence of a CDS2.

However, it can be beneficial to remind ourselves that it exists as a psychological safety mechanism to help us perceive the world consistently and to protect the perception we have about ourselves. The theory is based on the idea that two cognitions can be relevant or irrelevant to each other (Festinger, 1957). Such cognitions can be about behaviors, perceptions, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs. If the cognitions are relevant, they can be in agreement (consistent) or disagreement (inconsistent) with one another (Festinger, 1957). 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.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

To illustrate this idea, consider a thought experiment in a social environment. Dissonance theory is, after all, originally a social psychological theory, so uncovering its social rationale is no triviality. Imagine here an early human called Proto, living in a primitive small culture.

cognitive dissonance theory

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