Cognitive Dissonance: Understanding And Preventing It

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Cognitive dissonance can also occur in an individual’s behavior if they act in ways that are not in line with their inner thoughts, feelings, or attitudes. If you’re wondering what cognitive dissonance is and how it affects your everyday life, then this blog post is for you!

Contents

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

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Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. This results in a clash between their outer world and inner thoughts causing them to either adjust their thinking patterns (mental adjustment) to match each other better (cognitive change). Or they can just ignore or dismiss one of the conflicting beliefs, ideas, or values (dissonance reduction).

Cognitive Change

When people experience cognitive dissonance, they have to make a change in their thinking to reduce the amount of mental stress or discomfort that’s being caused. This can be done by either changing their beliefs, ideas, or values to match each other better OR dismissing one of the conflicting thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.

Dissonance Reduction

When people experience cognitive dissonance, they have the option to reduce the amount of mental stress or discomfort by dismissing one of their conflicting beliefs, ideas, or values. This can be done in a few ways:

  • Changing your behavior to match your thoughts and feelings more closely OR
  • Ignoring or denying one of the conflicting attitudes, emotions, or thoughts

This is the best option for most people because it’s easier to ignore something than it is to change your behavior.

Example Of Cognitive Dissonance

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Here are some examples that can help you understand how cognitive dissonance works:

Example 1

If a smoker tells himself, “I’m going to quit smoking” but continues lighting cigarettes. This is an example of cognitive dissonance because the internal thoughts (telling yourself) don’t match up with his behavior (continuing to smoke). So he has two options to reduce the amount of mental stress he’s experiencing: change his behavior (quitting smoking) or ignore one of the thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.

Example 2

If a girl tells herself that she doesn’t care what people think about her but keeps trying to impress others anyway. This is an example of cognitive dissonance because even though there are conflicting ideas, emotions, or thoughts (not caring what people think about her & trying to impress others), she can’t just stop caring. So instead of changing her behavior (stopping the act of impressing other people) altogether, she’ll ignore one of the conflicting ideas.

Who Created The Concept Of Cognitive Dissonance?

The concept of cognitive dissonance was created by Leon Festinger in the 1950s. He was interested in how people change their thinking and behavior to match each other better, so he did a study on a group of people who believed that the world was going to end on December 21st, 1954.

Is Cognitive Dissonance The Same As Hypocrisy?

No, cognitive dissonance is not the same as hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is when someone says one thing but does another. For example, if a politician says they’re going to help the poor but only helps their rich friends, that would be an example of hypocrisy.

How Common Is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is relatively common, especially in adults. It’s often caused by things like conforming to a group, accepting authority without question, or believing something that isn’t true. It’s often related to experiences like cheating on their homework because they’re afraid of getting in trouble with their teacher (compliance).

Types Of Cognitive Dissonance

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The Two Main Types Of Cognitive Dissonance

Many types of cognitive dissonance occur in our everyday lives. However, they can be broken down into two different categories: personal and public.

Personal

This is when dissonance occurs within an individual’s thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.

Public

This is when the dissonance occurs between an individual and a group they belong to or identify with.

The Three Types of Personal Dissonance

There are three types of personal cognitive dissonance: cognitive, affective, and conative.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is when there are conflicting thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.

Example: A girl tells her friends, “I’m not going to the party tonight” but still goes anyway. This is an example of cognitive dissonance because even though she said one thing (not going), her behavior contradicted that thought (going).

Affective Dissonance

Affective dissonance occurs when someone’s feelings/emotions do not match up with their behavior or thoughts.

Example: A girl tells her friends, “I’m not going to the party tonight” but still goes anyway because she’s worried about what they’ll think of her if she doesn’t go. This is an example of affective dissonance because even though she said one thing (not going), her emotions were telling another story (worried about what her friends would think).

Conative Dissonance

Conative dissonance is when someone’s behavior and thoughts do not match up with their feelings/emotions.

Example: A girl tells her boyfriend, “I’m really busy tonight but let’s go out anyway” even though she doesn’t want to spend time with him. This is an example of conative dissonance because even though she said one thing (not busy), her behavior contradicted that thought (going out with him).

The Five Types of Public Dissonance

There are five types of public cognitive dissonance:

Value-added Dissonance

Value-added dissonance is when someone’s beliefs about themselves don’t match up with the beliefs of a group they identify with.

Example: A girl believes that she is a good person but also believes that all people are inherently bad. This is an example of value-added cognitive dissonance because even though she identifies with the group (believing all people are bad), her beliefs about herself (being a good person) do not match up to that belief either.

Attitudinal Dissonance

Attitudinal dissonance is when there are conflicting attitudes towards a group of people or concepts.

Example: A girl is part of a group that doesn’t like another group but she gets along fine with the people in that other group. This is an example of attitudinal cognitive dissonance because even though her attitudes towards one thing (the first group) are conflicting with each other, they both exist at the same time.

Behavioral Dissonance

Behavioral dissonance occurs when someone’s behavior contradicts their personal beliefs or values.

Example: A girl who is against violence participates in a fight. This is an example of behavioral dissonance because even though she has personal beliefs (against violence), her behavior contradicted that thought (fighting).

Normative Dissonance

Normative dissonance happens when there is a difference between the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions about themselves and thoughts, feelings, and actions towards a group they identify with.

Example: A girl has bad grades but still identifies as an intelligent person. This is an example of normative cognitive dissonance because even though she thinks of herself (intelligent), her behavior does not match up to that thought (bad grades).

Ideological Dissonance

Ideological dissonance happens when someone’s beliefs don’t match up with the ideology of a group they identify with.

Example: A girl believes in feminism but also believes that women should stay home and take care of their children while men go out to work. This is an example of ideological cognitive dissonance because even though she identifies as a feminist, her personal beliefs do not line up with that ideology.

Belief

Belief is when there’s a difference between someone’s behavior and what they believe in or think is right/wrong.

Example: A girl publicly stands up for a cause she believes in but privately doesn’t support it as much as the people around her seem to. This is an example of belief cognitive dissonance because even though she identifies with the group (believing in that same cause), her behavior does not match up with what she says and thinks.

The Three General Types Of Cognitive Dissonance Based On Everyday life Experiences

There are three types of cognitive dissonance that people experience in their everyday lives:

Effort Justification

If someone has to put a lot of effort into something, then they’re more likely to value the result.

For example, if you have to work hard on your homework for an hour but it’s worth 100 points on your test next week, then you’re more likely to value the 100 points than if it was just given to you for free.

Self-Attribution

This is when people take credit for their successes and blame their failures on outside factors.

For example, someone might say “I’m a genius” after getting a good grade on a test even though they studied for hours. But if they get a bad grade on the same test, they might say “the questions were too hard” or “I didn’t have enough time to study.”

Social Comparison

This is when people compare themselves to other people to see where they stand relative to them.

For example, someone might think “I’m not as smart as that person” or “I’m better than most people.”

Identifying Cognitive Dissonance

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Signs Of Cognitive Dissonance

Some of the signs of cognitive dissonance are:

  • Frequently change your thoughts, feelings, or attitudes about an issue to fit the current situation.
  • Not being able to remember exactly how you felt in a previous situation was conflicting.
  • Trying not to think about things that cause conflict with other thoughts and behaviors because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Make excuses for why you did/didn’t do something that contradicts your beliefs or values.
  • Having a hard time making decisions because it means picking one side over another.
  • Feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells around certain people or topics.

Factors That Lead To Cognitive Dissonance

Many different factors can lead to cognitive dissonance. Some of these are:

Compliance

When someone does something they don’t want to do because they’re afraid of the consequences, that’s compliance. For example, a student might cheat on a test because they’re afraid of getting in trouble with their teacher.

Conformity

When someone does something they don’t want to do because they want to fit in or be accepted by a group, that’s conformity. For example, a student might wear clothes that they don’t really like because all of their friends are wearing the same thing.

Authority

When someone does something they don’t want to do because an authority figure tells them to, that’s authority. For example, a student might do their homework because their parents told them to.

Groupthink

This is when people think the same way and don’t question the group’s decision even if they have dissenting opinions. For example, a group of people might all agree that violence is the best way to solve a problem, even though some of them don’t think that’s the right answer.

Personality Types Prone To Cognitive Dissonance

Some personality types are more prone to cognitive dissonance than others. Some of these include:

The Driven

This is someone who is always pushing themselves to achieve more and never feels like they’re doing enough. They’re usually perfectionists and have a lot of self-doubts.

The Scared

This is someone afraid of being criticized or rejected by others. They’re usually very thoughtful and sensitive, but can also be hostile towards those who criticize them.

The Insulated

This is someone who doesn’t like to take risks because they want everything in their life to stay the same as it already is now. They have a lot of fear of change and are usually very inflexible.

The Rebellious

This is someone who goes against the norms and expectations of society because they want to stand out or be different. They’re usually creative and expressive, but can also be destructive and chaotic.

Dealing With Cognitive Dissonance

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How To Prevent Cognitive Dissonance?

There are several things you can do to prevent cognitive dissonance:

Evaluate The Situation

It’s important that before making any decisions or coming to any conclusions about something, that you take the time to think it through. This will help you avoid feeling like your actions were out of line with what you want deep down inside.

Question Your Beliefs

It’s also important to question your beliefs and make sure that they align with your values. If they don’t, then it might be time to reconsider them.

Seek Out Dissenting Opinions

When you’re feeling stuck or like you can’t decide what to do, it can be helpful to seek out dissenting opinions about the situation. Hearing what other people think will allow you to put things in a new perspective and gain insight into your own beliefs.

Don’t Overreact

It’s important not to overreact when something unexpected happens or doesn’t happen, because this can lead you down the wrong path. Keeping calm under pressure is crucial.

Practice Mindfulness

It’s also important to practice mindfulness and take time for introspection. This will help you objectively examine the situation so that you can figure out what is or isn’t working for you, as well as how to best accomplish your goals.

How To Reduce Cognitive Dissonance In Your Life?

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There are many ways that you can reduce cognitive dissonance in your life. Some of these include:

Becoming More Self-Aware

When you become more aware of how you’re thinking and feeling, it makes it easier to identify when cognitive dissonance is happening. This way, you can address the dissonance head-on and resolve it quickly.

Challenging Your Beliefs

If you have a belief that’s causing cognitive dissonance, challenge it. Examine the evidence for and against it and come to your conclusions. This can be difficult, but it’s worth it in the end.

Being More Flexible

When you’re more flexible, it’s easier to find solutions to problems rather than get frustrated. This will help you avoid cognitive dissonance because it won’t cause as much suffering when things don’t go your way.

Avoiding Unnecessary Conflict

When you conflict with someone or something, that creates feelings of uncertainty and inconsistency within yourself which can lead to cognitive dissonance. So try to avoid unnecessary conflict as much as possible.

Accepting Yourself

When you accept yourself for who you are, it’s easier to resolve any cognitive dissonance that might be happening. This means that you don’t have to change who you are to fit into someone else’s idea of what’s right or wrong.

Making Peace With Your Past

If you have a traumatic memory that is causing you to feel cognitive dissonance, try forgiving the people who hurt you. This can be difficult, but it will help resolve some of your feelings of anger or resentment towards them so that they won’t cause as much suffering for you in the present moment.

The Three Ways of Coping with Cognitive Dissonance

There are three ways people deal with cognitive dissonance: reduction, refutation, and justification.

Reduction

Reduction is when someone reduces the importance of one aspect to make it fit better within their thoughts/actions or beliefs. Example: A girl tells her boyfriend she doesn’t like a band he likes, but she still listens to the music because she knows it makes him happy.

Refutation

Refutation is when someone tries to find evidence that disproves one of their beliefs or thoughts. Example: A student gets a bad grade on a test and decides they’re going to study more for the next one.

Justification

Justification is when someone comes up with a reason why their thoughts/actions or beliefs are okay. Example: A student gets a bad grade on a test and decides they worked hard but the questions were too hard.

Evaluating Cognitive Dissonance

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Is cognitive dissonance a bad thing?

It’s not inherently bad, but it can be harmful if it’s not resolved. When cognitive dissonance isn’t addressed, it can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Some people might find cognitive dissonance uncomfortable and frustrating, while others may find it motivating. The important thing is that you evaluate how cognitive dissonance affects you and make changes accordingly.

What are some effects of cognitive dissonance?

Some common effects of cognitive dissonance include: stress, anxiety, depression, decreased productivity, increased aggression, and reduced self-esteem. Cognitive dissonance can cause a lot of suffering when it’s not resolved. If you’re feeling cognitive dissonance, try talking to someone about what is causing the discomfort and how you think you should resolve it.

What can be the destructive consequences of cognitive dissonance?

In personal life

In professional life

  • Poor decision making
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Lowered job satisfaction

For Society

Cognitive dissonance can have destructive consequences for society when it’s not resolved. When people are in a state of cognitive dissonance, they’re more likely to act out aggressively or lash out at others. This can lead to violence and chaos within communities. It can also cause people to make poor decisions that might be harmful to themselves or others.

Professionals’ View On Cognitive Dissonance

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From a psychological standpoint, cognitive dissonance is considered to be an important concept because it can help us understand how people make decisions and how they behave. It’s also seen as a tool that can be used for change. Therapists often use it as a way to help their clients resolve conflicts and make changes in their lives.

Cognitive dissonance can be beneficial, detrimental, or neutral depending on the situation and people involved. It is beneficial to avoid cognitive dissonance when someone’s beliefs do not line up with their behavior. Because it shows they are a good person who stands by what they believe in. It also helps them clarify things about themselves and what they believe.

However, it is detrimental when someone’s beliefs do not line up with their actions and it causes them to feel guilt or shame for doing something wrong. It also prevents people from learning new things because if they make a mistake, then they can’t learn from it. However, it does not affect some situations because it does not cause any harm or good.

Conclusion

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon that refers to the discomfort people feel when their beliefs or thoughts are not in line with their behaviors. It can be harmful if it’s not resolved, but it can also be beneficial in some cases. Professionals view it as an important concept because it can help us understand how people make decisions and behave. They also see it as a tool that can be used for change.

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