You may also experience cognitive dissonance when you have situations where friends, family members or coworkers act a certain way that don’t align with your beliefs. You may be pressured into allowing those actions to continue or participate in those actions yourself — and that can leave you with some significant discomfort, so you end up questioning exactly how you should feel about the situation. When you do something or behave a certain way that goes against your values, you may experience cognitive dissonance. This clash of beliefs and disruption of thought can also occur if you have two or more conflicting beliefs and you’re torn between them. Sometimes, the ways that people resolve cognitive dissonance contribute to unhealthy behaviors or poor decisions.
- The challenge is to find a way to live with uncertainty, make the most informed decisions we can, and modify them when the scientific evidence dictates—as our leading researchers are already doing.
- Participants were also told that they would receive one of the products at the end of the experiment to compensate for their time and effort.
To reduce that dissonance, the smoker must either quit—or justify smoking (“It keeps me thin, and being overweight is a health risk too, you know”). At its core, Festinger’s theory is about how people strive to make sense out of contradictory ideas and lead lives that are, at least in their own minds, consistent and meaningful. Not everyone practices what they preach—and that could trigger poor mental health. https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/genetics-of-alcoholism-is-alcohol-abuse-hereditary/ is the psychological conflict a person experiences when they hold simultaneous conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. If left unchecked, it could lead to anxiety and mental tension, and you might even try to rationalize harmful actions. These results clearly have important implications for HIV risk reduction interventions and further, exemplify how basic psychological research can be used to address important social problems.
Teaching Tip Sheet: Cognitive Dissonance
The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. You read an article about workplace productivity that says people are more productive when they work in short bursts and take frequent breaks. Sure, you eventually get your work done, but you know you could be doing more. You might feel guilty, knowing you’d be in trouble if anyone found out. You’ll replace them and always pick up after your dog in the future. “If you’re not able to be genuine about your needs, then that’s going to create more stress and distance in your relationships,” warns Dr. Prewitt.
- Defense mechanisms can restore psychological homeostasis by ignoring or deflecting sudden increases in impulse, affect, and emotion.
- Dissonance can play a role in how we act, think, and make decisions.
- Cognitive dissonance is the uneasiness you feel when you have conflicting beliefs.
- Inconsistent or conflicting beliefs lead to disharmony, which people strive to avoid.
We may engage in behaviors or adopt attitudes to help relieve the discomfort caused by the conflict. Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behavior in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). Though a person may not always resolve cognitive dissonance, the response to it may range from ignoring the source of it to changing one’s beliefs or behavior to eliminate the conflict. 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.
Understanding the Circles of Influence, Concern, and Control
Discrepancy between an attitude and a behavior – eating a doughnut while thinking of reducing calorie intake – leads to psychological discomfort called cognitive dissonance (Harmon-Jones, 2019). Cognitive dissonance has been defined as a feeling of discomfort that arises as a result of one’s awareness of holding two or more inconsistent cognitions. Why have researchers of CD theory, “the most influential and extensively studied theory in social psychology” not noticed this contradiction between its fundamental premise and the fact of human evolution? The challenge is to find a way to live with uncertainty, make the most informed decisions we can, and modify them when the scientific evidence dictates—as our leading researchers are already doing.
- Cognitive dissonance theory itself suggests that if patients are investing time, money, and emotional effort in the therapy, they will be likely to work hard to reach their therapeutic goals in order to justify their efforts.
- Since cognitive dissonance often naturally occurs after a decision such as a purchase, this is what questionnaires have focused on.
- Mismatches between your beliefs and actions can lead to feelings of discomfort (and, sometimes, coping choices that have negative impacts), but such feelings can also sometimes lead to change and growth.
- According to Thorstein Veblen, the intellectual success of the Jews in Europe is related to their cultural marginality.
Your health and wellness is unique to you, and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment plans. Though, the severity may vary depending on how tightly the belief is held.
Magnitude of dissonance
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. According to Jean Piaget, intrinsic motivation is preceded by certain cognitive operations.
Being paid $20 provides a reason for turning pegs, and there is, therefore, no dissonance. In an intriguing experiment, Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) asked participants to perform a series of dull tasks (such as turning pegs in a peg board for an hour). As you can imagine, participant’s attitudes toward this task were highly negative. For example, when people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition), they are in a state of cognitive dissonance. Psychologist Leon Festinger published the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance in 1957. Among the examples he used to illustrate the theory were doomsday cult members and their explanations for why the world had not ended as they had anticipated.
Impact of Cognitive Dissonance
According to Csikszentmihalyi, a distinguishing feature of the centers of creativity throughout history was that they were at the crossroads of cultures and cosmopolitan life in those cities. Members of Heaven’s Gate, a religious cult, believed that as the Hale-Bopp comet passed by Earth in 1997, a spaceship would be traveling in its wake—ready to take true believers aboard. Several members of the group bought an expensive, high-powered telescope so that they might get a clearer view of the comet.
In contrast, in the Izuma study, during the second rating task, participants perceived the discrepancy between their preference and past choice behaviors, while rating their preference for each item again. Thus, they had an opportunity to reduce cognitive dissonance by reporting their new preference. Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957) is often considered to be one of the most influential theories in social psychology. According to the theory, inconsistency between attitude and behavior produces an unpleasant emotional state called ‘cognitive dissonance,’ and people try to reduce this undesired state by changing their attitudes. For example, after students wrote a favorable essay about a tuition increase, their attitudes toward the tuition increase tended to become more positive (Steele, Southwick, & Critchlow, 1981). Thus, students change their attitudes in order to reduce cognitive inconsistency between their attitudes (‘I don’t like the idea of a tuition increase’) and behaviors (‘I wrote an essay supporting it’).
Since participants in the $20 condition had a more substantial justification (higher pay) already, they were further assumed to perceive less dissonance than those in the $1 condition. Defense mechanisms (sometimes called adaptive mental mechanisms) reduce conflict and cognitive dissonance during sudden changes in internal and external reality. If such changes in reality are not ‘distorted’ and ‘denied,’ they can result in disabling anxiety and/or depression. Choice of defense is involuntary but can lead to enormous differences in mental health. (a) pMFC area activated by cognitive dissonance in the ‘induced compliance’ paradigm. Adapted from van Veen, V., Krug, M. K., Schooler, J. W., & Carter, C. S.
Therefore, the presence of dissonance is mostly an antecedent condition that stimulates human cognition to a new synthesis. Colin Martindale hypothesized that creativity is related to resistance to cognitive dissonance treatment in the sense that creative people, unlike most others, may not be motivated to achieve consonance. The more people tolerate novelty and deal well with incongruity and respond to it in a flexible way, the more they experience dissonance, taking advantage of it, and eventually, the more creative they become. Van Veen, Krug, Schooler, and Carter (2009) investigated the neural mechanisms underlying such attitude change processes, using an experimental paradigm called induced compliance (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959). While inside an fMRI scanner, participants were asked to tell yet-to-be-tested participants outside the room that they enjoyed performing the boring task in the uncomfortable scanner environment. In one condition, participants were given a monetary incentive to do this, but there was no such incentive provided in the other condition.