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

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

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. Dissonance due to inconsistency between commitment and information occurs when we commit to a belief, value, or ideal before having all of the information, or new information contradicts the commitment we have made to a belief. Dissonance due to inadequate justification occurs when we invest a significant amount of time, energy, money, or effort, but we receive little or nothing in return on the investment.

Among the major theories in psychology, Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT; Festinger, 1957) holds a honorable position (Haggbloom et al., 2002; Devine and Brodish, 2003; Gawronski and Strack, 2012; Kruglanski et al., 2018). For more than six decades, CDT suggests that cognitive inconsistency leads to a motivational state that promotes regulation, which comes mainly through a change of opinions or behaviors. Many investigations of this theory have relied on the inconsistency between attitudes and behaviors, usually resulting in an attitude shift toward more consistency with the behaviors (e.g., Festinger and Carlsmith, 1959). In the present paper, we stress and list what appear to us as major issues threatening the validity of CDT and we suggest means to cope with them. Finally, we invite the field to take advantage of these important challenges to go forward, and thus improve or complete the whole theory. Cognitive dissonance is a theory in social psychology first proposed by Leon Festinger.

A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance – Leon Festinger

The general model of CDT suggests that the detection of an inconsistency will evoke a CDS, which will motivate a regulation strategy. In the previous paragraphs, we made several suggestions for testing CDT in a more reliable way and, as the model is sequential, the suggestions should also respect a step sequence. In addition, a serious evaluation of the theory requires assessing the whole model and not only the last sequential part. In the current state, the general model of cognitive dissonance (inconsistency-CDS-regulation) has to be put to the test. This consideration could imply reexamining many former conclusions drawn in the first decades of CDT. All the information gathered from this examination could provide rich understanding for the theory and help in reconnecting the CDT to the whole field.

cognitive dissonance theory

When one learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief, for example, or acts in a way that seems to undercut a favorable self-image, that person may feel motivated to somehow resolve the negative feeling that results—to restore cognitive consonance. 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. Okay, so you’re paid to lie to someone about how fun and interesting a task is. Cognitive dissonance can occur in three stages of discomfort that may or may not lead to changing one’s actions and/or attitudes. At the time that Festinger proposed it, his theory was revolutionary because it suggested that people sometimes act and then form an opinion, instead of forming an opinion (or belief) and then acting on it. In other words, Festinger said, humans have a tendency to rationalize their actions to alleviate cognitive dissonance.

Assessing Reduction Is not Assessing “Dissonance”

Understanding your beliefs and values behind the inconsistencies is an opportunity to develop deeper self-knowledge. People like to believe that they are logical, consistent, and good at making decisions. Cognitive dissonance can interfere with the perceptions they hold about themselves and their abilities, which is why it can often feel so uncomfortable and unpleasant. The effects of product expectations on product experience (plot of the data from Olson and Dover, 1976). The bars indicate the mean ratings of the reported ‘belief strength’ of the bitterness of coffee. The arrows indicate the level of pre-trial expectation in the information condition.

In addition to these emotional experiences, cognitive dissonance can also inspire a change in your behavior or beliefs. Some of these changes can be positive, such as shifting problematic beliefs or harmful habits. is one of the most studied, debated and influential theories in social psychology. Over the years, several revisions of the theory have been proposed, including Self-Consistency Theory, Self-Affirmation Theory, The “New Look” at Dissonance Theory, and the Self-Standards Model.

Conflict of Interest Statement

Once the inconsistency induction and the CDS issues are fixed—and only after that—the research could finally focus seriously on the regulation sequence and the whole model. Indeed, the genuine model considers regulation to be driven by the CDS and thus the theory expects individuals to be motivated for regulation. Hence, with a clear operationalization of inconsistency and CDS, the total absence of regulation should be a refutation of the theory.

cognitive dissonance theory

Once a choice has been made, however, people need to find a way to reduce these feelings of discomfort. We accomplish this by justifying why our choice was the best option treatment for cognitive dissonance so we can believe that we made the right decision. Dissonance theory revolutionized social psychology by emphasizing the role of cognition in social behavior.

If that same person believed the COVID-19 pandemic was real but refused to wear a mask, their values and behaviors would contradict each other. Read on to learn more about cognitive dissonance, including examples, signs a person might be experiencing it, causes, and how to resolve it. It occurs in all of us frequently, not just when planning to diet and justifying a doughnut with a delayed diet start.

The number of variations within this approach to self-evaluation regulation is also substantial. An example of this approach is cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger 1957). Holding beliefs that are logically or ‘psychologically’ inconsistent, i.e., dissonant, with one another is uncomfortable. For example, suppose a student agrees to a request to write an essay in favor of a tuition increase at her school.

Similarly, inconsistency is generally irrelevant to an SEM threat, whereas other’s performance is crucial. Attitude change is the usual mode of dissonance threat reduction; on the other hand, changes in closeness, performance, or relevance are the SEM modes. Being paid only $1 is not sufficient incentive for lying and so those who were paid $1 experienced dissonance. They could only overcome that dissonance by coming to believe that the tasks really were interesting and enjoyable. Being paid $20 provides a reason for turning pegs, and there is, therefore, no dissonance. Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) investigated if making people perform a dull task would create cognitive dissonance through forced compliance behavior.

  • Collectively, the methodological issues concerning assessment in CDT invite consideration of the examination of regulation as a secondary goal for now.
  • Cognitive Dissonance Theory has generally been used with at-risk women, and outside of the school setting.
  • In some cases the signal accurately cued the taste solution being presented, but in other cases the cue was misleading, e.g. a signal for a bitter solution was given, but a sweet solution was presented.
  • The third group, the control group, was not asked to speak with the confederate.

Technological advances are allowing psychologists to study the biomechanics of cognitive dissonance. Throwing trash outside even when knowing this act is against the law, wrong, and could harm animals and the planet is cognitive dissonance, especially if the person feels bad after littering but continues to do so. In this situation, John is in a state of dissonance as he was visibly shocked by Maria’s behavior. He could either choose to rationalize the entire incident or choose to leave Maria.

Real-Life Examples of Cognitive Dissonance

To the contrary, participants who were told the victimization took place in the distant past blamed the character of the victim more and saw greater benefits in her suffering than did participants who thought the victimization was in the recent past. In terms of Hafer and Gosse’s (2010) organization of BJW-defense strategies, Warner et al.’s (2012) temporal distance variable probably influenced endorsement of different strategies through the availability principle. That is, temporal distance might have affected the availability of BJW-defense strategies that required different modes of thinking.

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