How do people respond to feelings of cognitive dissonance?

There are a variety of ways in which people are thought to resolve the sense of dissonance when cognitions don't seem to fit. They can include denying or compartmentalizing unwanted thoughts, trying to explain a thought that doesn't agree with others, or changing what you believe or your behavior. Cognitive dissonance can make people feel uncomfortable and uncomfortable. This is particularly true if the disparity between their beliefs and behaviors involves something that is fundamental to their sense of self.

Many of the most frequently cited examples of cognitive dissonance are when we justify or rationalize negative choices or errors. But sometimes cognitive dissonance can help us establish positive behaviors or changes that our personality or previous habits would prevent us from doing otherwise. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to feel psychologically uncomfortable and is motivated to reduce cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance may be due to feeling compelled to do something, when learning new information, or when faced with a decision between two similar options.

In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (195), Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive to achieve internal psychological consistency in order to function mentally in the real world. Cognitive dissonance may be something you don't even notice because your brain resolves it quickly, such as when someone bumps into you on the way to work and you spill your coffee. This type of cognitive dissonance occurs in a person who is faced with a difficult decision when there are always aspects of the rejected object that attract the person who chooses it. Believing that cigarettes are bad for your health, but smoking cigarettes can cause cognitive dissonance anyway.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person has contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values and is generally experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them. Sometimes, the ways in which people resolve cognitive dissonance contribute to unhealthy behaviors or poor choices. When there are conflicts between cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, and opinions), people take steps to reduce dissonance and feelings of discomfort. Everyone experiences cognitive dissonance to some degree, but that doesn't mean it's always easy to recognize.

Changing conflicting cognition is one of the most effective ways to address dissonance, but it is also one of the most difficult, especially in the case of deeply held values and beliefs, such as religious or political inclinations. Additional research found that not only is dissonance psychologically uncomfortable, but it can also cause physiological arousal (Croyle %26 Cooper, 198) and activate brain regions important for emotions and cognitive functioning (van Veen, Krug, Schooler, %26 Carter, 200). Some of the ways in which people reduce the discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance include seeking information that aligns with and supports current beliefs, reducing the importance of conflicting beliefs, and changing beliefs to reduce feelings of conflict. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people seek psychological coherence between their life expectancy and the existential reality of the world.

Hilary Gibbons
Hilary Gibbons

Subtly charming twitter ninja. Freelance zombie guru. Friendly bacon enthusiast. Tv scholar. Extreme food junkie.