How does cognitive dissonance affect risk-taking behavior?

Cognitive dissonance occurs when there is an uncomfortable tension between two or more beliefs held simultaneously. 2 This most commonly occurs when our behaviors don't align with our attitudes: we believe in one thing, but act against those beliefs. The strength of cognitive dissonance, or the pain it causes, depends on the number and relative weight of conflicting beliefs. This mental conflict and the resulting discomfort motivate us to choose between beliefs, justifying and rationalizing one while rejecting or reducing the importance of the others.

In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Leon Festinger (the psychologist who first described this phenomenon) offers an example of how a person can address dissonance related to health behavior by talking about people who continue to smoke, even though they know that it is harmful to their health. There are a number of different situations that can create conflicts that lead to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can interfere with their perceptions of themselves and their abilities, which is why it can often be so uncomfortable and unpleasant. Alternatively, they can reduce cognitive dissonance by being aware of their values and seeking opportunities to live those values.

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. The incorporation of cognitive dissonance into models of basic learning processes to promote students' self-awareness of the psychological conflicts between their beliefs, ideals and personal values and the reality of contradictory facts and information requires students to defend their personal beliefs. 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. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person voluntarily participates in unpleasant activities (physically or ethically) to achieve a goal.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when there is an uncomfortable tension between two or more beliefs that are held simultaneously. Research by Acharya, Blackwell and Sen shows that people who commit acts of violence against members of another group develop hostile attitudes toward their victims as a way of minimizing cognitive dissonance. How cognitive dissonance affects friendship, dating and marriage, as well as how it develops in abusive relationships. Cognitive dissonance can occur when you and your husband or wife have different views, attitudes, or behaviors.

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. Cognitive dissonance can even influence how people feel and see themselves, leading to negative feelings of self-esteem and self-esteem.

Hilary Gibbons
Hilary Gibbons

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