How does dissonance affect decision-making?

The study of cognitive dissonance is one of the most popular fields in social psychology. The inability to resolve cognitive dissonance can lead to irrational decision-making, as a person contradicts themselves in their beliefs or actions. Dissonance is an inevitable consequence of making a decision, but accepting it could lead to better choices. People like to believe that they are logical, consistent, and good at making decisions.

Cognitive dissonance can interfere with their perceptions of themselves and their abilities, which is why it can often be so uncomfortable and unpleasant. The link between activity in medial frontoparietal regions and attitudinal change is also consistent with numerous models of reducing cognitive dissonance. 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. Cognitive dissonance can even influence how people feel and see themselves, leading to negative feelings of self-esteem and self-esteem.

Additional studies are needed to better clarify the role of evaluative processes, conflicts and the regulation of emotions in the context of attitudinal change related to decision-making and cognitive dissonance in general. This investigation of cognitive dissonance processes with functional magnetic resonance imaging provides new insights into the neurocognitive mechanisms by which choosing between equally attractive alternatives can produce a change in attitude (that is, if you have conflicts with respect to choice, you experience cognitive dissonance, discomfort, tension or anxiety that occurs when you have two contradictory beliefs at the same time). Behavioral studies on cognitive dissonance provide evidence of attitude change induced by decision-making, but these studies cannot fully discover the mechanisms that drive attitude change because only attitudes before and after the decision are measured, and not the process of change itself. 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 best way to address cognitive dissonance in decision-making is to address it head-on instead of hiding it under the rug and letting anxiety increase over time, Leno says. When there are conflicts between cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, and opinions), people take steps to reduce dissonance and feelings of discomfort. There are a number of different situations that can create conflicts that lead to cognitive dissonance. How cognitive dissonance affects friendship, dating and marriage, as well as how it develops in abusive relationships.

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.

Hilary Gibbons
Hilary Gibbons

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