What is the relationship between cognitive dissonance and motivation?

Cognitive dissonance is said to be a powerful motivator for change. People find coherence comfortable and prefer to be consistent in their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, values, attitudes, and actions. When there is an inconsistency, the individual feels an imbalance or a dissonance. This effectively increases the amount of cognitive dissonance you incur if you don't achieve it in a number of ways.

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. This result should produce cognitive dissonance because the required behaviors and the current belief about the group are inconsistent. The purpose of DBI is to induce cognitive dissonance by making people voluntarily adopt a stance against the Western ideal of beauty. Therefore, one way to take advantage of cognitive dissonance is to think about how the behavior being sought is in line with these (or what other behavioral choices are not congruent with your belief system).

Prevention programs based on cognitive dissonance and the use of the Internet have been widely and successfully implemented among female university models, but their use has not yet been extended to the school environment. Much of the research on cognitive dissonance has focused on what happens when attitudes and behaviors are inconsistent. It is important to note that the theory of cognitive dissonance was conceptualized by Festinger in terms of truth, in terms of establishing what is real. However, if two cognitions are relevant, but conflicting, the existence of a dissonance would cause psychological distress and would motivate the individual to act accordingly.

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. When there are conflicts between cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, and opinions), people take steps to reduce dissonance and feelings of discomfort. Dissonance theory revolutionized social psychology by emphasizing the role of cognition in social behavior. However, the theory proposed that higher levels of dissonance may strongly motivate a person to quickly address psychological discomfort, while small levels of dissonance may not be as effective in encouraging the person to take immediate action.

Hilary Gibbons
Hilary Gibbons

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