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Cognitive Dissonance: Overview, Effects, and Examples

The central thesis of cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957) is that when two beliefs are inconsistent, individuals experience negatively arousing cognitive conflict (called dissonance). Because the dissonance is aversive, the individuals try to reduce it by changing one or the other beliefs. For example, when making a difficult decision, individuals show attitude change that justifies the decision. In this case, individuals who face such a decision are conflicted because not all beliefs are consistent with the decision. The individuals are therefore motivated to reduce the conflict by justifying the decision they have made.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort a person feels when their behavior does not align with their values or beliefs. For example, since individuals typically want to see themselves as ethical people, acting unethically would produce higher levels of dissonance. The average person probably wouldn’t fault you for telling the lie—$500 is a lot of money and for most people would probably be enough to justify a relatively inconsequential lie. However, if you were paid only a couple of dollars, you might have more trouble justifying your lie, and feel less comfortable about doing so. Dissonance can also be experienced vicariously through people of a social group that we identify with.

How to Cope With Cognitive Dissonance

People who have pseudobulbar affect have sudden, frequent, and uncontrollable episodes of laughing or crying. Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions. Modifying the action usually means trying to justify or rationalize why you acted the way you did (since you can’t simply undo whatever it is you did). “If you’re not able to be genuine about your needs, then that’s going to create more stress and distance in your relationships,” warns Dr. Prewitt. For example, in the realm of pet products, brands might emphasize the benefits of natural ingredients and enhanced pet health.

They tried to get orders and messages from the “spacemen” for a future reality that would be consistent with their original beliefs. Dissonance theory revolutionized social psychology by emphasizing the role of cognition in social behavior. More importantly, it also provided the first testable framework in which to conceptualize how cognition could be motivated and how the motivated cognition could yield some intriguing forms of social behavior. The theory enabled us, both in and outside of social psychology, to reflect on potentially unflattering aspects of the human mind. Indeed, the influence of dissonance theory went far beyond the field of social psychology.

Social behavior

At the heart of a teacher’s role are teaching strategies and learning activities that contribute to students’ effective attainment of their learning goals. In parallel, teachers also take an interest in other outcomes, such as enjoyment of classes and of school, an interest in the subject matter, and the creation of a cooperative and prosocial class atmosphere. Yet, programs of research on teaching strategies that optimize the use of limited cognitive resources and teaching strategies that foster optimal motivation have occurred mostly independently. The few attempts to draw upon both fields of research are theoretically fragmented and inconclusive (Martin, 2023).

And recognizing and addressing those negative thoughts or emotions is important. When you understand how cognitive dissonance impacts your target audience, you can begin to explore ways to resolve those feelings of discomfort. In this article, we delve deep into the theory of cognitive dissonance, revealing how it relates to decision-making, dealing with discomfort, and empowering businesses to craft compelling strategies. In Hafer and Gosse (2010), we discuss a number of potential situational cognitive dissonance treatment determinants of how people defend BJW in the face of threat. The use of the Internet offers the additional benefit of enabling both a universal and targeted program as initial activities can include screening for risk factors and tailoring the subsequent content. For example, ‘Student Bodies’ is an 8-week psycho-educational eating disorder prevention program that was developed in the United States and trialed among female adolescents (mean age 15.1 years) and their parents.