Cognitive Dissonance Examples

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person's beliefs conflicts with other previously held beliefs. It describes the feelings of discomfort resulting from having the two conflicting beliefs. In order to reduce or possibly eliminate the dissonance, something must change because of the discrepancy between the person's beliefs and behaviors.

A psychologist, Leon Festinger, wrote a book titled A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. In it, he proposed the centerpiece of the theory was on how people would try to reach internal consistency, meaning that people must need their beliefs and behaviors are consistent with one another. This need is actually internalized and people try to ensure this consistency. They want to avoid inconsistency because it, along with conflicting beliefs, leads to discomfort and disharmony.

He compares it to hunger leading to activity that would lead to reducing the hunger. It is a powerful antecedent condition which leads to activity oriented toward reducing dissonance. Most psychologists are not used to dealing with it because there is a different motivation behind it. Desiring food because one is hungry is more understandable than cognitive dissonance.

Different factors affect the amount of dissonance a person experiences, one of which includes how much value is placed on a particular belief and the degree of inconsistency between those beliefs. Personal cognitions, such as those about self, seem to cause more dissonance. The importance of the cognitions will also have an effect. The things a person places a higher value will result in stronger dissonance. The greater the strength of dissonance will lead to more pressure to relieve any feelings of discomfort. Cognitive dissonance can be very influential on behaviors and actions.

Examples of Cognitive Dissonance:

1. A man places a value on being environmentally responsible, but purchases a car that does not get very good gas mileage. He is conflicted between trying to save the environment and driving a gas-guzzler. To help reduce the dissonance, he may sell the car or use a bike or bus for transportation sometimes.

2. A common occurrence leading to dissonance is related to regular purchasing decisions. Most people believe that make good choices when buying things. When a product turns out to be defective or not meet their expectations, it conflicts with our feelings believing we make good purchasing decisions.

3. People who smoke know that it is bad for their health but continue to smoke anyway. They may even eat right and exercise as a method to reduce the dissonance. They may also convince themselves smoking is not as bad as the experts say it is. In addition, they tell themselves quitting smoking will lead to weight gain. All of this helps them reduce the discomfort of their conflicting beliefs.

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