Cognitive Dissonance Introduction to Psychology

The more good options you have or the more alike the options are, the more cognitive dissonance you’ll experience. Essentially, the internal conflict that results when you recognize the contradiction throws your mental balance (that feeling of “everything’s going well”) out of whack. You’ll naturally want to reduce the tension to return to — or close to, anyway — a happy place where things align in harmony.

Cardello and Sawyer (1992) conducted a study in which consumers were given one of four different types of information about pomegranate juice, i.e. that the juice was ‘very bitter’, had ‘average bitterness’, was ‘not bitter at all’, or no information. The consumers rated their expected experience of the bitterness and other sensory and hedonic attributes of the juice prior to tasting it. The results showed that the information established different expectations for the bitterness of the juice that were consistent with the information.

Social behavior

According to the cognitive dissonance theory, the very best way to get people to change their attitudes is to first get them to change their behavior. This contradiction creates cognitive dissonance, an unpleasant state of physiological arousal, which we are highly motivated to avoid. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes unpleasant feelings of unease or discomfort. As the theory has developed, it has also been extrapolated to all aspects of life outside of experiments in social psychology.

Because the task wasn’t validated by a sufficient monetary reward, they made up an internal motivation that justified the lie. Cognitive dissonance isn’t just a vague psychological theory — in fact, contradictory beliefs appear in our lives more often than we might want to admit. The important thing is to stay connected to yourself and make positive changes when needed. This kind of incongruence — called cognitive dissonance — can cause some serious mental discomfort.

Personal Responsibility

Indeed, cognitions consistent with the behavior (presumed the most resistant) are supposed to decrease the magnitude of the CDS, while inconsistent ones are supposed to increase it. Therefore, these moderators can influence the magnitude of dissonance but do not constitute a manipulation of the inconsistency, as would be comparing an inconsistent situation to a neutral or consistent one. Investigating strategies for reduction has historically been the overwhelming focus of CDT research.

what is the cognitive dissonance theory

This has been the case for ego depletion theory (Hagger et al., 2016), as well as for priming effects on impression formation (McCarthy et al., 2018), and cognitive performance (O’Donnell et al., 2018). The field reacted by increasing standards for scientific evidences in social psychology. Cognitive dissonance’s definition is a feeling of unease when there is tension between one’s beliefs, attitudes, values, and one’s actions.

Human Geography

Expectations of the bitterness and pungency of the oil were found to differ depending upon the regional information provided about the oil. Moreover, these expectations were assimilated into the ratings of the actual experience of the bitterness and pungency of the oil.

Is cognitive dissonance a learning theory?

Leon Festinger is the founder of the Cognitive Dissonance Theory [1], which suggests that learners try to achieve consistency between their beliefs, opinions, and other cognitions.

This approach works by encouraging patients to say things or role-play behaviors that contradict their beliefs about food and body image. The internal discomfort and tension of cognitive dissonance could contribute to stress or unhappiness. People who experience dissonance but have no way to resolve it may also feel powerless or guilty. A person might not want to engage in dissonant behavior, but addiction can make it feel physically and mentally difficult to bring their behavior into alignment with their values.

Forced compliance is what happens when external circumstances pressure one into performing actions that do not reflect one’s personal beliefs. Decision-making can cause cognitive dissonance when one imagines another action may have yielded better results. People tend to be emotionally invested in things that take a lot of effort, so if the action does not have the intended effects, it may cause cognitive dissonance. To ease the psychological pain of rejecting one choice (FOMO, anyone?) we often start justifying our decision.

what is the cognitive dissonance theory

Throughout the next couple of decades, he continued his experiments, giving us the basis for cognitive dissonance. You’re in a state of dissonance because you spent your time and energy driving to attend this convention, only for it to feel like a waste of time. You could end up denying that the convention is boring cognitive dissonance treatment and try to convince yourself that you actually learned a lot. You might also tell yourself that it’s not a big deal that you went to this convention – you weren’t going to do anything this weekend anyway. So what happens when you’re in a state of dissonance and your thoughts (or beliefs) and behaviors don’t align?

After listing in on the discussion, subjects were asked to evaluate how interesting they found it. The subjects whose strong initiation required reading aloud obscene words evaluated the discussion as more-interesting than the subjects of the mild initiation group. The reading of obscene sexual words to be initiated to the discussion involved a greater investment by the subjects than reading non-obscene words. Listening to a dull discussion was not worth the embarrassment of reading the obscene words, resulting in cognitive dissonance.

In our opinion, we consider that more standardization could permit to examine such specific hypotheses and to investigate more precisely the effects. To achieve this goal, and reduce variation between studies, the standardization of the induction would also require moving away from tasks grounded in social background, temporal, or cultural references. Also, to capture fine variations with lower noise and to be able to modelize the process, these requirements suggest movement toward lower level processes. It could require to look at the very minimal prerequisite for CDT, that is to manipulate inconsistency while the other socially contextualized variables are reduced to their strict minimal (e.g., commitment).

Steve Jano Author