Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a term used in modern psychology to describe the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. In a state of dissonance, people may sometimes feel "disequilibrium": frustration, hunger, dread, guilt, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, etc. The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. It is the distressing mental state that people feel when they "find themselves doing things that don't fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold." A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of equilibrium. Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.

An example of this would be the conflict between wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy; a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might decide that the health risks are outweighed by the pleasure they receive from smoking. This would include ignoring health issues such as lung cancer, emphysema, and an increase of heart disease. The need to avoid cognitive dissonance may bias one towards a certain decision even though other factors favour an alternative. Festinger said the contradiction is so clear and uncomfortable that something has to give--either the use of cigarettes or the belief that smoking them will cause harm. For example, a method for a smoker to resolve cognitive dissonance related to health risks and smoking would be to trivialize or deny the link between smoking and cancer.

The phrase was coined by Leon Festinger in his 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, which chronicled the followers of a UFO cult as reality clashed with their fervent belief in an impending apocalypse. Festinger subsequently published a book called "A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance", published in 1957, in which he outlines the theory. Cognitive dissonance is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Cognitive dissonance theory explains human behavior by positing that people have a bias to seek consonance between their expectations and reality. According to Festinger, people engage in a process he termed "dissonance reduction", which can be achieved in one of three ways: lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors, adding consonant elements, or changing one of the dissonant factors. This bias sheds light on otherwise puzzling, irrational, and even destructive behavior.

Read more about Cognitive Dissonance:  Theory and Research, Examples, Applications of Research, Challenges and Qualifications, Brain, Modeling in Neural Networks

Other articles related to "cognitive dissonance, cognitive, dissonance":

Rationalization (making Excuses) - Cognitive Dissonance
... approach to rationalization comes from cognitive dissonance ... one another, this realization brings with it an uncomfortable state of tension called cognitive dissonance ' ...
Selective Exposure Theory - Cognitive Dissonance Theory
... Much empirical data on selective exposure has been based on the cognitive dissonance theory ... Theories related to cognitive dissonance suggest that individuals strive for cognitive equilibrium and consistency ... their pre-existing views, individuals experience an unfavorable psychological state of dissonance, which they are motivated to alleviate ...
Cognitive Dissonance - Modeling in Neural Networks
... to integrate the empirical research done on cognitive dissonance and attitudes into one model of explanation of attitude formation and change ... Various neural network models have been developed to predict how cognitive dissonance will influence an individual's attitude and behavior ... Constraint Satisfaction Processes The Meta-Cognitive ModelMeta-Cognitive Model (MCM) of attitudes Adaptive connectionist model of cognitive dissonance ...
System Justification - Theoretical Influences - Cognitive Dissonance Theory
... One the most popular and well-known social psychological theories, cognitive dissonance theory explains that people have a need to maintain cognitive consistency in order to retain a positive self-image ... System justification theory builds off the cognitive dissonance framework, in that it posits people will justify a social system in order to retain a positive image of that ...
Cognitive Dissonance: The Engine That Drives Self-justification
... with our beliefs, comes from the unpleasant feeling called cognitive dissonance ... Cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two inconsistent cognitions ... Dissonance is bothersome in any circumstance but it is especially painful when an important element of self-concept is threatened ...

Famous quotes containing the words dissonance and/or cognitive:

    For decades child development experts have erroneously directed parents to sing with one voice, a unison chorus of values, politics, disciplinary and loving styles. But duets have greater harmonic possibilities and are more interesting to listen to, so long as cacophony or dissonance remains at acceptable levels.
    Kyle D. Pruett (20th century)

    While each child is born with his or her own distinct genetic potential for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, the possibilities for reaching that potential remain tied to early life experiences and the parent-child relationship within the family.
    Bernice Weissbourd (20th century)