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Cognitive dissonance: Definition, effects, and examples

We feel guilty about our behavior and worry that we may get caught, but we still tend to continue doing it out of boredom. Miscarriage of justice is an unfortunate example of cognitive dissonance. For instance, if a man is put into prison for a crime he is suspected of committing, the authorities congratulate themselves on having put a dangerous man away. However, if evidence later proves that the man punished is in fact, innocent, the authorities will still claim that they’ve arrested and tried the right man. The authorities believe they are the saviors of society, what they do is always for the good. Hence, even if evidence proves otherwise, they will find claims that support their action of putting the man into prison― if he isn’t guilty of this crime, he definitely must be guilty of another.

cognitive dissonance theory example

Inconsistent or conflicting beliefs lead to disharmony, which people strive to avoid. In psychology cognitive dissonance is a form of psychological stress that is experienced when a person holds two or more conflicting beliefs, behaviours, or values. The cognitive dissonance theory says that people seek psychological cognitive dissonance and addiction consistency between their beliefs and the real world. In order to function properly, people constantly reduce their cognitive dissonance to align their cognitions with their actions. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes.

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A man who is having an affair lies to his wife about having a late meeting. Despite knowing this, he still goes ahead with his action of lying to his wife. To reduce the dissonance in his mind, he tells himself that “what she won’t know won’t hurt her“. Aside from this example, lying in almost every situation invites cognitive dissonance as most of us have been brought up with the belief that lying is wrong, and unethical. Hence, when it is time for us to actually lie, we experience dissonance and restlessness, and it can also lead to a guilty conscience.

  • This means that human beings try their best to keep cognitive dissonance at the minimum, and go to great lengths to avoid situations that might cause them to experience cognitive dissonance.
  • It means that the person has a conflict of values, making them uncomfortable.
  • When people ignore, downplay, or forget about the inconsistencies within their beliefs and behaviors, it can lead to an inability to face reality.
  • This might involve going along with something due to peer pressure or doing something at work to avoid getting fired.
  • Technological advances are allowing psychologists to study the biomechanics of cognitive dissonance.

This could include changes in behavior or attempts to ignore information that contradicts a goal or desire. For example, a smoker might quit smoking or instead rationalize their behavior by saying other habits are just as dangerous. Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort you feel when you have two contradictory beliefs or values. Cognitive dissonance is an internal conflict that occurs in a person when their conflicting beliefs collide. According to Willingham (2014), cognitive dissonance “literally means having mental conflicts” (p. 151). This theory has been discussed since the early days of Festinger’s proposal of cognitive dissonance.

Examples of Cognitive Dissonance

They have a choice between walking away from the sales-person or buying the product, and more than often, it is the latter. This choice actually causes dissonance in the potential customer who then tells himself that he has so much, he can surely spare a little for the less fortunate, and ends up buying the product though he doesn’t want it. This reduces cognitive dissonance and encourages a workplace culture that truly prioritizes health and wellness. If your company claims to prioritize innovation while being reluctant to embrace risks or novel methods, your employees will notice this, raising the chances for cognitive dissonance. This is why your organization should establish an innovation-friendly environment that encourages calculated risk-taking. This should also reward creativity and offer resources for experimentation.

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