The Millstone Times June 2021
♥ HEALTH & WELLNESS What is Cognitive Dissonance? By, Surabhi Ashok
Cognitive dissonance, a highly researched theory in social psychol- ogy, is the conflict of attitude/belief and behavior. An example of this is not picking up after your dog (behavior) even though you know you should abide by your communities’ guidelines (cognition). When your behavior doesn’t coincide with your knowledge, it creates a men- tal discomfort. Different factors affect the intensity of this discomfort. Personal be- liefs, beliefs that are held with significance, and the number of the conflicting beliefs can all create more dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is caused by three things: forced compliance behavior, decision making, and effort. Forced compliance behavior is when you act against your beliefs. Be- cause your action was in the past, you alleviate your mental discom- fort by forcing your attitude to match with what you did.
Decisions also cause cognitive dissonance because choosing one alternative means you haven’t chosen the other. For instance, if you had to decide be- tween finishing work from school or going out with your friends, you might feel dissonance. If you finished your work, you would miss your friends and the probable fun time they were having. If you went with your friends, you would feel guilty that you did not complete your assignments which may cause stress. To solve this cognitive dissonance, people often partake in “spreading apart the alternatives,” which is increasing the appeal of the option they chose while decreasing the appeal of the other option. Cognitive dissonance is caused by putting so much effort into achieving something and it proves to be not worthwhile and a waste. The result could be disappointing, or your accomplishment of the goal could make you feel dissatisfied. An example of this would be putting in a lot of time and energy into getting a promotion for your job when you realize that the spot has already been filled by someone else. To avoid the resulting dissonance, people often use the method of “effort justification.” This is persuading oneself that the accomplishment was worth the amount of work put in and regarding it with esteem. People also try to downplay their effort as if they did not tirelessly use up their energy on a dis- appointing end result. Essentially, cognitive dissonance is reduced by the change, addition, and devaluation of existing attitudes or behavior. It is also common to see people look for information, like the negative campus life of a college for example, that might outweigh the dissonance of not choosing to go there. Another method is reflected in a popular phrase “You only live once,” which convinces someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do because life is short and should be exciting. There are significant effects on people who experience cognitive dissonance as well. These people may feel anxious or guilty, try to hide their actions or beliefs, rationalize their choices, avoid conversations about certain topics, disregard or keep away from any contradicting information, including research and articles, and maybe even change their behavior. The cognitive dissonance theory was first established by Leon Festinger when he studied a cult that believed the Earth would be destroyed by a flood. When the flood did not happen however, some members re-interpreted the result to say that the flood did not occur because they were so committed to this cult. The theory states that each and every human being tries to keep their attitudes and behavior aligned, which is called cognitive consistency. Therefore, people try to eliminate any disharmony that may occur because it is in their nature. Cognitive dissonance affects your daily life in the decisions you make and the experiences you have. While it is an uncomfortable feeling, cognitive dis- sonance can lead to reevaluation, positive growth, and change. Sources: https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html | https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326738#effects
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