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In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs , ideas , or values; or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that. According to this theory, when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people do all in their power to change them until they become consistent. In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance , Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to function mentally in the real world.
A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance. They tend to make changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance or by avoiding circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.
Coping with the nuances of contradictory ideas or experiences is mentally stressful. It requires energy and effort to sit with those seemingly opposite things that all seem true. Festinger argued that some people would inevitably resolve dissonance by blindly believing whatever they wanted to believe. To function in the reality of modern society, human beings continually adjust the correspondence of their mental attitudes and personal actions; such continual adjustments, between cognition and action, result in one of three relationships with reality: .
The term "magnitude of dissonance" refers to the level of discomfort caused to the person. This can be caused by the relationship between two differing internal beliefs, or an action that is incompatible with the beliefs of the person.
There is always some degree of dissonance within a person as they go about making decisions, due to the changing quantity and quality of knowledge and wisdom that they gain.
The magnitude itself is a subjective measurement since the reports are self relayed, and there is no objective way as yet to get a clear measurement of the level of discomfort. Cognitive dissonance theory proposes that people seek psychological consistency between their expectations of life and the existential reality of the world.
To function by that expectation of existential consistency, people continually reduce their cognitive dissonance in order to align their cognitions perceptions of the world with their actions. The creation and establishment of psychological consistency allows the person afflicted with cognitive dissonance to lessen mental stress by actions that reduce the magnitude of the dissonance, realized either by changing with or by justifying against or by being indifferent to the existential contradiction that is inducing the mental stress.
Three cognitive biases are components of dissonance theory. The bias that one does not have any biases, the bias that one is "better, kinder, smarter, more moral and nicer than average" and confirmation bias. That a consistent psychology is required for functioning in the real world also was indicated in the results of The Psychology of Prejudice , wherein people facilitate their functioning in the real world by employing human categories i.
The study Patterns of Cognitive Dissonance-reducing Beliefs Among Smokers: A Longitudinal Analysis from the International Tobacco Control ITC Four Country Survey indicated that smokers use justification beliefs to reduce their cognitive dissonance about smoking tobacco and the negative consequences of smoking it.
To reduce cognitive dissonance, the participant smokers adjusted their beliefs to correspond with their actions:. There are four theoretic paradigms of cognitive dissonance, the mental stress people suffer when exposed to information that is inconsistent with their beliefs , ideals or values : Belief Disconfirmation, Induced Compliance, Free Choice, and Effort Justification, which respectively explain what happens after a person acts inconsistently, relative to his or her intellectual perspectives; what happens after a person makes decisions and what are the effects upon a person who has expended much effort to achieve a goal.
Common to each paradigm of cognitive-dissonance theory is the tenet: People invested in a given perspective shall—when confronted with contrary evidence—expend great effort to justify retaining the challenged perspective. The contradiction of a belief, ideal, or system of values causes cognitive dissonance that can be resolved by changing the challenged belief, yet, instead of effecting change, the resultant mental stress restores psychological consonance to the person by misperception, rejection, or refutation of the contradiction, seeking moral support from people who share the contradicted beliefs or acting to persuade other people that the contradiction is unreal.
The early hypothesis of belief contradiction presented in When Prophecy Fails reported that faith deepened among the members of an apocalyptic religious cult, despite the failed prophecy of an alien spacecraft soon to land on Earth to rescue them from earthly corruption.
At the determined place and time, the cult assembled; they believed that only they would survive planetary destruction; yet the spaceship did not arrive to Earth.
The confounded prophecy caused them acute cognitive-dissonance: Had they been victims of a hoax? Had they vainly donated away their material possessions? To resolve the dissonance between apocalyptic, end-of-the-world religious beliefs and earthly, material reality , most of the cult restored their psychological consonance by choosing to believe a less mentally-stressful idea to explain the missed landing: that the aliens had given planet Earth a second chance at existence, which, in turn, empowered them to re-direct their religious cult to environmentalism and social advocacy to end human damage to planet Earth.
On overcoming the confounded belief by changing to global environmentalism, the cult increased in numbers by proselytism. When he died of a stroke in , instead of accepting that their Rebbe was not the Messiah, some of the congregation proved indifferent to that contradictory fact and continued claiming that Schneerson was the Messiah and that he would soon return from the dead. In the Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance , the investigators Leon Festinger and Merrill Carlsmith asked students to spend an hour doing tedious tasks; e.
The tasks were designed to induce a strong, negative, mental attitude in the subjects. Once the subjects had done the tasks, the experimenters asked one group of subjects to speak with another subject an actor and persuade that impostor-subject that the tedious tasks were interesting and engaging. The researchers, Festinger and Carlsmith, proposed that the subjects experienced dissonance between the conflicting cognitions.
The subjects paid twenty dollars were induced to comply by way of an obvious, external justification for internalizing the "interesting task" mental attitude and experienced a lesser degree of cognitive dissonance. Forbidden Behaviour paradigm In the Effect of the Severity of Threat on the Devaluation of Forbidden Behavior , a variant of the induced-compliance paradigm, by Elliot Aronson and Carlsmith, examined self-justification in children.
Upon leaving the room, the experimenter told one-half of the group of children that there would be severe punishment if they played with the steam-shovel toy and told the second half of the group that there would be a mild punishment for playing with the forbidden toy. All of the children refrained from playing with the forbidden toy the steam shovel.
Later, when the children were told that they could freely play with any toy they wanted, the children in the mild-punishment group were less likely to play with the steam shovel the forbidden toy , despite the removal of the threat of mild punishment.
The children threatened with mild punishment had to justify, to themselves, why they did not play with the forbidden toy.
The degree of punishment was insufficiently strong to resolve their cognitive dissonance; the children had to convince themselves that playing with the forbidden toy was not worth the effort. In The Efficacy of Musical Emotions Provoked by Mozart's Music for the Reconciliation of Cognitive Dissonance , a variant of the forbidden-toy paradigm, indicated that listening to music reduces the development of cognitive dissonance.
After playing alone, the control-group children later devalued the importance of the forbidden toy. In the variable group, classical music played in the background while the children played alone.
In the second group, the children did not later devalue the forbidden toy. The researchers, Nobuo Masataka and Leonid Perlovsky, concluded that music might inhibit cognitions that reduce cognitive dissonance.
Music is a stimulus that can diminish post-decisional dissonance; in an earlier experiment, Washing Away Postdecisional Dissonance , the researchers indicated that the actions of hand-washing might inhibit the cognitions that reduce cognitive dissonance. In the study Post-decision Changes in Desirability of Alternatives female students rated domestic appliances and then were asked to choose one of two appliances as a gift.
The results of a second round of ratings indicated that the women students increased their ratings of the domestic appliance they had selected as a gift and decreased their ratings of the appliances they rejected. This type of cognitive dissonance occurs in a person faced with a difficult decision, when there always exist aspects of the rejected-object that appeal to the chooser.
The action of deciding provokes the psychological dissonance consequent to choosing X instead of Y, despite little difference between X and Y; the decision "I chose X" is dissonant with the cognition that "There are some aspects of Y that I like". The study Choice-induced Preferences in the Absence of Choice: Evidence from a Blind Two-choice Paradigm with Young Children and Capuchin Monkeys reports similar results in the occurrence of cognitive dissonance in human beings and in animals.
That social preferences and social norms are related and function with wage-giving among three persons. The actions of the first person influenced [ clarification needed ] the wage-giving actions of the second person. That inequity aversion is the paramount concern of the participants. Cognitive dissonance occurs to a person who voluntarily engages in physically or ethically unpleasant activities to achieve a goal.
The mental stress caused by the dissonance can be reduced by the person exaggerating the desirability of the goal. In The Effect of Severity of Initiation on Liking for a Group , to qualify for admission to a discussion group, two groups of people underwent an embarrassing initiation of varied psychological severity.
The first group of subjects were to read aloud twelve sexual words considered obscene; the second group of subjects were to read aloud twelve sexual words not considered obscene. Both groups were given headphones to unknowingly listen to a recorded discussion about animal sexual behaviour, which the researchers designed to be dull and banal. As the subjects of the experiment, the groups of people were told that the animal-sexuality discussion actually was occurring in the next room.
The subjects whose strong initiation required reading aloud obscene words evaluated the people of their group as more-interesting persons than the people of the group who underwent the mild initiation to the discussion group. In Washing Away Your Sins: Threatened Morality and Physical Cleansing , the results indicated that a person washing his or her hands is an action that helps resolve post-decisional cognitive dissonance because the mental stress usually was caused by the person's ethical—moral self-disgust, which is an emotion related to the physical disgust caused by a dirty environment.
The study The Neural Basis of Rationalization: Cognitive Dissonance Reduction During Decision-making indicated that participants rated 80 names and 80 paintings based on how much they liked the names and paintings. To give meaning to the decisions, the participants were asked to select names that they might give to their children. For rating the paintings, the participants were asked to base their ratings on whether or not they would display such art at home.
The results indicated that when the decision is meaningful to the person deciding value, the likely rating is based on his or her attitudes positive, neutral or negative towards the name and towards the painting in question. The participants also were asked to rate some of the objects twice and believed that, at session's end, they would receive two of the paintings they had positively rated. The results indicated a great increase in the positive attitude of the participant towards the liked pair of things, whilst also increasing the negative attitude towards the disliked pair of things.
The double-ratings of pairs of things, towards which the rating participant had a neutral attitude, showed no changes during the rating period.
The existing attitudes of the participant were reinforced during the rating period and the participants suffered cognitive dissonance when confronted by a liked-name paired with a disliked-painting.
Meat-eating can involve discrepancies between the behavior of eating meat and various ideals that the person holds. Ent and Mary A. Gerend informed the study participants about a discomforting test for a specific fictitious virus called the "human respiratory virus". The study used a fake virus to prevent participants from having thoughts, opinions, and feeling about the virus that would interfere with the experiment. The study participants were in two groups; one group was told that they were actual candidates for the virus test, and the second group were told they were not candidates for the test.
The researchers reported, "We predicted that [study] participants who thought that they were candidates for the unpleasant test would experience dissonance associated with knowing that the test was both unpleasant and in their best interest—this dissonance was predicted to result in unfavorable attitudes toward the test. The management of cognitive dissonance readily influences the motivation of a student to pursue education. Afterwards, the students are trained to objectively perceive new facts and information to resolve the psychological stress of the conflict between reality and the student's value system.
The general effectiveness of psychotherapy and psychological intervention is partly explained by the theory of cognitive dissonance.
In the study Reducing Fears and Increasing Attentiveness: The Role of Dissonance Reduction , people afflicted with ophidiophobia fear of snakes who invested much effort in activities of little therapeutic value for them experimentally represented as legitimate and relevant showed improved alleviation of the symptoms of their phobia.
That the therapy of effort expenditure can predict long-term change in the patient's perceptions. Cognitive dissonance is used to promote positive social behaviours, such as increased condom use;  other studies indicate that cognitive dissonance can be used to encourage people to act pro-socially, such as campaigns against public littering,  campaigns against racial prejudice ,  and compliance with anti-speeding campaigns.
Acharya of Stanford, Blackwell and Sen of Harvard state CD increases when an individual commits an act of violence toward someone from a different ethnic or racial group and decreases when the individual does not commit any such act of violence. Research from Acharya, Blackwell and Sen shows that individuals committing violence against members of another group develop hostile attitudes towards their victims as a way of minimizing CD. Importantly, the hostile attitudes may persist even after the violence itself declines Acharya, Blackwell, Sen The application provides a social psychological basis for the constructivist viewpoint that ethnic and racial divisions can be socially or individually constructed, possibly from acts of violence Fearon and Laitin, Their framework speaks to this possibility by showing how violent actions by individuals can affect individual attitudes, either ethnic or racial animosity Acharya, Blackwell, Sen Three main conditions exist for provoking cognitive dissonance when buying: i The decision to purchase must be important, such as the sum of money to spend; ii The psychological cost; and iii The purchase is personally relevant to the consumer.
The consumer is free to select from the alternatives and the decision to buy is irreversible. The study Beyond Reference Pricing: Understanding Consumers' Encounters with Unexpected Prices , indicated that when consumers experience an unexpected price encounter, they adopt three methods to reduce cognitive dissonance: i Employ a strategy of continual information; ii Employ a change in attitude; and iii Engage in minimisation.
Consumers employ the strategy of continual information by engaging in bias and searching for information that supports prior beliefs. Consumers might search for information about other retailers and substitute products consistent with their beliefs.
Minimisation reduces the importance of the elements of the dissonance; consumers tend to minimise the importance of money, and thus of shopping around, saving, and finding a better deal. Cognitive dissonance theory might suggest that since votes are an expression of preference or beliefs, even the act of voting might cause someone to defend the actions of the candidate for whom they voted,  and if the decision was close then the effects of cognitive dissonance should be greater.
This effect was studied over the 6 presidential elections of the United States between and ,  and it was found that the opinion differential between the candidates changed more before and after the election than the opinion differential of non-voters. In addition, elections where the voter had a favorable attitude toward both candidates, making the choice more difficult, had the opinion differential of the candidates change more dramatically than those who only had a favorable opinion of one candidate.
What wasn't studied were the cognitive dissonance effects in cases where the person had unfavorable attitudes toward both candidates.
Harmon-Jones&Mills 1999 Disonanta cognitiva
Translation of "cognitive dissonance" in Romanian