What Is Cognitive Dissonance? Cleveland Clinic

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  • Cognitive dissonance theory has a long and esteemed history in social psychology.
  • You may also experience cognitive dissonance when you have situations where friends, family members or coworkers act a certain way that don’t align with your beliefs.
  • Understanding your beliefs and values behind the inconsistencies is an opportunity to develop deeper self-knowledge.
  • People do not necessarily experience discomfort in response to every apparent contradiction in their thoughts and beliefs.

Another way to cope with cognitive dissonance is to slow down when making decisions. Taking the time to explore the pros and cons before making a decision can help you feel more comfortable with your choices and minimize some of the cognitive dissonance you may experience. Likewise, you also can challenge the behaviors that don’t align with your beliefs and think of alternative ways of doing things that would be more in line with with you believe. Cognitive dissonance is a mental conflict or discomfort that occurs when your behaviors and your beliefs do not align. You can experience cognitive dissonance when what you decide to do contradicts your values, morals, or belief system.

Acquire new information that outweighs the dissonant beliefs.

Dr. Litam is a highly sought after speaker for organizations and businesses on multicultural topics and she regularly serves as a content expert on various platforms including National Public Radio, podcasts, news outlets, as well as in legislative arenas. Her clinical work, research expertise and advocacy for supporting BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ folx, as well as human sex trafficking survivors have garnered national praise and notoriety. She is an actively involved member of each of her intersecting communities and she is passionate about ensuring that culturally responsive content is accessible for all organizations in need.

cognitive dissonance treatment

As you can imagine, participant’s attitudes toward this task were highly negative. So when a smoker does in fact quit smoking, not only do they reduce their dissonance but the attitude they kept—smoking is disgusting and incredibly unhealthy—usually becomes deeply entrenched. Perhaps one reason why reformed smokers tend to be vehemently opposed to the habit and secondhand smoke. To live an authentic life, you need to be able to recognize when you’re compensating for incongruence.

Discussing discrepant behavior

Participants were randomly assigned either to deliver the speech in front of a camera (to “preach”) or to silently rehearse the speech but not to deliver it. Among these groups, participants were also randomized to review occasions in their past when they had unprotected intercourse (high mindful), or not to (low mindful), prior to developing the speech. Finally, participants reported their levels of condom use in the past and reported their level of intention to use condoms in the future. Typically, when we feel psychological dissonance, it’s because one of these patterns of thought is being challenged.

  • Some goals are long term (e.g., having a good relationship with family members), while other goals are short term (e.g., standing up for oneself in a disagreement with a stranger).
  • Because one can act oneself into feeling better much more effectively than one can think oneself into feeling better.
  • Among the examples he used to illustrate the theory were doomsday cult members and their explanations for why the world had not ended as they had anticipated.

Values surrounding racism, sexism and religion can commonly cause tension when you discover new information that opposes how you feel, says Dr. Scott. Here’s what you need to know about cognitive dissonance, and how to seek the proper care. This offers opportunities to discuss the discrepancies, deepen the relationship, and re-align values. Conversely, we may justify or trivialize negative behavior or even end the relationship. Cognitive dissonance and the way we cope with it regularly affect our relationships, too, both positively and negatively.

Conflict of Interest

In all conditions, they then heard a very boring discussion about sex in lower animals. They were asked to rate how interesting they had found the discussion and how interesting they had found the people involved in it. This is probably because dissonance would be caused if we spent a great effort to achieve something and then evaluated it negatively. Participants in the high-dissonance condition chose between a highly desirable product and one rated just 1 point lower on the 8-point scale.

Cognitive dissonance can often have a powerful influence on our behaviors and actions. It doesn’t just influence how you feel; it also motivates cognitive dissonance treatment you to take action to reduce feelings of discomfort. People experience cognitive dissonance for many reasons, but a common trigger is work.


Cognitive dissonance is a psychological state of discomfort that occurs when your behaviors and beliefs do not align. An example of cognitive dissonance includes smoking even though you know it’s bad for you and feeling guilty because of it. Often, people try to reduce cognitive dissonance by rationalizing their behaviors, hiding their choices from others, avoiding thinking about the issue, or minimizing the impact. But if you learn how to recognize cognitive dissonance, you can deal with it in an effective way. Based on the process model, more recent research has attempted to understand under which circumstances people choose one emotion-regulation strategy over another. Sheppes (2014) argues that emotional intensity, motivational goals (cf. Kelman and Baron, 1968), and cognitive capacity (cf. Kaplan and Crockett, 1968) will influence the decision.

  • A man who learns that his eating habits raise his risk of illness feels the tension between his preferred behavior and the idea that he could be in danger.
  • However, some important theoretical and methodological issues are yet to be resolved, particularly regarding dissonance reduction.
  • Reputable health organizations such as Lyu and Wehby studied the effects of wearing a face mask on the spread of COVID-19.

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