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Cognitive Dissonance Examples Everyday Life

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Cognitive Dissonance Examples Everyday Life


The meaning of cognitive dissonance refers to the tension, discomfort or discomfort that we perceive when we maintain two contradictory or incompatible ideas, or when our beliefs are not in harmony with our behavior, with what we do.

This internal tension or dissonance makes us aware of the need to resolve this conflict to live with greater integrity, so we will try to reduce the dissonance we experience. For this, the person has several alternatives:

-Change behavior 
-Alter the previous environment, thoughts, or beliefs
-Add new information, ideas, arguments, or knowledge that fits better

Leon Festinger's theory

Cognitive dissonance is a widely heard psychological term today and we first met it in 1957, when the American psychologist Leon Festinger detailed it in his book Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, in his theory he explains that the People have a strong need to ensure that our internal beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are consistent with one another. When the human being perceives an inconsistency between his beliefs and his behavior, he strives to avoid this conflict so that he does not drag him into the lack of inner harmony.

Since then, cognitive dissonance has become very popular and the concept has been widely used in fields such as motivation, decision-making, change of attitudes and group dynamics, among others. 


Let's look at a couple of examples of cognitive dissonance:

Situation/conduct: a person who is unfaithful to his partner one night, although fidelity is essential to her and he has always thought and expressed that he would not fall for her, nor would he forgive such a fact.

Cognitive Dissonance Examples Everyday Life

Result: cognitive dissonance.
Consequence: in this case it is not possible to change behavior since the event itself has already occurred, it is part of the past and we cannot modify it, nor is it possible to alter the environment, therefore, our individual will try to change their cognitions or the assessment of what he has done, adding new information: "my partner no longer treated me the same", "lately he spent more time with his friends than with me" ... In this way, the person will try to justify the act, instead to face it and thus reduce the anxiety caused by dissonance.

Situation/behavior: a smoker who is trying to quit smoking and even knowing full well that it is very harmful to health, has fallen again smoking a couple of cigarettes. Do you know the main keys to abstinence from smoking?

Result: cognitive dissonance.
Consequence: in this case (as in the previous example) instead of changing behavior and quitting tobacco, the person will try to justify the act and thus reduce the anxiety caused by dissonance, changing their ideas and seeking self-justifications of the type: " total, something must die "," what is the use of living a lot if you can not enjoy life "," look Fulanito, all life smoking and is like a rose "

It is very important to emphasize that cognitive dissonance only occurs when subjects have freedom of choice when performing the behavior. Cognitive dissonance will never occur if the person feels compelled or forced to do something against their will.


There is a fine line between lying and cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger himself, together with his colleague James Merrill Carlsmith, carried out a study in which he demonstrated that the mind of lying people solves cognitive dissonance “accepting lies as truth ”, that is, certain subjects end up believing the lie, taking for granted what they say or do in order to appease that internal tension.

In relation to this, they verified that if we have little extrinsic or external motivation to justify a behavior that goes against our attitudes or beliefs, we will tend to change our minds to rationalize our actions. Thus, if there is no external cause to justify the behavior, it is easier to change beliefs or attitudes.

Another study carried out in this field concludes that one of the ways to detect a liar is to provoke an increase in cognitive dissonance, thus he will feel bad and this will be reflected in his behavior and attitude and in this way, more evident signs will be shown to him. betray. Leon Festinger explained: "People feel uncomfortable when we simultaneously hold contradictory beliefs or when our beliefs are not in harmony with what we do."

A positive Vision

In this last point, we are going to give a positive vision to cognitive dissonance and it is that not everything in it has to be negative, it is a coping mechanism frequently used and that is put in place to have bad drinks, to live them in a more useful and less painful, as it could be in the the face of a breakup for example. In fact, cognitive dissonance is now used successfully in therapy to help people change their unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.

Cognitive Dissonance Examples Everyday Life
Cognitive dissonance has been able to evolve and settle in our way of thinking to help us change automatic and instinctive thoughts for more reasoned and logical ones, choosing between different options and thus stimulating our cognitive development.
Another positive element of dissonance is that it protects our individual worldview, our sense of identity, or our motivation to achieve our life goals. In this sense, cognitive dissonance has an adaptive value that commits us to action if we know how to manage it well if we learn to change negative thoughts for others that increase our motivation to overcome our discomfort. And also if we learn to detect our self-delusions to make our minds more flexible.

Thus, cognitive dissonance can be, despite everything, an opportunity for personal growth. Resolving that discomfort, these contradictions will be a way to invest in mental health.

Of course, be careful! because it should not be our main strategy in decision making. As with most things in life, extremes are never good, so their abuse can be harmful and it is therefore important to identify when we are using this cognitive dissonance strategy and prevent it from becoming a a habit that leads us continually to self-deception, lying, or constant negative criticism.

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