Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Cognitive dissonance theory explained - toolsheri

This article gives a practical explanation of the cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger. After reading, you'll understand the basics of this powerful psychology tool.
What is the cognitive dissonance theory?
In psychology, cognitive dissonance means experiencing psychological stress when a person has two or more psychological ideas, values, or beliefs. It's also called a psychological discomfort. In practice, cognitive dissonance occurs most in situations in which a person has to choose between two of these contradictory beliefs or actions.

When two alternatives are equally interesting for the person in question, the dissonance is at its greatest. If cognitive dissonance arises, people will do everything to change their believes until they are consistent with each other.

According to the cognitive dissonance theory, people tent to seek consistency between these cognitions. For instance, if there is an inconsistency or dissonance between beliefs and behaviour, something will have to change to resolve that dissonance. In the case of dissonance between beliefs and behaviour, it's likely that the belief will change in order to restore cognitive consonance.
Who proposed the cognitive dissonance theory?
It was Leon Festinger who proposed the concept of cognitive dissonance in his 1957 book, ‘A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance’.

In this book he posited that all people strive toward internal psychological consistency to be able to function well mentally in the real world. A person experiencing cognitive dissonance becomes uncomfortable and is always focused and motivated to resolve this dissonance. He or she does so by justifying stressful behaviour or by avoiding certain circumstances and contradictory beliefs.
What is the main element from the cognitive dissonance theory?
The main element from the cognitive dissonance theory is about two factors that affect the intensity of the dissonance. This is about the number of dissonant beliefs a person has, and the importance that is assigned to each belief/value. There are a number of ways to eliminate dissonance.
Why some cognitive dissonance might not be a bad thing
Dissonance isn't always a bad thing in a person's development. Recognising situations in which beliefs and behaviours contradict each other can help to discover underlying values and understand better what you stand for.

That's the explanation given clinical assistant professor Paraskevi Noulas. Dr Curry states that, ‘Working o...

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