What Causes Cognitive Dissonance?

Reviewed on 7/12/2021

Cognitive dissonance refers to the discomfort a person feels when experiencing conflicting thoughts, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, information, or behaviors (dissonance), and wanting to reduce those negative thoughts and feelings. Causes of cognitive dissonance can include being forced to comply with something against their beliefs, having to decide between different choices, and having to put effort into the goal.
Cognitive dissonance refers to the discomfort a person feels when experiencing conflicting thoughts, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, information, or behaviors (dissonance), and wanting to reduce those negative thoughts and feelings. Causes of cognitive dissonance can include being forced to comply with something against their beliefs, having to decide between different choices, and having to put effort into the goal.

Cognitive dissonance refers to a feeling of mental discomfort that occurs when a person has conflicting thoughts, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, information, or behaviors (dissonance).

The inconsistency and discomfort lead to a change in thoughts, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, or behaviors in an attempt to reduce the discomfort, restore balance, and eliminate the dissonance. 

Causes of cognitive dissonance include: 

  • Forced compliance behavior
    • Forced compliance is a situation in which a person is forced to perform an action that is inconsistent with their beliefs
    • Since the action already occurred and the behavior cannot be changed, the way to alleviate dissonance is for a person to re-evaluate what they have done
  • Decision making
    • Decisions can often create dissonance because decisions involve choosing one alternative over another, which may mean accepting the disadvantages of one choice
      • For example, a person gets a job offer in a great city, but rejecting the job offer means getting to stay near friends and family
      • Both choices have positives and negatives: if the person takes the job, they will miss their loved ones, but if they turn down the job offer, they may miss the opportunities available in the city
    • A way to reduce dissonance created by decision-making is to change behaviors, but this is often difficult so people may change their attitude about the decision
    • One way to do this is to increase the attractiveness of the chosen option, and decrease the attractiveness of the rejected one, called “spreading apart the alternatives”
  • Effort
    • Most people tend to place higher value on value goals or items that required a lot of effort to achieve
    • But cognitive dissonance could occur if a person spends a lot of effort to achieve or acquire something and it turns out to be negative or undesirable
    • In this case, to avoid the cognitive dissonance, most people try to convince themselves that they either didn’t put a lot of effort into it or they enjoyed the effort, or they attempt to convince themselves that the goal turned out positively, called “effort justification”

How Is Cognitive Dissonance Resolved?

There are three main ways to reduce or resolve cognitive dissonance: 

  • Change existing beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, ideas, or information to eliminate the mental conflict
  • Add or learn new beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, ideas, or information
  • Reduce the importance of the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, ideas, or information

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Reviewed on 7/12/2021
References
https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html