In the book, Festinger argued that humans strive to live a life in harmony — where their belief systems align with their actions. When that doesn’t happen (i.e., cognitive dissonance), we begin to experience inner turmoil, and will usually strive to bring things back into harmony. Cognitive dissonance is that disconnect between what we believe and what we do — it’s an experience we all have at one time or another. While it can be uncomfortable and stressful to act in a way that feels contrary to what we believe, it’s a common experience. In a way, living with a little cognitive dissonance is simply part of being human. Typically, when we feel psychological dissonance, it’s because one of these patterns of thought is being challenged.

This current state of affairs makes it difficult to reconcile the different approaches within a single theoretical account. We believe, however, that a change in perspective could make this challenging task slightly easier. Before proposing a broad model of dissonance-reduction, we will point to a critical theoretical issue in past research.

Primary Reduction Stage

We may perceive dissonance when we engage in a new behavior (e.g., when we decline an invitation to an event we usually attend in order to protect our leisure time). While this can feel uncomfortable at first, it’s helpful to reflect on the reasons behind our behavior. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable process and involves getting additional information. Imagine confronting a sunbather with the information that excessive sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer. The two thoughts – ‘sunbathing can cause cancer’ and ‘I am sunbathing’ – will cause the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. The concept of cognitive dissonance is nicely explained in this YouTube video by social psychologist Andy Luttrell.

  • Little do they know, overdose, coma, seizures, and death occur before finally deciding to get help.
  • Sometimes, resolving cognitive dissonance is just a matter of changing your perspective on something or developing new patterns of thinking to help you live according to what’s most important to you.
  • However, Festinger believed that all people are motivated to avoid or resolve cognitive dissonance due to the discomfort it causes.
  • Drawing a person’s attention to the dissonance between their behavior and their values may increase their awareness of the inconsistency and empower them to act.
  • Or, they may try to find information that says smoking isn’t as bad for their health as they were told.

Here’s what you need to know about cognitive dissonance, and how to seek the proper care. And the research has shed further light on cognitive dissonance, its causes, and effects. According to Festinger, there are a few ways that a person might resolve this dissonance. This offers opportunities to discuss the discrepancies, deepen the relationship, and re-align values.

A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance – Leon Festinger

Although, when something they once believed turns out too good to be true, it conflicts with their pre-existing beliefs about their decision-making abilities. At Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare, our team aims to help our clients with addiction and mental illness recover. This is done by learning how to change their thought patterns and remove their dissonance through various methods of therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). And when it comes to changing zones of our psychological experience, nothing has the power of corrective action except, in some cases, medication. There are also individual differences in whether or not people act as this theory predicts.