Cognitive Dissonance

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The larger the discrepancy, the greater the level of dissonance. Let’s say your doctor recommends that you exercise five times per week , but you only do so twice a week , you would likely experience dissonance, but not as much as you would if you did not exercise at all. In the latter case, there would be a greater discrepancy between what you know you should be doing and what you actually do. As in John’s case, the behavior might be deeply satisfying (who doesn’t love bacon?). In other cases, changing one’s behavior might actually be painful or incur a measure of loss .

Who developed the cognitive dissonance theory?

The cognitive dissonance theory was developed by Stanford University professor Leon Festinger prompted by his observational studies.

Therefore, a snake oil salesman might find a psychological self-justification for promoting medical falsehoods, but, otherwise, might need to change his beliefs about the falsehoods. Coping with the nuances of contradictory ideas or experiences is mentally stressful.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance? (A Definition)

In the early 1950s, he began to postulate theories about this concept and started conducting experiments to explore these. Throughout the next couple of decades, he continued his experiments, giving us the basis for cognitive dissonance. Other critics suggest that researchers need to more thoroughly define critical elements of this theory to bolster its credibility. Elements mentioned include the dissonant state that one enters, the inconsistency between thought and behavior, and the regulation strategies once someone enters the dissonance state. This means that if you end up in a situation that causes you cognitive dissonance, you could try to convince yourself that you didn’t have a choice to end up in that situation.

One may also feel an urge to acquire additional beliefs to help rationalize one’s actions despite the action not matching one’s cognitive dissonance theory values. Cognitive dissonance is everywhere, and we all experience some form of cognitive dissonance once in a while.

Induced compliance

In The Effect of Severity of Initiation on Liking for a Group , to qualify for admission to a discussion group, two groups of people underwent an embarrassing initiation of varied psychological severity. The first group of subjects were to read aloud twelve sexual words considered obscene; the second group of subjects were to read aloud twelve sexual words not considered obscene. In The Efficacy of Musical Emotions Provoked by Mozart’s Music for the Reconciliation of Cognitive Dissonance , a variant of the forbidden-toy paradigm, indicated that listening to music reduces the development of cognitive dissonance. Without music in the background, the control group of four-year-old children were told to avoid playing with a forbidden toy. After playing alone, the control-group children later devalued the importance of the forbidden toy. In the variable group, classical music played in the background while the children played alone. In the second group, the children did not later devalue the forbidden toy.