Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cognitive dissonance is the mental conflict that people experience when they are presented with evidence that their beliefs or assumptions are wrong.

According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior.

For example, consider a situation in which a woman who values financial security is in a relationship with a man who is financially irresponsible.

The conflict:
• It is important for her to be financially secure.
• She is dating a man who is financially unstable.

In order to reduce this dissonance between belief and behavior, she can either leave the relationship or reduce her emphasis on financial security.
In the case of the second option, dissonance could be further minimized by emphasizing the positive qualities of her significant other rather than focusing on his perceived flaws.

There are three key strategies to reduce or minimize cognitive dissonance:

  1. • Focus on more supportive beliefs that outweigh the dissonant belief or behavior.
  2. • Reduce the importance of the conflicting belief.
  3. • Change the conflicting belief so that it is consistent with other beliefs or behaviors.

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