Taking A Look At Cognitive Dissonance

2028 words - 9 pages

Imagine a person who is an avid animal lover and activist but also owns and wears a real fur jacket. These two beliefs and actions are inconsistent with each other and cause a distressing contradiction known as cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state cause by an inconsistency between a person’s two beliefs or a belief and an action (Griffin 2006). People have an instinctual desire to keep their actions and beliefs in harmony and when they are experiencing inconsistencies they deal with it by trying to reduce it. Cognitive dissonance theory has been around since the late 1950s when it was published by Leon Festinger and has made a big impact on the educational community. This theory has been researched extensively over the last 50 years and there are many important and interesting research findings that have been produced. This is an important theory that is very relevant and can be useful in the practice of persuasion and can also help to explain people’s behaviors.
Since the theory was published, cognitive dissonance has made a big impact in the way that people view attitudes and behaviors. To have a clear understanding of the cognitive dissonance theory it important to clearly understand the term cognition. A cognition is the knowledge a person has about something. They can relate to emotions, thoughts, facts or values (Barker, 2003). People hold a vast amount of cognitions with them and many of them are not conflicting with each other. But when cognitions do conflict or contradict with each other dissonance occurs and it leaves an individual in a state of uncomfortable distress. It is evident that people do not like being in a state of dissonance but researchers even argue the desire to have harmonious cognitions and reduce dissonance is not just a want its drive that is as important to address as our need for food or water.(Barker, 2003). There are several ways that people strive to keep their cognitions constant and reduce cognitive dissonance. One of the ways to reduce dissonance is to change your attitude about a conflicting cognition. For example the person who is an animal activist but owns a fur coat could change the way they think about animals or fur coats and decide that it’s not a big deal to own a fur coat. Another way of reducing dissonance is by obtaining new information that offsets the dissonant belief and helps to balance two the cognitions (McLeod, 2008). In his theory Festinger also claimed that people try to avoid dissonance by avoiding information that is likely to increase their dissonance. He hypothesized that people approach or avoid certain information to keep their cognitions constant. If a certain type of information has the potential to increase dissonance it is avoided and if it will strengthen prior cognitions it will be approached (Griffin, 2006). There are many examples of selective exposure shown in everyday life and it explains a lot about why people choose to only expose...

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