The mental clash or tension resulting from the processes of acquiring knowledge or understanding through the senses is called cognitive dissonance. In simple, the clash of minds when we must choose from the choices can be called as cognitive dissonance. It’s more common to feel discomfort and to feel like you need to resolve the dissonance when cognitions are important to you or they conflict heavily with each other. Dissonance typically results when individuals are induced or forced to behave in ways that are inconsistent with their beliefs and attitudes.

Do narcissists have cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance, or having two very different beliefs about something at the same time, is common in relationships with narcissists. Signs of cognitive dissonance include being paralyzed by self-doubt, second-guessing your decisions, constantly apologizing, and more.

Not so distinct from measurement of subjective intensity, its main interest is that this can be done in parallel to the previous approaches to provide convergent validity. Finally, the development of an efficient tool to assess the CDS should probably rely on multiple measures. The use of the term inconsistency to point out the presence of unfitting relations has already been proposed in the literature (e.g., Harmon-Jones, 2002; Gawronski and Strack, 2012). However, the state of cognitive dissonance, or CDS, is not always distinguished from the term for the theory, and they should be clearly differentiated. For example, a 2019 study notes that dissonance-based interventions may be helpful for people with eating disorders.


In another perspective, Kenworthy et al. (2011) have suggested that guilt could be the most relevant predictor of dissonance effects instead of a specific CDS, thus making a clear distinction between the two. For their part, Gosling et al. (2006) used the Elliot and Devine’s scale but relied on negative-self oriented affect to assess dissonance instead of their dissonance specific index. While these different views co-exist in the literature, there has not been a clear debate yet on the nature and the specificity of the CDS.

cognitive dissonance theory

Research show that the level of factual knowledge in regards to the ill effects of smoking seems to be the same among smokers and non-smokers. However, it was found that smokers had more distorted thinking about smoking and attempted to rationalize their smoking behavior compared to non-smokers and ex-smokers. A friend gives her a choice to help hand over a few grams of an illegal drug to an anonymous person and that would pay more than she needs. But this transaction goes completely against the standards that Bella has set for herself. Dive into everyday examples of the psychological phenomenon and how it affects you.

Three Ways to Deal with Cognitive Dissonance

Their desire for the toy was great and their concern for the mild punishment was small. While they also chose not to play with the toy, they may have needed to justify, to themselves, why they did not play with the forbidden toy. The degree of punishment was insufficiently strong to resolve their cognitive dissonance; the children had to convince themselves that playing with the forbidden toy was not worth the effort. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. It offers one explanation for why people sometimes make an effort to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash with each other. Finally, looking on the bright side, social psychology is not suffering a decade of crisis.

cognitive dissonance theory

According to Festinger, there are a few ways that a person might resolve this dissonance. Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the «Everything Psychology Book.» To summarize, many situational variables determine how people defend BJW when confronted with a threatening injustice.

Adding More Beliefs to Outweigh Dissonant Beliefs

To reduce the dissonance, they reevaluated the boring task as interesting and enjoyable. In 1955 Festinger left the University of Minnesota for Stanford University, where he and his students launched a series of laboratory experiments testing cognitive dissonance theory and extending it to a wide range of phenomena. Cognitive dissonance’s definition is a feeling of unease when there is tension between one’s beliefs, attitudes, values, and one’s actions. People attempt to end their feeling of cognitive dissonance by changing their beliefs and perceptions or their actions.

  • Because people want to avoid discomfort, cognitive dissonance can have a wide range of effects.
  • The degree of punishment was insufficiently strong to resolve their cognitive dissonance; the children had to convince themselves that playing with the forbidden toy was not worth the effort.
  • However, it can be beneficial to remind ourselves that it exists as a psychological safety mechanism to help us perceive the world consistently and to protect the perception we have about ourselves.
  • Cognitive dissonance can be caused by three main factors of forced compliance behavior, decision making, and effort.

Cognitive dissonance can be caused by three main factors of forced compliance behavior, decision making, and effort. Forced compliance behavior is when an individual is forced into an action publicly for something that they are not willing to do privately – resulting in dissonance in cognition. This can occur in a job setting or potentially observing certain laws or policies. Often life choices present difficult choices, with neither alternative being perfect or a rational decision being the right choice over an ideological belief.


Almost all of the participants agreed to walk into the waiting room and persuade the confederate that the boring experiment would be fun. In their laboratory experiment, they used 71 male students as participants to perform a series of dull tasks (such as turning pegs in a peg board for an hour). The COVID-19 pandemic, an extreme public health crisis, cases rose to the hundred million and deaths at nearly four million worldwide. Reputable health organizations such as Lyu and Wehby studied the effects of wearing a face mask on the spread of COVID-19.

  • In that sense, the experience of cognitive dissonance is an opportunity to learn and grow, as long as we deal with it constructively and respond in a way that we choose and is beneficial.
  • We may engage in behaviors or adopt attitudes to help relieve the discomfort caused by the conflict.
  • This group believe that the West Coast was going to be destroyed by a flood on a particular day, and that “superior beings” from a planet known as Clarion would come to rescue members of this group in a flying saucer.
  • People attempt to end their feeling of cognitive dissonance by changing their beliefs and perceptions or their actions.
  • The emotional impact and discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance push people to utilize various strategies to relieve it.
  • In brief, the stages of cognitive dissonance include an initial feeling of discomfort from a tension between beliefs and one’s actions, recognizing the tension, and finally a response that seeks to lower cognitive dissonance.

The consumers rated their expected experience of the bitterness and other sensory and hedonic attributes of the juice prior to tasting it. The results showed that the information established different expectations for the bitterness of the juice that were consistent with treatment for cognitive dissonance the information. However, the ratings of the bitterness experienced in the tasted product showed both assimilation and contrast effects, similar to the findings of Scharf and Volkmer (2000). These researchers assigned consumers to an information or control condition.

Cognitive Dissonance: Festinger’s Theory

There is also some ambiguity (i.e., vagueness) about the term “dissonance” itself. Is it a perception (as “cognitive” suggests), a feeling, or a feeling about a perception? Aronson’s Revision of the idea of dissonance as an inconsistency between a person’s self-concept and a cognition about their behavior makes it seem likely that dissonance is really nothing more than guilt. It is a theory with very broad applications, showing that we aim for consistency between attitudes and behaviors and may not use very rational methods to achieve it. It has the advantage of being testable by scientific means (i.e., experiments). Notice that dissonance theory does not state that these modes of dissonance reduction will actually work, only that individuals who are in a state of cognitive dissonance will take steps to reduce the extent of their dissonance.

  • It provides an introduction to the theory and covers the topics of cognitive dissonance following decisions, the effects of forced compliance, the impacts of voluntary and involuntary exposure to information, and the role of social support.
  • Another example to note is how people mostly consume media that aligns with their political views.
  • Hence, once more the time course could be relevant to understand the CDS process.
  • Forced compliance is what happens when external circumstances pressure one into performing actions that do not reflect one’s personal beliefs.
  • Psychologist Joel Cooper recently published a comprehensive update of cognitive dissonance theory after more than 50 years of research.

The degree of dissonance for people depends on several influential factors such as the value of the particular belief and consistency of personal beliefs and values. The strength of dissonance is measured by influences such as cognitions that are personal-oriented such as self-image or the importance of the cognitions that involve highly valued beliefs such as potentially religion or morality. The greater the level of the dissonance, the more pressure there is to avoid or relieve the feelings of discomfort (Chery, 2019). People commonly experience changes in attitudes and mental health as a result of disharmony. The emotional state is negatively compromised with individuals feeling anxiety, guilt, and shame as a result. This often causes people to hide their actions and beliefs from others, rationalize their choices continuously, choose to ignore vital information, and limit socialization.

Impact of Cognitive Dissonance

The CDT field is fruitful, with hundreds of studies covering a large array of tasks and topics. This number of studies is a strong argument for the conceptual validity of the theory. However, some of the core hypotheses of CDT have not been as thoroughly examined and, in their case, the field may benefit from an increased standardization.