Cognitive dissonance is experienced to quite an extent in our daily lives without most of us even realizing it. This dissonance varies upon the magnitude of that particular situation― if it is something petty or insignificant, we don’t bother thinking too much about our dissonance, and we quickly reduce it, ignore it, and move on. If the cognitions (thoughts, beliefs) and actions are important for us, then we experience a greater level of psychological discomfort. On the contrary, when the magnitude of the situation is higher, say, you know your doctor wants you to follow a strict diet to lose weight, but you end up eating a lot of fatty food on the second day of your diet. You may feel very restless, guilty, and psychologically uncomfortable then, until you have reduced the dissonance as much as you can. When you experience cognitive dissonance, it can have a variety of effects in your life.

  • Cognitive dissonance isn’t always something bad — it has been successfully used to help people change their unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.
  • But each way of reducing dissonance requires that you recognize what feelings you have and do something about it, Curry adds.
  • To resolve cognitive dissonance, a person can aim to ensure that their actions are consistent with their values or vice versa.

When the appointed time for the end of the world comes, and the world doesn’t end, they experience cognitive dissonance. As the theory states, we tend to want to have internal consistency all the time, and the slightest imbalance disturbs us. Reducing cognitive dissonance is an important aspect of ensuring internal consistency. Though it is important, it is hard to achieve, and so we try our best to come up with various tactics to please our mind. Festinger provided three basic reduction techniques of cognitive dissonance in his theory, as is explained in the next section.

The definition of cognitive dissonance

Therapy can help patients by reflecting on and taking control of their thoughts. Sometimes when patients engage in a new, more constructive behavior, they can perceive dissonance simply because it is contrary to the way they used to act. Providing the space and time to understand their new behavior and justifying it can help to reduce the dissonance.

By second-guessing ourselves, we suggest we may not be as wise or as right as we’ve led ourselves to believe. This may lead us to commit to a particular course of action and become insensitive to and reject alternative, perhaps better, courses that come to light. That’s why many people seek to avoid or minimize regret in their lives, and seek “closure” — imposing a definitive end to an event or relationship. Your brain will attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance on its own — but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any say over the process. It can be tough to recognize and address dissonance, but it’s an important step to improving your overall wellness.

Overcoming Cognitive Dissonance: A Guide to Staying True to Yourself

If a person finds themselves in a situation where they have to do something that they don’t agree with, they’ll experience discomfort. Since they can’t escape the action, they attempt cognitive dissonance treatment to re-establish their reasons for doing it in a way that makes the action acceptable. Festinger proposed this hypothesis in his 1957 book, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.