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Cognitive dissonance

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   Psychological stress experienced by an individual who holds two or more
   contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time
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   In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person
   holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, or
   participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and
   experiences psychological stress because of that. When two actions or
   ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people will
   do all in their power to change them until they become consistent.^[1]
   The discomfort is triggered by the person's belief clashing with new
   evidence (facts) perceived, wherein they will try to find a way to
   resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.^[2]^[1]

   In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957), Leon Festinger proposed
   that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to
   function mentally in the real world. A person who experiences internal
   inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is
   motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance. They tend to make changes
   to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the
   cognition causing the psychological dissonance or by avoiding
   circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the
   magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.^[2]
   [ ]


     * 1 Relations among Cognitions
          + 1.1 Magnitude of dissonance
     * 2 Reduction
     * 3 Paradigms
          + 3.1 Belief disconfirmation
          + 3.2 Induced compliance
          + 3.3 Free choice
          + 3.4 Effort justification
     * 4 Examples
          + 4.1 Unpleasant medical screenings
          + 4.2 Related phenomena
     * 5 Applications
          + 5.1 Education
          + 5.2 Psychotherapy
          + 5.3 Social behavior
          + 5.4 Consumer behavior
          + 5.5 Politics
          + 5.6 Communication
     * 6 Alternative paradigms
          + 6.1 Self-perception theory
          + 6.2 Balance theory
          + 6.3 Cost-benefit analysis
          + 6.4 Self-discrepancy theory
          + 6.5 Averse consequences vs. inconsistency
          + 6.6 Criticism of the free-choice paradigm
          + 6.7 Action-motivation model
          + 6.8 Predictive dissonance model
     * 7 Neuroscience findings
          + 7.1 Visualization
          + 7.2 Emotional correlations
          + 7.3 The psychology of mental stress
          + 7.4 Contradictions to the theory
     * 8 See also
     * 9 References
     * 10 Further reading
     * 11 External links

Relations among Cognitions[edit]

   To function in the reality of a modern society, human beings
   continually adjust the correspondence of their mental attitudes and
   personal actions; such continual adjustments, between cognition and
   action, result in one of three relationships with reality:^[2]
    1. Consonant relationship: two cognitions or actions consistent with
       each other (e.g. not wanting to become drunk when out to dinner,
       and ordering water rather than wine)
    2. Irrelevant relationship: two cognitions or actions unrelated to
       each other (e.g. not wanting to become drunk when out and wearing a
    3. Dissonant relationship: two cognitions or actions inconsistent with
       each other (e.g. not wanting to become drunk when out, but then
       drinking more wine)

Magnitude of dissonance[edit]

   The term "magnitude of dissonance" refers to the level of discomfort
   caused to the person. This can be caused by the relationship between
   two differing internal beliefs, or an action that is incompatible with
   the beliefs of the person.^[3] Two factors determine the degree of
   psychological dissonance caused by two conflicting cognitions or by two
   conflicting actions:
    1. The importance of cognitions: the greater the personal value of the
       elements, the greater the magnitude of the dissonance in the
       relation. When the value of importance of the two dissonant items
       are high, it is difficult to determine which action or thought is
       correct. Both have had a place of truth, at least subjectively, in
       the mind of the person. Therefore, when the ideals or actions now
       clash, it is difficult for the individual to decide which takes
    2. Ratio of cognitions: the proportion of dissonant-to-consonant
       elements. There is a level of discomfort within each person that is
       acceptable for living. When a person is within that comfort level,
       the dissonant factors do not interfere with functioning. However,
       when there is an abundance of dissonant factors and not enough that
       are in line with each other, we go through a process to regulate
       and bring the ratio back to an acceptable level. Once the choice
       has been made to keep one of the dissonant factors, the other is
       forgotten quickly in order to restore peace of mind.^[4]

   There will always be some magnitude of dissonance within a person as
   they go about making decisions due to the changing quantity and quality
   of knowledge and wisdom that they gain. The magnitude itself is a
   subjective measurement since the reports are self relayed, and there is
   no objective way as of yet to get a clear measurement of the level of


   Cognitive dissonance theory proposes that people seek psychological
   consistency between their expectations of life and the existential
   reality of the world. To function by that expectation of existential
   consistency, people continually reduce their cognitive dissonance in
   order to align their cognitions (perceptions of the world) with their

   The creation and establishment of psychological consistency allows the
   person afflicted with cognitive dissonance to lessen mental stress by
   actions that reduce the magnitude of the dissonance, realised either by
   changing with or by justifying against or by being indifferent to the
   existential contradiction that is inducing the mental stress.^[2] In
   practice, people reduce the magnitude of their cognitive dissonance in
   four ways:
    1. Change the behavior or the cognition ("I'll eat no more of this
    2. Justify the behavior or the cognition, by changing the conflicting
       cognition ("I'm allowed to cheat my diet every once in a while.")
    3. Justify the behavior or the cognition by adding new behaviors or
       cognitions ("I'll spend thirty extra minutes at the gymnasium to
       work off the doughnut.")
    4. Ignore or deny information that conflicts with existing beliefs
       ("This doughnut is not a high-sugar food.")

   Three cognitive biases are components of dissonance theory. The bias
   that one does not have any biases, the bias that one is "better,
   kinder, smarter, more moral and nicer than average" and confirmation

   That a consistent psychology is required for functioning in the real
   world also was indicated in the results of The Psychology of Prejudice
   (2006), wherein people facilitate their functioning in the real world
   by employing human categories (i.e. sex and gender, age and race, etc.)
   with which they manage their social interactions with other people.

   The study Patterns of Cognitive Dissonance-reducing Beliefs Among
   Smokers: A Longitudinal Analysis from the International Tobacco Control
   (ITC) Four Country Survey (2012) indicated that smokers use
   justification beliefs to reduce their cognitive dissonance about
   smoking tobacco and the negative consequences of smoking it.^[7]
    1. Continuing smokers (Smoking and no attempt to quit since the
       previous round of study.)
    2. Successful quitters (Quit during the study and did not use tobacco
       from the time of the previous round of study.)
    3. Failed quitters (Quit during the study, but relapsed to smoking at
       the time of the study.)

   To reduce cognitive dissonance, the participant smokers adjusted their
   beliefs to correspond with their actions:
    1. Functional beliefs ("Smoking calms me down when I am stressed or
       upset."; "Smoking helps me concentrate better."; "Smoking is an
       important part of my life." and "Smoking makes it easier for me to
    2. Risk-minimizing beliefs ("The medical evidence that smoking is
       harmful is exaggerated."; "One has to die of something, so why not
       enjoy yourself and smoke?" and "Smoking is no more risky than many
       other things people do.")^[8]


   There are four theoretic paradigms of cognitive dissonance, the mental
   stress people suffer when exposed to information that is inconsistent
   with their beliefs, ideals or values: Belief Disconfirmation, Induced
   Compliance, Free Choice, and Effort Justification, which respectively
   explain what happens after a person acts inconsistently, relative to
   his or her intellectual perspectives; what happens after a person makes
   decisions and what are the effects upon a person who has expended much
   effort to achieve a goal. Common to each paradigm of
   cognitive-dissonance theory is the tenet: People invested in a given
   perspective shall--when confronted with contrary evidence--expend great
   effort to justify retaining the challenged perspective.

Belief disconfirmation[edit]

   The contradiction of a belief, ideal, or system of values causes
   cognitive dissonance that can be resolved by changing the challenged
   belief, yet, instead of effecting change, the resultant mental stress
   restores psychological consonance to the person by misperception,
   rejection, or refutation of the contradiction, seeking moral support
   from people who share the contradicted beliefs or acting to persuade
   other people that the contradiction is unreal.^[9]^[10]

   The early hypothesis of belief contradiction presented in When Prophecy
   Fails (1956) reported that faith deepened among the members of an
   apocalyptic religious cult, despite the failed prophecy of an alien
   spacecraft soon to land on Earth to rescue them from earthly
   corruption. At the determined place and time, the cult assembled; they
   believed that only they would survive planetary destruction; yet the
   spaceship did not arrive to Earth. The confounded prophecy caused them
   acute cognitive-dissonance: Had they been victims of a hoax? Had they
   vainly donated away their material possessions? To resolve the
   dissonance between apocalyptic, end-of-the-world religious beliefs and
   earthly, material reality, most of the cult restored their
   psychological consonance by choosing to believe a less
   mentally-stressful idea to explain the missed landing: that the aliens
   had given planet Earth a second chance at existence, which, in turn,
   empowered them to re-direct their religious cult to environmentalism
   and social advocacy to end human damage to planet Earth. On overcoming
   the confounded belief by changing to global environmentalism, the cult
   increased in numbers by proselytism.^[11]

   The study of The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox
   Indifference (2008) reported the belief contradiction occurred to the
   Chabad Orthodox Jewish congregation who believed that their Rebbe
   (Menachem Mendel Schneerson) was the Messiah. When he died of a stroke
   in 1994, instead of accepting that their Rebbe was not the Messiah,
   some of the congregation proved indifferent to that contradictory fact
   and continued claiming that Schneerson was the Messiah and that he
   would soon return from the dead.^[12]

Induced compliance[edit]

   See also: Forced compliance theory
   After performing dissonant behavior (lying) a person might find
   external, consonant elements. Therefore, a snake oil salesman might
   find a psychological self-justification (great profit) for promoting
   medical falsehoods, but, otherwise, might need to change his beliefs
   about the falsehoods.

   In the Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance (1959), the
   investigators Leon Festinger and Merrill Carlsmith asked students to
   spend an hour doing tedious tasks; e.g. turning pegs a quarter-turn, at
   fixed intervals. The tasks were designed to induce a strong, negative,
   mental attitude in the subjects. Once the subjects had done the tasks,
   the experimenters asked one group of subjects to speak with another
   subject (an actor) and persuade that impostor-subject that the tedious
   tasks were interesting and engaging. Subjects of one group were paid
   twenty dollars ($20); those in a second group were paid one dollar ($1)
   and those in the control group were not asked to speak with the

   At the conclusion of the study, when asked to rate the tedious tasks,
   the subjects of the second group (paid $1) rated the tasks more
   positively than did the subjects in the first group (paid $20) and than
   did the subjects of the control group; the responses of the paid
   subjects were evidence of cognitive dissonance. The researchers,
   Festinger and Carlsmith, proposed that the subjects experienced
   dissonance between the conflicting cognitions. "I told someone that the
   task was interesting" and "I actually found it boring." The subjects
   paid one dollar were induced to comply, compelled to internalize the
   "interesting task" mental attitude because they had no other
   justification. The subjects paid twenty dollars were induced to comply
   by way of an obvious, external justification for internalizing the
   "interesting task" mental attitude and experienced a lesser degree of
   cognitive dissonance.^[13]

   Forbidden Behaviour paradigm In the Effect of the Severity of Threat on
   the Devaluation of Forbidden Behavior (1963), a variant of the
   induced-compliance paradigm, by Elliot Aronson and Carlsmith, examined
   self-justification in children.^[14] Children were left in a room with
   toys, including a greatly desirable steam shovel, the forbidden toy.
   Upon leaving the room, the experimenter told one-half of the group of
   children that there would be severe punishment if they played with the
   steam-shovel toy and told the second half of the group that there would
   be a mild punishment for playing with the forbidden toy. All of the
   children refrained from playing with the forbidden toy (the steam

   Later, when the children were told that they could freely play with any
   toy they wanted, the children in the mild-punishment group were less
   likely to play with the steam shovel (the forbidden toy), despite
   removal of the threat of mild punishment. The children threatened with
   mild punishment had 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.^[14]

   In The Efficacy of Musical Emotions Provoked by Mozart's Music for the
   Reconciliation of Cognitive Dissonance (2012), a variant of the
   forbidden-toy paradigm, indicated that listening to music reduces the
   development of cognitive dissonance.^[15] 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. The researchers, Nobuo Masataka
   and Leonid Perlovsky, concluded that music might inhibit cognitions
   that reduce cognitive dissonance.^[15]

   Music is a stimulus that can diminish post-decisional dissonance; in an
   earlier experiment, Washing Away Postdecisional Dissonance (2010), the
   researchers indicated that the actions of hand-washing might inhibit
   the cognitions that reduce cognitive dissonance.^[16]

Free choice[edit]

   In the study Post-decision Changes in Desirability of Alternatives
   (1956) 225 female students rated domestic appliances and then were
   asked to choose one of two appliances as a gift. The results of a
   second round of ratings indicated that the women students increased
   their ratings of the domestic appliance they had selected as a gift and
   decreased their ratings of the appliances they rejected.^[17]

   This type of cognitive dissonance occurs to a person faced with making
   a difficult decision, when there always exist aspects of the
   rejected-object not chosen which appeal to the person making the
   choice. The action of deciding provokes the psychological dissonance
   consequent to choosing X instead of Y, despite little difference
   between X and Y; the decision "I chose X" is dissonant with the
   cognition that "There are some aspects of Y that I like". The study
   Choice-induced Preferences in the Absence of Choice: Evidence from a
   Blind Two-choice Paradigm with Young Children and Capuchin Monkeys
   (2010) reports similar results in the occurrence of cognitive
   dissonance in human beings and in animals.^[18]

   Peer Effects in Pro-Social Behavior: Social Norms or Social
   Preferences? (2013) indicated that with internal deliberation, the
   structuring of decisions among people can influence how a person acts.
   That social preferences and social norms are related and function with
   wage-giving among three persons. The actions of the first person
   influenced^[clarification needed] the wage-giving actions of the second
   person. That inequity aversion is the paramount concern of the

Effort justification[edit]

   Further information: Effort justification

   Cognitive dissonance occurs to a person who voluntarily engages in
   (physically or ethically) unpleasant activities to achieve a goal. The
   mental stress caused by the dissonance can be reduced by the person
   exaggerating the desirability of the goal. In The Effect of Severity of
   Initiation on Liking for a Group (1956), 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.^[20]

   Both groups were given headphones to unknowingly listen to a recorded
   discussion about animal sexual behaviour, which the researchers
   designed to be dull and banal. As the subjects of the experiment, the
   groups of people were told that the animal-sexuality discussion
   actually was occurring in the next room. The subjects whose strong
   initiation required reading aloud obscene words evaluated the people of
   their group as more-interesting persons than the people of the group
   who underwent the mild initiation to the discussion group.^[21]

   In Washing Away Your Sins: Threatened Morality and Physical Cleansing
   (2006), the results indicated that a person washing his or her hands is
   an action that helps resolve post-decisional cognitive dissonance
   because the mental stress usually was caused by the person's
   ethical-moral self-disgust, which is an emotion related to the physical
   disgust caused by a dirty environment.^[16]^[22]

   The study The Neural Basis of Rationalization: Cognitive Dissonance
   Reduction During Decision-making (2011) indicated that participants
   rated 80 names and 80 paintings based on how much they liked the names
   and paintings. To give meaning to the decisions, the participants were
   asked to select names that they might give to their children. For
   rating the paintings, the participants were asked to base their ratings
   on whether or not they would display such art at home.^[23]

   The results indicated that when the decision is meaningful to the
   person deciding value, the likely rating is based on his or her
   attitudes (positive, neutral or negative) towards the name and towards
   the painting in question. The participants also were asked to rate some
   of the objects twice and believed that, at session's end, they would
   receive two of the paintings they had positively rated. The results
   indicated a great increase in the positive attitude of the participant
   towards the liked pair of things, whilst also increasing the negative
   attitude towards the disliked pair of things. The double-ratings of
   pairs of things, towards which the rating participant had a neutral
   attitude, showed no changes during the rating period. The existing
   attitudes of the participant were reinforced during the rating period
   and the participants suffered cognitive dissonance when confronted by a
   liked-name paired with a disliked-painting.^[23]


   In the fable of "The Fox and the Grapes", by Aesop, on failing to reach
   the desired bunch of grapes, the fox then decides he does not truly
   want the fruit because it is sour. The fox's act of rationalization
   (justification) reduced his anxiety about the cognitive dissonance
   which occurred because of a desire he cannot realise.

Unpleasant medical screenings[edit]

   In the study Cognitive Dissonance and Attitudes Toward Unpleasant
   Medical Screenings (2016), the researchers Michael R. Ent and Mary A
   Gerend informed the study participants about a discomforting test for a
   specific (fictitious) virus called the "human respiratory virus-27".
   The study used a fake virus to prevent participants from having
   thoughts, opinions, and feeling about the virus that would interfere
   with the experiment. The study participants were in two groups; one
   group was told that they were actual candidates for the virus-27 test,
   and the second group were told they were not candidates for the test.
   The researchers reported, "We predicted that [study] participants who
   thought that they were candidates for the unpleasant test would
   experience dissonance associated with knowing that the test was both
   unpleasant and in their best interest--this dissonance was predicted to
   result in unfavorable attitudes toward the test."^[24]

Related phenomena[edit]

   Cognitive dissonance may also occur when people seek to:
     * Explain inexplicable feelings: When an earthquake disaster occurs
       to a community, irrational rumors, based upon fear, quickly reach
       the adjoining communities unaffected by the disaster because those
       people, not in physical danger, psychologically justify their
       anxieties about the earthquake.^[25]
     * Minimize regret of irrevocable choices: At a hippodrome, bettors
       have more confidence after betting on horses they chose just before
       the post-time because this confidence prevents a change of heart;
       the bettors felt post-decision cognitive dissonance.^[26]
     * Explain their motivations for taking some action that had an
       extrinsic incentive attached (known as motivational "crowding
     * Justify behavior that opposed their views: After being induced to
       cheat in an academic examination, students judged cheating less
     * Align one's perceptions of a person with one's behavior toward that
       person: The Ben Franklin effect refers to that statesman's
       observation that the act of performing a favor for a rival leads to
       increased positive feelings toward that individual.
     * Reaffirm held beliefs: The confirmation bias identifies how people
       readily read information that confirms their established opinions
       and readily avoid reading information that contradicts their
       opinions.^[29] The confirmation bias is apparent when a person
       confronts deeply held political beliefs, i.e. when a person is
       greatly committed to his or her beliefs, values, and ideas.^[29]



   The management of cognitive dissonance readily influences the
   motivation of a student to pursue education.^[30] The study Turning
   Play into Work: Effects of Adult Surveillance and Extrinsic Rewards on
   Children's Intrinsic Motivation (1975) indicated that the application
   of the effort justification paradigm increased student enthusiasm for
   education with the offer of an external reward for studying; students
   in pre-school who completed puzzles based upon an adult promise of
   reward were later less interested in the puzzles than were students who
   completed the puzzle-tasks without the promise of a reward.^[31]

   The incorporation of cognitive dissonance into models of basic
   learning-processes to foster the students' self-awareness of
   psychological conflicts among their personal beliefs, ideals, and
   values and the reality of contradictory facts and information, requires
   the students to defend their personal beliefs. Afterwards, the students
   are trained to objectively perceive new facts and information to
   resolve the psychological stress of the conflict between reality and
   the student's value system.^[32] Moreover, educational software that
   applies the derived principles facilitates the students' ability to
   successfully handle the questions posed in a complex subject.^[33]
   Meta-analysis of studies indicates that psychological interventions
   that provoke cognitive dissonance in order to achieve a directed
   conceptual change do increase students' learning in reading skills and
   about science.^[32]


   The general effectiveness of psychotherapy and psychological
   intervention is partly explained by the theory of cognitive
   dissonance.^[34] In that vein, social psychology proposed that the
   mental health of the patient is positively influenced by his and her
   action in freely choosing a specific therapy and in exerting the
   required, therapeutic effort to overcome cognitive dissonance.^[35]
   That effective phenomenon was indicated in the results of the study
   Effects of Choice on Behavioral Treatment of Overweight Children
   (1983), wherein the children's belief that they freely chose the type
   of therapy received, resulted in each overweight child losing a greater
   amount of excessive body weight.^[36]

   In the study Reducing Fears and Increasing Attentiveness: The Role of
   Dissonance Reduction (1980), people afflicted with ophidiophobia (fear
   of snakes) who invested much effort in activities of little therapeutic
   value for them (experimentally represented as legitimate and relevant)
   showed improved alleviation of the symptoms of their phobia.^[37]
   Likewise, the results of Cognitive Dissonance and Psychotherapy: The
   Role of Effort Justification in Inducing Weight Loss (1985) indicated
   that the patient felt better in justifying his or her efforts and
   therapeutic choices towards effectively losing weight. That the therapy
   of effort expenditure can predict long-term change in the patient's

Social behavior[edit]

   Cognitive dissonance is used to promote positive social behaviours,
   such as increased condom use;^[39] other studies indicate that
   cognitive dissonance can be used to encourage people to act
   pro-socially, such as campaigns against public littering,^[40]
   campaigns against racial prejudice,^[41] and compliance with
   anti-speeding campaigns.^[42] The theory can also be used to explain
   reasons for donating to charity.^[43]^[44] Cognitive dissonance can be
   applied in social areas such as racism and racial hatred. Acharya of
   Stanford, Blackwell and Sen of Harvard state CD increases when an
   individual commits an act of violence toward someone from a different
   ethnic or racial group and decreases when the individual does not
   commit any such act of violence. Research from Acharya, Blackwell and
   Sen shows that individuals committing violence against members of
   another group will develop hostile attitudes towards their victims as a
   way of minimizing CD. Importantly, the hostile attitudes may persist
   even after the violence itself declines (Acharya, Blackwell, Sen 2015).
   The application provides a social psychological basis for the
   constructivist viewpoint that ethnic and racial divisions can be
   socially or individually constructed, possibly from acts of violence
   (Fearon and Laitin, 2000). Their framework speaks to this possibility
   by showing how violent actions by individuals can affect individual
   attitudes, either ethnic or racial animosity (Acharya, Blackwell, Sen

Consumer behavior[edit]

   Three main conditions exist for provoking cognitive dissonance when
   buying: (i) The decision to purchase must be important, such as the sum
   of money to spend; (ii) The psychological cost; and (iii) The purchase
   is personally relevant to the consumer. The consumer is free to select
   from the alternatives, and the decision to buy is irreversible.^[45]

   The study Beyond Reference Pricing: Understanding Consumers' Encounters
   with Unexpected Prices (2003), indicated that when consumers experience
   an unexpected price encounter, they adopt three methods to reduce
   cognitive dissonance: (i) Employ a strategy of continual information;
   (ii) Employ a change in attitude; and (iii) Engage in minimisation.
   Consumers employ the strategy of continual information by engaging in
   bias and searching for information that supports prior beliefs.
   Consumers might search for information about other retailers and
   substitute products consistent with their beliefs.^[46] Alternatively,
   consumers might change attitude, such as re-evaluating price in
   relation to external reference-prices or associating high prices and
   low prices with quality. Minimisation reduces the importance of the
   elements of the dissonance; consumers tend to minimise the importance
   of money, and thus of shopping around, saving, and finding a better


   Cognitive dissonance theory might suggest that since votes are an
   expression of preference or beliefs, even the act of voting might cause
   someone to defend the actions of the candidate for whom they
   voted,^[48] and if the decision was close then the effects of cognitive
   dissonance should be greater.

   This effect was studied over the 6 presidential elections of the United
   States between 1972 and 1996,^[49] and it was found that the opinion
   differential between the candidates changed more before and after the
   election than the opinion differential of non-voters. In addition,
   elections where the voter had a favorable attitude toward both
   candidates, making the choice more difficult, had the opinion
   differential of the candidates change more dramatically than those who
   only had a favorable opinion of one candidate. What wasn't studied were
   the cognitive dissonance effects in cases where the person had
   unfavorable attitudes toward both candidates. Since the U.S. 2016
   election held historically high unfavorable ratings for both
   candidates,^[50] it might be a good case study to examine the cognitive
   dissonance effects in these instances.


   Cognitive dissonance theory of communication was initially advanced by
   American psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1960s. Festinger theorized
   that cognitive dissonance usually arises when a person holds two or
   more incompatible beliefs simultaneously.^[46] This is a normal
   occurrence since people encounter different situations that invoke
   conflicting thought sequences. This conflict results in a psychological
   discomfort. According to Festinger, people experiencing a thought
   conflict will try to reduce the psychological discomfort by attempting
   to achieve an emotional equilibrium. This equilibrium is achieved in
   three main ways. First, the person may downplay the importance of the
   dissonant thought. Second, the person may attempt to outweigh the
   dissonant thought with consonant thoughts. Lastly, the person may
   incorporate the dissonant thought into their current belief

   Dissonance plays an important role in persuasion. In order to persuade
   people, you must cause them to experience dissonance, and then offer
   your proposal as a way to resolve the discomfort. Although there is no
   guarantee your audience will change their minds, the theory maintains
   that without dissonance, there can be no persuasion. Without a feeling
   of discomfort, people will not be motivated to change.^[52]

Alternative paradigms[edit]

   Dissonant self-perception: A lawyer can experience cognitive dissonance
   if he must defend as innocent a client he thinks is guilty. From the
   perspective of The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: A Current
   Perspective (1969), the lawyer might experience cognitive dissonance if
   his false statement about his guilty client contradicts his identity as
   a lawyer and an honest man.

Self-perception theory[edit]

   In Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive
   dissonance phenomena (1967), the social psychologist Daryl Bem proposed
   the self-perception theory whereby people do not think much about their
   attitudes, even when engaged in a conflict with another person. The
   Theory of Self-perception proposes that people develop attitudes by
   observing their own behaviour, and concludes that their attitudes
   caused the behaviour observed by self-perception; especially true when
   internal cues either are ambiguous or weak. Therefore, the person is in
   the same position as an observer who must rely upon external cues to
   infer his or her inner state of mind. Self-perception theory proposes
   that people adopt attitudes without access to their states of mood and

   As such, the experimental subjects of the Festinger and Carlsmith study
   (Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance, 1959) inferred their
   mental attitudes from their own behaviour. When the
   subject-participants were asked: "Did you find the task interesting?",
   the participants decided that they must have found the task
   interesting, because that is what they told the questioner. Their
   replies suggested that the participants who were paid twenty dollars
   had an external incentive to adopt that positive attitude, and likely
   perceived the twenty dollars as the reason for saying the task was
   interesting, rather than saying the task actually was

   The theory of self-perception (Bem) and the theory of cognitive
   dissonance (Festinger) make identical predictions, but only the theory
   of cognitive dissonance predicts the presence of unpleasant arousal, of
   psychological distress, which were verified in laboratory

   In The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: A Current Perspective^[57]
   (Aronson, Berkowitz, 1969), Elliot Aronson linked cognitive dissonance
   to the self-concept: That mental stress arises when the conflicts among
   cognitions threatens the person's positive self-image. This
   reinterpretation of the original Festinger and Carlsmith study, using
   the induced-compliance paradigm, proposed that the dissonance was
   between the cognitions "I am an honest person." and "I lied about
   finding the task interesting."^[57]

   The study Cognitive Dissonance: Private Ratiocination or Public
   Spectacle?^[58] (Tedeschi, Schlenker, ect. 1971) reported that
   maintaining cognitive consistency, rather than protecting a private
   self-concept, is how a person protects his or her public
   self-image.^[58] Moreover, the results reported in the study I'm No
   Longer Torn After Choice: How Explicit Choices Implicitly Shape
   Preferences of Odors (2010) contradict such an explanation, by showing
   the occurrence of revaluation of material items, after the person chose
   and decided, even after having forgotten the choice.^[59]

Balance theory[edit]

   Main article: Balance theory

   Fritz Heider proposed a motivational theory of attitudinal change that
   derives from the idea that humans are driven to establish and maintain
   psychological balance. The driving force for this balance is known as
   the consistency motive, which is an urge to maintain one's values and
   beliefs consistent over time. Heider's conception of psychological
   balance has been used in theoretical models measuring cognitive

   According to balance theory, there are three interacting elements: (1)
   the self (P), (2) another person (O), and (3) an element (X). These are
   each positioned at one vertex of a triangle and share two

          Unit relations - things and people that belong together based on
          similarity, proximity, fate, etc.
          Sentiment relations - evaluations of people and things (liking,

   Under balance theory, human beings seek a balanced state of relations
   among the three positions. This can take the form of three positives or
   two negatives and one positive:

          P = you
          O = your child
          X = picture your child drew

                "I love my child"
                "She drew me this picture"
                "I love this picture"

   People also avoid unbalanced states of relations, such as three
   negatives or two positives and one negative:

          P = you
          O = John
          X = John's dog

                "I don't like John"
                "John has a dog"
                "I don't like the dog either"

Cost-benefit analysis[edit]

   In the study On the Measurement of the Utility of Public Works^[62]
   (1969), Jules Dupuit reported that behaviors and cognitions can be
   understood from an economic perspective, wherein people engage in the
   systematic processing of comparing the costs and benefits of a
   decision. The psychological process of cost-benefit comparisons helps
   the person to assess and justify the feasibility (spending money) of an
   economic decision, and is the basis for determining if the benefit
   outweighs the cost, and to what extent. Moreover, although the method
   of cost-benefit analysis functions in economic circumstances, men and
   women remain psychologically inefficient at comparing the costs against
   the benefits of their economic decision.^[62]

Self-discrepancy theory[edit]

   E. Tory Higgins proposed that people have three selves, to which they
   compare themselves:
    1. Actual self - representation of the attributes the person believes
       him- or herself to possess (basic self-concept)
    2. Ideal self - ideal attributes the person would like to possess
       (hopes, aspiration, motivations to change)
    3. Ought self - ideal attributes the person believes he or she should
       possess (duties, obligations, responsibilities)

   When these self-guides are contradictory psychological distress
   (cognitive dissonance) results. People are motivated to reduce
   self-discrepancy (the gap between two self-guides).^[63]

Averse consequences vs. inconsistency[edit]

   During the 1980s, Cooper and Fazio argued that dissonance was caused by
   aversive consequences, rather than inconsistency. According to this
   interpretation, the belief that lying is wrong and hurtful, not the
   inconsistency between cognitions, is what makes people feel bad.^[64]
   Subsequent research, however, found that people experience dissonance
   even when they feel they have not done anything wrong. For example,
   Harmon-Jones and colleagues showed that people experience dissonance
   even when the consequences of their statements are beneficial--as when
   they convince sexually active students to use condoms, when they,
   themselves are not using condoms.^[65]

Criticism of the free-choice paradigm[edit]

   In the study How Choice Affects and Reflects Preferences: Revisiting
   the Free-choice Paradigm^[66] (Chen, Risen, 2010) the researchers
   criticized the free-choice paradigm as invalid, because the
   rank-choice-rank method is inaccurate for the study of cognitive
   dissonance.^[66] That the designing of research-models relies upon the
   assumption that, if the experimental subject rates options differently
   in the second survey, then the attitudes of the subject towards the
   options have changed. That there are other reasons why an experimental
   subject might achieve different rankings in the second survey; perhaps
   the subjects were indifferent between choices.

   Although the results of some follow-up studies (e.g. Do Choices Affect
   Preferences? Some Doubts and New Evidence, 2013) presented evidence of
   the unreliability of the rank-choice-rank method,^[67] the results of
   studies such as Neural Correlates of Cognitive Dissonance and
   Choice-induced Preference Change (2010) have not found the
   Choice-Rank-Choice method to be invalid, and indicate that making a
   choice can change the preferences of a person.^[18]^[68]^[69]^[70]

Action-motivation model[edit]

   Festinger's original theory did not seek to explain how dissonance
   works. Why is inconsistency so aversive?^[71] The action-motivation
   model seeks to answer this question. It proposes that inconsistencies
   in a person's cognition cause mental stress, because psychological
   inconsistency interferes with the person's functioning in the real
   world. Among the ways for coping, the person can choose to exercise a
   behavior that is inconsistent with his or her current attitude (a
   belief, an ideal, a value system), but later try to alter that belief
   to be consonant with a current behavior; the cognitive dissonance
   occurs when the person's cognition does not match the action taken. If
   the person changes the current attitude, after the dissonance occurs,
   he or she then is obligated to commit to that course of behavior.

   The occurrence of cognitive dissonance produces a state of negative
   affect, which motivates the person to reconsider the causative
   behavior, in order to resolve the psychological inconsistency that
   caused the mental stress.^[72] As the afflicted person works towards a
   behavioral commitment, the motivational process then is activated in
   the left frontal cortex of the brain.^[73]^[74]^[75]^[76]^[77]

Predictive dissonance model[edit]

   The predictive dissonance model proposes that cognitive dissonance is
   fundamentally related to the predictive coding (or predictive
   processing) model of cognition.^[78] A predictive processing account of
   the mind proposes that perception actively involves the use of a
   Bayesian hierarchy of acquired prior knowledge, which primarily serves
   the role of predicting incoming proprioceptive, interoceptive and
   exteroceptive sensory inputs. Therefore, the brain is an inference
   machine which attempts to actively predict and explain its sensations.
   Crucial to this inference is the minimization of prediction error. The
   predictive dissonance account proposes that the motivation for
   cognitive dissonance reduction is related to an organism's active drive
   for reducing prediction error. Moreover, it proposes that human (and
   perhaps other animal) brains have evolved to selectively ignore
   contradictory information (as proposed by dissonance theory) to prevent
   the overfitting of their predictive cognitive models to local and thus
   non-generalizing conditions. The predictive dissonance account is
   highly compatible with the action-motivation model since, in practice,
   prediction error can arise from unsuccessful behavior.

Neuroscience findings[edit]

   Technological advances are allowing psychologists to study the
   biomechanics of cognitive dissonance.


   The study Neural Activity Predicts Attitude Change in Cognitive
   Dissonance^[79] (Van Veen, Krug, ect, 2009) identified the neural bases
   of cognitive dissonance with functional magnetic resonance imaging
   (fMRI); the neural scans of the participants replicated the basic
   findings of the induced-compliance paradigm. When in the fMRI scanner,
   some of the study participants argued that the uncomfortable,
   mechanical environment of the MRI machine nevertheless was a pleasant
   experience for them; some participants, from an experimental group,
   said they enjoyed the mechanical environment of the fMRI scanner more
   than did the control-group participants (paid actors) who argued about
   the uncomfortable experimental environment.^[79]

   The results of the neural scan experiment support the original theory
   of Cognitive Dissonance proposed by Festinger in 1957; and also support
   the psychological conflict theory, whereby the anterior cingulate
   functions, in counter-attitudinal response, to activate the dorsal
   anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insular cortex; the degree
   of activation of said regions of the brain is predicted by the degree
   of change in the psychological attitude of the person.^[79]
   The biomechanics of cognitive dissonance: MRI evidence indicates that
   the greater the psychological conflict signalled by the anterior
   cingulate cortex, the greater the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance
   experienced by the person.

   As an application of the free-choice paradigm, the study How Choice
   Reveals and Shapes Expected Hedonic Outcome (2009) indicates that after
   making a choice, neural activity in the striatum changes to reflect the
   person's new evaluation of the choice-object; neural activity increased
   if the object was chosen, neural activity decreased if the object was
   rejected.^[80] Moreover, studies such as The Neural Basis of
   Rationalization: Cognitive Dissonance Reduction During Decision-making
   (2010)^[23] and How Choice Modifies Preference: Neural Correlates of
   Choice Justification (2011) confirm the neural bases of the psychology
   of cognitive dissonance.^[68]^[81]

   The Neural Basis of Rationalization: Cognitive Dissonance Reduction
   During Decision-making^[23] (Jarcho, Berkman, Lieberman, 2010) applied
   the free-choice paradigm to fMRI examination of the brain's
   decision-making process whilst the study participant actively tried to
   reduce cognitive dissonance. The results indicated that the active
   reduction of psychological dissonance increased neural activity in the
   right-inferior frontal gyrus, in the medial fronto-parietal region, and
   in the ventral striatum, and that neural activity decreased in the
   anterior insula.^[23] That the neural activities of rationalization
   occur in seconds, without conscious deliberation on the part of the
   person; and that the brain engages in emotional responses whilst
   effecting decisions.^[23]

Emotional correlations[edit]

   The results reported in Contributions from Research on Anger and
   Cognitive Dissonance to Understanding the Motivational Functions of
   Asymmetrical Frontal Brain Activity^[82] (Harmon-Jones, 2004) indicate
   that the occurrence of cognitive dissonance is associated with neural
   activity in the left frontal cortex, a brain structure also associated
   with the emotion of anger; moreover, functionally, anger motivates
   neural activity in the left frontal cortex.^[83] Applying a directional
   model of Approach motivation, the study Anger and the Behavioural
   Approach System (2003) indicated that the relation between cognitive
   dissonance and anger is supported by neural activity in the left
   frontal cortex that occurs when a person takes control of the social
   situation causing the cognitive dissonance. Conversely, if the person
   cannot control or cannot change the psychologically stressful
   situation, he or she is without a motivation to change the
   circumstance, then there arise other, negative emotions to manage the
   cognitive dissonance, such as socially inappropriate

   The anterior cingulate cortex activity increases when errors occur and
   are being monitored as well as having behavioral conflicts with the
   self-concept as a form of higher-level thinking.^[85] A study was done
   to test the prediction that the left frontal cortex would have
   increased activity. University students had to write a paper depending
   on if they were assigned to a high-choice or low-choice condition. The
   low-choice condition required students to write about supporting a 10%
   increase in tuition at their university. The point of this condition
   was to see how significant the counterchoice may affect a person's
   ability to cope. The high-choice condition asked students to write in
   favor of tuition increase as if it was their choice and that it was
   completely voluntary. EEG was used to analyze students before writing
   the essay as dissonance is at its highest during this time (Beauvois
   and Joule, 1996). High-choice condition participants showed a higher
   level of the left frontal cortex than the low-choice participants.
   Results have shown that the initial experience of dissonance can be
   apparent in the anterior cingulate cortex, then the left frontal cortex
   is activated, which also activates the approach motivational system to
   reduce anger.^[85]^[86]

The psychology of mental stress[edit]

   The results reported in The Origins of Cognitive Dissonance: Evidence
   from Children and Monkeys (Egan, Santos, Bloom, 2007) indicated that
   there might be evolutionary force behind the reduction of cognitive
   dissonance in the actions of pre-school-age children and Capuchin
   monkeys when offered a choice between two like options, decals and
   candies. The groups then were offered a new choice, between the
   choice-object not chosen and a novel choice-object that was as
   attractive as the first object. The resulting choices of the human and
   simian subjects concorded with the theory of cognitive dissonance when
   the children and the monkeys each chose the novel choice-object instead
   of the choice-object not chosen in the first selection, despite every
   object having the same value.^[87]

   The hypothesis of An Action-based Model of Cognitive-dissonance
   Processes^[88] (Harmon-Jones, Levy, 2015) proposed that psychological
   dissonance occurs consequent to the stimulation of thoughts that
   interfere with a goal-driven behavior. Researchers mapped the neural
   activity of the participant when performing tasks that provoked
   psychological stress when engaged in contradictory behaviors. A
   participant read aloud the printed name of a color. To test for the
   occurrence of cognitive dissonance, the name of the color was printed
   in a color different than the word read aloud by the participant. As a
   result, the participants experienced increased neural activity in the
   anterior cingulate cortex when the experimental exercises provoked
   psychological dissonance.^[88]

   The study Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Emotions and Implications
   for Psychopathology: Examining Embarrassment, Guilt, Envy, and
   Schadenfreude^[89] (Jankowski, Takahashi,2014) identified neural
   correlations to specific social emotions (e.g. envy and embarrassment)
   as a measure of cognitive dissonance. The neural activity for the
   emotion of Envy (the feeling of displeasure at the good fortune of
   another person) was found to draw neural activity from the dorsal
   anterior cingulate cortex. That such increased activity in the dorsal
   anterior cingulate cortex occurred either when a person's self-concept
   was threatened or when the person suffered embarrassment (social pain)
   caused by salient, upward social-comparison, by social-class snobbery.
   That social emotions, such as embarrassment, guilt, envy, and
   Schadenfreude (joy at the misfortune of another person) are correlated
   to reduced activity in the insular lobe, and with increased activity in
   the striate nucleus; those neural activities are associated with a
   reduced sense of empathy (social responsibility) and an increased
   propensity towards antisocial behavior (delinquency).^[89]

   Modeling in neural networks

   Artificial neural network models of cognition provide methods for
   integrating the results of empirical research about cognitive
   dissonance and attitudes into a single model that explains the
   formation of psychological attitudes and the mechanisms to change such
   attitudes.^[90] Among the artificial neural-network models that predict
   how cognitive dissonance might influence a person's attitudes and
   behavior, are:
     * Parallel constraint satisfaction processes^[90]
     * The meta-cognitive model (MCM) of attitudes^[91]
     * Adaptive connectionist model of cognitive dissonance^[92]
     * Attitudes as constraint satisfaction model^[93]

Contradictions to the theory[edit]

   Because cognitive dissonance is a relatively new theory, there are some
   that are skeptical of the idea. Charles G. Lord wrote a paper on
   whether or not the theory of cognitive dissonance was not tested enough
   and if it was a mistake to accept it into theory. He claimed that the
   theorist did not take into account all the factors and came to a
   conclusion without looking at all the angles.^[94] However, even with
   this contradiction, Cognitive dissonance is still accepted as the most
   likely theory that we have to date

See also[edit]

     * Affective forecasting
     * Ambivalence
     * Antiprocess
     * Belief perseverance
     * Buyer's remorse
     * Choice-supportive bias
     * Cognitive bias
     * Cognitive distortion
     * Cognitive inertia
     * Compartmentalization (psychology)
     * Cultural dissonance
     * Duck test
     * Devaluation
     * Denial
     * Double bind
     * Double consciousness
     * Doublethink
     * Dunning-Kruger effect
     * Effort justification
     * Emotional conflict
     * Gaslighting
     * The Great Disappointment of 1844
     * Illusion
     * Illusory truth effect
     * Information overload
     * Liminality
     * Limit situation
     * Love and hate (psychoanalysis)
     * Love-hate relationship
     * Memory conformity
     * Metanoia (psychology)
     * Motivated reasoning
     * Mythopoeic thought
     * Narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury
     * Rationalization (making excuses)
     * Splitting (psychology)
     * Stockholm syndrome
     * Techniques of neutralization
     * Terror management theory
     * The Emperor's New Clothes
     * Traumatic bonding
     * True-believer syndrome
     * Wishful thinking


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Further reading[edit]

     * Acharya, Avidit; Blackwell, Matthew; Sen, Maya (2018). "Explaining
       Preferences from Behavior: A Cognitive Dissonance Approach" (PDF).
       The Journal of Politics. 80 (2): 400-411. doi:10.1086/694541.

     Cooper, J (2007). Cognitive dissonance: Fifty years of a classic
   theory. London: Sage publications. ISBN 978-1-4129-2972-1.

     Fearon, J. D., & Latin, D. D. (2000). Violence and the Social
   Construction of Ethnic Identity. The University of Wisconsin Press
   Journals Division.

     Gawronski, B., & Strack, F. (Eds.). (2012). Cognitive consistency: A
   fundamental principle in social cognition. New York: Guilford Press.

     Harmon-Jones, E., & J. Mills. (Eds.) (1999). Cognitive Dissonance:
   Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology. Washington, DC:
   American Psychological Association.

     Tavris, C.; Aronson, E. (2007). Mistakes were made (but not by me):
   Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts.
   Orlando, FL: Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15-101098-1.

     McLeod, S. "Cognitive Dissonance". Retrieved 3 December 2013.

     Jarcho, Johanna M.; Berkman, Elliot T.; Lieberman, Matthew D. (2010).
   "The Neural Basis of Rationalization: Cognitive Dissonance Reduction
   During Decision-making". Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 6
   (4): 460-467. doi:10.1093/scan/nsq054. PMC 3150852. PMID 20621961.

     Wagner, D. A. (2014). The Marketing of Global Warming: A Repeated
   Measures Examination of the Effects of Cognitive Dissonance,
   Endorsement, and Information on Beliefs in a Social Cause. Proquest
   Digital Dissertations:
   https://pqdtopen.proquest.com/doc/1906281562.html?FMT=ABS .

     Oshikawa, S. (1972). The Measurement of Cognitive Dissonance: Some
   Experimental Findings. Retrieved from

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