Cognitive Dissonance

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Description of Cognitive Dissonance. Explanation.


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Definition Cognitive Dissonance. Description.


Cognitive Dissonance is a the stressing mental state people feel when they find themselves doing things that don't fit with their opinions or what they know.

It is an aversive drive that goads people to be consistent. Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) explains the tendency of people to aim for consistency in their thoughts and the consequences of that tendency.

The Cognitive Dissonance concept has been proposed by Leon Festinger in his 1957 publishing ďA Theory of Cognitive DissonanceĒ, US.

Opposite to Cognitive Balance, Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT), together with Balance Theory and Congruity Theory is part of the so called Consistency Theories.

Festinger predicted that people will look for information that is likely to confirm and support existing attitudes and views, avoiding simultaneously information that is incongruent to existing attitudes and views.

Cognitive DissonanceFestinger sees 3 different possible relationships among cognitions:

  1. Consonance
  2. Dissonance, and
  3. Irrelevance. Compare: Social Judgment Theory

Basically two ideas that are consistent are consonant. If they are inconsistent they are dissonant. And if they are unrelated or unconnected they are irrelevant.

As the other consistency theories, CDT predicts that dissonance initiates an uncomfortable feeling that leads towards attitude change in order to reestablish consonance.

As an example, consider individuals who talk about their need to lose weight while continuing to eat prodigious amounts of food. From the moment these individuals choose to be cognizant that their actions (eating too much food) and perceptions (they are fat and need to lose weight) are dissonant, they will either need to change their diet or decide that maybe they arenít so fat.

CDT has been able to overcome some of the limitations of its predecessor Balance Theory and converted them into 3 main benefits:

  1. Can consider more than 2 cognitions at time.
  2. Allows quantification of the importance level of each cognition, so the amount of dissonance is quantifiable too. The latter is a result of:
    1. The proportion of dissonant and consonant cognitions.
    2. The importance of cognitions.
  3. Suggests 3 solutions to reinstate consonance:
    1. Change a cognition to reduce dissonance.
    2. If someone experiences dissonance, can think and add a new cognition.
    3. Change the importance of a cognition.

The main limitation of Cognitive Dissonance is that it cannot advise on how to cut back dissonance in any relational configuration. This is however possible using Congruity Theory.

Cognitive Dissonance Forum
  Quotes on Cognitive Dissonance. Quotations
Hi, do you know of a remarkable situation or a humorous quote by a famous person or a proverb related to people looking for information that is confirming and supporting the existing attitudes and views they have?
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Cognitive Dissonance Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group


Best Practices - Cognitive Dissonance Premium

Expert Tips - Cognitive Dissonance Premium

Reasons and Remedies to Dissonance in Leaders

In todayís constantly changing, challenging and demanding environment, it is hard for leaders to remain effective and resonant (see here what Goleman ...
Usage (application): Primal Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Stress, Cognitive Dissonance, Resonance

Resources - Cognitive Dissonance Premium

Full List of Cognitive Biases Classified into Four Different Areas

Presentation that classifies Cognitive Biases into four different areas, by S. Gupta (2011). It includes the following sections:
A. What are Cogn...
Usage (application): Decision Making, Human Behaviour, Management, Leadership, Strategy, etc.

Attitudes: Definition, Functions, Models and Application to Business and Marketing

This presentation elaborates on the concept and models related to attitudes, including the following sections:
1. What is attitude?
2. Funct...
Usage (application): Attitudes

Cognitive Dissonance: Festinger's and Aronson's View

Extensive presentation about Cognitive Dissonance, which does not only includes Festingerís view but also that of Aronson (comeback of the Cognitive D...
Usage (application): Cognitive Dissonance, Changing Behavior, Changing Attitudes


Cognitive Dissonance


Cognitive Dissonance


Cognitive Dissonance


Cognitive Dissonance

Compare with: Congruity Theory  |  Balance Theory  |  Employee Attitude Survey  |  Theory of Planned Behavior  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Appreciative Inquiry  |  Hawthorne Effect  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring

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