Leon Festinger first proposed the theory of cognitive dissonance, centered on how people try to reach internal consistency. He suggested that people have an inner need to ensure that their beliefs and behaviors are consistent. Inconsistent or conflicting beliefs lead to disharmony, which people strive to avoid.

Can cognitive dissonance cause depression?

Moreover, if we chronically feel high levels of dissonance, we are at risk for anxiety and depression disorders.

That means that when we take in new information, we don’t interpret it objectively. If you want to get better at feeling, and if you want to feel peaceful, then you need to learn what to do with those gaps in your life. When we resolve dissonance we can feel more peace, like ourselves more, and feel clarity. However, there are fortunate individuals who see how their substance abuse is causing not only destruction in their lives but also with those who love them.


When our friends or partners act contrary to our beliefs and values, we perceive 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. We may perceive dissonance when we engage in a new behavior (e.g., when we decline an invitation to an event we usually attend in order to protect our leisure time). While this can feel uncomfortable at first, it’s helpful to reflect on the reasons behind our behavior.

Co-occurring disorders (addiction and substance disorder coinciding) can be managed with dual diagnosis treatment. There is no doubt that cognitive dissonance can have a powerful influence on our behaviors and actions. As established, dissonance is a lack of agreement between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. People tend to act on their feelings/emotions, but do so impulsively.

What Influences Cognitive Dissonance?

However, there are therapy options for people whose cognitive dissonance is severely affecting their relationships or the ability to live their lives. A person who cares about their health might be disturbed to learn that sitting for long periods during the day is linked to a shortened lifespan. Since they work all day in an office and spend a great deal of time sitting, it is difficult to change their behavior. Cognitive dissonance can even influence how people feel about and view themselves, leading to negative feelings of self-esteem and self-worth.

  • Change, in both thought and behavior, comes from choices, which can either create or resolve cognitive dissonance.
  • When there are conflicts between cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, and opinions), people will take steps to reduce the dissonance and feelings of discomfort.
  • If you have a belief that’s causing cognitive dissonance, challenge it.
  • This is an example of cognitive dissonance because even though there are conflicting ideas, emotions, or thoughts (not caring what people think about her & trying to impress others), she can’t just stop caring.
  • The dissonance between two contradictory ideas, or between an idea and a behavior, creates discomfort.

Have students address the role that cognitive dissonance plays in society’s continued exploitation and general treatment of these animals. Meanwhile, dogs and cats are pampered and considered part of the family in many homes across America—but animals typically used for food are just as smart, clever, unique, intelligent, and sentient as they are. Companion animals deserve to be treated humanely—that’s part of why there are laws protecting them from harm. The problem lies in the fact that animals used in the food, testing, and skins industries don’t receive the same compassion from us—even though they have equal ability to feel pain and suffer.

How Common Is Cognitive Dissonance?

And that tension and conflict can make us feel stressed, irritated, and unhappy if we let them fester for too long. Here’s what you need to do to go about reducing and reconciling the cognitive dissonance in your life. Therapists aim to help their patients by understanding and changing their attitudes, emotions, or behaviors. Throwing trash outside even when knowing this act is against the law, wrong, and could harm animals and the planet is cognitive dissonance, especially if the person feels bad after littering but continues to do so. When you accept yourself for who you are, it’s easier to resolve any cognitive dissonance that might be happening. This means that you don’t have to change who you are to fit into someone else’s idea of what’s right or wrong.

(This kind of dissonance was far more common in the past than it is now, though it still exists.) Some people experience feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, or anger as an effect of cognitive dissonance. If the dissonance is great, some people may even feel they have become immoral, or they can develop a lack of self-worth until the dissonance is resolved. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, or https://ecosoberhouse.com/ when your actions contradict your values. Hypocrisy is the voluntary action involved when behaviors contradict beliefs or words, and cognitive dissonance is the unsettling feeling of mental discomfort resulting from this contradiction. People experience cognitive dissonance for many reasons, but a common trigger is work. “Maybe you’re at a company with a work culture or attitudes that are in opposition or conflict to what you believe,” according to Dr. Scott.

However, once you’ve made a decision, you have cognitive dissonance between gaining the pros of one choice and losing the pros of the other. It can be stressful putting effort into something only to achieve disappointing results. Spending time and effort without getting the desired outcome can be a source of cognitive dissonance. If you’ve been pressured to say or do something against your wishes, you’ve experienced forced compliance. Anything that sets up an inner conflict between two concepts or behaviors can cause cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can happen to anyone, and most cases resolve on their own.

  • This theory of cognitive dissonance plays a major role especially for those who suffer from substance abuse.
  • If you find yourself telling half-truths to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, this may result in cognitive dissonance.
  • Whenever our values are positive and helpful, changing our behavior is usually the best way to close the gap.
  • For someone with addiction issues, when dissonance comes into play, it greatly compromises their ability to make rational decisions.

She is an actively involved member of each of her intersecting communities and she is passionate about ensuring that culturally responsive content is accessible for all organizations in need. Jocelyn Solis-Moreira is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Health, Live Science, and Discover Magazine, among other cognitive dissonance treatment publications. She holds a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a bachelor’s degree in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. She has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in mental health and women’s health.

Here’s a look at some everyday examples of cognitive dissonance and how you might come to terms with them. Cognitive dissonance happens when you hold two conflicting thoughts in your mind at the same time — like loving both hamburgers and cows. Psychologist Leon Festinger published the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance in 1957. Among the examples he used to illustrate the theory were doomsday cult members and their explanations for why the world had not ended as they had anticipated. Many experiments have since been conducted to illustrate cognitive dissonance in more ordinary contexts.

What are 3 ways to resolve dissonance?

Dissonance can be reduced in one of three ways: a) changing existing beliefs, b) adding new beliefs, or c) reducing the importance of the beliefs.

Sometimes you might find yourself engaging in behaviors that are opposed to your own beliefs due to external expectations at work, school, or in a social situation. This might involve going along with something due to peer pressure or doing something at work to avoid getting fired. 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.

Cognitive Dissonance Examples

This theory of cognitive dissonance plays a major role especially for those who suffer from substance abuse. Addiction is a disease that already changes the chemistry of the brain and its ability to function normally. The regions that allow us to think and make decisions effectively have been damaged. They tend to modify their thought processes to support their cravings and addictive behavior, in order for them to feel or assure themselves that their choices or how they are acting is more favorable than it actually is. The term cognitive dissonance was first coined in 1957 by Psychologist Leon Festinger. When one’s beliefs become inconsistent or conflicting, this leads to disharmony and conflict, which is what most people try to avoid.