Cognitive Dissonance: Definition, Theory, & Examples

A hungry person does not simply prefer eating over starving; he is driven to eat. Similarly, a person experiencing dissonance does not simply prefer consistency over inconsistency, he is driven to achieve it. Confronting cognitive dissonance can often lead to positive results. Sometimes, resolving cognitive dissonance is just a matter of changing your perspective on something or developing new patterns of thinking to help you live according to what’s most important to you. In the hierarchical generative model, prediction errors flow upstream , and predictions flow downstream.

What is the theory of cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance theory postulates that an underlying psychological tension is created when an individual's behavior is inconsistent with his or her thoughts and beliefs. This underlying tension then motivates an individual to make an attitude change that would produce consistency between thoughts and behaviors.

This solution would involve creating new truths that are consistent with their previous beliefs and actions. New judgments about the present and predictions about the future were made that were consistent with the original belief, with the disconfirming cognitive dissonance theory event being treated like a bump in the road. After disconfirmation, for example, there was a sharp increase in the frequency with which group members decided that other people who telephoned them or visited their group were actually spacemen.

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Many sororities and fraternities require new hopefuls to perform embarrassing and sometimes physically harmful rituals before they are admitted to the group. After enduring these “hazing” activities, many new pledges actually end up liking the sorority/fraternity more than they did before. The knowledge that they willingly put themselves in situations where they experienced discomfort and humiliation is inconsistent with their usual desire to avoid such situations. Since they cannot undo their behavior, they attempt to justify it by developing a more favorable attitude toward the group.

What is the cognitive dissonance theory and give an example?

This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance. For example, when people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition), they are in a state of cognitive dissonance.

For example, if your friend reminds you about your recent win in the university’s chess competition, this bit of information would not be relevant to the conflict. However, it would distract you from the conflict and act as a self-resource that counteracts dissonance. Having to choose between two or more alternatives almost always creates dissonance. There are usually advantages and disadvantages to each possible course of action.

Conflict of Interest Statement

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. The basic assumption of cognitive dissonance theory is that humans have an innate need for consistency. We like to know that our beliefs and ideas fit together nicely and that they are in line with the way we act. When we become aware of inconsistencies in our thoughts and actions, we are motivated to correct this imbalance.

This too would reduce his dissonance since not eating bacon is consistent with the belief that bacon is bad for his health. The problem with this option is that it is not always easy or possible to change behavior. In the following section, I discuss relevant aspects of PP with respect to CD theory. I particularly focus on how many dissonance reduction strategies seem very similar to those found in prediction error minimization.


The same would arguably apply to the famous “duckrabbit,” a Gestalt demonstration by Jastrow made famous by Wittgenstein . A similar example, generally attributed to Kuhn and Polanyi , can be made in the philosophy or psychology of science. A scientist generally does not design an experiment from the perspective of two contradictory theories. This is simply because it even though it may be analytically feasible, it makes very little pragmatic sense.

cognitive dissonance theory

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