At some point in your life, you may be compelled to do something that is completely opposite to your beliefs.
For instance, supervisors in workplaces often ask their employees to perform certain tasks that go against the employee’s personal opinions.
Thus, when such incidents happen, you complete the required tasks. This is despite such tasks being contrary to your personal opinions or attitudes.
Such a discrepancy in a person’s attitudes and behaviors produces uncomfortable psychological effects.
As per research, such an individual attempts to eliminate the unwanted and undesired psychological effects.
Further, he may try to rationalize the behavior by adding beliefs and attitudes that help him to justify the behavior.
Besides this, the person may also try to reduce the conflict between his previous attitudes and current behaviors.
So, this comes from the theory of cognitive dissonance that Leon Festinger published in 1957.
It has been one of the most influential theories in psychology. Further, the theory of cognitive dissonance has led to hundreds of studies. These explain the determinants of an individual’s
- the manifestation of values,
- consequences of decisions
- disagreements among persons, and
- other important psychological processes
In this article, we will talk about what is cognitive dissonance, cognitive dissonance theory, and examples of cognitive dissonance.
As per Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance definition, dissonance refers to the discrepancy between cognitions and the resulting psychological discomfort.
Festinger gave the term ‘Dissonant’ in his theory of cognitive dissonance theory. This theory proposes that the elements of knowledge or pairs of cognition can be relevant or irrelevant to one another.
In other words, two cognitions are consonant if they are relevant to one another. However, the two cognitions are dissonant if they are irrelevant to one another.
The conditions that are consonant are the result of one cognition following from the other. Whereas, two cognitions are dissonant if the opposite of one cognition follows from the other.
Remember, the state of dissonance leads to psychological discomfort. Hence, a person gets the motivation to reduce dissonance when he undergoes such a state.
As a result, such a person avoids any information that is likely to increase the dissonance.
In other words, the greater the intensity of the dissonance, the greater is the motivation to reduce the dissonance.
Now, the intensity of the dissonance between one cognitive element and the remaining cognitive elements depends upon:
- the number of such elements consonant and dissonant with the cognitive element in question
- the importance of such other cognitions consonant and dissonant with the cognitive element in question
Further, Festinger defined the term dissonance ratio in his theory. It is nothing but the intensity of dissonance. The ratio of the number of dissonant cognitions and the sum of dissonant and consonant cognitions indicates this.
Thus, as the number of dissonant cognitions increases, the intensity of dissonance increases. Provided, the number of consonant cognitions is constant.
Likewise, as the number of consonant cognitions increases, the intensity of dissonance decreases. Provided, the number of dissonant cognitions remains constant.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Leon Festinger proposed the theory of cognitive dissonance in 1957. As per this theory, cognitive dissonance refers to a condition in which an individual engages in behaviors contrary to his personal beliefs and attitudes.
Such inconsistency among a person’s attitudes or behaviors leads to uncomfortable psychological effects.
Thus, Cognitive Dissonance is the experience of inconsistency between two elements of knowledge or cognitions and the resulting psychological discomfort.
Thus, an individual who experiences a dissonance between his beliefs and actions will attempt to eliminate the resulting undesired psychological effects.
Now consider that the habitual smoker alters his current belief about smoking. In other words, he understands that smoking is injurious to his health.
Thus, his current belief changes from ‘I want to continue smoking no matter what’ to ‘Smoking is injurious to health’.
Now, the habitual smoker reduces his dissonance by altering his belief altogether.
Thus. Festinger proposed an individual can reduce dissonance in the following ways.
i. Adding New Consonant Cognitions
As per cognitive dissonance theory, an individual tries to add new beliefs or attitudes that justify or rationalize his current behaviors. Festinger termed such new beliefs or attitudes as consonants.
Cognitive Dissonance Example
To describe this concept, Festinger used a cognitive dissonance example of a habitual smoker. For instance, the habitual smoker believes that he must smoke no matter what.
However, he also learns that smoking is injurious to his health. But this belief is dissonant with his current belief that he must continue to smoke.
As a result, he experiences dissonance. Now, he can reduce this dissonance by looking for the positive aspects of smoking. He may believe that smoking reduces mental pressure and also helps reduce weight.
Thus, the habitual smoker adds new consonant cognitions to his existing belief that he must continue to smoke.
ii. Removing Dissonant Cognitions
Leon Festinger claimed an individual may eliminate his dissonant cognitions and try to reduce cognitive dissonance.
In other words, he may try to remove the cognitions that are inconsistent with his current beliefs or behaviors.
Thus, Festinger termed cognitions inconsistent with the current beliefs/behaviors as dissonant cognitions.
Let’s consider the cognitive dissonance example of a habitual smoker who believes that he must smoke no matter what.
In this case, the habitual smoker experiences dissonance when he is asked to quit/stop smoking.
So, to reduce this dissonance, the habitual smoker will try to reduce/eliminate the dissonant cognition of quitting smoking.
He may do this by justifying that quitting smoking is bad for him. In other words, he may increase the negative aspects of the dissonant cognition by changing his cognition about the effect of smoking on his health.
In other words, he may believe that smoking does not have a harmful effect on health.
iii. Reducing the Importance of Dissonant Cognitions
Another way in which an individual may reduce his cognitive dissonance by reducing the significance of the dissonant cognition element.
Let’s go back to the cognitive dissonance example of the habitual smoker. In this, the habitual smoker can reduce the intensity of dissonance by comparing the risk associated with smoking to the risk of an automobile accident.
He might believe that the probability to die in an automobile accident is more relative to the probability of dying due to smoking.
iv. Increasing the Importance of Consonant Cognitions
Finally, Festinger proposed that an individual can reduce his cognitive dissonance by increasing the importance of consonant cognition.
Say, the habitable smoker has the current belief that he wants to continue smoking no matter what.
Thus, he may reduce his dissonance by considering happiness or the pleasure he gets from smoking to be an important part of his life.
This way he is increasing the importance of consonant cognitions.
v. A Cognitive Element’s Resistance to Change
Festinger claimed that the specific cognitive element to reduce dissonance can change. This depends on the level of resistance to change of cognition.
In other words, the cognitive elements that are less resistant to change will change more easily.
However, the cognitive elements that are more resistant to change will be difficult to change.
Further, a cognitive element’s resistance to change is dependent on its responsiveness to reality.
In addition to this, it also depends on the degree to which a cognitive element is a consonant with the other cognitions.
For example, the resistance to change of a behavioral cognitive element depends on:
- the degree of pain or loss an individual goes through
- the level of satisfaction obtained from such a behavior
Festinger has expressed his theory of cognitive dissonance in highly generic terms. As a result, his theory might apply to a wide range of psychological aspects.
These may include cognition, motivation, and emotion.
There can be an interplay of cognitions about oneself, in another person or group, or about the surrounding environment.
Thus, this theory is applicable to a wide range of topics.
Also Read: Arousal Theory of Motivation
Causes of Cognitive Dissonance
There are many situations that cause cognitive dissonance. In this section, we are going to discuss some of the important situations that lead to cognitive dissonance in an individual.
I. The Free-Choice Paradigm
An individual experiences cognitive dissonance when he finally makes a decision. The interplay of two cognitive elements leads to dissonance in such an individual.
Thus, the negative aspects of the chosen alternative and the positive aspects of the rejected alternative are the cognitive elements dissonant with the individual’s decision.
Whereas, the positive aspects of the chosen alternative and the negative aspects of the rejected alternative are consonant with the decision.
It is important to note that challenging decisions lead to more dissonance than easy decisions. This is because the intensity/proportion of the dissonant cognitions are more after a difficult decision is undertaken.
However, in the case of easy decisions, the intensity/proportion of the dissonant cognitions is relatively less.
So, the greater the dissonance, the greater will be the level of motivation to reduce the dissonance.
How Can You Reduce Cognitive Dissonance?
Now, an individual can reduce the dissonance once he takes a difficult decision through:
- Either removing the negative aspects of the chosen alternative or positive aspects of the rejected alternative or by
- Increasing the positive aspects of the chosen alternative and the negative aspects of the rejected alternative
Thus, an individual changes the aspects of the alternatives to the decision undertaken. This leads the individual to consider the chosen alternative to be more desirable relative to the rejected one.
Now this effect is ‘Spreading of Alternatives. Further, the Free Choice Paradigm is the experimental paradigm used to test the theory.
Cognitive Dissonance Experiment Using Free-Choice Paradigm
JW Brehm conducted the first experiment using the Free Choice Paradigm in 1956. He carried out this experiment to test the projections derived from the dissonance theory.
In this experiment, the women had to rate 8 different products for the level of their desirability for such products. These products included a toaster, coffee maker, etc.
Thus, one group of women had to choose between the two products they desired the most. This was a difficult decision for them to make.
Whereas, the other group of women had two products not close in desirability. This decision was quite easy for them to make.
The women had to rate the desirability of all the products again after they selected the two products.
The results of this experiment showcased that the women who made a difficult decision changed the ratings of their products. Such women now rated the products they had chosen previously to be more positive relative to their previous ratings.
Whereas, such women gave less positive ratings to the rejected products relative to the previous ratings of such products.
In other words, the spreading of alternatives was more for women taking a difficult decision. Whereas, the spreading of alternatives was less for the women taking the easy decision.
II. Belief-Disconfirmation Paradigm
You experience dissonance when you are exposed to information that is inconsistent with your beliefs.
Such dissonance can lead to a number of negative outcomes if you do not change your belief to reduce the dissonance.
These outcomes can be:
- misinterpretation of information
- rejection of information
- an attempt to gain support from the individuals who agree with your belief
- an attempt to convince others to accept your belief
Cognitive Dissonance Experiment using Belief-Disconfirmation Paradigm
Experiment Part I
Festinger and his colleagues participated in a group that had become committed to an important belief. The group believed in a divine prediction that a flood would wash out the continent.
A woman in the group claimed the beings in outer space passed on this divine prediction to her. Thus, the other members of the group also believed that the divinity had chosen them to be saved from the flood.
Further, they also believed that such divine beings from outer space would take them away in a flying saucer.
Experiment Part II
Now, Festinger observed that the flood did not occur. Thus, the members of the group who were alone at that time no longer supported the divine belief after they came to know about this.
However, those members continued to support their beliefs who were waiting with the other members of the group.
Further, the woman supposedly receiving communication from outer space reported that she received another message.
This time the message indicated God had prevented the flood. This was because of the group being together in supporting the divine belief which was for the good.
The group engaged in a subtle propagandizing of the divine belief before the disconfirmation of the belief about the flood.
However, the group substantially propagandized the divine belief after its disconfirmation.
In fact, such members of the group even went to the extent of convincing others who did not hold such a belief.
Such an act served as adding cognitions consonant with their divine belief. This was because such group members were trying to reduce their dissonance by convincing others to accept their divine beliefs.
IV. The Effort-Justification Paradigm
You also experience dissonance when you perform an unpleasant activity to obtain the desired result.
If we see the cognitive element of the activity being unpleasant, it is clear that you would perform such an activity.
This means the cognition that the activity is unpleasant is dissonant with your behavior of performing such activity.
Also, the more unpleasant effort required to obtain the desired outcome more is the level of the dissonance.
In this situation, you can reduce the dissonance by magnifying the desirability of the outcome.
This would add to your consonant cognitions and would hence lead to reducing the dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance Experiment using Effort-Justification Paradigm
Aronson and Mills designed the first experiment to test the theory of cognitive dissonance using Effort-Justification Paradigm.
As a part of the experiment, one set of women had to undergo a severe initiation to become a member of a group.
Whereas the other set of women had to undergo mild initiation to become a member of the same group.
The first group of women exposed to severe initiation conditions had to engage in an embarrassing activity in order to join the group.
Whereas, the women exposed to mild initiation conditions had to engage in an activity that was less demeaning. But, the women found the activity boring.
The result of this experiment indicated women exposed to severe initiation conditions evaluated the group that they were asked to join more favorably.
While the women exposed to mild initiation evaluated the group less favorably.
This was because the desired outcome was not strong enough to compel them to make an effort while performing the activity.
V. Induced-Compliance Paradigm
Dissonance also occurs when you do or say something that is completely opposite to a prior belief or activity.
Considering the cognitive element of your prior belief or attitude, one may not expect you to engage in a behavior that is contrary to your prior belief.
However, certain cognitive elements provide justification for you behaving in a manner opposite to your belief.
Such cognitive elements include:
- certain inducements to engage in behavior contrary to prior belief
- promises of reward for engaging in such a behavior
- threats of punishment as a result of not engaging in behavior contrary to your belief
This means the greater the number and importance of cognitions justifying the behavior, the lesser is the dissonance that occurs.
Likewise, the less the number and importance of cognitions justifying the behavior, the more is the dissonance that occurs.
This means you must change your belief/attitude so that it corresponds to what you say and hence can reduce the dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance Experiment Using Induced Compliance Paradigm
Festinger and Carlsmith conducted the first experiment using the induced-compliance paradigm.
They test one of the hypotheses derived from the dissonance theory.
This hypothesis states that the smaller the reward for saying something that is opposite to one’s belief, the greater his opinion changes to agree with the contrary belief.
In this experiment, Festinger and Carlsmith asked a group of men to perform boring tasks for an hour.
After undertaking boring tasks for an hour, they were either paid $1 or $20 for telling the female accomplice of the experimenter that the tasks were enjoyable.
As a result, almost all the participants agreed to convince the female accomplice that the boring tasks were fun.
Post this, the participants were to evaluate the experiment in the presence of an interviewer from the psychology department.
The interviewer had nothing to do with the experiment. Now the results of the evaluation indicated the following.
The participants receiving $1 rated the boring tasks to be fun and enjoyable.
Whereas, participants receiving $20 rated the tasks as extremely boring.
Counterattitudinal behavior refers to the behavior that is opposite to a person’s beliefs or attitudes. As per the above experiment, the counter attitudinal behavior is the one that occurs when the participants had to tell a lie.
Further, they were paid for engaging in such behavior.
It is important to note that participants who were paid just $1 for telling a lie experienced increased dissonance.
This is because $1 was not a sufficient incentive/justification to tell a lie. So, when they were asked to evaluate the task by the experimenter after receiving the incentive, they changed their initial belief about the task. That is, they shifted their belief from the task being boring to fun/enjoyable.
Therefore, they evaluated the experiment as fun and enjoyable.
Now, this effect is known as the negative-incentive effect.
What is Negative Incentive Effect?
It indicates that there is a negative relationship between the amount of incentive and change in the initial attitude.
Thus, the lesser the justification available, the greater the change in the attitude.
As per research, the negative-incentive effect occurs when an individual has the freedom to decide whether to engage in counter attitudinal behavior.
Thus, when an individual has the freedom to engage in counter attitudinal behavior, he can manipulate his choice in favor of counterattitudinal behavior.
In the example above, persons who were paid $1 to tell a lie, had less justification but more freedom. Therefore, to reduce the dissonance, they changed their initial belief from tasks being boring to fun/enjoyable.
But, when the individual is given more incentive/payment, he has more justification but is less free to change his attitude. Therefore, such individuals experience less dissonance as there exists sufficient justification to tell a lie.
But on being asked to evaluate the experiment, such individuals do not change their attitude.
VI. Other Paradigms
The above-mentioned paradigms are the most frequently used paradigms to test dissonance theory.
But, there are other paradigms that are used to explain a wide array of situations in which dissonance occurs.
Mills Cognitive Dissonance Experiment
In one of the early experiments testing the dissonance theory, Mills proved how behaving honestly or dishonestly influences the attitudes towards honesty.
In this experiment, the sixth-grade students were asked to first complete a measure of attitudes towards cheating.
The next day, the same set of students were given some tasks that gave them an opportunity to be honest or to cheat.
Then, a day later, these students completed the attitude measure again. Subsequently, Mills evaluated the results.
However, to do so, he first eliminated about 15% of the students who were initially extremely against cheating.
This means that such students couldn’t modify their attitudes to become more extreme.
After eliminating such extreme responders, the results showcased that students who behaved honestly changed their attitudes.
They opposed cheating all the more than those who actually cheated.
As clearly indicated, these results corresponded with the projections of the cognitive dissonance theory.
It showcased that the students who were extremely honest reduced their dissonance over cheating by being honest all the more.
Cognitive Dissonance Due to Going Against Morals
Apart from the above, dissonance can also occur when individuals behave in a manner that is inconsistent with their values or morals.
One of the examples of cognitive dissonance due to practicing inconsistent values includes meat-eating.
Meat-eating is considered inconsistent by some people. This is because they have a concern for the welfare of animals.
Such individuals may reduce their dissonance over eating meat by reducing their concern for animals.
In other words, they may explain to themselves that animals lack the capacity to suffer.
Loughnan, Haslam, and Bastian conducted an experiment to test cognitive dissonance theory in the case of meat-eating.
In this experiment, they compelled the participants to eat dried beef or dried nuts. Subsequent to this, participants raised their moral concerns for animals and cattle.
The results of this experiment showcased that participants who were habituated to eat meat had less moral concern for animals and cattle.
While those who did not eat meat had more concern for animals and the cattle. Thus, the results were consistent with the projections of the dissonance theory.
Individuals who were habituated to eating meat reduced their dissonance by reducing their concern for animals.
Examples of Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance can occur in many areas of life. However, it is specifically evident in situations where an individual’s behavior conflicts with the beliefs that are important to his self-identity.
As per a study, people who smoke cigarettes use justification beliefs to reduce their cognitive dissonance.
For instance, let’s say a woman smokes cigarettes. This she does despite being aware that it is injurious to her health. It may cause terminal diseases such as lung cancer.
She continues to smoke as she feels smoking cigarettes helps her relieve stress and get rid of her anxiety.
Else, she may explain to herself that she does not smoke too many cigarettes in a day so as to lead her to a terminal illness.
This way the woman in question is reducing her dissonance by providing justifications to her existing belief that she should continue smoking.
II. Eating While Dieting
One of the common areas where an individual experiences cognitive dissonance is when they eat more despite dieting.
Such individuals are aware of the fact that dieting would be of no use if they continue to have meals rich in starch and carbohydrates.
But, they often go off the course whenever they see delicious foods like ice creams, donuts, etc.
Such people reduce cognitive dissonance by saying that they will skip a meal to balance their calorie intake. Or they explain themselves that it’s just a matter of a single muffin.
The workplace is another important area prone to causing cognitive dissonance. For instance, the manager of a foreign exchange consultancy asks an employee in the research department to handle sales for the upcoming months.
The employee’s forte lies in currency research but lacks both skill and expertise to sell hedging instruments.
Thus, when the employee is asked to become a consultant and sell hedging instruments, he experiences cognitive dissonance. This is because his temperament is suitable for research as he is an introvert.
Thus, the very thought of selling is against his attitude and thus brings dissonance.
IV. Self-Confirmation Bias
Cognitive dissonance also occurs when people justify their own beliefs without questioning their validity. Say, for instance, Kushiro, a city located on Hokkaido’s south-east pacific coast Japan experienced an earthquake.
After the earthquake, unreasonable rumors quickly reached the adjoining communities or regions that were not affected by the disaster. But, out of fear, people in the unaffected areas considered such rumors to be supposedly true.
As a result, they justified such rumors in the form of experiencing anxiety about the earthquake.
This was despite the fact that they did not face any physical danger.
In other words, they validated their own bias about the occurrence of the earthquake. Although, in reality, they did not have sufficient evidence to check the validity of their claim.
Thus, they experienced cognitive dissonance.
V. Ben Franklin Effect
Benjamin Franklin Effect is a psychological phenomenon and explains cognitive dissonance. This phenomenon makes a person respect someone he dislikes after he performs a favor for such a person.
The term ‘Ben Franklin Effect’ is taken from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. In one of the instances, Franklin described the manner in which he dealt with the enmity of the rival legislator.
This happened when Franklin came to know that his rival had a book in his library that was seemingly rare.
Since he wanted to read the book, Franklin wrote to his rival to lend him that book for a few days.
Thus, the rival legislator agreed. After a week, Franklin returned the book along with a letter describing how much he liked the book.
When the two of them met the next time, Franklin’s rival behaved with him in a polite manner. Further, he showcased his willingness to help Benjamin with other matters as well.
This instance resulted in two men becoming friends.
Thus, this example showcases that Benjamin’s rival experienced cognitive dissonance when he agreed to lend the book to Benjamin. This is because he had to do something contrary to his attitude towards Benjamin.
However, the rival legislator’s dissonance was reduced when he received a thank you letter from Benjamin.
Thus, happy the rival legislator became more willing to give him another favor.
Emotional Dissonance refers to a discrepancy between felt and expressed emotions. This theory corresponds to Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory.
Such a discrepancy occurs when employees display emotions at the workplace that don’t match with the emotions they actually feel.
As a result, such employees experience stress as the felt emotions differ from their expressed emotions.
The employees experience such stress as they separate themselves from Self and the unauthentic feelings. That is, they express emotions that are different from the emotions they actually feel. This poses a challenge to the person’s sense of self.
As per research, emotional dissonance at the workplace is a source of distress for the employee. Such distress further harms the employee’s wellbeing.
Now, to overcome distress and to meet the display expectations, an employee makes use of majorly two strategies.
These include Surface Acting and Deep Acting. They form part of the term ‘Emotional Labor’ Arlie Russell Hochschild, an American psychologist first introduced the term Emotional Labor.
It refers to the regulation of one’s emotions to comply with occupational or organizational norms.
She further stated that emotional labor is the management of feelings to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display.
I. Surface Acting
Surface Acting refers to the act of showcasing emotions that are not felt. In this, an employee consciously changes his felt emotions to generate the required emotional displays.
This kind of strategy is more damaging as it produces a discrepancy between felt and displayed emotions.
Further, it also leads to a number of negative outcomes including high levels of burnout, lower job satisfaction, and intentions to quit.
This means that surface acting has some direct negative impact on the well-being of employees.
The two commonly used variables to define employee’s well-being with regards to emotional dissonance include job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion.
Job satisfaction is the most fundamental attitude of an employee towards his job. It is defined as an estimated judgment that an employee makes about his job.
Emotional Exhaustion is the basic measure of the burn-out syndrome. It refers to an employee’s feelings of overstretched and depleted emotional and physical abilities.
Thus, employees who engage in surface acting do not have control over their emotions. They lack authenticity which creates a conflict of values and person-job discrepancy.
Such a discrepancy is one of the important factors that determine an employee’s burnout.
As per research, poor job-person job fit is one of the important factors of job dissatisfaction and job burnout.
This is because an employee undergoes a conflict between his felt emotions and emotions that are required to be displayed at the workplace. Such a conflict makes the employee go through a feeling that there is a lack of fit between his personal state of mind and the job demands.
II. Deep Acting
Deep Acting refers to a condition in which an employee makes a great effort to actually feel and express the required emotions at the workplace. It involves changing inner feelings by altering something way beyond outward appearance.
That is, in deep acting feelings are changed from the inside out. According to Hochschild, deep acting can be classified into:
- suppressing emotions
- invoking thoughts, images, and memories to bring in the associated emotion. That is, employees use their past experiences to call on appropriate emotions or responses for a given situation.
Employees who engage in deep acting try to change their feelings to match them with the required display feelings.
They see a more comfortable space for themselves that is free from the dangers of emotional dissonance. This is because the employee tries to combine his real and acted emotional labor.
Disadvantages of Deep Acting
However, an employee has to pay the cost despite the benefits of combining such feelings. This is because, in deep acting, an employee systematically suppresses his real self that leads to the deepening of the employee’s subordination to his social relations.
The state of deep acting is contradictory and unstable in nature. As a result, it can transform into an evolving or emerging form of resistance.
Thus, an employee who engages in deep acting experiences a serious conflict when his organization speeds up the process of working.
Thus, it makes personal service to deliver for an employee.
This is because the employee’s personal self lacks the potential to meet the demands made on it.
At this point, it becomes difficult for the employee to keep public and private selves fused.
As a result, the employee questions his own emotional labor.
Further, she stated that emotional labor is sold for a wage and therefore has exchange value.
This clearly explains that employees are required to manage their feelings and display the feelings required for commercial purposes.
These display emotions have an economic value and can be transformed into salaries.
Cognitive Dissonance in Relationships
The two individuals in a relationship have to make compromises. This is because these are mandatory to run the relationship.
However, making compromises or overlooking your core values repeatedly to please your partner may result in an internal conflict.
Every individual seeks certain qualities/values in a potential partner.
An individual may align with his romantic partner on nearly most of the values. However, there is one major aspect where both the partners do not align with each other.
Say, for instance, you fall in love with a man who is not financially secure. As a result, your family is against the relationship.
Now, you can either break up with him by justifying the relationship would never have worked out. Or you can continue to be in a relationship with him and explain to yourself that money isn’t that important a parameter to choose your potential partner.
Further, you justify your decision by increasing the importance of other factors. These could be loyalty and commitment as against financial security.
An individual may try to justify the negative characteristics of an individual to align the relationship with our vision.
The relationship can turn out to be positive in case we ignore unreasonable expectations.
The relationship can turn out to be negative if you pay less attention to the personality traits of an individual.
I. Romantic Infidelity
Romantic infidelity is a behavior that promotes cognitive dissonance. This is because it leads to a conflict with one’s self-identity.
Further, individuals committing infidelity may use certain strategies to reduce the negative outcomes associated with cognitive dissonance.
These strategies may include a change in behavior and trivialization – the act of making something less serious.
As per research, people engaging in romantic infidelity may experience a discrepancy between self-concept and psychological discomfort. This is seen specifically in women.
In addition to this, prior infidelity also resulted in negatively impacting the individuals in a relationship on a general level.
The perpetrators promoted the use of trivialization and behavior change. The ones who trivialized their behaviors experienced great improvement in terms of self-concept discrepancy and psychological discomfort.
However, such perpetrators did not experience any improvement at the general level. This suggests that trivialization justifies the dissonance associated with infidelity.
Additionally, perpetrators were more likely to trivialize prior infidelities when they were aware of their personal beliefs regarding infidelity.
This indicates that a noticeable discrepancy between beliefs and behavior resulted in the perpetrators trivializing their behaviors.
II. Physical Attractiveness in a Relationship
Physical attractiveness is an important parameter in selecting a partner in both men and women. However, men are more likely to be concerned about their partner’s physical attractiveness than do women.
Cognitive dissonance occurs with respect to physical attractiveness in mate selection.
It is impossible for every individual to find a partner who is physically attractive. Or the one he/she would ideally like.
This leads to a cognitive dissonance between their attitude and behavior. As per cognitive dissonance theory, an individual may try to reduce the uncomfortable feelings resulting from the differences between their attitudes and behaviors.
As mentioned above, men are more concerned about their partner’s physical attractiveness relative to women. Therefore, both men and women may reduce cognitive dissonance arising from their partner’s physical attractiveness in the same manner.
To keep a marriage working, both you and your partner evolve over a period of time. Further, you make an effort to keep the relationship intact.
However, there can be instances when cognitive dissonance can result between you and your partner.
This may occur when there is a difference between your views, attitudes or behaviors, and those of your partner.
At times, you may overlook or ignore such instances. And at other times, you may change your own attitudes or behavior to align with your partner’s attitudes/behaviors.
However, things get worse when you have to compromise on your values to make your marriage thrive.
However, couples who give charitable explanations or hold an overall positive view about their marriage stay happy.
This is because they integrate their perceptions of specific problems within an overall positive view of their marriage.
They are able to acknowledge their partner’s flaws and have more stable satisfaction from their relationship.
IV. Cognitive Dissonance in Abusive Relationships
Intimate partner violence is prevalent and a highly destructive phenomenon. One of the common aspects of abusive relationships is the unwillingness to leave one’s partner.
This behavior comes under Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome refers to a psychological response where a captive develops a psychological bond with his/her captors during captivity.
Such a response occurs because the victim justifies the abuser through cognitive distortions. In other words, the captive views the violence as an exception and minimizes the pain associated with abuse.
This is done to reduce their dissonance. They may not consider the violent behavior of the abuser to be a part of their past behavior.
Thus, a woman may say something like this. It’s fine that he abducted me. But, he’s a loving person and cares about me, even more than my caregivers.
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