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Did you know that cognitive dissonance is the discomfort you feel when holding two conflicting beliefs?

Have you ever found yourself justifying a questionable decision, adamantly defending a belief despite counter-evidence, or feeling strangely unsettled after acting in a way that clashes with your values? This mental tug-of-war is known as cognitive dissonance.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological tension we experience when our behaviors don’t align with our beliefs, or when we hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously. Our brains crave consistency, so this inner conflict feels deeply uncomfortable.

Examples of Cognitive Dissonance

Let’s look at some real-life scenarios:

  • The Health-Conscious Smoker: “I believe smoking is harmful” clashes with “I smoke cigarettes regularly.”
  • The Regretful Shopper: “I should be saving money” conflicts with “I just bought these expensive shoes.”
  • Conflicted Values: “I believe in honesty” clashes with “I lied to protect a friend.”

Reducing Dissonance: The Mental Gymnastics

To ease the distress of cognitive dissonance, we often resort to some surprising strategies:

  • Changing Behavior: The most direct but difficult path, this involves aligning our actions with our beliefs.
  • Changing Beliefs: We might downplay the importance of a belief or minimize the negative aspects of our behavior.
  • Adding New Beliefs: Introducing a justifying reason can ease the conflict (“The stress relief is worth it” for the smoker).

The Impact of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance isn’t just a temporary annoyance. It can have significant consequences:

  • Entrenched Habits: Justifying behaviors makes them harder to break.
  • Resistance to Logic: We might cling to beliefs even when contradicted by evidence.
  • Self-deception: Over time, dissonance can lead to warped self-perception to avoid facing uncomfortable truths.

The Takeaway

Dissonance may be uncomfortable, but it can be a catalyst for positive change. Instead of avoiding the discomfort, we can use it as an opportunity for reflection:

  • Question yourself: Why do I feel this internal conflict? What does it reveal about my priorities?
  • Embrace growth: Cognitive dissonance can be a sign it’s time to reexamine beliefs or behaviors.

Understanding cognitive dissonance gives us valuable insight into the ways our minds strive for internal consistency, and how we sometimes go to great lengths to avoid changing our beliefs.


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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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