What Is Cognitive Dissonance? Common Causes and How To Resolve It

cognitive dissonance common causes

4. New Information

Learning new information or skill or behavior that later turns out to be harmful causes cognitive dissonance. People often deal with the feelings of uneasiness or tension by finding ways to discredit the information or ignore the new information or justify their behavior. 

Other factors :

There are different factors that explain the degree of cognitive dissonance faced by people. It includes – 

  • How highly you value a particular belief
  • The degree to which your beliefs are inconsistent

The overall strength of the cognitive dissonance is directly proportional to the number of dissonant or clashing thoughts you have. The strength is also influenced by the importance attached to each belief. Highly valued beliefs or stronger beliefs about self results in more dissonance. 

Effects Of Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance happens both when your behavior contradicts your beliefs about the world and the beliefs you have about yourself. The immediate effects are – Intense feelings of uneasiness or discomfort. It is a natural tendency for humans to avoid these discomfort, which in turn affects a person’s thoughts, behaviors, decisions, beliefs and attitudes and mental health. Other effects are – 

  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Stress
  • Shame
  • Guilt

You may experience dissonance without even knowing it. It is not always easy to recognise because there are different factors affecting the strength or degree of cognitive dissonance.

Read 3 Cognitive Strategies To Deal with Bad News

Here are some signs that your feelings are related to dissonance:

  1. Feeling uncomfortable before making a decision or taking an action
  2. Feeling ashamed or embarrassed and trying to hide your actions or beliefs from others 
  3. Trying to justify your choices or decisions continuously
  4. Avoid conversations or debates about specific topic
  5. Experience guilt or regret about something that you have done in the past 
  6. Have done something out of peer pressure or a fear of missing out 
  7. Avoid learning new information that is inconsistent with your existing beliefs
  8. Ignore newspaper articles, or doctor’s advice or research that causes dissonance

Is there any positive effect of dissonance?

Yes! Cognitive dissonance motivates people to change in a way that their behavior or actions align with their beliefs. It is a chance for people to rethink their values and actions and achieve cognitive consistency. As a result of dissonance, people may quit smoking, eat a healthy diet or buy things that they actually need or can afford, address the fear of missing out, cheating in relationships, addiction, or anger issues. In short, some cognitive dissonance can help people grow.

Women empowerment, environmental rights, and decrease in child marriages are some of the positive effects of cognitive dissonance. People realised what was going wrong and made necessary changes to better align society’s values with personal actions.

Read Neuroscience and The Sanskrit Effect: How Chanting Boosts Cognitive Functions

How To Reduce Cognitive Dissonance

Leaving cognitive dissonance unattended for a long time leads to stress, irritation, and unhappiness. Below are the methods to achieve a state where your beliefs, values, and actions are all in harmony without any mental conflict. 

How to reduce cognitive dissonance
What Is Cognitive Dissonance? Common Causes and How To Resolve It

1. Change your beliefs. 

This is the simplest and one of the most effective options to deal with dissonance. Or a person may persuade himself that no conflict exists. But, it may be difficult to change conflicting thoughts when the beliefs and values are more important to you, especially those of religious or political leanings. 

2. Change your actions.

When an action leads to shame or guilt like –  eating meat while you are an animal lover and fighting for animal rights – you may pledge to never do it again. This is called reconciling the differences. Changing actions can lower shame and guilt and make you feel better about the situation.

3. Create more supportive beliefs that outweigh dissonant beliefs

If you believe that greenhouse emissions result in global warming, then you may experience cognitive dissonance when driving a gas-guzzling vehicle. You can resolve this by seeking new information that overrides the belief that greenhouse gasses contribute to global warming. You can seek out support from others who share similar beliefs or try to convince others that the new information is inaccurate.

4. Reject conflicting information

A person may devalue and discard any information not matching with their existing beliefs. They may stop watching particular news sources by describing them as biased or false.

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