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

What Is Cognitive Dissonance

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.

Related: How Cognitive Distortions Harm Us

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.

5. Change how you perceive your actions 

You may feel guilty of driving a car that causes air pollution. There is no way you can change your behavior. But, you can rationalize your behavior by engaging in eco-friendly activities like planting more trees or volunteering for installing solar panels for electricity in your area. This way you can make up for the loss you have done to the environment. It is a wonderful way to reduce the importance of conflicting beliefs.

Wrong Way To Deal With Dissonance

Leon Festinger explains how a person deals with dissonance related to a health behavior giving an example of a person who continues to smoke knowing it’s injurious to health. 

  1. A person may value smoking more than health and think this behavior is “worth it” in terms of risks versus rewards.
  2. The smoker convinces himself that negative health effects have been overstated or believe that they cannot avoid every possible health risk out there
  3. The smoker convinces himself that he will gain weight if he stops smoking and being overweight leads to other health problems. 

By using such explanations a smoker will continue to smoke as well as reduce the dissonance. However, the drawback is it contributes to unhealthy behaviors or poor decisions.

#1 Way To Prevent Cognitive Dissonance In The First Place 

Mindfulness is the word!

To resolve dissonance, you must recognize your feelings and view the existing situation you’re in from the outside. You need to know how others experience you and identify places where your belief systems and behavior do not align. Deep introspection is required to know why you behaved as you behaved. Only then you will understand how you got into the situation and the way to resolve the dissonance

You need to practice being mindful so that you can be calm instead of impulsive during the mental conflict. Mindfulness helps a person stay tuned with their inner self and own value system. You will realize when your thinking is being driven by emotions, according to Corrine Leikam, PsyD, an associate director at Sober College in Los Angeles.

Some tips to practice mindfulness:

  • Talking to friend or therapist 
  • Journalling
  • Exercise daily
  • Yoga or meditation
  • Consulting with a spiritual adviser

Related: 7 Simple Strategies to Increasing Mindfulness in as Little as 30 Seconds

Resolving cognitive dissonance requires constant hard work, soul searching, high self-awareness, and creating better interactions with each other, according to Alauna Curry, MD, a psychiatrist with the Rowe Network in Houston.

With high self-awareness, you can guide your future actions. So, the next time you are late to the office or wedding party, you can adjust your behavior or your expectations of your boss or friends to lessen dissonance. Understanding how clashing thoughts influence your decision-making process will help you make faster and more accurate choices.

Nobody is immune to cognitive dissonance, it affects everyone! All you can do is use healthy methods of dealing and behave in line with your values. 

Are you ready to deal with cognitive dissonance? 


Festinger, L., 1957. A theory of cognitive dissonance (Vol. 2). Stanford university press.

Festinger, L., 1959. Some attitudinal consequences of forced decisions. Acta Psychologica, 15, pp.389-390.

Aronson, E., 1997. Back to the future: Retrospective review of Leon Festinger's--A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. The American Journal of Psychology, 110(1), p.127.

Festinger, L., 1964. Conflict, decision, and dissonance.

Harmon-Jones, E. and Mills, J., 2019. An introduction to cognitive dissonance theory and an overview of current perspectives on the theory.

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

Hi there! I'm just a normal person enjoying the process of life. Practicing Buddhism, I believe in the law of cause and effect. Reading and writing is always a pleasure. I enjoy researching on a range of subjects – science, psychology, and technology. Nothing can satiate my soul than good music, horror movies, psycho-thriller, and crime stuff. I enjoy photography, music and watching comedy videos. Talking to people, learning new experiences, sharing my knowledge through blogs, motivating others are things that I always look forward to.View Author posts