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

cognitive dissonance common causes

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 rationalise 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 continue to smoke knowing its 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. A deep introspection is required to know why you behaved as you behaved. Only then you will understand how you got into the situation and way to resolve the dissonance

You need to practise being mindful so that you can be calm instead of impulsive during mental conflict. Mindfulness helps a person stay tuned with their inner self  and own value system. You will realise 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 practise mindfulness:

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

Read 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
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