Cognitive Dissonance: Signs, Causes, Coping

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Have you ever felt a sense of tension in your mind, but you weren’t sure why or what was causing it? This psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance is hard to detect, but for those with addiction, it is important to recognize. This can help be able to detect any underlying mental illness that can be a major contributor to someone’s addictive behavior. How To Build Alcohol Tolerance: The Best Tips From Real Experts Co-occurring disorders (addiction and substance disorder coinciding) can be managed with dual diagnosis treatment. The theory of cognitive dissonance has serious implications and the role that it plays in those with addiction helps specialists understand the reasoning behind how an individual with a substance use disorder thinks vs someone without one.

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When choosing to consider long-term goals in a dissonant situation, we argue, similar to Kelman and Baron (1968) and Sheppes (2014), that the individual is more likely to engage in elaborate strategies (e.g., reappraisal in the form of transcendence). When considering short-term goals in the same, however, we argue that the individual might be more likely to simply use distraction or try to escape the situation. In order to comply with long-term motivational goals, we hold that the individual will have to take cognitive capacity into account. We relate general capacity directly to the individual’s overall dissonance-reduction repertoire (cf. Kaplan and Crockett, 1968; Bonanno and Burton, 2013). For instance, some individuals have the capacity to employ sophisticated strategies (e.g., transcendence) when the situation calls for it, whereas others might only have access to more primitive strategies (e.g., trivialization or escape). Temporary capacity, in our model, refers to people’s momentary mental capacity.

Potential Pitfalls of Cognitive Dissonance

Self-awareness seems to be a key to understanding how and when cognitive dissonance may play a role in your life. If you find yourself justifying or rationalizing decisions or behaviors that you’re not quite clear you firmly believe in, that might be a sign that cognitive dissonance is at work. If your explanation for something is, “Well, that’s the way I’ve always done it or thought about it,” that may also be a sign. Socrates extolled that “An unexamined life is not worth living.” In other words, challenge and be skeptical of such answers if you find yourself falling back on them.

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They were then paid either $1 or $20 to tell a waiting participant (a confederate) that the tasks were really interesting. Almost all of the participants agreed to walk into the waiting room and persuade the confederate that the boring experiment would be fun. When someone is forced to do (publicly) something they (privately) really don’t want to do, dissonance is created between their cognition (I didn’t want to do this) and their behavior (I did it). Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education.

The Impacts of Cognitive Dissonance

In other words, it is the psychological discomfort that activates selective exposure as a dissonance-reduction strategy. At the conclusion of the study, subjects were asked to rate the tedious tasks. The subjects paid one dollar ($1) rated the tasks more positively than did the subjects in the twenty-dollar ($20) or control groups. The responses of the paid subjects were evidence of cognitive dissonance. The subjects in the paid groups experienced dissonance due to inconsistencies between their attitudes and behavior. The subjects’ believed the tasks to be boring, but they told the confederate that the tasks were interesting.

Another challenging issue is the categorization of reduction strategies, which has also been a notoriously difficult task in the coping literature (Skinner et al., 2003). The empirical data clearly shows that, for instance, many individuals used attitude change and trivialization (see Webb et al., 2012, on the simultaneous use of different emotion-regulation strategies). A possible explanation is perhaps that trivialization coupled with attitude change is qualitatively different from trivialization alone. This type of trivialization might actually assist the attitude-change process in a rather complex cognitive reappraisal procedure. Another way to cope with cognitive dissonance is to slow down when making decisions.