Cognitive Dissonance: What It Is & Why It Matters

This process can help people recognize that minor mishaps, such as misspeaking during a presentation, do not warrant undue internal anxiety. One of the most challenging methods to resolve cognitive dissonance involves altering deep-seated beliefs. By successfully reshaping someone’s perspective on their core convictions, the dissonance can be effectively eliminated. To restore equilibrium between conflicting beliefs, people often introduce new, reinforced concepts that strike a balance between comfort and discomfort in their decision-making.

It proposes that inconsistencies in a person’s cognition cause mental stress because psychological inconsistency interferes with the person’s functioning in the real world. If the person changes the current attitude, after the dissonance occurs, they are then obligated to commit to that course of behavior. In pursuing Aim 1, we extended research on load reduction instruction into the theoretical domain of SDT.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

Respondents indicated their agreement on five items in relation to each type of engagement. Behavioral engagement (e.g., “I try hard to do well”) and emotional engagement (e.g., “I feel good”) items were drawn from the engagement versus disaffection measure (Skinner et al., 2009). Cognitive engagement items (e.g., “I usually try to summarize what we learn in my own words”) were drawn from the learning strategy items of the Metacognitive Strategies Questionnaire (Wolters, 2004). Agentic engagement items (e.g., “I let my teacher know what I need and want”) were drawn from a validation study of Reeve and Tseng (2011a). Among a range of mini-theories that explain motivation, development, and psychological well-being, two key mechanisms relate to motivation and learning. The first is concerned with the fulfillment of basic psychological needs of competence, relatedness, and autonomy.

First, the person could remove the dissonant cognition by either changing his behaviour (stop smoking) or knowledge (believe that smoking is actually not bad for health). Second, the person could reduce the importance of the dissonant cognition by thinking that the risk of getting lung cancer from smoking is lesser than being in a car accident. Third, the person could increase the amount of consonant cognition by looking for positive effects of smoking. Lastly, the person could focus on the benefits of smoking as an important part of his or her life (Mills & Harmon-Jones, 1999). The circumplex model of teachers’ motivating styles (Aelterman & Vansteenkiste, 2023) was supported by the data, identifying a two-dimensional plane (i.e., crossing the level of need support with the level of directiveness) situating eight identifiable subareas.

Ways to Address Cognitive Dissonance

Thanks to this discomfort, people may rationalize their decisions (even if they go against their beliefs), steer clear of convos about certain subjects, hide their beliefs or actions from others, or even ignore a doctor’s advice. In the end, all of these tactics just help perpetuate the behaviors, which they don’t really agree with anyway. In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957), Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to function mentally in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance.

what is cognitive dissonance theor

Understanding these dynamics could provide new, fine-grained insights into the dynamics of instructional and motivating teaching styles. For future research, we suggest methods that can uncover the degree to which these variables fluctuate over time, taking these fluctuations into account using longitudinal designs. Stronger conclusions may be made in relation to causality, especially in relation to indirect or mediation effects, using study designs with data from three or more timepoints. First, the clustered nature of the data (students cognitive dissonance treatment in classes, year levels, subjects, and schools) means that adjustments have to be made to model parameters. Moreover, many of the effects we studied were on students, but they were predicted by the instructional and motivating style of a teacher who is, by definition, a classroom-level influence. In the analyses we conducted, we corrected for the clustering of students within classes, but the ability to perform any statistical modeling at that level was limited due to the relatively small number of clusters (classrooms).

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