Monday’s Learning TidBit – Cognitive Dissonance

The weekend came and went, and where does it leave you now? Most likely sitting at your office Monday morning feeling less than enthusiastic to be doing your daily grind. To help kick start your mind and get you into the mode of thinking again, MissMentor has decided to give you an interesting tidbit of knowledge for the day.

Cognitive Dissonance.

You probably have heard of the term. Cognitive dissonance is defined as the uncomfortable feeling one has when holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time. This theory came about in 1957 by social psychologist Leon Festinger.

His paper Theory of Cognitive distance states that we all hold a variety of beliefs, ideas, and thoughts. These are known as cognitions. Most times our cognitions don’t relate to one another. So claiming your love for chocolate ice cream has no relevance to your opinion of Obama’s presidency.  Occasionally though, our thoughts do conflict especially when it is tied into one of our actions. This is where the dissonance comes into play.

Festinger’s most popular example is smoking.

We are all aware of the harms of smoking. It causes cancer, it ages us, it is bad for those around us, and the list goes on. Most smokers are fully aware of this yet continue to smoke.

Our minds do not like dissonance, though, and it causes us much mental stress to deal with it. Common sense would tell us to stop smoking, right? Well that sounds easy in theory, but we all know (either from experience of witnessing it) smoking is a hard habit to kick. In general, habits and behavior are much harder to change than thoughts.  Therefore, the smoker has a couple of options to deal with this.

One way is to focus on the perceived goodness that comes from smoking.

For example, smoking helps me lose weight. Losing weight is good.

If I stop smoking, I will gain weight which is bad. Or he can compare the dangers of smoking to other risks.

People are aware that car accidents are very common, and yet they still drive everyday.

Why is smoking a cigarette so different?

One other example I’ve heard was in the relation to cigarettes taking 7 minutes off. My friend proclaimed, “The last 7 minutes of life are probably the worst anyways. Who wants to live to an incredibly old age deteriorating day by day? I’m doing myself a favor by saving myself from those terrible last moments.”

A flawed theory, no doubt, but not an uncommon thought in many smokers.

Another great example is buyer’s remorse. Oh the lies we tell our selves (and believe) so that we can spend that money on a pair of overpriced shoes!

Happy Monday all!

What are our opinions on this? In what ways have you dealt with cognitive dissonance?