Leon Festinger proposed cognitive dissonance in social psychology. When two cognitives are incompatible, cognitive dissonance is experienced.

A piece of knowledge is called a cognitive.

  • thought
  • The attitude is not positive.
  • Personal value.
  • behavior

When you do something that goes against one of your values, it can happen as incompatibility. Maybe you learn a new piece of information that disagrees with your opinion. You can eat meat even though you love animals.

As humans, we generally prefer for our world to make sense. Cognitive dissonance can be diStress.ing. That’s why we often respond to cognitive dissonance by doing mental gymnastics to feel like things make sense again.

Some signs you may be experiencing cognitive dissonance.

  • It is uncomfortable before making a decision.
  • feelings of guilt over past decisions
  • shame or embarrassment regarding a decision and hiding said decisions from others as a result
  • Explanation of behavior
  • Doing something out of social pressure is not true interest.

There are many situations that can cause cognitive dissonance. These can include:

  • receiving new information
  • Social pressure is something that is experienced.
  • “It’s necessary to make a choice.”

Some effects of cognitive dissonance can include:

Change in your behavior or beliefs can be inspired by cognitive dissonance. Some of the changes can be positive.

Illustration by Brittany England

Here are some examples of cognitive dissonance that you can come to terms with.

1. Picking up after your dog

Let’s say you have a dog that you take for daily walks around your neighborhood. Like any responsible dog owner, you carry plastic bags and always clean up after your dog.

You forget the bags halfway through the walk. Your dog chooses that moment to do his job.

You take a quick look. You call your dog and run away because no one is around. You feel guilty when you return to your home. You know it is not right to leave your dog messes. What if someone steps in the garden?

You tell yourself that it is just the one time. You ran out of things to carry. You will always pick up after your dog after you replace them.

It is not like you are the only one who does it. You have seen other dogs mess in the neighborhood. Why should you pick up after other people?

2. Getting enough exercise

Chances are, you value your health. You may make a conscious effort to choose nutritious foods, try to avoid processed foods and soda, and shoot for eight hours of sleep every night.

You sit at your desk most of the day. You tell yourself that you are taking care of your health in other ways. You know it is important to be active, so you still feel guilty.

You even joined a gym a while back, but you stopped going. Every time you see the membership tag on your keychain, it reminds you of that pesky truth — that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle.

You decided to go to the gym. You get up with enough time to work out. It is hard at first, but you feel proud of yourself when you see the gym keychain.

3. Moving for love

“You and your partner live in a large city. You love living in a city and can’t imagine living anywhere else. One day, your partner comes home from work with some news. They received a promotion in a small town. You will have to move.”

“You feel bad. You don’t want to leave, but you want your partner to be happy and excited about the promotion. You begin to consider the pros and cons of living in a small town. You read about small-town living.”

“You think small towns are safer. There won’t be city traffic. The cost of living will be lower. You might be able to get around town without a car. You remind yourself that four hours is not far away. You will still be able to visit your friends and family often.”

4. Being productive at work

You have a private cubicle at work. You can often find yourself browsing the internet or watching TV shows while you work on your computer.

You know you could be doing more, even though you eventually get your work done. You might feel guilty if someone found out. You find yourself online again when you get bored.

You read an article that says people are more productive when they work in short bursts and take breaks. You tell yourself that you are increasing your productivity.

You rarely take time off. You work hard when you do work. You should also relax.

5. Eating meat

You consider yourself an animal lover. You’ve always had pets and, whenever possible, purchase products that aren’t tested on animals.

“You enjoy eating meat, but you know some animals are kept in inhumane conditions before being used for meat. You can’t afford to buy meat from animals that are pasture-raised or grass-fed. A meat-free diet isn’t realistic for you.”

You will eventually decide to buy cage-free eggs and replace one of your meat purchases each shopping trip with a meat substitute, like tofu or tempeh. This helps you bridge the gap between your love of animals and your diet.

“It isn’t a bad thing. It can prompt you to make positive changes when you realize your beliefs and actions are not in line.”

It can become problematic if it leads you to justify or rationalize behaviors that could be harmful. Or you may get caught up in trying to rationalize the dissonance to the point of Stress.ing yourself out.

Take a moment to ask yourself a few questions when you are in a moment of cognitive dissonance.

  • What are the two different types of thinking?
  • What actions would I need to take to eliminate that feeling?
  • Do I need to change anything? Do I need to change my mindset?
  • How important is it to resolve the problem?

“Even if you don’t eliminate the dissonance, being more aware of how your thoughts and actions fit together can help you understand what’s important to you.”

Everyone experiences cognitive dissonance in some way. It is more common to feel uncomfortable and to feel like you need to resolve the conflict between the two when they are important to you.

“Positive results can be achieved by fronting cognitive dissonance. This doesn’t always involve making sweeping changes. Sometimes, it is possible to change your perspective on something or develop new thinking patterns to help you live according to what is most important to you.”