Cognitive Dissonance Theory


Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Explaining why behaviours and beliefs disagree

When someone tells a lie and feels uncomfortable about it because he fundamentally sees himself as an honest person, he has likely experienced cognitive dissonance. This phenomenon occurs when one’s ideas, beliefs, or behaviours contradict each other. Cognitive Dissonance Theory proposes that individuals experience psychological discomfort when they are confronted with inconsistent cognitions. The theory helps explain why people will sometimes go to great lengths to account for thoughts, words and behaviours that seem to clash—when one learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief, for example, or acts in a way that seems to undercut one’s self-image.

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