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COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

The theory of cognitive dissonance turned out to be one of the most valuable concepts that I picked up many years ago in grad school while studying counseling and psychology. Not only was it useful in understanding the sometimes initially perplexing behavior of clients that I talked to but it also turned out to be invaluable in providing a model with which to comprehend the often contradictory beliefs and actions - most visibly seen in the political and religious arena - of the people around me.

The theory of cognitive dissonance was first postulated in 1959 by social psychologist Leon Festinger. He proposed that every person has an innate drive to keep all cognitions in a harmonious state and to avoid a state of dissonance. When a person experiences a condition of dissonance, the discomfort that results leads to a change in one of the cognitions in order to reduce the conflict and to once again establish a harmonious state. The flowchart below provides an example of the problem of cognitive dissonance and the strategies that are typically used to reduce the amount of dissonance and discomfort.

And if you combine cognitive dissonance with the always entertaining but sometimes disastrous Dunning-Kruger effect, you just might find a way to explain many of the instant "experts" that often appear in the media or in government.

Some of the best examples of cognitive dissonance in action can be found in comic strips - see below.

Sometimes a little humor helps ... enjoy.

There ... feel better now?


09/01/2020

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