Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the perception of contradictory information. 

Informational items include a person’s actions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, values, and things in the environment. 

Cognitive dissonance is experienced as psychological stress when persons participate in an action that goes against one or more of the above items. 

When two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people  try to alter them until they become consistent.

Cognitive dissonance discomfort is triggered by the person’s belief clashing with new information perceived: 

resulting in individuals trying to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.

It has been proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to function mentally.

Such  internal inconsistency tends to cause individuals to become psychologically uncomfortable and motivates them to reduce the cognitive dissonance.

They tend to make changes to justify the stressful behavior: adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance by rationalization or by avoiding circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.

Coping with contradictory ideas or experiences is mentally stressful, requires energy and effort to sit with those seemingly opposite things that all seem true. 

Some resolve the dissonance by blindly believing whatever they wanted to believe.

People must continually adjust the their mental attitudes and personal actions.

Such continual adjustments, between cognition and action, result in one of three relationships with reality:

Consonant relationship: Two cognitions or actions consistent with each other.

Irrelevant relationship: Two cognitions or actions unrelated to each other.

Dissonant relationship: Two cognitions or actions inconsistent with each other,

Magnitude of dissonance refers to the level of discomfort caused to the person. 

Such dissonance can be caused by the relationship between two different internal beliefs, or an action that is incompatible with the beliefs of the person.

Two factors determine the degree of psychological dissonance caused by two conflicting cognitions or by two conflicting actions:

The greater the personal value of the elements, the greater the magnitude of the dissonance in its  relation. 

When the value of the importance of the two dissonant items is high, it is difficult to determine which action or thought is correct. 

The two items have a place of truth in the mind of the person, so Therefore, their ideals or actions now clash, making it difficult for the individual to decide which takes priority.

A level of discomfort exists in each person as acceptable for living. 

Within that comfort level, the dissonant factors do not interfere with functioning. 

When dissonant factors are abundant and not enough in line with each other, a process to regulate and bring the ratio back to an acceptable level occurs.

Upon choosing one of the dissonant factors, they quickly forget the other to restore peace of mind.

Some degree of dissonance always exist as a person makes  decisions, due to changing quantity and quality of knowledge and wisdom that they gain. 

The magnitude of cognitive dissonance is subjective measurement as there is no objective way as yet to get a clear measurement of the level of discomfort one experiences.

Cognitive dissonance proposes that people seek psychological consistency between their expectations of life and the existential reality of the world. 

People continually reduce their cognitive dissonance in order to align their perceptions of the world with their actions.

Reaching psychological consistency allows the person affected with cognitive dissonance to lessen mental stress by actions that reduce the magnitude of the dissonance, by changing with or by justifying against or by being indifferent to the existential contradiction that is inducing the mental stress.

There are four ways to reduce cognitive dissonance: 

Change the behavior or the cognition.

Justify the behavior or the cognition, by changing the conflicting cognition.

Justify the behavior or the cognition by adding new behaviors or cognitions.

 Ignore or deny information that conflicts with existing.

Three cognitive biases are components of dissonance theory: one feels they do not have any biases, the  bias where one is better, kinder, smarter, more moral and nicer than averageand confirmation bias.

Consistent psychology is required for functioning in the real world, by employing human categories, such as sex, gender, age and race, with which individuals manage their social interactions with other people.

It is suggested all behavior involving cognitive processing is caused by the activation of inconsistent cognitions and functions to increase perceived consistency, and to reduce cognitive inconsistency at some level of information processing.

Cognitive inconsistency is related to behaviors of curiosity, and aggression and fear.

The inability to satisfactorily reduce cognitive inconsistency depends on the type and size of the inconsistency and results in stress.

To reduce cognitive dissonance people use  selective exposure: selectively exposing  themselves to some media over others; specifically, avoiding dissonant messages and prefer consonant messages.

People active select exposure and choose what to watch, view, or read that fit to their current state of mind, mood or beliefs.

People select attitude-consistent information and avoid attitude-challenging information.

Choosing exposures that is in opposition to how you feel or believe in will increase cognitive dissonance.

A discrepancy between cognitions drives individuals to crave for attitude-consistent information.

The experiencing  of negative emotions drives individuals to avoid counterattitudinal information. 

Psychological discomfort activates one’s selective exposure as a dissonance-reduction strategy.

People invested in a given perspective when confronted with contrary evidence, expend great effort to justify retaining the challenged perspective.

Mechanisms of CD.

Belief disconfirmation

The contradiction of one’s belief, ideal, or system of values causes cognitive dissonance that can be resolved by changing the challenged belief.

But, instead of effecting change, the resultant mental stress restores psychological consonance to the person by misperception, rejection, or refuting  contradiction.

People seek support from people who share the contradicted beliefs or acting to persuade other people that the contradiction is unreal.

Cognitive dissonance occurs to a person who voluntarily engages in unpleasant activities to achieve a goal. 

The mental stress caused by the dissonance can be reduced by the person exaggerating the desirability of the goal. 

Cognitive dissonance may also occur when people try explain or justify their beliefs, often without questioning the validity of their claims.

Cognitive dissonance is used to promote positive social behaviors: increased condom use; to encourage people to act pro-socially, campaigns against racial prejudice, and compliance with anti-speeding campaigns, and donating to charity.

Cognitive dissonance can be applied in social areas such as racism and racial hatred. 

Individuals committing violence against members of another group develop hostile attitudes towards their victims as a way of minimizing cognitive dissonance.

Post purchase dissonance occurs when a purchase of a specific item is final, voluntary, and has significant to the person.

This dissonance is a mental discomfort arising from the possibility of dissatisfaction with the purchase, or the regret of not purchasing a different, potentially more useful or satisfactory item.

The purchaser seeks to reduce dissonance by increasing the perceived attractiveness of the chosen alternative and devaluing the non chosen item, seeking out information to confirm the decision, or changing attitudes to conform to the decision.

The buyer justifies their purchase to themselves to convince themself that they made the right decision and to diminish regret. 

It is likely cognitive dissonance arises when a person holds two or more incompatible beliefs simultaneously.

This conflict results in a psychological discomfort,and people experiencing such a thought conflict try to reduce the psychological discomfort by attempting to achieve an emotional equilibrium. 

Equilibrium is achieved by downplaying

 the importance of the dissonant thought; attempting to outweigh the dissonant thought with consonant thoughts; and , by incorporating the dissonant thought into current belief system.

Dissonance plays an important role in persuasion. 

To persuade people, you must cause them to experience dissonance, and then offer your proposal as a way to resolve the discomfort. 

Without cognitive dissonance, there can be no persuasion: meaning without a feeling of discomfort, there is not motivation to change.

It is the feeling of discomfort which motivates people to avoid disconfirming information as a dissonance-reduction strategy.

People are  psychologically inefficient when comparing the costs against the benefits of their economic decision.

E. Tory Higgins Self-discrepancy theory: 

People have three selves, to which they compare themselves:

Actual self – representation of the attributes the person believes themself to possess 

Ideal self – ideal attributes the person would like to possess: hopes, aspiration, motivations to change

Ought self – ideal attributes the person believes they should possess: duties, obligations, responsibilities.

When these self-guides are contradictory psychological distress, cognitive dissonance results. 

People are motivated to reduce the gap between self-guides.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when the person’s cognition does not match the action taken.

Cognitive dissonance produces a state of negative affect, which motivates the person to reconsider the causative behavior in order to resolve the psychological inconsistency that caused the mental stress.

When a person works towards a behavioral commitment, the motivational process is activated in the left frontal cortex of the brain.

The mind’s perception actively involves the use of acquired prior knowledge, which primarily serves the role of predicting incoming proprioceptive, interoceptive and exteroceptive sensory inputs. 

The  brain attempts to actively predict and explain its sensations. 

Neural scans indicate they anterior cingulate functions, in counter-attitudinal response, activates the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insular cortex.

The degree of activation of regions of the brain is predicted by the degree of change in the psychological attitude of the person.

MRI evidence indicates that the greater the psychological conflict signalled by the anterior cingulate cortex, the greater the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance experienced by the person.

After making a choice, neural activity in the striatum changes to reflect the person’s new evaluation of the choice-object; neural activity increased if the object was chosen, neural activity decreased if the object was rejected: this confirms the neural bases of the psychology of cognitive dissonance.

fMRI examination of the brain’s decision-making process while one actively tries to reduce cognitive dissonance, results in increased neural activity in the right-inferior frontal gyrus, in the medial fronto-parietal region, and in the ventral striatum, and that neural activity is decreased in the anterior insula.

The neural activities of rationalization occur in seconds, without conscious deliberation, and that the brain engages in emotional responses while effecting decisions.

Cognitive dissonance is associated with neural activity in the left frontal cortex, a brain structure also associated with the emotion of anger; moreover, functionally, anger motivates neural activity in the left frontal cortex.

There is a relation between cognitive dissonance and anger as supported by neural activity in the left frontal cortex that occurs when a person takes control of the social situation causing the cognitive dissonance. 

If a person cannot control or cannot change the psychologically stressful situation, or are without a motivation to change the circumstance, other, negative emotions to manage the cognitive dissonance, such as socially inappropriate behavior.

The anterior cingulate cortex activity increases with cognitive dissonance.

There are neural correlations to specific social emotions-envy and embarrassment related to cognitive dissonance. 

The neural activity for the emotion of envy  is found to draw neural activity from the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. 

The neural activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex  is increased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex occurs either when a person’s self-concept was threatened or when the person experienced embarrassment of social pain caused by upward social-comparison, by social-class snobbery. 

The social emotions of embarrassment, guilt, envy, and Schadenfreude are correlated to reduced activity in the insular lobe, and with increased activity in the striate nucleus.

Neural activities are associated with a reduced sense of empathy, social responsibility) and an increased propensity towards antisocial behavior.

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