How Can We Cope With Cognitive Dissonance?

How We Cope With Cognitive Dissonance
How We Can Cope With Cognitive Dissonance - The "evoked fit paradigm" developed by Festinger and Carlsmith is one of several approaches that social psychologists can use to investigate cognitive dissonance. The image is freely available.

You bought a beverage to quench your thirst, for example a beverage in a plastic bottle, but noticed that there is no recycling nearby. How do you behave?

You can keep an empty bottle or throw it away with other garbage. The second option can be quite upsetting if you are committed to recycling.

You can take a look at the trash can and see that many people already put their recyclables in there, so you decide to include your bottle as well. After all, it's not your fault that there are no recycling bins nearby. You will immediately feel much better!

If this sounds like you, you've probably encountered and overcome one of the most fascinating phenomena described in social psychology, "cognitive dissonance."

US psychologists Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith first proved cognitive dissonance in the 1950s after some speculation.
Participants were asked to do strenuous and tedious work during the first half of the experiment. These things have been deliberately made unpleasant.
Festinger and Carlsmith then offered some participants the option of charging the next participant $1 or $20 in exchange for mentioning their work.
Next, everyone in the study—including those who were never asked to promote the study—completed a questionnaire that seemed to have nothing to do with their experience.

It seems that the participants in the control group did not find the study very enjoyable. Participants who paid $20 rated the study similarly. But the study was much more fun for the participants who paid $1 than either of the other groups!

It seems that receiving a small dollar payment for telling the other person that the boring task you just endured was actually enjoyable and interesting (“opposite behavior”) caused the participants to experience psychological distress or cognitive dissonance enough to alter their perception of the boring task.

The 'evoked-adaptation paradigm', developed by Festinger and Carlsmith, is one of several approaches social psychologists can use to explore cognitive dissonance.

According to subsequent studies, creating cognitive dissonance increases subjective feelings of discomfort and increases "arousal", as evidenced by the electrical activity of our sweating palms. For example, having to write an article that supports an opinion you don't hold.

Recent studies linking dissonance with facial expression-related muscle activity have been conducted using more sophisticated assessment techniques. Its resolution has been discovered to increase activity in certain areas of the brain.

Fortunately, the emotions caused by cognitive dissonance typically pass quickly when we try to reduce or eliminate it, no matter how motivated we are to get food when we're really hungry.

How can cognitive dissonance be reduced?
There are two main strategies for reducing cognitive dissonance, and the effectiveness of each depends on how important a particular action or belief is to you.

Changing your thinking: Really changing our thoughts is probably the simplest way to change our beliefs. For example, you might make a New Year's resolution to run three times each week to improve your health, but you can only achieve it once. If you think there are still some advantages to exercising once a week, you can overcome the inconsistency (good news – there is).

Changing your behavior: Adapting your behavior to your attitudes may be the most challenging strategy for eliminating cognitive dissonance. Once you've decided that it will take some time to start running three times a week, create a strategy and ask for feedback on your progress.

Dissonance as a positive force
A powerful motivator, cognitive dissonance has been explored as a possible force for well-being, particularly in the context of healthy behavior.

The concept of "hypocrisy induction" is one of the most useful techniques in this field. To create cognitive dissonance, we encourage people to declare the virtues of a behavior and then reflect on their own failures to engage in that behavior.

For example, a smoker may be asked to make a statement about the value of quitting before answering questions about their smoking habits.

We will not experience much discomfort if we are not too harsh with ourselves and are willing to consider the wider context in which our actions take place. This holiday season, consider taking a reusable water bottle to the stores, just in case.


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