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What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

A woman contemplating the question, "What is cognitive dissonance?"

We all have various thoughts and opinions on different topics. No one is ever going to be on the same page about every single thing. This includes within ourselves. It’s time to learn more about what cognitive dissonance is and how you can deal with it.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

By definition, cognitive dissonance is, “The psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.” For example, a person with an addiction to nicotine may know that smoking is bad for them because it can cause cancer, but they still may want to smoke cigarettes. These two conflicting feelings may give the person intense and uncomfortable feelings about smoking. There is probably going to be an internal struggle as they decide how to proceed.

Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that people are motivated to reduce this conflict by changing their attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. This could mean looking for information that supports the desired behavior (such as researching how smoking is not as bad as everyone claims) or even avoiding situations in which the desire would be activated. Alternatively, a person might choose to change their attitude about smoking by viewing it as something to be avoided rather than something desirable.

Cognitive dissonance is an important concept to understand as it can help explain why and how people make decisions they wouldn’t otherwise consider. By recognizing the uncomfortable feelings associated with cognitive dissonance, we can better understand our own behaviors and motivations. Additionally, by understanding cognitive dissonance, it becomes easier to empathize with others who are in similar situations.

Finding Peace

In order to return to a comfortable, peaceful state, the person that is dealing with cognitive dissonance is going to have to overcome their uncomfortable feelings and come to a decision. There are a few decisions that can be made that can give the person a sense of inner peace. Let’s continue using the example of someone with nicotine addiction.

  • The person with nicotine addiction can change their smoking behavior and choose not to smoke cigarettes anymore.
  • The person with nicotine addiction can justify their smoking habits by changing their thinking regarding how smoking can cause cancer.
  • The person with nicotine addiction can justify their smoking behavior by doing something that can offset their worry regarding how smoking can cause cancer.
  • The person can ignore the information that they know to be true regarding how smoking can cause cancer.

For many people, deciding that they are going to completely stop smoking cigarettes is a difficult decision. Most people know that smoking is bad for them, but when they think about stopping, their addiction takes over. They don’t feel as though they have control over their smoking; it’s like their smoking has control over them.

These people may wrestle with their uncomfortable thoughts by questioning if smoking is really that bad for their health. They may try to find things that prove to them that they can go on smoking and not have any problems. They may even do this on a daily basis until something happens that they cannot ignore. Maybe they have a cancer scare and fear suddenly takes over. They may try to reduce their cigarette intake while still trying to quiet their mind. Or, they can flat out ignore the information that is begging them to stop smoking. Everyone is going to have a different response to their cognitive dissonance, but more often than not, most people are just looking to find peace.

Get Help Today

The Arbor Behavioral Healthcare is here to help you understand your cognitive dissonance and overcome it. We want to help you find peace by helping you stop using substances. We can help. Call us today at 844.413.2690 or use our online form.