Reducing Cognitive Dissonance Efficiently

By Elif Çalışkan

Cognition refers to all types of knowledge and awareness, such as perceiving, remembering, conceiving, reasoning, imagining, and problem-solving (APA, 2020). Meanwhile, cognitive dissonance is a theory that mentions people tend to reduce their dissonance caused by conflicting or inconsistent attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors often by seeking harmony (Zental, 2010). Also, it helps to deal with their stress and regrets, they can feel relaxed in a conflicting context. In this article, we will explain 3 initial dissonance-reduction strategies which social psychologist Leon Festinger (1957) showed.

1. Changing the Dissonant Element

People are motivated to feel good about their beliefs and behaviors. Similarly, changing the dissonant belief or behavior is one of the most effective strategies for reducing dissonance. In contrast, it is hard to change in the case of deeply held values ​​and beliefs, especially religious or political trends. Those contradictions also threaten to have a positive self-image. However, people can restore those values. Similarly, they are persuaded about changing any values. (Harmon-Jones, Haslam, & Bastian, 2017). For example, if an employee comes up with a conflicting idea in the meeting than his colleagues, after that, he may change his mind according to his colleague’s values to make them accept this idea.

2. Adding More Supportive Element

If people encounter any uncomfortable or inappropriate situation for themselves, sometimes they are able to add more supportive new beliefs or behaviors about the situation because they try to adapt to the situation according to their current values (Festinger, 1957). So, this response protects their positive self-image. For example, if one person failed during the job interview, after that, the person can add a belief that he didn’t want to take this job anyway. He could also believe that the company is not good enough. To sum up, these beliefs help him to have an illusion of control between his desires and the outcome.

3. Minimization the Importance of the Dissonant Element (Trivialization)

People want to feel good about themselves. So, they sometimes need to change the way they remember badly about what happened and if they encounter a conflict or a failure, they tend to minimize the dissonance which damages their self-image. Likewise, they try to cover it and show their successes and positive characteristics (Simon, Greenberg, & Brehm, 1995). It also helps to reduce their anxiety, stress, and pressure. Similarly, they feel better about themselves. For example, if an entrepreneur’s job attempt fails, he will try to cover the failure and show any successful attempts previously made.

Note

“That is, the affective state of dissonance signals a problem and dissonance is reduced so that effective action can occur. To state these ideas less abstractly, consider that most dissonance situations involve a commitment to a chosen course of action. Once an individual commits to a given action, any information inconsistent with that commitment is likely to arouse dissonance and prevent the action from occurring. To maintain the commitment in the face of this inconsistent information, the individual selectively enhances the value of the chosen course of action and reduces the value of the unchosen course of action.”

― Eddie Harmon-Jones, Cognitive Dissonance: Reexamining a Pivotal Theory in Psychology

REFERENCES

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Cognition. In APA dictionary of psychology. Retrieved July 25, 2020, from https://dictionary.apa.org/cognition

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance (Vol. 2). Stanford university press.

Harmon-Jones, C., Haslam, N., & Bastian, B. (2017). Dissonance reduction in nonhuman animals: Implications for cognitive dissonance theory. Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling1(12), 4.

Simon, L., Greenberg, J., & Brehm, J. (1995). Trivialization: the forgotten mode of dissonance reduction. Journal of personality and social psychology68(2), 247.

Zentall, T. R. (2010). Justification of effort by humans and pigeons: cognitive dissonance or contrast?. Current Directions in Psychological Science19(5), 296-300.