Cognitive Dissonance

Discrepant Behavior that Contradicts an Attitude

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a term used to describe the feelings that people experience when they realize their actions have discredited their beliefs. To better understand, the definition of dissonance is:





  1. lack of harmony among musical notes.

    "an unusual degree of dissonance for such choral styles"

    • a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.

      "dissonance between campaign rhetoric and personal behavior"

Examples of cognitive dissonance:

  • Smoking cigarettes while knowing how detrimental the act is to one's health
  • Spreading malicious gossip about a good friend
  • Telling a lie while understanding that lying is wrong
  • Eating excessively while trying to lose weight
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Increased Consonant Elements

What is this and what does it mean?

The human mind is not content with cognitive dissonance, and it will work to balance the disharmony. Increased consonant elements are used to do just that.

Examples of increased consonant elements:

  • Using reasoning that smoking is ok because many people have been smoking for years and years and are still healthy
  • Spreading malicious gossip about a good friend is ok, just this once, because you have defended the friend on numerous occasions
  • Telling a lie is ok because you were bribed to do so, with money!
  • Blowing a diet is ok, just this once, because additional exercise (or restriction) will burn up the additional calories

In short, to eliminate dissonance, one might alter their beliefs to better fit their behavior.

Watch the video below for an even further understanding of cognitive dissonance.

Simply Psychology: Cognitive Dissonance

"According to Festinger, cognitive dissonance creates unpleasant psychological tension, which motivates us to try to resolve the dissonance in some way."

(Morris & Maisto, 2016, p. 499)

Personal Cognitive Dissonance

I am currently considering a perspective job offer in an area of the hospital in which I have said over and over again that, "I will never work there!" This consideration, in and of itself, is cognitive dissonance. However, I have now applied increased consonant elements, closer righting the imbalance of action and belief. I have done this by pointing out to myself that the new position offers lab processing of specimens as well as patient blood draws, in addition to typical nursing assistant tasks. Furthermore, I have convinced myself that this additional experience will further enhance my nursing career.

Many thanks to PSY111, I can now recognize these turmoils and behaviors as cognitive dissonance!

Emotions, Motivations, Social psychology: Smore submission

Terrill Redner


Seminar 5

Winter 2016


Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2016). Understanding psychology (11th ed.).
Pearson Education.


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Cognitive Dissonance