This is session number 013 of Influence Psychology and Persuasion podcast and this show is all about cognitive dissonance and how we can use it to improve our lives and outcomes dramatically.
This term refers to the situation where you have an internal conflict about your attitude, behaviours or a certain belief. Whenever you have this conflict, it is known as cognitive dissonance and it comes with a feeling of discomfort and in most cases the need to rationalise or reframe to realign those beliefs, thoughts, actions etc.
An example would be: people smoking (their behaviour) yet they know it causes cancer and other serious diseases (their cognition). The cognitive dissonance would then show when a person would try to rationalise, reframe or make it right for them. “I've always done it, and it gives me a timeout”
This is a theory that was presented by Leon Festinger in 1957. When he proposed this cognitive dissonance theory he explained that people want to remain consistent in their initial actions, and beliefs and this can give rise to irrational thinking and even maladaptive behaviour.
A fantastic study that was done by Leon Festinger when he was observing as a participant of a cult that believed the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood. Some of the extremely committed members of this cult had even given up their jobs and their homes to work for the cult full time. Festinger wondered what would happen to the members beliefs when the time arose and the flood did not happen. When the time did arise, some of the fringe members recognised that they had been misinformed or perhaps began building beliefs unnecessarily left the group. However, those more experienced or committed members began to reinterpret or re-frame the evidence to show that there were right all along. Even though before the event was to happen they were absolutely certain that the Earth would end through flood and that members of the cult would be taken away to safety.
Almost instantly, the most committed and experienced of the group fabricated a new justification of why the earth didn't flood or come to an end and this further compounded their belief.