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Cognitive Dissonance Argumentative Essay

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Updated: Dec 23rd, 2019

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance refers to the discomposure that is triggered when one is unable to choose from contradictory views. It occurs in many real life situations where an individual’s behavior conflicts with integral beliefs to his or her self-identity.

When a conflict arises between belief and behavior, something should change in order to reduce or eliminate the dissonance (McConnell & Brown, 2010).


There are various strategies that one should apply to minimize cognitive dissonance. This includes paying attention to supportive beliefs that outweigh the dissonant behavior or belief (Fiske, 2010).

It also entails the reduction of the utility of the conflicting belief. The other aspect is the adjustment of the conflicting beliefs to align them with other beliefs or behavior. Cognitive dissonance plays an important role in making judgments, decisions, and in evaluations (Egan, Santos & Bloom, 2007).

Arguments on the Impact of Cognitive Dissonance

There are two theories related to cognitive dissonance. This includes the theory of cognitive dissonance by Festinger and Carlsmith. The other one is the self-perception theory by Daryl Bem. Of the two, Festinger and Carlsmith have a strong argument on the impact of cognitive dissonance.

In self perception theory, Daryl Bem argued that people develop their attitudes by observing their own behavior. This theory does not mention that people experience dissonance, which they later seek to relieve (Nier, 2010).

This adds marks to the theory of cognitive dissonance and makes it clear that the self-perception theory cannot account for all the laboratory findings by itself (Sanderson, 2009).

In the theory of cognitive dissonance, dissonance is held as an unpleasant tension or a negative drive state, which the individual is motivated to reduce. In one of Festinger and Carlsmith’s experiments, some participants were bribed with one dollar and were asked to lie to another participant about how enjoyable the boring task was.

They gave in and rated the task for its enjoyment. There were inconsistencies noted with respect to their attitudes that led to dissonance. The dissonance was noted in the distress of the participants while lying. The other group that was not bribed had an obvious external justification for their behavior and thus suffered less dissonance (Nier, 2010).

The theory of cognitive dissonance is well armed to account for any or all laboratory findings by itself. The literature supports the existence of cognitive dissonance. Psychologists have incorporated dissonance into the basic studying processes. The theory of cognitive dissonance has helped students by motivating them in studies (Martinie, Olive & Milland, 2010).

In Aronson and Carlsmith’s experiment, the children refused to play with the toy. This was the case even after the withdrawal of the threat. In an experiment by Jack Brehm, cognitive dissonance is shown by the 225 female students as they were making a difficult decision.

Still, after one makes a choice between two things, one feels that there is something good about the rejected choice. He or she suffers the opportunity cost of rejecting it. In such a case, the opportunity cost is the dissonant.

As suggested by the theory, the research by Aronson and Mills in social psychology hold that dissonance is aroused by an occurrence of an unpleasant activity (Nier, 2010).

There is a very good example showing cognitive dissonance among smokers. It has been established that cigarette smoking leads to cancer, and smokers are aware of the risk.

Relating this issue with the theory of cognitive dissonance, it can be noted that smokers experience dissonance given their urge to smoke is threatened by the reality that smoking is harmful to their health. The above research and experiments support the theory of cognitive dissonance.


Egan, L. C., Santos, L. R., & Bloom, P. (2007). The origins of cognitive dissonance: Evidence from children and monkeys. Psychological Science, 18, 978-983

Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley.

Martinie, M., Olive, T., & Milland, L. (2010). Cognitive dissonance induced by writing a counterattitudinal essay facilitates performance on simple tasks but not on complex tasks that involve working memory. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 587-594.

McConnell, A. R., & Brown, C. M. (2010). Dissonance averted: Self-concept organization moderates the effect of hypocrisy on attitude change. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 361-366.

Nier, J. (2010). Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Sanderson, C. A. (2009). Social psychology. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

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