Cognitive Dissonance Essay, Research Paper
According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek
consistency among their cognitions (beliefs, expectations, or opinions of a particular individual).
When inconsistency does exist between these beliefs or attitudes, psychological tension
(dissonance) occurs and must be resolved through some action. This tension most often results
when an individual must choose between two incompatible beliefs or actions and is heightened
when alternatives are equally attractive to the individual. This tension state has drive-like
properties. If dissonance is experienced as an unpleasant drive state, the individual is motivated to
reduce it. However, it is not an easy state to reduce. Dissonance can be eliminated by reducing
the importance of the conflicting beliefs, by acquiring new beliefs that change the balance, or
removing the conflicting attitude or behavior. In theory, cognitive dissonance suggests that
actions have a causal relationship upon cognitions.
My personal example of cognitive dissonance is the purchase of a 1966 Mustang I made
over the summer. This car was my dream car; it was all original, in good shape, and had all of the
features I could ever want. I didn?t have much money but I was so excited that I took out my
first loan to buy this beautiful car. However, when it came time for school in the fall, I discovered
that it was not the ideal vehicle to drive over the mountains. It was an older car, it didn?t have
seatbelts, and was very sluggish traveling over the mountain pass. I was extremely frustrated.
Dissonance existed between my belief that I had bought a dream car and that a dream car should
have seatbelts and have enough power to make it over a mountain pass. To eliminate this
dissonance, I decided to store the car at my parents house and only drive the car infrequently. I
decided that it didn?t really matter that it couldn?t drive over the pass; It was still a nice car and
didn?t want to put a whole bunch of mileage on it anyway.
Since then, I have also purchased another car that does have seatbelts and can drive
75mph over the pass. In doing so, I have changed both my behavior and my beliefs. I have
changed my belief that it is important for a dream car to have seatbelts and drive over a mountain.
It is now not as important that it has those qualities. I have settled with the excuse that it is still a
nice car, and I don?t want to put many miles on it. In purchasing a new car with these features
(that is not what I believe to be a dream car), I have also changed my beliefs. I no longer think
those qualities constitute the ideal car. I have also changed my behavior by buying a new car. I
could not change my belief that the mustang was a dream car and tag a ?for sale? sign in the
window. I still believed this was my dream car, and the behavior of getting rid of the car would
be a lot harder than changing my beliefs. It was a lot easier to reduce the importance of the
dissonant belief. I have stopped driving the car and have begun to drive a new car as a result.