Cognitive Dissonance and Situations that Cause Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a part of every human’s life, and there are many situations that can cause cognitive dissonance in our everyday lives. Cognitive dissonance plays a large part in human behavior because it can be a motivating factor towards or away from a particular behavior. This article will discuss cognitive dissonance and situations that cause cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling someone gets when they have 2 different beliefs that conflict with each other. This feeling is uncomfortable because one of the beliefs is about the self. The other belief goes against the belief about self, and this causes discomfort for the person with these conflicting ideas.

There are four basic situations that cause this unpleasant feeling of conflict in your mind. These situations can easily lead to cognitive dissonance, and they are known as choice, effort justification, new information, and insufficient justification (Reeves, 2009, Ch. 10).

Choice is when you have to make a decision, and your already held beliefs of self are contradicted by the decision and your choice. Effort justification is when the amount of effort reflects the value of the outcome or product. New information is a dissonance arousing situation that occurs when new information proves a belief to be untrue (Reeves, 2009, Ch. 10). Insufficient justification is when a person does not have a reason to explain behavior. In this case dissonance is ceased by attributing a characteristic to the self in explanation of the behavior.

A specific situation that illustrates dissonance-arousing circumstances is when someone has to make a choice (Reeve, 2009, Ch. 10). If a person, who believes in being healthy, chooses to partake in unhealthy behavior this can cause dissonance. Their belief about themselves is conflicted by the actions they make. Their actions result from their choices.

Another behavior that illustrates dissonance-arousing circumstances is effort justification. This type of behavior is illustrated when the outcome of an action is valued equally to the amount of effort put into receiving the outcome (Reeve, 2009 Ch. 10). An example of effort justification is the value of a diploma being high because the effort expended to receive it is high. If the diploma does not benefit the recipient in his goals dissonance can occur.

Cognitive dissonance is something that everyone deals with, and there are specific situations that cause cognitive dissonance to occur. These unwanted feelings will be appeased by rationalizing a reason for the incongruity of thought. Cognitive dissonance occurs because of underlying motivations, and it causes motivation as well.


Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion. (5th ed.). New York: Wiley.



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Sarah Ganly

Sarah Ganly


Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.