is one of the most interesting and applicable
psychlogical princples. It can be used to explain and influence a wide
variety of human behaviour.
Let's start with the words:
Cognitive - To do with the mind
Dissonance - A mis-match, sounds which clash, disagreement between two entities.
Cognitive Dissonance - A discrepancy between beliefs or between
beliefs and actions. A typical examples given is the following scenario:
You do a lot of long journeys by road, so you buy a nice, new car for
a large amount of money. Unfortunately you find the seats uncomfortable.
Now, when you bought the car, you thought it was a good choice, worth
all that money. But the fact that it is uncomfortable implies that it
is a bad choice. You are in a state of Cognitive Dissonance.
The theory says that something has to give, belief or action.
Now it's hard to undo your action of buying the car, if you resell it
then you'd have to admit that you're a fool and that you wasted your
The alternative is to find other reasons to justify your choice. So
you concentrate on the good things about the car, perhaps it looks
particularly sporty, or has great fuel efficiency. You can then
believe you bought it for these reasons.