Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cognitive Dissonance, 3

According to his biography, Leon Festinger, an American Cognitive Psychologist is best known for his theory of cognitive dissonance. He believed that an inconsistency between two different thoughts, or between thought and behaviors creates psychological discomfort—dissonance. This discomfort can motivate a person to alter either the thoughts or the behavior in an attempt to return to homeostasis or balance. Reportedly Festinger investigated this in a cult that taught the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood. The flood did not happen and Festinger studied what happened to the cult members. Less committed cult members were more likely to acknowledge they had made fools of themselves and chalk it up to “experience.” The extremely committed cult members (who had given up jobs or homes or both to work for the cult) were more likely to reinterpret the outcome in an attempt to reinforce that they had been right all along. For example, they said that the flood did not come and the earth was not destroyed because of their faithfulness to the cult.

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