Cognitive Dissonance

Topics: Cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger, When Prophecy Fails Pages: 7 (2250 words) Published: July 8, 2013
Assignment for
The Fourth Batch, Second Semester
BSS (Hons.)

* Session : 2009-2010.
* Course no. : MCJ-106.
* Course name : Mass Communication: Structure & Process * Assigned by : Shaonti Haider.
* Assignment prepared by: Khandaker Tanjima Elham
(Roll no. - 45)

Communication is an essential process in our everyday life. Each & every moment we communicate- with others or with ourselves. Communication is a non-stop process which we carry out in both conscious & subconscious states. But various terms, advantages & problems are related with communication. I am a second semester student of the ‘Mass Communication & Journalism’ department. Although it is very early, I have learnt lots of things about communication & related to communication from our classes. One of the things is ‘Cognitive Dissonance’.

Aesop tells a story (‘The Fox & the Grapes’; the source of the phrase ‘sour grapes’) about a fox that tried in vain to reach a cluster of grapes hanging from a vine high above his head. The fox jumped high to grasp the grapes, but the delicious-looking fruit remained out of reach of his snapping jaws. After a few attempts the fox gave up & said to himself, “These grapes are sour & if I had some I would not eat them.”

This example follows a pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one's dissonance by criticizing it. Jon Elster calls this pattern "adaptive preference formation". The story demonstrates what former Stanford University social psychologist Leon Festinger called cognitive dissonance. It is the distressing mental state in which people feel they “find themselves doing things that do not fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold” (Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., 1957, page 4).

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. It is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a disagreement between what we already know or believe, and new information or interpretation we face. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas, and it may be necessary for it to develop so that we become "open" to them.

The term ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ was originally established by Leon Festinger in his famous ‘Cognitive Dissonance Theory’ (1957). This theory has been playing a very important role in the spheres of social psychology & mass communication. In this theory Festinger mentioned about the two parts of cognitive dissonance: 1. Cognition, 2. Dissonance. 1. Cognition: Cognition means “any knowledge, opinion, or belief about the environment, about oneself, or about one’s behavior.” 2. Dissonance: Dissonance, which is “the existence of nonfitting relations among cognitions, is a motivating factor in its own right.” ( Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., 1957, page 3) Festinger stated two basic hypotheses about cognitive dissonance in his book. Those are given below: 1. The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance & achieve consonance. 2. When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations & information which would likely increase the dissonance. There is a consistency between what a person knows or believes & what s/he does. A child who knows s/he will be severely punished for doing something wrong will not commit it or at least will try not to be caught doing it. It is very usual. What capture our attention are the exceptions to otherwise consistent behavior. For example, many people commit crime even though they know the high probability of...
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