Cognitive dissonance and attitude change

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

cognitive dissonance and attitude change

What's the connection between cognitive dissonance and attitude change?
In a previous article i said that cognitive dissonance is the situation where two beliefs or cognitions contradict each other thus result in emotional turbulence and attitude change in some cases.

If for example you like to smoke but you know that smoking is harmful then cognitive dissonance happens as a result of these two conflicting beliefs.

Now the connection between cognitive dissonance and attitude change becomes clear when you know how do people deal with cognitive dissonance.

In this article i will explain how attitude change can be the direct result of cognitive dissonance as the person does his best to get rid of these unpleasant feelings that result from the conflict of beliefs.

The connection cognitive dissonance and attitude change

Because cognitive dissonance results in a great deal of emotional turbulence lots of people start changing their attitude as a result.

For example a person who smokes and who knows that smoking is harmful might change his opinion about smoking by creating a new belief such as "i am already a healthy person so smoking would never affect me in a bad way". Some people could even go further and claim that smoking has some kind of health benefits.

So as you can see a person can change his attitude just to relief the conflict that results from cognitive dissonance. If a person has negative attitude towards something he might change his attitude about it and even claim that he enjoys it just to feel good.

An experiment was set up to explain how cognitive dissonance can result in attitude change by giving some people little money and asking them to lie about something to test subjects. Those people were asked to say that the experiment the test subject was going to go through was interesting while in fact it was very boring.

Because those people had no big reason to lie (as they were given little money) conflicting feelings occurred and cognitive dissonance happened and as a result they changed their attitude by saying that the experiment wasn't really boring when asked after wards!!

So the people changed their attitude towards the experiment just to ease the conflicting feelings. Even though it was really boring they actually believed that they enjoyed it!!

How can you use cognitive dissonance to change someone's attitude

cognitive dissonance is a powerful motivational tool you can use to change someone's attitude.

In order to motivate someone to change his attitude you just need to force the creation of cognitive dissonance in his mind. Lets suppose that a person has a negative attitude towards another common friend. In such a case you can tell him that this friend said behind his back that he is a good person.

As soon as you do conflicting feelings will be created and your friend might change his attitude by saying something like "he was not a bad guy after all, he did many good things to me earlier". This is how you can use cognitive dissonance to change someone's attitude.

In the Solid Self confidence program i said that cognitive dissonance can result in an attitude change that lowers self confidence. For example a person could refuse to admit that he lacks confidence and create new beliefs to hide this fact instead of working on improving his self confidence.

As a result of this attitude change the person remains trapped and fails to improve himself.

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