Cognitive dissonance and prejudice

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

cognitive dissonance and prejudice

What is the connection between Prejudice and cognitive dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance in simple words is the situation where someone holds two contradicting cognitions. These congnitions could be in the form of beliefs, attitudes or behavior.

In order for people to relieve the pain they experience when they have two conflicting cognitions they either create new beliefs, change their attitude or behavior. So what does cognitive dissonance has to do with prejudice?

Because people always try to maintain consistent cognitions they might try to find logical explanations for their prejudice just to feel good.

In this article i will tell you about the connection between cognitive dissonance and prejudice.

The connection between cognitive dissonance and prejudice

If a person discriminates between others and prejudices people based on their race he will certainly experience cognitive dissonance if he believes that prejudice is a bad thing.

Now this person might try to find an excuse to prejudge people or in other words form a new cognition just to maintain his psychological balance.

Not only will the person find excuses for prejudging people but he will also avoid any source that could feed him with beliefs that results in cognitive dissonance.

For example if that man judged black people negatively then he will avoid all good black people just to prevent himself from having conflicting cognitions.

How can cognitive dissonance help in reducing prejudice

Lots of people believe that attitude change must happen first before behavior can be changed while in fact that's not correct.

Psychologists who know about the cognitive dissonance theory understand that if you managed to let people change their behavior first sooner or later their prejudging attitude will conflict with their behavior and their attitude will change.

So cognitive dissonance can help in reducing prejudice by creating a controlled environment where conflicting cognitions can be created.

As for those who create new cognitions just to support their prejudice people must let them become aware of their acts in order to help them stop lying to themselves.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the phenomenons that can let people lie to themselves without noticing and prejudice is one of the most famous ways for self deception.

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