Cognitive dissonance and smoking

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

cognitive dissonance and smoking

What's the connection between cognitive dissonance and smoking?
Before i talk about this connection let me first explain in few lines what cognitive dissonance is.

You can think of cognitions as beliefs. If you like smoking then this is a cognition. On the other hand knowing that smoking is harmful is another cognition.

Now when 2 cognitions (like the ones mentioned) are dissonant then you can call this phenomenon cognitive dissonance.

Because most people who smoke know that smoking is bad they experience cognitive dissonance. But the question is, why do most smokers never give up smoking even if they are experiencing cognitive dissonance?

That's the question i am going to answer in this article by telling you about the connection between cognitive dissonance and smoking behavior.

How smokers deal with cognitive dissonance

Because cognitive dissonance is not a comfortable thing smokers tend to alter their beliefs intentionally just to get rid of the cognitive dissonance.

One famous examples would be altering the beliefs about the dangers of smoking by saying something like "i know a 70 years old man who smokes since he was 20 and who is very healthy".

As you can see the smoker in this case eliminated cognitive dissonance by distorting his beliefs. A close friend of mine used to overcome cognitive dissonance of smoking by reminding me and himself every now and then that he can give up smoking any time he wants even though he has failed to do this several times before.

Some smokers get rid of cognitive dissonance by adding new cognitions such as "i don't drink, so smoking won't harm me anyway as am a healthy person"

Another group of smokers prevent cognitive dissonance by escaping from any new facts that would assist in the formation of cognitive dissonance. For example those smokers might refrain from reading any recent studies that talk about the dangers of smoking.

How can smokers prevent cognitive dissonance the right way

As you can see most smokers deceive themselves when they face cognitive dissonance. The first step towards preventing cognitive dissonance the right way is to stop fooling yourself and creating lies through the formation of new cognitions.

In the Solid Self confidence program i said that many people lack self confidence as a result of dealing incorrectly with cognitive dissonance. Instead of admitting the truth and working on their problems they hide them by forming new cogitions.

We humans are masters of self deception and if you didn't pay attention to how you deal with cognitive dissonance you will end up fooling yourself and you will never be able to give up smoking.

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