Cognitive Dissonance

Craving Consistency: Your Mind's Battle With Itself


Wear mismatched socks on purpose and then see if you're irritated all day (you should be).

Cognitive dissonance. It may sound like psychobabble, but it's actually the brain's own plot twist. Lighting up a cigarette while wearing a "Quit Smoking" badge. Your mind is engaged in a duel, simultaneously playing the roles of both the hero and the villain.

Why does it happen? Our brains crave consistency. When we act in ways that clash with our beliefs, the mental sirens go off. It's uncomfortable. It’s weird.

For example, let's say you purchase a new iPhone despite emphasizing the importance of saving money. You have two options: either admit that you're not as frugal as you claim to be or, more likely, justify the expense. You might tell yourself, "It's an investment.”

Our brains seek to resolve cognitive dissonance by either reframing our beliefs about what we're doing or, more commonly, justifying our actions so that they align with our beliefs.

"When experiencing dissonance, individuals not only try to reduce it but also actively avoid situations and information that could further increase the dissonance."

— Leon Festinger

Cognitive dissonance, or the attempt to avoid it, influences much of our behavior, speech, and even thoughts. Understanding this effect and being aware of it in ourselves and others can be a powerful tool.

Here are 3 other concepts you might benefit from:

The Streetlight Effect

Via Negativa

Causal Reductionism