Discrepant information on the same subject is said to be discordant. Behaviors that are not fully aligned with one's own opinions are in dissonant relationship. The term "cognitive" instead emphasizes the relationships and processing of these pieces of information.

Over the course of life we ​​accumulate, expectations about things and behaviors deemed congruent or not; and when the expectations are not verified we find ourselves experiencing cognitive dissonance.

When a dissonance arises, generates in the person an urgent need to resolve it in order to return to a form of balance and coherence.

Changing a decision or reversing the effect of a behavior can be difficult, if not impossible, quindi le circostanze dissonanti possono manifestarsi ed avere effetti psicologici per lunghi periodi.

Suppose a decision has been made whose effects are irreversible: when making the decision, all the positive factors that led him to the verdict are clear to the subject, and all the unattractive features that led him to reject the opposite option. Nonetheless, the person is aware of the positive characteristics of the rejected alternative and the negative sides of the selected one.

Though the decision may have been considered, esiste una dissonanza che deve essere riconciliata.

The reduction of cognitive dissonance can occur mainly in two ways: l’individuo può trovare argomenti a supporto dell’opzione scelta o può ridurre la positività delle argomentazioni favorevoli alla scelta scartata.

In fact, the person changes his opinions to better conform them to his behavior and decision. The phenomenon occurs only after the decision has been taken without ambiguity, not before or during.

Quanto questo bisogno di riduzione sia impellente e rilevante dipende dal grado di dissonanza e dal livello di giustificazione o pressione presenti nel momento della decisione. Maggiori sono il divario e l’incongruenza percepita più la necessità di risolverli si acuisce. The greater the justification or pressure that pushed us in one direction, less is the drive to reconcile the perceived gap, if, for example, the choice was made after payment or coercion.

Experimental tests on volunteers (1), confirmed the mechanisms of this phenomenon. The experiment consisted in asking a group of students to classify some vinyls according to their liking. Among those with moderate approval, two were chosen and it was asked which one they would like to receive as a gift. In fine è stato richiesto di rivalutare il gradimento dei due vinili.

Three different scenarios have been proposed for the test. In the first, the students were made to understand that there was the possibility of receiving both discs anyway. The request to reassess the approval was made after the decision of the disc to be received but before the ambiguity of how many would be received was clarified. In the second, it was explicit that both discs would eventually be delivered. In the latter case, it was clear that the gift would consist only of the chosen record. As expected, a need to reduce dissonance was found only in the latter case, where the volunteers have considerably changed the evaluation of their satisfaction in favor of the choice made. Furthermore, it is clear that the phenomenon of reduction does not activate until any ambiguity about the decision is completely resolved and the decision closed, in the first case it was not found.

Similar experiences (1) have shown similar mechanisms in the event that volunteers were led to lie about their experiences under payment. Lower payment, the need for reduction is greater because the justification is less. In this case the reward does not reinforce a behavior or fix a change, because these were in some way contrary to personal belief from the very beginning; it can only justify them to ourselves.

Similarly, if you resist a temptation in a situation of strong prohibition or where you risk a great punishment, a small dissonance is created that does not need to be reconciled but the desire for the object of attention increases. Where the prohibition is weak, there is a high reduction in dissonance with phenomena that are reminiscent of the fable of the fox and grapes.

If we have chosen to believe that immigration is a threat, dehumanizing immigrants or portraying them as dangerous thieves can be a mechanism for reducing dissonance. Similarly, if you have made a decision not to vaccinate your children, the dissonance can be reduced by thinking that the vaccine kills millions of people, that contains toxic substances or even microchips.

For further information:

(1) https://www.jstor.org/stable/24936719