Monday, September 19, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

Before reading this article, I was unfamiliar with the terms and concept of cognitive dissonance and I was interested in learning about it. After reading the article, I was left somewhat unfulfilled because I was still not too sure what it was. I started to understand what dissonance was when the author described it in relation with musical tones. A dissonant relationship occurs between two tones when they are mixed and sound unpleasant together. So a dissonant relation exists between things do not fit together. I also was able to comprehend when he started to describe it with a relation to people. He claimed that if a person knew two things, something about himself and something about the world he lived in but somehow they did not fit together, that would be cognitive dissonance. The person was smart and capable, but has met failure - two things that do not fit together.

I was also eager to understand how this concept tied in with motivation. The author explained that cognitive dissonance is motivating just as hunger is motivating. If two things do not fit together, one is motivated to change one of the things so that they do fit together therefore eliminating the dissonance. Soon after I started to understand, the author lost me again. His examples of the experiments were interesting to read, but I struggled relating them to the concept. I am still trying to piece together the flood/flying saucer example. I believe at the end of the ordeal they tried to reduce the dissonance by going public and having more people believe that these messages were really delivered. If more people believed it, then the fact that the saucer never came to pick them up would not matter as much because there were still believers? I am still not too sure how to connect everything together, but as I re read the article some things become a little more clear.

Overall, it is an interesting topic and I would be interested in continuing to learn about it. Perhaps reading another article will shed more light on the idea, making it easier to understand.

Sources - The Motivating Effect of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger

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