Cognitive Dissonance




Introduction
On June 17th, 1963 school prayer was taken out of public schools because of a Supreme Court ruling that all students shouldn’t be subjected to prayer. As a result of this ruling, the teaching of the character and belief of the founding fathers, which played a large part in our country’s history, quickly decreased. Although never mentioned, the Supreme Court’s ruling suggested to the public that prayer in public schools was incongruent with the beliefs and attitudes upon which this country was founded? In the following report, I will attempt to present information concerning cognitive dissonance that will assist you in answering the aforementioned question.
Purpose and Significance
Cognitive dissonance occurs when inconsistencies with behaviors and attitudes/beliefs exist either within an individual or between two parties. More expressly, cognitive dissonance is when actions and values are different. The purpose of researching cognitive dissonance is to answer the following questions:
1. Is cognitive dissonance a good thing or a bad thing? What makes it good or bad?
2. How should we act, when faced with feelings of cognitive dissonance?
I have used the experiences and views of modern people to collect information concerning cognitive dissonance. Also, I have researched the experiences of historical figures to learn more about how they successfully dealt with cognitive dissonance. We all experience some sort of cognitive dissonance in our lives; therefore, when we learn how to deal with it in a good way, we will come to new understandings and will be able to add value to organizations and to society as a whole.
Cognitive Dissonance within the Individual
Have you ever done something contrary to what you believe? If you answered no, then you’ve just lied to yourself. Actually, you changed your attitude or belief to match your action. The theory of cognitive dissonance is that people seek to minimize dissonance because of the discomfort it causes. Leon Festinger stated that, “[Cognitive Dissonance] induces a ‘drive state’—need to avoid or reduce dissonance by changing our beliefs, attitudes or behaviors so they are perceived as consistent (http://spot.colorado.com/craigr/Dissonance/sld002.htm).” This decision to reduce dissonance within one’s self is often done subconsciously; however, we all will be faced with the opportunity to make that decision consciously, if we haven’t been already.
Individual Examples
The CEO of XYZ Corporation is a person of high morals and values. This CEO recognizes the critical role that each individual worker plays in the overall success of the company—believing that everyone is a crucial, inseparable part of the whole company. Recently, the board of directors instructed this CEO to lay off 10,000 workers—saying that the company needs to increase profits so stock prices will continue to go up and that they would give him a 15% bonus on his already hefty $750,000/year salary to do it. The board of directors also added that if he couldn’t lay the workers off, then they would find someone who could. This CEO is feeling the discomfort of cognitive dissonance—does he change or twist his beliefs to match the actions it would take to keep his job, or does he continue allowing his beliefs to direct his actions? Either way it appears the workers will be laid off.


Cognitive Dissonance between Two Parties
When party A does one thing and party B believes something that is not congruent with the action of party A, then you have cognitive dissonance between two parties. Of course, you can’t control the actions of another person, but is there a point where you should share your belief even though it may be contrary to the other person’s actions? And is this a good or a bad thing? It can be a good thing if approach appropriately. For instance, your boss is conducting business operations in a certain way, but you have the attitude or belief that if the business was run just a little different, profits would increase and workers would be happier. In this situation, it is obvious that by sharing your thoughts with boss, you will be adding to his or her understanding and to the value of the company.
Historical Example of Dealing with Cognitive Dissonance
Thomas Jefferson (writer of the Declaration of Independence) was a good example of a man who didn’t let his actions control his beliefs – even if they were incongruous with some during his day. He was confronted