The Definitive Clearing Up of Basic Psychology Terminology III

Today's term: cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is one of those terms that is taught in psych 101.  A lot of people take psych 101 because they think they should, but actually have no real interest in the divine field of psychology.  This causes them to wind up using this particular term WRONG.  Then they make me ANGRY.

The real meaning of cognitive dissonance: it is the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding to contradictory ideas simultaneously.

Examples of real cognitive dissonance:
-I believe that I am a good person, yet I sneak onto the bus occasionally, thus stealing and lying and cheating.  Good people don't steal, lie, and cheat.  These are contradictory ideas and I feel uncomfortable because of it.
-I believe that people are more intelligent and caring in general than we give them credit for, and then am forced to accept the fact that these same people keep electing conservatives.
-I believe that vegetables are good for me, yet I never eat them.
-I believe that the children are our future, but I don't really like hanging around them for very long.

All of these belief-parings cause me some kind of cognitive distress.  I believe one and I believe the other one in equal amounts.  What does it all MEAN?  What do I do with these conflicting beliefs?  How can my brain hold them both???!!?  It's like I don't know what the world means anymore.  This feeling is cognitive dissonance.

The FAKE meaning of cognitive dissonance: any kind of psychological discomfort.  If you are feeling confused, that is not cognitive dissonance.  If you have a tired brain, that is not cognitive dissonance.  If you are unhappy, that is not cognitive dissonance.  That is confusion, tired brain, and unhappiness.  These are feelings.  They are bad feelings, but on their own they are not cognitive dissonance.  Cognitive dissonance occurs only when these bad feelings are caused by holding two conflicting beliefs simultaneously.

Now I know what you're thinking: I get it!  Who cares?  Well, little grasshopper, this is who cares: everyone.  You know why?  Because cognitive dissonance causes people to do crazy things.  Take my first example into account.  I can't hold the belief that I'm a good person at the same time as knowing I do something good people don't do.  So what happens?  I either decide not to do that anymore (change my actions and become the person I believe myself to be - this is the hardest one to do), or I change my belief and decide that sneaking onto busses isn't that bad (change my beliefs - it's the easiest one to do but the most dangerous because then it's a slippery slope to drugs and murder.)

So what I've just said is that cognitive dissonance leads to drugs and murder.  It may sound like a ridiculous statement, but it's actually kind of true.  It also leads to people being imprisoned wrongly, to corporate thievery, and to mean lawyers.  So now you must understand that such a dangerous and powerful term should NOT be misused.

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