"We do not like inconsistency. It upsets us and it drives us to action to reduce our inconsistency. The greater the inconsistency we face, the more agitated we will be and the more motivated we will be to reduce it." (p 2)
This leads to some quite counter-intuitive outcomes:
- If we suffer for something, we are more likely to see it as desirable.
- If we expect to fail and actually fail we tend to repeat the action that has confirmed our view of ourselves rather than trying something different. However, if we expect to fail and actually succeed we tend to change what we do next time, even though that will make the likelihood of failure greater. (pp 25 - 26)
We are very good at avoiding dissonance by denying responsibility. Dissonance does not seem to occur unless we had the freedom to choose the action that lead to the discrepant cognitions, and it does not occur unless the consequences were (a) bad and (b) foreseeably bad. (p 73) When people are publicly committed dissonance is worse and attitudes change fastest (so if a politician publicly endorses a policy, their attitudes about the policy become more firmly entrenched).
This book was a very readable account of some of the research on this topic but I was disappointed that the scope was quite narrow. Does not cognitive dissonance occur when a student discovers that their previous ways of explaining the world do not work? This book focusses almost entirely on social psychology. Is not learning the way we adjust our cognitions to avoid cognitive dissonance? This book says very little about HOW attitudes get changed. And what does cognitive dissonance feel like? This book skims over this, using only the description 'discomfort'.
June 2016, 183 pages