We, humans, have a strong need for continuity in our thoughts and behavior. So, if you have two opposing thoughts at the same time, or if you act in a way that contradicts your convictions, you are likely to feel uneasy. Cognitive dissonance is the term for this. When you’re in a state of dissonance, whether you’re like other people, you feel compelled to fix it.
People who smoke are an excellent example of cognitive dissonance. They are aware that smoking causes cancer, so continuing to smoke despite the negative health consequences causes cognitive dissonance. People who enter a cult then discover that their views and those of the cult leaders do not align are another example of dissonance.
Every day, life is full of circumstances that cause dissonance. In reality, there is the possibility of dissonance any time you have to make a decision. The regular dissonance we encounter is normally negligible enough that we minimize it immediately – sometimes without even realizing it – and move on. When our essential values and behavior, on the other hand, clash, we feel more psychologically uncomfortable.
It’s important to note that cognitive dissonance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In reality, reducing dissonance will assist you in weighing all sides of a situation to make the right decision.