Bất hòa nhận thức (Cognitive Dissonance) là gì?


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where one of your beliefs contradicts another one? Or have you ever acted in a way that goes against what you truly believe? These conflicts between our beliefs and behaviors can lead to a feeling of discomfort known as cognitive dissonance. In this article, we will explore what cognitive dissonance is, how it works, and how it influences our thoughts and behaviors.

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Psychologist Leon Festinger proposed a theory of cognitive dissonance, which focuses on how individuals strive for internal consistency. Festinger suggested that we all have an innate need to ensure that our beliefs and behaviors align with each other. When there is an inconsistency between our beliefs and actions, we experience discomfort, and we seek to resolve this dissonance.

Influential Factors

The degree of dissonance we feel can be influenced by various factors, including the importance we place on a particular belief and the extent of inconsistency between our beliefs. For example:

  • Personal beliefs, such as those about ourselves, tend to result in greater dissonance.
  • The importance we attribute to specific beliefs also plays a role, as beliefs we value highly often lead to stronger dissonance.
  • The ratio between conflicting and consonant thoughts can affect the strength of dissonance.
  • The greater the dissonance, the stronger the pressure to relieve the discomfort we feel.

Cognitive dissonance can have a profound impact on our thoughts and actions. Let’s explore some examples to understand how it works.

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Cognitive dissonance can manifest in various aspects of our lives, particularly in situations where our behavior conflicts with beliefs that are deeply ingrained in our self-identity. For instance, consider a scenario where an environmentally conscious man purchases a new car only to later discover that it has poor fuel efficiency.

The conflict:

  • The man values environmental responsibility and wants to take care of the environment.
  • He is driving a car that is not environmentally friendly.

To reduce the dissonance between his belief and behavior, he has several choices. He can sell the car and buy a more fuel-efficient one, or he can shift his focus away from his environmental responsibility. In the latter case, he can minimize the dissonance by engaging in actions that offset the environmental impact, such as using public transportation more often or biking to work when possible.

Another common example of cognitive dissonance occurs in our everyday shopping decisions. We all want to believe that we make smart purchasing choices. However, when a product or item we buy turns out to be disappointing, it contradicts our belief in our decision-making abilities.

More Examples

In his book “A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance,” Festinger provides an example of how individuals deal with dissonance related to health behavior. Smokers continue their habit, even though they are aware of the grave health risks. Why do people persist with such behavior?

Festinger suggests that smokers might prioritize smoking over their own health, deeming the behavior worth it when weighing the risks against the rewards.

Another way to handle cognitive dissonance is to minimize potential drawbacks. Smokers might convince themselves that the negative health effects of smoking are exaggerated or justify their behavior by acknowledging that there are health risks in every aspect of life.

Ultimately, Festinger notes that smokers may attempt to convince themselves that quitting smoking would lead to weight gain, which also poses health risks. These justifications help reduce dissonance and allow them to continue with their current behavior.

How to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance?

According to Festinger’s theory, people seek consistency in their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. Thus, when conflicts arise, individuals strive to minimize dissonance and discomfort. Here are three primary strategies to achieve this:

  1. Focus on supportive beliefs: You can pay more attention to beliefs that align with, and outweigh, the conflicting belief or behavior. For example, if you believe that greenhouse emissions contribute to global warming but drive a fuel-inefficient vehicle, you can seek information that challenges the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. This new information can reduce discomfort and dissonance.

  2. Reduce the importance of conflicting beliefs: If a conflicting belief is causing discomfort, you can reassess its significance. For instance, a person concerned about their health might be troubled by the knowledge that prolonged sitting can shorten lifespan. Shifting focus to other healthy behaviors that compensate for a sedentary lifestyle can help alleviate discomfort.

  3. Change conflicting beliefs: Altering conflicting beliefs to align with other beliefs or behaviors is both effective and challenging. In the case of deeply-rooted values, change can be difficult. For instance, if you value exercise for health but rarely make time for it, you may experience cognitive dissonance. To address this, you can adjust your behavior by increasing exercise to achieve consistency with your belief.


Cognitive dissonance plays a significant role in our judgments, decisions, and evaluations. Recognizing how conflicting beliefs influence decision-making can improve your ability to make faster, more accurate choices. Mismatches between beliefs and actions can cause discomfort, but these feelings can also lead to positive change and growth. Sometimes, finding ways to rationalize conflicts is sufficient, while in other cases, altering beliefs or behaviors fosters consistency between them.

For example, if you believe that exercise is essential for health but rarely engage in physical activity, you may experience cognitive dissonance. To address this, increasing exercise to align with your belief and minimize cognitive dissonance can positively impact your life and overall well-being.

Reference: Verywell Mind

Written by Như Trang.

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