The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 10, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 10, 2019

The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance might sound like one of those fancy terms that you learn in school or university, which you will never have to use in your real life; the reality of cognitive dissonance, however, has quite a significant effect in our lives.

The phenomenon of this psychological theory can be easily observed in our daily lives, mainly in the form of self-delusion. Initially the term was coined by social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1956; he showcased his theory of cognitive dissonance in an experiment involving choices between different gifts. Once the people, who were part of the experiment, formed an opinion as to which gift they desired, they would disregard the initial gift which they rejected.

Simply put, once we form an opinion on a particular topic, we refuse to believe anything contrary to our beliefs; even going as far as to reject factual information to rationalise our own opinion.

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The more modern day iteration of this phenomenon is prevalent courtesy of social media and the internet. Some might call it being gullible or plain idiotic, but cognitive dissonance has its roots planted deep into the minds of a large proportion of the population, even in Bangladesh. Here are some of more observable instances of cognitive dissonance in our everyday lives:



While this may not be as widespread an instance of this phenomenon, it's still one common amongst those born before the 1980s. For instance, my parents would choose to physically go to an overly crowded shopping mall instead of ordering via one of the popular e-commerce websites that deliver directly to our home. Their belief is that online businesses cannot be providing a better service and product quality than a local one store. While that is true in some cases, the fact that online services are bound to get better as more and more people start using them is lost upon them as well.



Facebook and Twitter have become a part of our daily lives; with them they have brought a wide array of unverified news, which are so blatantly false, that their intent is nothing short of malicious. Fake News isn't a new phenomenon and neither is cognitive dissonance; powered by social media, they have both teamed up to create a nightmare. People will believe anything that aligns with their worldview, and that's exactly what they get when consuming news on social media. There's also the case of people believing hoaxes and conspiracy theories marketed by certain outlets online as well.



A recent outbreak in one particular baseless idea is that vaccines are harmful for children. The cause of this was a research paper linking vaccines with autism; and even though both the paper and its writer were eventually discredited, the lasting effect of that has not dissipated. Studies in Europe and America have shown that a large percentage of parents refuse to get their children vaccinated, which has even resulted in greater outbreaks in diseases like measles in recent years. Even when presented with factual information disputing this idea, there still exists a large group of people who have adopted the view that vaccines lead to autism.

While, only from a theoretical perspective, cognitive dissonance may be an interesting thing to observe, the reality of it can be a deterrent to our own personal growth as well as that of the society around us.  




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