Cognitive Dissonance in Psychology: Theory, Examples & Definition

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 What Is Cognitive Dissonance?
  • 0:30 Festinger's Theory
  • 1:59 Examples
  • 2:23 Lesson Summary
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort you feel when you do something that's against your beliefs. Read on to find out more about the theory of cognitive dissonance, discover examples from real life, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

In Aesop's fable, 'The Fox and the Grapes', a fox sees some grapes hanging high on a vine and wants to eat them. He tries to jump up, but he can't get to them because they're too high. When he realizes he won't be eating any grapes, the fox becomes disdainful of them; he tells himself that those grapes were sour and that he didn't want them anyway. This is an example of cognitive dissonance: the disagreeable feeling people experience when one belief or action conflicts with a pre-existing belief or action.

Festinger's Theory

In 1957, psychologist and teacher Leon Festinger pointed out that often, people hold two opposing beliefs, or they believe one thing but do something that's against that belief. The feeling that results is called cognitive dissonance, and we often try to alleviate it by justifying our actions or changing our beliefs. Either way, the goal is to have our actions and beliefs in line with each other.

Festinger performed many experiments that demonstrated cognitive dissonance. In one study, he had participants complete a series of boring tasks. After they finished, they were asked to rate the tasks. As you can imagine, their ratings showed that they found the things they were asked to do tedious. But then Festinger introduced a twist: he offered the subjects either $1 or $20 to tell someone waiting to participate in the experiment that the tasks were interesting and fun. Many of them lied.

Later, Festinger asked the participants to rate the tasks again. What do you think he found? The people who lied for $1 actually rated the tasks as more interesting than they did before they lied. Festinger theorized that this was because they had lied for so little money that they needed to justify the lie in their minds. So, they subconsciously changed their beliefs to match their actions.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
1
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
5
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
10
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
20
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
50
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
100
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
200
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
300
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
500
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
1K
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
20
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
50
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
100
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
250
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
500
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
1K
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.