Cognitive dissonance

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Cognitive dissonance is stress or discomfort caused by simultaneously holding contradictory ideas.

Examples of cognitive dissonance

  • A mother, who believes that her son is a good boy, learns that he has committed a serious crime;
  • An atheist, who believes that there is no design or purpose in biological life, faces arguments and evidence that support the existence of a designer;
  • A devout Muslim finds contradictions in the Qur'an.
  • Anti-police leftist rioters, who want to see police departments abolished based on perceived grievances (whether real or imaginary), suddenly demand police protection for themselves after they lose fights against pro-police patriots.

Responses to cognitive dissonance

People respond to the uncomfortable feelings associated with cognitive dissonance in a number of ways, including:

  • Resolution: Identifying the source of the contradiction and adjusting one one or both of the contradicting beliefs to eliminate the contradiction;
  • Rationalization: Inventing faulty justifications in an effort to maintain both contradictory ideas as true;
  • Denial: Denying the existence of a contradiction where one exists

George Orwell famously discussed cognitive dissonance in his novel 1984, using the term doublethink. However, doublethink refers to the ability to overcome the stress or discomfort and to accept the contradictory ideas.[1]


  1. Newspeak Dictionary

See also

Evolutionary schizophrenia