Nudge Post — Cognitive Dissonance
You must have heard of this story: one day a fox saw grapes on the tree and they looked delicious. He jumped but couldn’t reach the grapes. Then he tried again but failed miserably. He was so angry and said: “Those grapes are so sour, who wants it anyway.”
A lot of people may laugh at the fox because clearly he’s only finding excuses for not able to reach the grapes. However, this process of making excuses is very common, and it has a name in the Communication field, cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance theory is basically thought conflict. The theory was proposed by U.S. psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s, explaining how people reduce psychological discomfort and achieve inner harmony. The process of feeling mental discomfort may cause change in behaviors, beliefs, or attitudes to restore balance. When dissonance happens, People attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding new information. What the fox did is to minimize the importance of the grapes, saying it’s sour, to reduce the dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is not only a theory, but it can be used in advertisement, marketing, business, and politics. Businesses create dissonance in people’s brains, and use the insecurities to persuade. Slogans like “When you care enough to send the very best” (of Hallmark) would be an example of business using cognitive dissonance. Some people may feel guilty for not buying the best for their family and friends, and in order to achieve inner harmony, they would buy the product. This trick won’t always work when people actually dislike the product more because of the dissonance.