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Examples of cognitive conflict

Updated July 20, 2017

Cognitive conflict, or cognitive dissonance, is the conflict you feel when an action and an idea oppose each other. A prime example of cognitive conflict is smoking cigarettes. While it is commonly known that smoking can cause lung cancer and other diseases, smokers still engage in the activity. There are various schools of thought and theories regarding cognitive conflict.

Belief Disconfirmation Paradigm

Belief disconfirmation paradigm occurs when a person is presented with information which conflicts with his beliefs. If unable to change his beliefs the conflict experienced could result in a rejection of the conflicting information or the denial of the information. A person unable to resolve the conflict will seek others sharing a similar belief to restore agreement of thoughts. An example of belief disconfirmation paradigm is cult members who experience the failure of a prophecy to occur. The cult members will typically seek an explanation among the group and reach a conclusion that provides an answer that creates harmony.

Induced-Compliance Paradigm

The induced-compliance paradigm is when a person internalises an attitude that they were encouraged to express because they had no other justification. In a study conducted in 1959 by Festinger and Carlsmith's, participants were requested to spend an hour on a boring and tedious task that created a strong, negative feeling. When participants completed the task they were asked to talk to others and convince them that the tasks were interesting. One group of participants was paid 60p for the task. Another group was paid £13 to perform the same. A control group was asked to do nothing. When rating the boring tasks after completion of the experiment, those paid 60p rated the tasks more positively than those in the other two groups. The theory that Festinger and Carlsmith's provided was that due to guilt and an inability to justify their actions, the lower-paid participants internalised their attitude. Those paid £13 had an external justification: money.

Free-Choice Paradigm

The free-choice paradigm occurs when making a difficult decision between two choices. A person must reject one choice that may actually be attractive for another. Despite choosing a desirable option, there are still attractive qualities about the rejected option.

Effort-Justification Paradigm

The effort-justification paradigm occurs when a person freely engages in undesirable actions in order to achieve a desired goal. The conflict the person experiences is reduced by inflating the importance of the goal.

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About the Author

Based in Philadelphia, Kelly Gartner has been writing since 1994 as a copywriter and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in publications such as "Every Day With Rachael Ray" magazine, the "Philadelphia City Paper" and "Supermarket News." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Temple University.