What is cognitive dissonance and how can principles of cognitive
dissonance be utilised within interventions to change health-related
Word Count: 1997
Human beings all have a desire to feel unique and special, but essentially all want to lead a fulfilled life, follow a path, and feel a general sense of peace within ourselves. To achieve this, most try to follow a set morals or guidelines, which differ between individuals. In many situations, how we feel often does not coincide with how we behave, and this make most people feel guilty, hypocritical or uneasy, sometimes enough to motivate them to change either their cognitions or their behaviour. We call this, the cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957).
The theory of cognitive dissonance can be applied to almost any situation where morals might come into question. A very current example of this and one that is becoming a growing problem even with all the health warnings, is smoking. Smoking causes more than 400,000 premature deaths every year in the United States (Levy & Marimont, 1998). For years, scientists have been aware of the dangers of smoking such as lung cancer, bronchitis and respiratory problems, yet the number of people who continue to smoke continues growing. Considering this, better interventions aimed at helping people quit smoking may reduce the number of self-caused casualties each year. Anyone who smokes is likely to experience some degree of dissonance if they are aware of the health risks associated (Gibbons, Eggleston & Bethin, 1997). Here, I am going to explain the principles of cognitive dissonance and how these might influence smoking interventions to change behaviour.
The first principle states that humans are sensitive to inconsistencies between actions and beliefs. (Festinger, 1957). For example, knowing that smoking causes lung cancer and still smoking creates a gap between your actions and...