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Human Behavior

Cognitive Dissonance: Or How One Can't Admit They Made A Mistake

Parent Category: Human Behavior Category: Psychology

Cognitive Dissonance is one of those terms that is essential for you to remember, and to understand how society and various cultures work. 

People who can't admit that they are wrong or made a mistake in spite of, overwhelming facts and evidence, that they are wrong; that is Cognitive Dissonance.  Don't forget this concept and the term, for it is of paramount importance to understanding many articles from this web site as well as what you observe in the real and factual world.

Examples help to understand.  One of our staff members remembers visiting with a client in a previous time.  The client picked up our associate in a brand new Mercedes-Benz sedan automobile.  During the trip to his office he expounding at great length on many of the virtues of the newly purchased Mercedes.  He talked about it's plushness; it's suspension; it's engineering; it's reliability; and hinted on the automobile's prestige.  At the end of the lengthy resume on the car's qualities, he asked for our person's personal opinion about his new Mercedes vehicle.

Our acquaintance, being a very straight forward and truthful person, told his client that he personally found the Cadillac sedan to be a better choice.  He expound on real facts that the Cadillac was a better and softer ride and that the Mercedes "rode like a horse drawn buckboard wagon"; that the Cadillac was more plush, had just as good status, cost less to purchase and less to maintain; was more patriotic being American made, and was just an all around better car for the money.

The client became very defensive and made up false facts that our man knew was false.  The client was doing everything to justify his decision, even to the point of making a fool out of himself.  In short, the client could not admit that he made a $45,000 mistake.

People do this.  Things like this are not uncommon.  Many humans do this in various degrees.  Typically the larger the investment in time, money, emotion; and then have facts show up that indicates you are wrong, the more one's effort to self justify their original decision; even to the point of lying or making up facts to try and make a last minute effort to justify their incorrect decision.

Another example would be various denominations among the Christian religions.  Each denomination believes that their doctrine is the one, true and correct way to practice the Christian religion and the others are not.  If this were not so then they all would be embracing the same dogma.

Each denomination can become very adamant about being the one and only way of being a Christian.  This can even be to the point of violence against others.  History has proven this. 

When provided with empirical and historical fact that proves that they have been wrong in their beliefs for a long period time, they typically ignore the facts provided or result to other efforts to thwart the evidence by counter attacking the argument with lies, vague arguments or just walk away and not face the truth.

Politics is another obvious occurrence of cognitive dissonance.  We see different political parties making statements.  Some who make those statements, really believe they are true.  However, when confronted with the real facts that they were not aware or ignored, they do anything to refute the real facts.  For many, it is just part of the human nature to not admit that they were wrong then and are wrong now. 

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# Guest 2016-12-29 18:16
Interesting examples but they kind of miss the point of the psychological nature of this disorder. People don't argue about cars or religion or differences of opinion with cognitive dissonance. They argue that Joe molested them despite the fact that they took Joe's hand and put it down their shirt. They argue they did nothing wrong and that Joe was totally at fault. Or in the case of someone with dementia, where this typically occurs, they break a dish and despite stepping on the glass deny that they were even in the room. Cognitive dissonance isn't casual or one-off behavior. It occurs across the range of a person's life in all areas.
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# Guest 2016-12-03 19:39
Late comer but I like the article. Noted an error on the 8th last line. '..they typically ignore the facts provided or result to other efforts..'
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# Guest 2017-02-27 01:51
It is nice to point out the error in the 8th last line, but you should have also included the correction - that being "resort", instead of "result".
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# Guest 2016-01-06 20:54
Exactly why I looked up the psychology of not admitting ones wrong. Figured there must be a psychological reason for my parents displaying such behavior even years after my growing up and moving out. In other words, the "you're only a teenager" excuse doesn't work anymore.
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# Guest 2015-08-15 07:30
Definition of this should be parents
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# Guest 2015-07-24 21:41
Shouldve used socialism as an example. Never worked yet no liberal will ever admit it's a bad idea.
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# Galaxy People 2015-07-26 01:29
Yes. You are correct. Socialism is another good example. Many people have difficult time adjusting to real world, after living under Socialism.

Thanks for reading the article.
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# Guest 2017-01-08 07:16
You moron, the socialist democracies of Northern Europe are the best countries in the world with the happiest most full filled people. Turn off the Fox News every once in a while and grab you some actual facts.
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# Guest 2013-07-26 12:36
I think the example is a little weird. Seems more like an opinion than a matter of comparing car specs. The guys prefered each car for different reasons. One was thinking in terms of status, fashion and how he likes the ride, the other was thinking in terms of money and performance. Doesn't make the first guy wrong.
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# Galaxy People 2013-07-27 21:15
I can certainly understand your view point on the example.
One of the definitions of Cognitive Dissonance is: Being uncomfortable when faced with information that conflicts with what you believe. The human reaction is to explain away the facts that disagree with what you believe. Self Justification.

The example was trying to illustrated that even under perceived facts there is a mental conflict and one acts accordingly to that conflict.

Thank you for taking the time to comment to one of our articles.
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# Guest 2014-01-24 19:22
Quoting Guest:
I think the example is a little weird. Seems more like an opinion than a matter of comparing car specs. The guys prefered each car for different reasons. One was thinking in terms of status, fashion and how he likes the ride, the other was thinking in terms of money and performance. Doesn't make the first guy wrong.


I agree with this. That was a poor analogy. Only an opinion. Try again.
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# Guest 2014-06-09 04:40
The car example was fine.

"The client became very defensive and made up false facts that our man knew was false."

I guess the above dissenting posters have no problem with people making facts up and lying in order to support their case...

Good article, thank you.
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# Galaxy People 2014-06-09 17:07
You are perceptive.
The thrust of the article is that people will try to justify their perceived notions, even though then know they are wrong.

Thanks for reading the article.
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"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have." -- Thomas Jefferson

If it is a fact, then it can't be known as "politically incorrect"

     "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"     -- Marcus Tullius Cicero

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Who controls the present controls the past."
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from the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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