When two conflicting ideas exist at the same time in the human mind, it causes uneasiness and discomfort. Human beings instinctively tried to reduce the dissonance, most easily achieved by adaptation and blaming. For example, when a person wants something strongly but cannot attain it, they choose to believe that they do not want it any longer, discarding one idea to dissolve the dissonance.
A famous portrayal of this condition is Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes, which goes as following:
A fox sees a grape on a tree and wants to eat it. However, the grape is too high up, so the fox says “That grape is surely sour.” and turns away.
This fable shows the classic pattern of: Wants something -> finds it unattainable
-> criticises it to reduce their want, and ultimately the dissonance caused by it.
This effect is quite powerful and explains many of mankind’s unique behaviours. As stated above, people try to reduce the dissonance by justification, denial and even blaming a third party to ease their mind.
Interestingly, the act of “justification” is brought on by another human feature: arrogance. Most people consider themselves intelligent and always making the right decisions, ergo when they make a mistake it conflicts with their self-image. Instead of accepting that they made a mistake (thus altering their image), they instead believe that they intended that action. This belief is so strong that they do not even know the justification happened subconsciously.
For example, there is a phenomenon called buyer’s remorse, where a buyer finds a flaw or a better product after buying something, feeling remorse (which is due to the discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance). Instead of blaming themselves, people will justify their reasons for buying that product, and paradoxically value that item even more. This shows how cognitive dissonance can be seen everywhere in everyday life.
In short, people cannot accept paradoxes, believe they always make the right decisions, and twist reality and make excuses when it does not fit what they desire. People are fascinating.