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The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in Decision Making Introduction When making decisions humans commonly fall victim to errors in logic and reasoning Since the inception of the study of the mind psychologists have endeavored to isolate the characteristics and causes of errors in human thinking Researchers and theorists have developed categories of such errors representativeness heuristics availability heuristics memory and hindsight biases etc In other words to err is human In 1957 Festinger identified another phenomenon in human cognition--cognitive dissonance Festinger theorized that humans experience negative emotions when performing behaviors that are contrary to their attitudes These negative emotions collectively called cognitive dissonance have been shown to influence peoples attitudes and behaviors in myriad situations Is it possible that cognitive dissonance plays an important role in directing the illogical or irrational decisions that people often make More specifically can cognitive dissonance be partially responsible for the many common flaws in human thinking As evidenced by his research Festinger found that cognitive dissonance can provide a serious hindrance to proper decision making and reducing dissonance may significantly improve decision making skills Characteristics and effects of cognitive dissonance Festinger Carlsmiths 1959 experiment explored the effects of dissonance on the subjects subsequent attitudes concerning an unpleasant task First Festinger Carlsmith required the subjects to complete a tedious and unexciting task Following completion of the task the subjects were given the option of convincing a confederate to participate in the task The subjects were also offered a reward of varying values Following the completion of this second task the subjects were given a questionnaire to elicit their opinion of the first task Festinger Carlsmith found that those subjects that for a small reward convinced the confederate to complete the tedious task enjoyed the task more than those who received a greater reward The subjects negative attitude toward the original task conflicted with their persuasive behavior with the confederate The subjects were thus
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