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Self Deception and Cognitive Dissonance

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Man is a complex human being; with a diverse and multi functioning brain, which perceives, images, analyses and performs many actions at all times. And then how a part of this brain helps to develop our consciousness into the acts of perceiving the right and the wrong, with the ability of making this evaluation different for each individual of the world; is in itself a brilliant act of science and nature. Thus every human being, with time develops his own perception towards different things, of which might bring him happiness and delight while some would cater more towards anxiety and fear; thus it all referring to one’s sense of self.

However, in life we our constantly under the challenge of experiencing and facing information which works against our self, and we unintentionally to release our self from its damage are in the process of ignoring or rather deceiving our own self in order to satisfy or rather justify our perception which till then has become a part of our nature. We continue to struggle to prove our self capable and competent enough to deal with our own perception, because it is a part of our dignity of our personality ego, which is dear to every individual.

Therefore if there is a truth inconvenient to our perception then as a part of nature we would mould it enough until it fits our category of being right and justifies our perception correctly; this phenomena as some philosophers and psychiatrists relate to is called self deception. Self Deception could be defined in many complex ways. We could start with first considering its original part of “deceive” or “deception,” and how the could correlate themselves with a single entity.

Then some theorists believe that it could be better understood by considering its routine life examples and how they could be comprehended into a form of science; whereas it could also be studied through analyzing the different forms that this deception could take. (Jones and Gerard, 1967) It is an act of denying or rationalizing away the present evidence and proof; ignoring its logic, significance and relevance by justifying the act and molding it into a situation which best suits the circumstances.

But the question which then exists is to why would one deliberately resolve to deceiving ones own self? Theorists believe that it is in human nature that we tend to cling to some beliefs, some ideas so strongly through out our lives that one day if an action or situation falls against them, opposing their righteousness, then a human would find it easier to resolve in denying their reality than in accepting the bare truth.

Moreover some renounced biologists such as Robert Trives, believe that it’s a part of human behavior that he would carve this self deception in such a way that it would become a rationale for him, they would b so much involved in believing their own “lie” that consequently they would be better off in making others believe in its “truth,” thus they getting an advantage towards their own elf interest. (Levine, 2003)

Misconceptions Self deception, as it has always been marveled by academics, biologists, scholars and psychiatrics, is believed to somehow or the other influence our lives; but as it might be irrationalized yet again that it doesn’t influence our lives to a greater extent, it is now shown by a recent research that self deception pertains in every aspect of a human’s life. It is a blinding phenomenon which hides away the truth from one’s perspective and thus worsens the decision making ability and finding solutions to problems becomes even worse.

Throughout the ages it has been seen that the society makes myths and misconceptions about certain group of people or individuals; which more or less become established stereotypes behind which any common man could find justification of his or her harsh attitude. One of such example is of how adults continue to blame the innocence of adolescences, how are young adults but they are believed to be selfish, disrespectful, cheaters, and irresponsible.

Even Shakespeare in 1610, in one of his famous books quoted, “I would there were no age between ten and three and twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing and fighting” (A Winter’s Tale, Act 2, Scene 2). On the other hand, studies into children behavior have shown how expectations can change human behaviors, children expected to behave offensively, are more likely to get into trouble, use drugs, and create difficulties for their parents, as compared to those children who have the leniency of respect and trust from their parents.

Another myth widely into acceptance is that those individuals who suffer from a loss or accidents such as war, abuse, disease, brutality, tragic loss or even deprivation, cannot mature into stable and normal human beings ever again in life. However, studies such as Skeels, 1966; Garmezy, 1991; Richters and Martinez, 1993; have proven this equally wrong and have stated that what an individual would become later in life depends upon himself and his environment; such a person has all the capability of becoming fully productive, efficient and optimistic like any other individual of the society.

Lastly another example of misconception which is worth mentioning because of its generalization is that of people’s common belief to all their physical and psychological diseases could only be attained through medication; that is in pharmacological cure alone. Even such doctors do not tend to consider that at times more than medicines a patient might be just suffering from psychological unrest and would rather be needing some counseling; rather than prescribed help and available clinical data dealing with the patients signs and symptoms.

There is no doubt that medicines cure many illnesses, but the fact that our knowledge of finding cure to problems is restricted to it alone creates the misconception. Thus it may be concluded that deception restricts our thinking, and disables to view a problem in a different perspective but forces us to resolve to a stereotypical view point. Other than dogmatic opinions and professional and established ideas, one should be open to dialogue and an exchange of communication and should challenge ourselves to finding new solutions. Examples of self deception

Different research and studies by various authentic organizations such as the Princeton Research Department, have added various astonishing facts to the area of self deception. For example it is proven that 94% of university professors believe that they are better at teaching than their fellow colleagues; about 25% of university students estimate themselves in the topmost 1% in their ability to adapt to others; while also that of a common ratio 75% of the student’s body would estimate themselves to be among the very best in terms of commanding capabilities while only 2% would find themselves to be below average.

Thus cases of self deception are commonly found in our society. (American PsychiatriP Association, 1994) A common example of self deception out of the routine day of life, could be that of a parent who believes and trusts in the good part of his child and that he could never go against his rules and regulations and that he would always be telling the truth no matter there might be evidence present which would be falling against the righteousness of the child.

The parent in such a situation is seen to deceive himself into believing that his child is telling the truth because he actually desires his child to be doing so. It is ranked as a flawed act because the parent even holds the ability to evaluate and rationalize against his child, which is considered to be a “moral flaw” on the part of the parent.

In keeping his self in the darkness of falsehood the parent is actually leaving his child open to even worse scenarios, by not correcting him there and then; and also he is making himself aloft of his child’s protection which he was render at that moment thus both being more susceptible to the lie; because the truth would remain to exist no matter if one believes in it or not. Similarly Terry Warner, in his famous book, “Leadership and Self Deception,” calls this problem as “being inside a box.

He believes that a person suffering from this philosophical problem fails to accept the dilemma that his attitude and behavior is far from being normal; and explains it through catering himself in a story where he is suffering from self deception, and is in such a situation that his job is at a stake, his wife and his 16 year old son are unable to cure him, and even his colleagues are sick of sticking under his harsh attitude which does not seem to realize and remains tyrannical so much so that he would go to the extent of annoying and hurting others without ever noticing or realizing his wrong.

The book is a good food of thought for its readers as it provides a platform for individuals to look into their own lives and seat which points they might be going wrong and how things which seem simple at first could be co related to self deception and reason to their lack of effectiveness. (Warner, 2000) Academic research

Many psychologists believe that patients who take their mental problems such as depressions, obsessions, or eating disorders as a third party, other than themselves than by referring it to as maybe “the black dog” or “walk of shame” they are able to deal with it more effectively, no matter they are defying their own psychological illness but studies show that such people are able to conquer this disease more effectively than those who accept their illness as a part of their character.

For them it was a battle while for the latter a mere adaptation phase. A study conducted by researchers in the Colombia University in 2005, focused to measure the percentage of students who dealt in a better manner towards a failed exam or an argument, were they generally accepting or taking it as a third party effect. However the research clearly showed that those who were deceiving themselves into a bad situation had lesser problems dealing with it than those who were directly confronting it.

One of the study’s lea author, Ethan Kross stated that, “What our experiment showed is that this shift in perspective, having this distance from yourself, allows you to relive the experience and focus on why you’re feeling upset, instead of being immersed in it. ” (Kross et al 2005) Thus the study concluded that if the goal of a human being towards life was to actually attain happiness, meet up his goals and success; then if self deception helped to less one’s problems then it certainly at times did lead to human growth.

Gerd Gigerenzer’s research indicates that sometimes it better at ignoring some information, that would help one focus on to the situation and deal with it in a “smarter” way, than if we were focusing and piling up all the stuff in our minds. Cognitive dissonance Definition and background As any ordinary person could perceive from the name of this psychological disease; that it deals with some diverging thoughts and ideas. Cognitive which means acknowledging or conceiving a notion; while dissonance relates to contradiction or the clash of something subjective.

Thus it could be coined together that the disease is basically about how a person could face contradictory ideas which laterally cause him tension, depression and other psychological problems. Psychiatrics believe that this disease causes severe mental anxiety to the patient as he is unable to cater to his thoughts, holding two contradictions at the same time. These two ideas maybe exactly opposite of each other, for example one being an idea through a rationalized behavior while the other would be more of an impulsive manner.

It is also seen that the tension caused by the disease further worsens due to three basic reasons which are: • The greater the importance the problem or idea holds to the individual. • What is the magnitude of divergence between the ideas? • The inability of the person to deal with the situation and rationalize or explain himself out of it. Dissonance is seen to be stronger when we work against our beliefs or pre formed principles; such as if we believe that we are good and socially comforting individuals, but still do something bad which would shatter our principles then as a result we feel cognitive dissonance.

It is such a strong part of our mind that it would make us change or mould our thoughts for its own benefit which ever it chooses to be more impulsive. It is the strongest when it comes down to our own individual level such as ego, immorality, self image and sanity. Moreover cognitive dissonance is a part of our lives; keeping a multi perspective towards things, seeing and perceiving people and things in a different manner than before, and also experiencing compelling thoughts are examples of it.

As it increases with size and importance of the thing, thus it would be more in case of purchasing a car than a table lamp. It is characterized as a mental disorder and psychologists have derived a vast list of these biases according to which they could study and identify human behavioral changes. These biases which maybe created between human minds could either be mere adaptations from the surroundings or be due to the inability of a person to make fundamental decisions and he gets adaptive at certain points.

Some of these common biases would include the Bandwagon effect ( influence of the society which makes a person to do what everybody in general is doing), denial (not accepting or facing present facts), and Hyperbola discounting ( when people have a greater inclination towards present benefits than those of the future). Theory of cognitive dissonance The first theory of cognitive dissonance was presented in 1957 by a famous social psychologist, Leon Festinger; in his book “When Prophecy Fails. It is believed that during his time their was a rumor and a general belief that the aliens had landed onto the Earth which they were about to destroy.

It caused a tumult among the people; thus the dissonance was reduced by another rumor that the aliens had spared the planet Earth. Therefore in his book, he first explains as to what all could be included to be called as cognitions, such as knowledge, emotions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. For example the knowledge of the fact that, “this pen is blue,” or “the weather is beautiful;” are all different cognitions.

But the problem arises of how well these cognitions might relate to each other. If two cognitions work together, agreeing to a fact simultaneously, then it is called “consonant” but if they two contradict to each other then they are termed as “dissonant. ” While if two cognations had nothing to do with each other they were termed as “irrelevant. ” But the question which was raised in his theory was as to what happens to people when they have to dissonant cognitions?

Which he explained later that this state leads a person to a psychological dissonance, whereby he suffers from sever mental tension over the two contradicting thoughts. This unpleasant stress leads a person to state of craving, like one which a person would experience whilst in a state of hunger or thirst; however it cannot be cured so easily the way we could do to the latter by simply drinking or eating. Causes of cognitive dissonance In order to relieve a person from this psychological problem it is first important to understand as to what were the causes behind this contradiction of thoughts.

Human mind is a very complex machine, which is constantly in a state of observing, perceiving, analyzing and creating new view points towards situations. Festinger in his theory has derived four basic forms of dissonance which are: self persuasions, forced compliance, exposure to information and social support. Self persuasion occurs when a person has to make a decision between two equally attractive and impulsive choices. No matter what an individual decides upon he is always compelled to change his decision.

Forced compliance is seen when an individual has external pressures forcing him to decide upon a thing when he himself does not agree to it. It was seen that when a group of students were forced to write a persuasive essay on a theme to which they did not agree completely and random pay of $5, $ 10 and $20 was assigned to them. After the test it was seen that those who were not paid or had only $5 to them had expressed the opposing idea I the essay to some degree justifying it while those who had $15 and $ 20 to their share showed no bias ion their scripts.

Thus it clearly exhibits how much external pressures influence one’s ideas. (American PsychiatriP Association, 1994) Further exposure to new information causes dissonance in the sense that the person is open to new ideas and notions which he had not catered to before making his decisions. And lastly the society support talks about the peer pressure, of how a group of people might influence our thoughts which could be deviating from each other. But due to the strong outside pressure one even maybe able to get convinced over wrong notions.

Examples Our routine lives are full of contradictory notions and behaviors of ourselves. Such an example of cognitive dissonance could be seen in a religious group who prophecies a particular day for the end of the world. However if this day passes by with nothing happening, then the group in order to keep up with their authenticity state out that they were able to wade off the foreseen disaster. Thus the dissonance is avoided amongst the group, rather than one believing onto the failing predicting abilities of the group.

Whereas an example out of the ordinary life is when a person buys a new, expensive car; he believes in attaining maximum comfort and luxury out of it. However, if he goes on a long drive and doesn’t find it as comforting then he finds a contradiction between his thoughts and suffers from dissonance. On the other hand, he could reduce it by perceiving more cognitions such as that he would not be making long drives very often, or that for him safety and appearance was more important than attaining comfort.

He could even remove the dissonance completely by replacing his car but that would require a high level of dissonance to first occur. Treatment of Self Perception and Cognitive Dissonance Psychiatrists and psychologists have both suggested many cures and preventions to eliminate both of these problems which do not allow a human being to make judgments and decisions on through correct rational views. They believe that one should try to eliminate the importance of dissonant cognitions, and should find more points which support the consistent point of view more.

Or one could completely change these dissonant thoughts so that they rationalized and we could look at them through a newer perspective. It is important also that one rises up points which support his beliefs and his values, which talk more in general terms rather than in selfish and limited manner. And then it becomes important that a person to exhibit himself to knowledge and more information of his surrounding which would relieve him from stereotypical thinking; and would help him develop a thought which would be free from biases and formed upon a facts and realities.

Conclusion A successful human being would be one who has a stable mind and his thoughts flow in a logical and systematical manner, rather than him catering them through impulse, biases, lies, or even contradictions. Decision which are made through a rationalized and well planned approach are always longer lasting and hold greater importance in all aspects of human life; thus making him stronger not only for the society but also molding his personality into dignified and respectable one; enabling him into making better decisions always.

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