3 Common Examples Of Cognitive Dissonance

3 Common Examples Of Cognitive Dissonance

This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

If you’ve ever done something while knowing it didn’t align with your beliefs, yet still found a way to justify it to yourself, then you’re already familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance. This term is remarkably intertwined with the human experience, yet few people are aware of it. In this article, we’ll explore what cognitive dissonance is and offer three real-world examples to help you understand its role in your everyday decisions.  

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance refers to situations in which a person holds two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. Even when these viewpoints are challenged by a new perspective or information, the individual still holds tight to their original beliefs to avoid the shame or embarrassment of admitting that they’re wrong or don’t make sense. These inconsistencies can create considerable tension in the individual’s mind; however, it often only causes them to cling more tightly to their beliefs rather than explore alternatives.

3 Examples Of Cognitive Dissonance

Below are five examples of cognitive dissonance that can increase your understanding of this concept and that you may even personally relate to.

1. Support For An Unethical Business

Oftentimes, businesses get called out online because of something unethical they’ve done. For example, they may say that they’re committed to the environment, all while they continue to neglect to use environmentally friendly products. Or it might be revealed that they’ve been using child labor in overseas factories or endorsing certain political figures or movements that aren’t ethical themselves.

When people find these things out, they have a choice to make: will they continue to support the business, or choose to take their money elsewhere? Despite knowing that these businesses are unethical, many people still choose to buy their products. They may not agree with what the business is doing, yet still support them because they don’t want to give up the product the company sells. In order to justify their actions and feel better, these individuals may convince themselves that giving up their purchases wouldn’t affect the business, and therefore conclude that there’s no point in even trying.

2. Smoking / Drug Use / Alcohol Dependency

Individuals who smoke or use drugs may experience a number of physical and mental health conditions as a result. The harmful chemicals found in cigarettes can create concerns like lung cancer, birth defects, COPD, heart disease, dental issues, and more. Likewise, drugs can lead to conditions such as depression, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and more. The same applies to those who overuse substances like alcohol.  

Despite knowing the consequences of smoking, using drugs, and drinking alcohol to excess, there are plenty of people who still engage in this behavior. These individuals may continue with their harmful habits because they believe they won’t be the ones to be affected by its consequences. However, in reality, this can’t be true, as they are just as equally susceptible to these diseases and conditions.

3. Staying Late At Work

Many people are big advocates for a healthy work-life balance, arguing that this is essential to a happy, fulfilling life. However, when they find themselves staying late at work night after night and growing increasingly unhappy, they may not even recognize that they’re not living in alignment with their beliefs. Even when they do, rather than talking to their boss about the issue or taking a new job, they choose to stay in the position.

To move past their conflicting beliefs, these individuals might contend that they need the job to support their family or make a deal with themselves that they’ll only put up with it for a certain amount of time before leaving (even when they know they’re willing to put up with it for much, much longer).

Moving Past Cognitive Dissonance

When you’re aware of it, cognitive dissonance can create anxiety, stress, or severe discomfort. In this case, meeting with a therapist could be helpful. A therapist can allow you to work through your feelings and beliefs in a way that promotes self-acceptance rather than judgment or shame. You can learn more about the psychology of cognitive dissonance and explore other helpful treatment approaches by visiting the following link: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/counseling/what-is-cognitive-dissonance-psychology-treatments-that-help/.


Cognitive dissonance can be tricky to recognize, and even harder to overcome. However, while it may be temporarily uncomfortable, leaning into those feelings instead of running from them can promote personal growth, allowing you to live a life that lines up with your convictions. It’s natural to hold conflicting beliefs, but what matters most is what you do with those beliefs when you see that they’re at odds. Remember to go easy on yourself, as cognitive dissonance is something that almost everyone experiences from time to time. It doesn’t make you a bad person; it simply makes you human.