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Cognitive Dissonance

The theory of cognitive dissonance was developed by social psychologist Leon Festinger. He observed that most people feel tension (dissonance) when two beliefs (cognitions) are in conflict. He concluded that to reduce the unpleasant feeling, most people adjust their thinking.

For example, when Marie submits a proposal, she expects that, as in the past, her firm will be awarded a contract. But when she learns another company has been selected, she tries to minimize the tension between her expectation and the reality by telling her manager: “I’m sure the new buyer didn’t appreciate our long history together,” or “The deadline for submitting a really solid proposal was unrealistically tight.”


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