The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in Decision Making

2295 Words Feb 25th, 2007 10 Pages
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, …show more content…
However, they experience dissonance when they realize that they cannot know everything and their experience with the world is limited to a small sample. To reduce this dissonance, the representativeness heuristic is applied, thus placing everything into categories. Their small sample of the world is now representative of the whole, and dissonance is reduced. Second, the availability heuristic is a result of the tendency of people to confuse probability with imaginability (Plous, 1993). For instance, the probability of being killed by electrocution is greater than that of being killed in an airplane crash. However, most people can imagine (from news reports) the tragedy of a plane crash more easily than electrocution while standing in a puddle of water in their bathroom. Thus, they falsely believe, through the availability heuristic, that it is more dangerous to fly to Europe than to use a hairdryer in the bathtub. We can see how dissonance theory can give rise to this error in human reasoning. Again assuming that most people view themselves as the center of the universe, they experience dissonance when they realize that things can happen to them over which they have no control. To reduce this dissonance, they create an availability heuristic that says that things will only happen to them with the probability which they can imagine those events occurring. Third, the memory and hindsight biases show that humans
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