Cognitive Consonance

In the course of his life, a person gains more and more knowledge about his environment through his experiences. These insights are called cognitions. Different cognitions can be in relation to each other. If they are mutually dependent or complementary, this refers to the state of cognitive consonance. However, when different cognitions are in contradiction with each other, cognitive dissonance occurs, as expressed by the social psychologist Leon Festinger (1919-1989) in 1957. This cognitive dissonance is experienced by the person concerned as a very unpleasant state. It arises, for example, when one has made a decision that in retrospect turned out to be a mistake.

Transferred to the spectrum of identities, cognitive dissonance means that a person’s value standards can be contrary to his or her behavior, i.e., that the person can be carried away, for example, to racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, or the like, without having an awareness of the expressed discrimination. Only made aware of it would she understand that she has exposed another person to an experience of discrimination. In this case, cognitive dissonance arises in the person who has made the statement, because he or she does not understand or want to be understood as a racist, sexist, etc.