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Wikipedia – a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.

Dictionary.com – an uncomfortable mental state resulting from conflicting cognitions; usually resolved by changing some of the cognitions


If you do not understand what this term means, skip ahead to my later reference sections then come back here. This is not a complete discussion by any means. This is an introduction to the concept and hopefully a collection of meaningful resources.

This term is fairly new to me. I’ve written, discussed, and debated much about diabetes, nutrition, and science over the past six years, and I’ve seen this phenomenon regularly. I’ve seen how it impedes logical thinking and created barriers and conflict in people. As a new creative writer, I think it’s an important concept to understand: our character’s actions may seem completely off the wall, but if based in a fundamental dissonance (idea, belief, value, or emotion) and we show [not tell] the situation correctly, then these actions and conflicts and tensions can become wholely believable and authentic.

One of the areas I see it readily displayed is when areguing the lipid and cholesterol theories. You probably fall into this category too, so feel the tension as I write: Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol is not bad for us. There is no demonstrated science showing they are. In fact, there is much demonstration showing they are vital to good health. The real science says carbohydrates are what’s killing us early: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, brain and nervous system diseases [Alzheimers, MS, Depression, etc].

Can you feel the tension? Every researcher knows I’m wrong. Every doctor agrees with you. The government agrees with you. You agree with you. But the facts all say you are wrong. Since American Food Guidelines were first implemented in 1977 directing [The World!] we eat their way, we’ve only gone downhill, and now it’s catching up with us.

That Worked

That Worked

So either you believe me or you don’t. There are two reasons: the first is I’m wrong, and the second is you don’t want to believe me or cognitive dissonance. Another fact is tens of millions around the world are now discarding their entrenched beliefs and ignoring their doctors’ and dietitians’ advice, and they are becoming healthier. Your still doubting me. You still think I’m crazy. You don’t believe I eat a 70% fat diet with almost none of the so-called “healthy fats.” I eat real butter, grass-fed meats, and low carb veggies. I eat real cheese and very little fruit. Blah, blah, blah.

You can feel your disbelief. You can hear yourself saying I’m a quack. But you can’t completely throw away what I’m saying: “what if he’s right?” There’s tension in the air and it’s called cognitive dissonance. *I can ovewhelm you with science, but I won’t.

I think it’s important to understand the fictional literary significance.

We can create some very powerful characters and siutations using this concpet. Harry Potter is a prime example. He’s a mild, meek, peace loving kid who just wants to get along, yet he’s expected to be the savior of the magical world. He’s always encountering evil and violence, yet he wants none of it. He’s being thrown out of his “comfort zone” and lives in perpetual cognitive dissonace. Do you empathize with him?

This same struggle is even more apparent with Bilbo Baggins who is the professional thief yet wants only to sit in his hole and eat and drink all day. He goes on to perform fantastical deeds all the while fretting over his insignificant self.

In Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” we want to believe in this secret society and in this outlandish story of Jesus, and I suppose many do, yet we can’t pull our way from our belief in both tradition and science. Brown maintains this tension with dissonance to the very end.

This is a very powerful concept. It requires you fully understand the source of tension in your work and apply it consistently. It’s not until resolution that these above stories release the tension. These stories are founded on it.

Now that you understand it, you can recognize it, build on it and around it, and write that best selling story.

Go for it!


Wikipedia – In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.[1] The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.[1] An example of this would be the conflict between wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy; a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might add the consonant element that the smoking is worth short term benefits. A general view of cognitive dissonance is when one is biased towards a certain decision even though other factors favour an alternative.

About – People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief? The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.


About –

Cognitive dissonance can occur in many areas of life, but it is particularly evident in situations where an individual’s behavior conflicts with beliefs that are integral to his or her self-identity. For example, consider a situation in which a woman who values financial security is in a relationship with a man who is financially irresponsible.

  The conflict:

  • It is important for her to be financially secure.
  • She is dating a man who is financially unstable.

In order to reduce this dissonance between belief and behavior, she can either leave the relationship or reduce her emphasis on financial security. In the case of the second option, dissonance could be further minimized by emphasizing the positive qualities of her significant other rather than focusing on his perceived flaws.


*Amazon – Films