Cognitive Phenomena

Related to Cognitive Dissonance

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Cognitive PhenomenaSee Cognitive Dissonance.

Self Sabotaging Behavior

Self Sabotaging Behavior (AKA: Self-handicapping) is a cognitive strategy used to withdraw efforts or create obstacles in order to keep potential failure from hurting self-esteem, or to maintain public and private self-images of competence.

Individuals have a general tendency to seek consonance between their views of themselves (self-esteem, self-concept, self-efficacy) and their lives. Critical inner voices (negative self-talk) encourage individuals to act out their defenses in all areas of their lives. Individuals are often unaware of their own self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors.

Also see Goal Conflict and Control Theory.

"You are your own worst enemy"

Kolditz TA, Arkin RM (1982). An impression management interpretation of the self-handicapping strategy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 492-502.

Adaptive Preference Formation

Individual criticizes unattainable:

  • Desires goal
  • Realizes goal is too difficult to attain unattainable
  • Reduces dissonance by criticizing goal

"Any fool can despise what he can not get".

Elster J (1983). Sour Grapes: Studies in the Subversion of Rationality. Cambridge. 123ff.

Temptation Affects Moral Attitudes

Students judge cheating less harshly after being induced to cheat on a test.

Also see Anabolic Steroids.

Mill J (1958). "Changes in moral attitudes following temptation". Journal of Personality 26 (4): 517–531.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias is a tendency to remember, interpret, or selectively search for information that is consistent to one's beliefs. This type of cognitive bias is stronger for deeply rooted or emotionally charged issues. It explains other cognitive phenomena:

  • Irrational primacy effect
  • Illusionary correlation
  • Illusion-of-truth effect
    • tendency to believe a familiar statement than an unfamiliar one
  • Attitude polarization
    • differing conclusions to same evidence
  • Choice-supportive bias
    • memory bias that makes past choices seem better than they actually were
  • Belief perseverance
    • belief persists after belief is shown to be false

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."


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