How cognitive dissonance is affecting our COVID-19 response: 5 notes

Cognitive dissonance, or having conflicting attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, is affecting how people respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent article for The Atlantic, social scientists Elliot Aronson, PhD, and Carol Tavris, PhD, outlined the role cognitive dissonance plays in beliefs and actions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Five takeaways: 

1. Cognitive dissonance is "the motivational mechanism that underlies the reluctance to admit mistakes or accept scientific findings," the authors wrote. 

2. The term cognitive dissonance was coined by Leon Festinger, PhD, in the 1950s to describe the discomfort people feel when a cognition and a behavior contradict each other. 

3. An example from the pandemic is a reluctance to wear masks or practice social distancing even though scientists have found the actions to be effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The cognition "I don't want to wear a mask" is dissonant with information that suggests forgoing a mask may be dangerous. 

4. Right when a person makes a decision, such as the decision to not wear a mask, humans start to justify their choice and dismiss alternatives. "Before long, any ambivalence we might have felt at the time of the original decision will have morphed into certainty," the authors wrote. "As people justify each step taken after the original decision, they will find it harder to admit they were wrong at the outset. Especially when the end result proves self-defeating, wrongheaded, or harmful." 

5. While challenging, it's not impossible to change our minds, the authors said. It requires people to make the most informed decision and modify these decisions when new scientific evidence about the novel virus inevitably arises. "This nasty, mysterious virus will require us all to change our minds as scientists learn more, and we may have to give up some practices and beliefs about it that we now feel sure of," the authors said. 

Read the full article here

More articles on strategy: 
Pandemic will force rural hospitals to consolidate, Oregon hospital CEO predicts
Many hospitals continuing elective procedures as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise
Roadmap to reopening your hospital: 4 takeaways from the AHA

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