Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

Last Sunday I went to youth group and Shannon asked me to speak about how sin is a conflict for my relationship with God. She asked me last minute so I only had fifteen or so minutes to really prepare. I am a spiritual person you could say, but I'm also a practical person. I believe in a God, and a Jesus who saved us. I also believe that our very existence is a miracle. The complexity of our bodies and minds is incredible. The psychology of the mind can be applied to any aspect of one's life.

So psychologically, how does sin conflict us with our relationship with God? Cognitive Dissonance. When out behavior doesn't math our beliefs, there is a psychological conflict. This can also occur if we hold two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. This caused stress stress to the person experiencing the conflict. The only way that this stress can be relieved is if the belief or the behavior changes. This is why over time beliefs can change.

For example, in most Christian religions it us taught not to drink alcohol. From a young age a Christian would be taught this. They would most likely grow to hold this value true. As a Christian reaches high school and college and is exposed to alcohol and starts to drink, they will experience guilt. To reduce this guilt, they will start to think differently about alcohol.

Another example of this seeing an apple high in a tree and trying to pick it. Once realizing the apple is to high and there is no way of reaching it, we justify our decision by thinking the apple was probably not ripe or not worth eating anyway.

Knowing how cognitive dissonance works in a normally functioning person helps us understand how someone with a mental illness would process the information. In a psychological disorder, if these logical connections are not apparent, it can cause a psychotic episode from the stress of conflicting beliefs.


  1. cool. would have loved to have heard your talk.

    a post by John Hagel that might be of interest to you Michelle.. on the neurobiology of passion:

  2. Excellent Write up, Cognitive dissonance isn’t always something bad — it has been successfully used to help people change their unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. | Psychologist NJ