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Why is Cognitive Dissonance More than a Few Big Words?

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I apologize, in advance, for introducing the academic term “cognitive dissonance,” but it is an extremely valuable concept for developing business strategies.

One obvious characteristic of communication is the perceptions of the presenter and the environment within which the presenter performs his or her communication. We all know, but seldom acknowledge, that our perceptions of a presenter typically have a dramatic effect on our understanding and acceptance of the communication. The theory of “cognitive dissonance” articulates this concept and has been affirmed through years of research.

Simple examples of cognitive dissonance in play are:

  • Cognitive dissonance is one hand any kind of “bias” that affects our attitudes and perceptions of individuals and information. While it is frequently associated with race and ethnicity it is really much more pervasive. It is also widely used to by presenters of information to assure positive perceptions from their audience. Licensing agreements, celebrity endorsements, great environments are all designed to make the audience comfortable with the presentations.
  • The differentiation of “Left Brain and Right Brain” participants or younger and older members are examples of targets which require varying content and presentation because of the diversity.
  • One of the most significant aspects of “cognitive dissonance” is our perception of information. For example, I believe people don’t take enough risk. How much freedom do you allow innovative people to break rules? When do you provide support versus challenging subordinates and colleagues? While there may be analytical solutions to some of these, our predispositions are frequently more important in determining how we respond.
  • Cognitive dissonance can work in strange ways which may not always be the most equitable. A colleague of mine has a son who attends MIT and was looking for a part-time job. His mother advised all the typical preparation, like dressing nice, being prepared, and acting deferential. His school advisor said just wear the biggest MIT sweatshirt you have. He followed his advisor’s advice and the interviewer said “Oh, you go to MIT.” She then hired him, without even an interview.

Related: Decisions Should Be Based on Analytics and Intuition; Not or Intuition

Related: How Technology Stimulates Innovation and Empowerment

We frequently debate the validity, objectivity, and bias of using cognitive dissonance. However, what is important is to recognize its presence and understand how it can be a benefit. Whether it is good or bad or right and wrong is less important than it Is there.

  • You expect a consistent meal every time you walk into a McDonalds, whether it’s located in Times Square or West Texas. You expect the best in customer service every time you shop at Nordstrom’s. These factors evolve from the culture of the organization – their core values. Thus quality, consistency, and reliability become important parts of our brands.
  • In general, the audience, whether on the internet or in person, forms perceptions of a presentation in the first 90 seconds. As an admitted nerd, my presentations can be a little boring. Thus, I try to improve their acceptance rate through tools like editors, comedy, stories, and pictures. In particular, I have learned the hard way that my poor spelling has sidetracked some of my best arguments.
  • The most popular topic on cognitive dissonance these days are those regarding sexual roles. MeToo, sexual harassment, treatment of minority women, etc. have become critical in most every discussion of decisions and success.

For more information on what cognitive dissonance is, watch:

 

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