Animals and Cognitive Dissonance

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What is Cognitive Dissonance?


Cognitive Dissonance

[ˈkΓ€Ι‘nΙ™div ˈdisΙ™nΙ™ns]



Cognitive Dissonance is the perception of contradictory information. The state has inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

It can be felt in many ways such as anxiety, depression, or anger. It can also be because of the lack of knowledge about the subject, which can cause a person to become biased.

History of Cognitive Dissonance

The term cognitive dissonance was coined in the year 1957 by American psychologist Leon Festinger. Cognitive dissonance appears in many aspects of human behavior.

An example is a person who knows that smoking cigarette is bad and can cause cancer, its best to not smoke but, continues to smoke them anyway. Another one can be a person who knows that exercising is good for health but continues to live a sedentary life. When this internal discomfort is brought to light people justify their thoughts in different ways. For the examples above, β€œI don’t smoke that much!” and β€œI’m too busy to exercise.”

Cognitive Dissonance When It Comes To Animals

For the case of animal β€œlovers”  who love to eat meat, the dissonance they experience is similar. They justify killing some animals while loving others. Many meat-eaters suffer from cognitive dissonance. What they actually mean when they say, β€œI love animals” is only a few species of animals, like cats and dogs.

People often justify their eating animals with things like, β€œThe animals I eat are bred for that purpose”, β€œThey do feel pain”, β€œWe need to eat animals to stay healthy” or, even something really stupid as β€œWhat will happen to the farmers if we all stop eating animals?!”

When someone puts forth these arguments it only shows just how unaware they are about animals, the environment, etc. As a vegan, I can say that the discomfort they feel is important for them to change. Some people will act quickly and learn more some will take more time and still never change. Pointing out the cognitive dissonance is the beginning of the change for many.

A study showing how meat-eating reduces moral concern for animals in an attempt to justify eating meat vs how eating vegetables, nuts, seeds increases it. This study shows how cognitive dissonance can be cemented by just the food we eat.

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