by Grace Garland | Published on 27 May 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter
If you have ever promised yourself the night before that you’ll go for a run in the morning, and then you don’t, you have experienced ‘cognitive dissonance’. It is that uneasy feeling when your beliefs and your actions are not in sync. So, you really want to go for a run and you have aspirations of maintaining an active lifestyle but, now that it comes to it, the bed is warm, you’re tired, and the extra rest will do you good. The twinge of guilt is easily rationalised away, you roll over, and never quite become the runner you want to be. The pattern looks something like this: (1) form a belief about something important, (2) fail to find it or bring it about in actuality, (3) suffer some mental discomfort. It can happen in just about any context, and to varying degrees of severity. The environmentalist who eats meat knows the feeling. The smoker desperate to quit knows the feeling. The ethics professional who submits an inflated expense claim knows the feeling.