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Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a theory put forth by Festinger and others which derives from the view that "when our behavior does not reflect our beliefs we will experience dissonance: a conflict between our intellect and our actions" (Huber and Wien 25). We receive messages from our surroundings all the time which may challenge our assumptions, our beliefs, or our behaviors, and we may continue behaviors which counter these messages even if we believe the message as well. Young people are assaulted with media images, messages from peers, messages from teachers, and messages from parents and other adults which the behavior of these young people may go against, creating cognitive dissonance as they learn one lesson and act out another at the same time. We can see this in certain behaviors which young people know are bad for them but in which they may indulge in any case, such as drinking, smoking, having sexual relations (perhaps unprotected in an age when everyone knows better), and other high risk behavior.

Consider alcohol use among young people. In an era of concern over drug abuse, an era in which this concern is directed most often at so-called "hard" drugs such as cocaine and crack, alcohol remains the most consumed drug among adolescents and a major health problem for this population (Lewis 64). The problem is severe: Marks cites evidence showing that the use of alcohol can be seen as part of an adolescent tendency toward risk-taking behavior, including such behavior as cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and reckless driving or other dare-devil exploits, all of which constitute the most common causes of death during adolescence, whether by accident, suicide, or homicide. In terms of drug abuses, the statistics show that alcohol remains the "drug of choice" for the majority of adolescents, and surveys have shown that two-thirds of all American high school seniors questioned had used alcohol at least once in the pre...

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Cognitive dissonance. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 06:57, May 28, 2020, from