Exploring the Psychological Barriers to Change


Present Notes:

– Our on-line program My Brownble

– Our Why Vegan Series of Episodes within the Podcast (episodes 133-139) 



Cognitive dissonance was a time period created and investigated by social psychologist Leon Festinger within the Nineteen Fifties when he was learning the consequences that occurred when a cult he was learning was confronted with an unrealized prophecy of a flood that might destroy the world. When the flood didn’t happen, the members of the cult had been confronted with a battle between their beliefs and what had occurred, and whereas a few of the members of the cult needed to come to phrases and acknowledge that the cult was primarily based on false premises, lots of the cult members selected to re-interpret the scenario fully, saying it was exactly due to their religion that the flood didn’t happen and never solely did they not cease following the cult, however they began to develop into extra energetic in it, getting concerned in behaviors like preaching to different cult members and increasing the cult’s attain much more.

That is the origin of Leon Festinger’s idea, however what does it imply within the sensible sense? What’s cognitive dissonance and why am I sharing this idea when connecting it to our relationship with meals, behavior adjustments and veganism.

In One Sentence, What’s Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is an inside state of discomfort that occurs when our behaviors don’t match our perception programs or attitudes in the direction of one thing.

All of us have totally different attitudes in the direction of totally different elements of life: a few of us are environmentalists which suggests now we have a optimistic perspective in the direction of insurance policies and actions that can assist shield the surroundings. We will have a detrimental perspective in the direction of smoking. A optimistic perspective in the direction of recycling. We now have beliefs in the case of social points like immigration, abortion, animal rights, human rights. An perspective is mainly our favorable or unfavorable analysis of something we encounter: a motion, an motion, a system, a political situation, a social situation, a factor, a spot, an individual, and so on.

These attitudes or beliefs are related to our actions in very huge methods. Our attitudes have an effect on our behaviors as a result of we search consistency between our beliefs and actions, however our conduct may also have an effect on our attitudes or beliefs and it’s on this realm the place we’ll be specializing in at present.

When our conduct contradicts or is in opposition to our attitudes, there’s a sense of unease, a sense of discomfort that as human beings we wish to keep away from and never really feel, because it offers us nice psychological discomfort.

In accordance with cognitive dissonance idea, when confronted with this discomfort, human beings normally do one among two issues:

– They maintain on to any excuse that can assist justify their conduct to allow them to keep on (this occurs particularly once we are supplied a big incentive or there’s a giant consequence for doing one thing that goes in opposition to our beliefs (we will simply excuse our conduct due to it, and cut back cognitive dissonance by doing so).


– They really change their perception or perspective to eradicate the discomfort.

The speculation additionally describes how typically, with this discomfort, persons are probably not making an attempt to eradicate the dissonance however truly rationalize the dissonance. We additionally, other than making makes an attempt to scale back cognitive dissonance will select to not expose ourselves to data that may increase our cognitive dissonance (that is typically what is going on when as vegans we encounter individuals who say “please don’t inform me, I do know I’m by no means going to cease consuming meat, so please don’t inform me about what the animals undergo in these industries. I do know it’s most likely horrible however I don’t wish to know.”).

Examples of Cognitive Dissonance and our Each day Habits

I wish to use just a few non-food associated examples for example cognitive dissonance earlier than we get into our favourite matter which is meals: 

– Smoking: We all know it has very severe penalties to our well being, but a smoker continues to take action as a result of it’s develop into a behavior or it makes them really feel good). Some people who smoke will take care of the discomfort that disharmony or dissonance offers them till lastly it helps them make the choice to give up (aka they determine to vary the conduct), nevertheless it’s potential that whereas they the place in that course of they excused the continuation of that conduct by perhaps saying “I’m too careworn now to provide it up, I’ll strive to take action later”, or “it’s very arduous to give up and I don’t really feel prepared proper now with every little thing I’ve obtained happening”. Different people who smoke although, will proceed smoking, and in an effort to cut back that cognitive dissonance they’re going to change their perspective or perception by maybe saying that the analysis is unfounded, that it’s inconclusive, aka they’ll change the perspective or perception as a substitute of the conduct.

– Recycling: We all know that recycling is vital, now we have an perspective of wanting to scale back waste and assist shield the surroundings. If someday we’re much less diligent about how we recycle, we’ll really feel the cognitive dissonance or that discomfort and we’ll both excuse it “I’m so busy at present and I’d take the additional steps if I weren’t so busy”, or we would by means of time determine “solely a small proportion of what we put within the recycling bin may even be recycled so why even trouble”, and naturally, a few of us may take the discomfort as somewhat inside sign to realign, retrace our steps and do what we have to do, which means reengage within the conduct that’s aligned with our perspective or perception (on this case, we are literally withstanding a little bit of the discomfort and take the steps to rectify it to scale back it by performing in accordance to our values).

– Getting sufficient sleep: Understanding that sufficient sleep is linked to optimistic well being outcomes however nonetheless persevering with to disregard the suggestions and get sufficient sleep

– Saving cash: We’re making an attempt to make an effort to save cash for an vital aim and but we proceed to overspend in issues we do not really want.

– Having to review (or attain a piece aim): Valuing an academic or work aim we have positioned upon ourselves and both not setting the time to work on it, or overworking ourselves and never getting sufficient time to relaxation although we all know it is counterproductive.

Examples of Cognitive Dissonance Associated to Going Vegan and Our Consumption of Animal Merchandise: 

– We all know that animal agriculture is extraordinarily damaging to the surroundings however proceed to buy these merchandise.

– We love and shield some animals (our canine, cats, bunnies, pets and admire and respect wildlife), however we flip away from the exploitation of domesticated animals for meals.

– We’re horrified by the consumption of canine in different cultures and the horrible therapy of them, but we proceed to eat different animals.

– We’re horrified by what we’ve heard or seen concerning manufacturing unit farms, however we proceed to eat animals which were raised in them (for instance, selecting totally different options when buying meals for our properties, however ignoring the difficulty when consuming out at eating places).

 – Being in opposition to animal testing however persevering with to buy merchandise examined on animals. 


We additionally expertise it as vegans inside our social circles:

– Having kindness as the primary worth behind your choice to go vegan however missing kindness when speaking to non-vegan associates or household, or when speaking to former vegans.

– I even really feel after accompanying so many college students at Brownble by means of their journeys that cognitive dissonance performs a giant position within the dynamics of {our relationships} with non vegans when even after extended intervals of time with somebody who doesn’t perceive our selections, selecting to return to consuming animals ourselves is a strategy to cut back cognitive dissonance and hold the peace within the relationship (which is in fact, as all choices associated to the best way you eat are, legitimate, remembering that you simply all the time have autonomy with meals and way of life selections, and autonomy can also be on the core of vegan values).

Examples of cognitive dissonance associated to our relationship with meals and physique picture:

– Understanding {that a} balanced food plan consists of all crucial meals teams and is greater than that one particular person selection, however nonetheless persevering with to limit sure meals or meals teams with out a medical necessity.

 – Being variety to associates, youngsters and different family members in the case of how they view their our bodies and any self perceived “imperfections”, however holding ourselves to a unique normal and berating ourselves over how our our bodies ought to look.

 – Understanding that train is well being selling however not incorporating some type of motion you take pleasure in into your day if that is potential for you.

 – Understanding that train must be balanced and shouldn’t develop into obsessive, however pushing ourselves to the restrict.

 – Understanding that train has so many advantages to our psychological well being and that one strategy to incorporate it in a wholesome approach is to unlink it from weight or physique outcomes, and nonetheless our solely motivation to train is altering our physique dimension.

If any of those discrepancies between our values, perception programs and attitudes and our conduct causes inside unease, we’re experiencing cognitive dissonance.

Nonetheless, it isn’t about perfection: All of us expertise cognitive dissonance

All of us expertise cognitive dissonance, even vegans whereas they’re on this journey, even animal rights activists, even somebody with a really balanced and wholesome relationship with meals, even somebody who’s going by means of the method of restoration.

It’s a part of being imperfect people, and residing in an imperfect world.

So first, an enormous dose of compassion for you if you end up on this area typically. You aren’t alone, it’s a part of our situation as human beings. Cognitive dissonance is a lot on the root of our everlasting dance between “perfection” and “imperfection”, and in the case of sure points, a few of us won’t even wish to be taught or see (this typically occurs in the case of the problems behind animal exploitation or human exploitation), as a result of we all know that data will create discomfort if we don’t act on this new data.

This has occurred to all of us. This was actually the case for me.

That is additionally why I’m right here. We created this area that will help you when making extra vegan selections or going vegan, regardless of the place you wish to take this journey and that call is all yours. I’m additionally right here bringing you a unique perspective, to assist carry you the sources that helped me heal years of an unhealthy relationship with meals and physique picture, and fairly often on this journey, we’re going to encounter cognitive dissonance.

We’d wish to discover these excuses to carry on to, we’re going to wish to discover methods to vary our attitudes and beliefs to scale back that discomfort, however we will nonetheless carry ahead.

Step one is knowing cognitive dissonance. Giving a reputation to that feeling we get of not performing in keeping with our beliefs. Understanding that it’s a traditional a part of the method and that there are these two virtually computerized paths that we are going to wish to take, however that we will additionally sit with it for a bit. Sit with the discomfort, be taught from it and make a unique choice even when now we have to take care of an imperfect selection.


Some Sensible and Actionable Suggestions

I wish to depart you with some actionable methods to start out navigating this bumpy terrain:

 – Educating ourselves:

 One of many methods we will cut back cognitive dissonance is by including new beliefs into the roster:

  •  Studying extra in regards to the situation you’re coping with. Studying extra, not much less about animal agriculture and these industries and our consumption habits.
  •  Studying extra and never much less about how our consumption habits influence different social justice points.
  •  Studying extra in regards to the detrimental position restriction performs in our relationship with meals.
  •  Studying extra in regards to the different social determinants of well being that are so typically ignored.
  •  Studying extra about indicators of disordered consuming and restrictive consuming.
  •  Studying extra about how society has slowly however absolutely given us just one picture of well being or one picture of magnificence.

 – Taking it slowly however absolutely:

  •  Gradual adjustments will typically assist us greater than going all in, . Perceive that you’re on this journey and that all through the method there might be moments by which you made an imperfect selection. We use these moments as our largest lecturers and we transfer on.

– Accountability and assist

  •  Holding myself accountable was an vital a part of the puzzle for me, and mixing that with variety assist from others gives you a sturdy base as a result of the journey will doubtless be a winding highway. Having somebody to each perceive what you’re making an attempt to realize and produce you encouragement might be enormous.


– Mindfulness and self reflection

  •  It’s why I already acknowledged that probably the most vital issues we will do is perceive cognitive dissonance. Identify it, acknowledge it when it occurs. Mindfulness or that act of paying variety consideration to your thought patterns, your emotions, will enable you be conscious in your actions in return. Self reflection and creating this talent goes hand in hand with that.


– Celebrating wins and understanding losses

  •  How typically are we centered on what we didn’t do proper and ignore the maybe numerous optimistic steps we additionally took. Give your self variety consideration within the wins regardless of how small, to start out shifting this bias in the direction of trying solely on the errors made.


– Perceive that any behavior change is a course of

  •  Asking perfection of your self in these areas is similar as asking a father or mother who desires to coach their little one in a form, respectful and optimistic strategy to by no means lose their endurance, or like asking that smoker to by no means strive once more in the event that they didn’t give up as soon as. Change will take time and endurance and self compassion will enable you navigate no matter occurs alongside the best way.


Understanding the psychology behind a few of our behaviors and impulses is all the time useful when making an attempt to vary ingrained habits, and even once we really feel these icky emotions of cognitive dissonance, once we perceive it, we will pause, we will be taught, and we will kindly assist ourselves transfer ahead.


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