Cognitive dissonance is what we feel when the self-concept — I’m smart, I’m kind, I’m convinced this belief is true — is threatened by evidence that we did something that wasn’t smart, that we did something that hurt another person, that the belief isn’t true. To reduce dissonance, we have to modify the self-concept or accept the evidence. Guess which route people prefer?
We cling to old ways of doing things, even when new ways are better and healthier and smarter. We cling to self-defeating beliefs long past their shelf life. And we make our partners, co-workers, parents and kids really, really mad at us.
Carol Tavris quotes in the New York Times and co-author of the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)