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MCAT Psychology Question — Cognitive Dissonance

In which of the following scenarios is the subject most exhibiting cognitive dissonance?


A. A wealthy businessman who never got a college degree pushes his daughter to attend an expensive private university.

B. An oncologist who knows the dangers of smoking nonetheless continues to experience pleasure when smoking.

C. A successful attorney feels pride when her daughter is admitted to a top law school.

D. A grief counselor feels guilt after the death of a loved one because he chooses not to seek help for the significant negative effects of his grief.

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Cognitive dissonance asserts that people will feel distress when they hold conflicting attitudes or beliefs, or when the exhibit behavior that is inconsistent with their beliefs. In this question, the grief counselor in (D) is experiencing cognitive dissonance (guilt). He is a grief counselor himself, but chooses not to seek out the help such counselors can provide, which leads to mental distress.

A. We don’t know whether the businessman believes that education is valuable or not and we don’t know how he feels about sending his daughter to an expensive private university.

B. The oncologist has conflicting beliefs and behaviors, but here we’re told he continues to experience pleasure, rather than distress.

C. The attorney’s beliefs and attitudes are consonant here. With no dissonance between beliefs, there is no cognitive dissonance.

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