The moment comes, your first opportunity to show your smarts around behaviour change, but like a deer in the headlights, heart pumping, dry mouth, you scramble to remember that article you read about optimism bias…just like that, your moment has passed.

Vowing never to let anyone suffer the same fate as I did, I’ve put together a series of consumer hacks aimed at giving you a quick boost of 10 iQ points in any client meeting.

Consumer Hack No. 3: Cognitive dissonance – We fight to create consistencies between our beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.


Example – Let’s look at something that almost everyone has been exposed to: smoking.

If you were to ask someone who smokes why they do it they will give you a myriad of responses. Consistently you will find that they will have a self-justified reason for smoking, even though they know it’s bad for them.

Why is this?

In their mind, a conflict (‘dissonance’) will arise between their behaviour – ‘smoking’, and their belief – ‘smoking kills’.

When our mind comes across such conflicts, it looks to resolve it. To do so, the smoker has a few options:

  1. Change their behaviour – stop smoking
  2. Change their belief – smoking doesn’t kill
  3. Change their attitude – I’m only a “social smoker”

If we look at these three options: (1) stopping smoking is difficult because of the nicotine addiction; (2) convincing yourself that smoking doesn’t kill is also difficult with the undeniable proof; (3) so, telling yourself that you’re only a “social smoker”, or that you only live once (YOLO), quickly becomes the option of least resistance.

Takeaway – Every consumer decision involves a conflict between at least two of the core areas: Behaviour, Belief, or Attitude. Next time you’re working on your year planning, you should recommend mapping out the cognitive dissonance that stops people from engaging with your brand. By understanding where the conflicts occur, you are able to direct your effort toward the most effective means of encouraging engagement with your brand.

Winning – 10 IQ points achieved.

Now, let’s make things a little more personal. If you were an American voting for our good friend D-Trump last week, then you probably had dissonance with some part of your decision to vote for him. Whether it was his wall building threat, or his sexist connotations, it’s likely that some area of his policy didn’t align with your beliefs or attitudes. However, for the majority, this didn’t change their behaviour to vote for him, as he smartly understood how to remove the dissonance by aligning with the beliefs and attitudes they valued the most.

Until next time, we can only hope Trump succeeds.