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Cognitive Dissonance and ADHD | Part I: Cognitive Dissonance

Does this sound like us?
Does this sound like us?

There is an old theory of behavior called Cognitive Dissonance. It suggests that some behaviors, if not all, result from conflicts in our beliefs.

An example would be if we believe in Creationism and Evolutionism both, yet know they conflict at their roots, we might behave in a manner that would reduce the dissonance that these conflicting beliefs would cause.

We might rationalize the creationists time frame, clearly at odds with science’s earth age information, as being an analogy of the same thing, we might tell ourselves that even though we have learned so many facts about evolution, we still don’t know what truly set it in motion, perhaps that is the miracle of creation. Or we may choose, consciously or not, to avoid learning too much of either school of thought in order to retain a level of knowledge that avoids additional conflict.

Big stuff and little stuff

But Cognitive Dissonance is still at play in our day to day lives, still active even in the little things we do and say, if this theory is in fact reality.

Experiments show that if a less than desirable activity is performed individually by a group of subjects, and each one is rewarded at different levels from no reward at all to substantial reward, there is an odd reverse opinion of the activity. The less the reward, the more generous is the subsequent opinion of the activity. In other words, when asked after performing the task, those who were rewarded little or not at all, were less judgmental of said task then those who were given greater rewards.

And here’s why …

The reason for this would seem to lie in the way we try to reduce Cognitive Dissonance. In order to perform the task, just because we were asked or because we were given a token payment, we emphasize what good we can about the task and de-emphasize the undesirable aspects. This allows us to justify to ourselves having given our time and energy to doing something that had little or no intrinsic reward.

An old theory?

At the beginning of this post I called this an old theory. In reality, it isn’t that old. Cognitive Dissonance was first referred to by Leon Festinger in his 1956 book: When Prophecy Fails. In 1957 he expanded on Cognitive Dissonance in his book called A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. In 1959, I was born. In 1980, the DSM-III first used the phrase Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and in 1987, the DSM-III-R started using the name Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

What’s the connection?

Lets consider the possibility that there is a connection … in Friday’s post shall we? Today, I’m kind of vexed about my having skimmed over the whole Creationist/Evolutionist conflict by avoiding learning much about either …

See you Friday for “Cognitive Dissonance and ADHD | Part II: ADHD”
Cognitive Dissonance and ADHD | Part I: Cognitive Dissonance

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). Cognitive Dissonance and ADHD | Part I: Cognitive Dissonance. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 8, 2019, from


Last updated: 8 Sep 2013
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