Holding two conflicting thoughts and beliefs can easily result in the upheaval of human rationalization. Cognitive dissonance forces individuals to perform actions that bring about psychological discomfort, thus, influences apposite decision making. However, cognitive dissonance is vital for psychological development in human beings. For example, cheating on taxes will cause cognitive dissonance for an individual, as the person is stuck between performing moral actions and fulfilling a financial need. However, dissonance allows individuals to make value judgments, assessments, and valuation of the situations presented to them. Understanding the influences of the cognitive dissonance on decision-making an excellent way to develop individual ability to make precise choices.
Key Words: Cognitive Dissonance, Cheating on Taxes
Normal human behavior requires that individual search for constancy in their values and discernment of the situation.Cognition refers to knowledge, which can be translated to attitude, behavior, or value (Cooper, 2007). Individuals hold a multitude of cognitions concurrently, which can be in extraneous, consonant, or dissonant interactions with each other. When an individual is faced with a dilemma on a decision to in regard to their conscience, they are said to face cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance simply put refers to the constant questioning of one’s thoughts which arises from the uncomfortable emotion when faced with a dilemma(Cooper,2007).In human life, humans are always faced with cognitive dissonance. The situation becomes predominantly noticeable when individuals are presented with situations conflicting with their self-identity. Self-identity comprises of values and beliefs that are integral to an individual’s distinctiveness. Subsequently, when individuals experience an inconsistency between their beliefs concerning behaviors, something must be done to eradicate or lessen this dissonance (Cooper, 2007).
This paper presents a description of a situation that causes cognitive dissonance. The paper explains how a certain situation influences an individual’s decision to engage in behavior that interferes with their traditional characteristics in regard to their ideologies and morality.
Cheating on Taxes
Cheating on taxes is a subject that has spawned numerous debates regarding the ethical and moral values associated with the act (Torgler, 2005). Admittedly, everyone has been in a situation where they have considered cheating on their taxes when faced with the harrowing reality that they will give up an immense amount of money that they can use to for personal gain. Indubitably, the majority of people hold the belief that cheating on taxes is immoral because it involves breaking the law (Torgler, 2005). Accordingly, most state authorities associate cheating on taxes with criminal activities and the act is prohibited in most states. However, most people believe that the amount of money spent for paying taxes can be used for personal gain, especially during this time of adverse economic tribulations. Upon a closer examination of the issue, it is evident how cognitive dissonance may result from such a situation. An individual who believes that cheating on taxes is morally wrong may have conflicting thoughts regarding the action even if it will benefit the individual in the end. On one hand, cheating on taxes is morally and ethically unacceptable, and is in actuality, punishable by law. On the other hand, the tax money is surmountable and can be used to ensure financial stability for the individual. Paying taxes implies that the individual will lose a lot of money to the IRS, which would mean lack of financial security (Torgler, 2005). Cheating on taxes will force the individual to violate her values, beliefs, and morals.
In order to lessen this dissonance between belief and actions, an individual can choose to pay their taxes or downsize the belief that cheating on taxes is immoral. Further, settling on the latter would conflict with previously held notions about morality and the concept of performing ethical actions. However, the former would reduce dissonance as it accentuates the need for moral behavior as the individual is compelled to act morally, as opposed to fulfilling their desires.
Cooper, J. (2007). Cognitive dissonance: 50 years of a classic theory. London: Sage
Torgler, B. (2005). Tax Morale in Latin America. Public Choice, 122(1/2): 133-157.
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