I would say: Yes and No.
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them. According to this theory, when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people do all in their power to change them until they become consistent. The discomfort is triggered by the person’s belief clashing with new information perceived, wherein they try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.
In an age of fake news, fake science, fake media, we are constantly faced with doubts whether something is believable. Never being certain about the facts leads to doubts and contradictions, and in turn, cognitive dissonance.
Ironically our era of mass consumption also leads to uncertainties. Who hasn’t experience the doubts surrounding purchasing a product or service. Have I got the best price? Could I get it cheaper if I wait? Is there an equivalent cheaper alternative? All these questions also lead to doubts and uncertainty.
This concept isn’t new, FUD - Fear, Uncertain and Doubt has long been used a PR tool. In marketing, FUD is intended to trigger irrational decision making. Making people buy things I didn’t want to purchase. (As a side note, FUD could also refer to Fake Unverified Disinformation in todays world.)
FUD and Cognitive dissonance are related and one can lead to the other. Both lead to individuals making irrational decisions. When does this become a problem? Is this a problem? I think everyone can judge this for themselves.
Stepping this up, what happens to a society if a majority of individuals are in a state of FUD or suffer from constant cognitive dissonance?
We are living through a global pandemic with a good majority of humans suffering directly or indirectly. Suffering in numerous ways: personal tragedies, financially, mentally, physically, …
We have a climate emergency, no longer a climate change.
Before these crisis, we had world hungry, famine and poverty. These things haven’t gone away, they have only been buried by everything else.
Where will all this take us?
Having defeatist or negative outlook in uncertain times is one thing, more scary are the consequences of fatalism. The assumption being that we can’t change anything because we are living in a preordained society where nothing changes. And nothing changes is the impression we get when we read the news — scandal after scandal, but no one is brought to justice. Rich getting richer, the poor poorer.
If nothing can be changed then the clocks would stop ticking. This is not the case.
Do we find relief in a global spiritual awakening? Here I include reconnecting to Nature, personal religious rediscoveries, connecting with the universe or simply reconnecting to oneself.
For me, spiritualism is something opposite to individualism since it always, regardless of the type of spiritualism, involves taking the perspective of something larger than oneself. A kind of new-age socialism perhaps?
Having a holistic view instead of the day-to-day centric view.
I hope not.
My personal opinion is that individual greed and envy got us to where we are. Further: I would say that as a species, that is homo sapiens, we continual try to be individualists. As a species, we disconnected from Nature disconnecting from our life support system and disconnecting from the holistic interconnected ecosystem.
In my lifetime, it was our use of tools that differentiate us from other species. Until it turned out that out species also used tools. Then it was our ability to communicate, until it was found that other species also communicate. Now it’s our ability to have thoughts …
I summed some of this up in our assumptions of being at the top of the evolutionary tree. Interestingly current research points out that symbiosis played a deciding role in evolution.
In a nutshell: evolution was kicked off by one-celled organisms getting together and mutually helping each other.
In the end, some things will change, others won’t. We will muddle through without the regularly predicted world revolution or the world ending.
We can make change, its just sometimes hard to hear the whispers in a world where everyone is shouting.
Finally: remember, every single one of us alive today is descended from people that survived. Our ancestors survived wars, famine, slavery, religion pogrom and many other unimaginable horrors. We’re tough enough to get through this.
Having talked about all the negative aspects of cognitive dissonance and to cause certain amount of cognitive dissonance.
Here is an aeon article that argues that cognitive dissonance can be used to escape ingrained ideas and beliefs by forcing oneself into a mental conflict situation. Who would have thought.