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Emotional Intelligence in Relation to Cognitive Dissonance

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2585 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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This paper explains the significance of the relationship between emotional intelligence and cognitive dissonance. It can be concluded that being cognizant of one’s own emotions and determining how to manage them correctly is a skill necessary for a successful life. Cognitive dissonance occurs because humans strive for consistency; inconsistencies cause discomfort to humans. A person with a higher level of emotional intelligence is subject to stronger feelings of cognitive dissonance due to the fact that they are intelligent enough to recognize and question the inconsistencies in everyday life. Through sources, it has been established that one’s reaction to cognitive dissonance determines their emotional intelligence. There are three ways to handle cognitive dissonance in order to minimize discomfort: change one’s beliefs, change one’s actions, or rationalize. While peoples’ level of emotional intelligence varies from person to person, it is a skill that can be improved upon. It is important to develop one’s emotional intelligence to a high level because by managing emotions well, people can move towards life satisfaction. The level of one’s emotional intelligence affects one’s quality of life and life satisfaction.

Key words: cognitive dissonance, emotional intelligence, life satisfaction, rationalize

Emotional Intelligence in Relation to Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the state of conflict within one’s own mind, when one’s mind disagrees with itself.  Whereas cognitive dissonance is a dispute within one’s mind, emotional intelligence is the ability to process and sense the emotions of one’s self and others. Both of these theories are beneficial to each other because one’s response to cognitive dissonance is a direct reflection of one’s emotional intelligence.

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The intelligence quotient, IQ, is the standard way to measure one’s intelligence. Many argue that IQ is not an accurate way to determine the true intellect of someone because there are factors that the test does not determine. (Serrat, 2009). The argument is that IQ is too narrow of a test because while some may be academically intelligent, they could also be socially inept (Serrat, 2009). This is where emotional intelligence comes into play; it is the ability to understand, process, and resolve one’s own emotions and the emotions of those around them (Mayer & Salovey, as cited in Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015). For example, someone who can keep their temper and grace in awkward and uncomfortable situations is one who possesses a sound level of emotional intelligence. This character trait is given when a human is born, although it can be learned and is shown to increase with age (Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015). Understanding the importance and relevance of emotional intelligence is crucial for navigating obstacles in life.

There are five key domains critical to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness, and social skills (Serrat, 2009). Working on these five categories will help in developing emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize one’s emotions and impact they have on others. One must know their strengths and limits for this (Serrat, 2009). Another concept in emotional intelligence, as explained by Olivier Serrat, (2009) is self-regulation. This is control over one’s own emotions and impulses. Self-regulation involves having a high standard of honesty and integrity while also assuming responsibility for one’s actions (Serrat, 2009). The next concept is self-motivation, which is the drive within to achieve excellence with optimism, despite encountering any setbacks (Serrat, 2009). The fourth category Serrat (2009) elaborates on is social awareness. This is having empathy for others and putting someone else’s needs before their own (Serrat, 2009). The last concept of emotional intelligence is social skills (Serrat, 2009). This is understanding how to communicate with others, lead a group efficiently, and resolve disagreements (Serrat, 2009). It is important to know these domains and improve on them because these five concepts are the basis for developing emotional intelligence.

The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance is built upon the idea of consistency; humans strive towards consistency (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). Cognitive dissonance is when one’s beliefs contradict one’s actions and the person subject to this contradiction feels discomfort. Leon Festinger is best known for creating this theory in 1957 (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). He elaborates that when there are inconsistencies in life, humans rationalize them in order to minimize psychological discomfort (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). Recognition of inconsistency will cause dissonance. Simple, minute tasks can cause cognitive dissonance (Fontanari, Perlovsky, Bonniot-Cabanac, Cabanac, n.d). Fontanari explains in, Emotions of Cognitive Dissonance, that an everyday choice such as “tea or coffee”, will create cognitive dissonance within oneself, even if just a miniscule amount. Another example of cognitive dissonance is being environmentally conscious, but then buying a car that has bad gas mileage and pollutes the environment. This contradicts itself because, while the person is wanting to help the environment, they are driving a car that is hurting the environment. This person is then subject to feelings of cognitive dissonance because although he knows what is right, he purchased a car that goes against his beliefs anyways, creating feelings of inconsistency within himself.

It has been established that how one deals with their cognitive dissonance determines their level of emotional intelligence. Cognitive dissonance causes discomfort within oneself and how one deals with that reveals their level of emotional maturity and intelligence. This is not to say people with a low emotional intelligence are emotionally immature. Having a high emotional intelligence allows people to interpret emotions in a straightforward, healthy way (Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015). They understand how to deal with emotions in a way that does not negatively impact anyone. Being emotionally intelligent enough to recognize the inconsistencies in everyday life will cause one to experience more cognitive dissonance because humans strive for consistency. People with a high emotional intelligence are able to process emotions better than most people, therefore they will experience more cognitive dissonance because they will question more things. It is beneficial to have a high emotional intelligence because one can understand what their emotions mean and react to these emotions appropriately.  One’s response to cognitive dissonance has a direct relationship with their emotional intelligence.

When dealing with cognitive dissonance, there are three ways to handle it: change one’s beliefs, change one’s actions, or rationalize. The first way, changing one’s belief, would mean to changing one’s moral code. If someone smokes every day knowing it is bad for their health but continues to do it, that is cognitive dissonance (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). To handle the cognitive dissonance, one could change their belief about smoking cigarettes and tell themselves it is not bad to smoke. Changing one’s belief is, in reality, lying to oneself; which is a dysfunctional cognitive schema. A cognitive schema may cause feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and self-deflecting, which is why this is a problematic way to handle cognitive dissonance (Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015). The next way, changing one’s actions, would mean to stop doing what is causing cognitive dissonance. For example, if one drinks coffee every day knowing too much caffeine is bad, to handle the cognitive dissonance they could either stop drinking coffee or drink decaffeinated coffee (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). The third way to handle cognitive dissonance is to change one’s perception, or rationalize (Tsang, 2002). For example, if one accepted a dinner party invitation and rejected an invitation to a rock concert, this person could try and rationalize by thinking of only negative things about the concert and only positive things about the dinner party to feel more satisfied with their decision (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). Cognitive dissonance is handled differently from person to person, knowing how to handle it in a healthy way is essential.

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 Moral rationalization is the process humans use to convince themselves that behavior that violates their moral standards, is in fact, actually acceptable (Tsang, 2002). People use moral rationalization as a response to their internal feelings of cognitive dissonance in order to reduce their discomfort (Metin & Metin-Camgoz, 2011). This is an action done in order to avoid guilt (Tsang, 2002). Moral rationalization is a normal psychological phenomenon and is present in minor acts, such as cheating on taxes, as well as on monumental acts such as the Holocaust or the Ku Klux Klan (Tsang, 2002). To minimize cognitive dissonance in situations like this, the individual committing violence against members of another group will establish hostile attitudes toward their victims (Acharya, Blackwell, & Sen, 2018). When rationalization is taken to the extreme, sometimes horrific, evil acts are produced as a result (Tsang, 2002). Moral rationalization plays a significant role in allowing one to participate in immoral behavior while still viewing oneself as moral. This results in this individual taking this behavior to the extreme (Tsang, 2002). Understanding moral rationalization will help individuals to attempt to understand events such as the Holocaust and why the world allowed such evil to be successful. It also helps individuals to understand why people act immorally, yet claim to hold themselves to high standards (Tsang, 2002). Although rationalization has its benefits as a coping method for cognitive dissonance, it would be healthier for society if everyone was not so heavily influenced by moral rationalization.

During the developmental stages of emotional intelligence, individuals are inclined to using dysfunctional cognitive schemas (Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015). A schema is the framework of the mind, such as memories, beliefs, emotions, and thoughts. Schemas have a tendency to make one feel depressed, anxious, angry, and self-deflecting (Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015). The troubling part for individuals and cognitive schemas is the experience of being consumed by their negative emotions and not understanding how to manage the intensity of these feelings. As a result, some turn to problematic methods of coping. For instance, to cope, one might turn to drug abuse, panic attacks, alcohol abuse, depression, or bulimia (Dimitriu & Negrescu, 2015).

People with a higher emotional intelligence are linked to living a more successful and satisfied life than those with a regular or low emotional intelligence (Jain, 2015). By developing their emotional intelligence individuals can become more productive and successful at what they do, while also helping others become more productive and successful too. Success is not always followed by those with a high IQ, because now in the work industry, the criteria for jobs is not just being smart, but also how one handles themselves and those around them (Serrat, 2009). Being able to work with people and understand them is an important life skill to have and will make it easier to become successful. Emotional intelligence is helpful in work-related scenarios because of the benefits for the individual person such as organizational productivity and understanding people’s behavior, attitudes, and potential (Serrat, 2009). It is significantly important in human resource planning, recruitment interviewing, recruitment selection, customer service, and client relations (Serrat, 2009). Some people are more gifted with emotional intelligence, but it may also be learned. By managing emotions well people can easily face a number of challenges in their lives and move towards life satisfaction.

  In today’s era, emotional intelligence is essential and beneficial. It is perceived as one of the most important elements in a person’s success. It is commonly believed that one’s EQ determines true intelligence, rather than one’s IQ. Having a high EQ helps one thrive socially. In order to be around other people and interact with them daily, one must know how to do that successfully. Emotional intelligence stimulates motivation, reduces stress, and improves communication between people. It is also attributed to successful relationships. The level of one’s emotional intelligence affects one’s quality of life and one’s life satisfaction.

Life satisfaction, as explained by Ruut Veenohven, is the degree to which a person effectively and positively evaluates the quality their own life (Jain, 2015). Life satisfaction can also be defined as happiness; achieving satisfaction of life is the ultimate goal of life. Complete satisfaction looks different to everyone, as happiness is subjective. Life satisfaction depends on one’s outlook on life and one’s outlook on life can be determined by how they interpret emotions (Jain, 2015). If one has an optimistic outlook, then that thinking will help him to achieve a successful life.

In conclusion, being able to understand the emotions of oneself and those around them is proven to bring success to one’s life. How cognitive dissonance is handled determines the level of one’s emotional intelligence. The higher one’s emotional intelligence is, the more satisfied they are with life. Life satisfaction is more prominent in people with a higher emotional intelligence because of how their internal struggle with cognitive dissonance is handled.


  • Acharya, A., Blackwell, M., Sen, M. (2018). Explaining Preferences from Behavior: A Cognitive Dissonance Approach. The Journal of Politics, 80(2), 1-12.
  • Dimitriu, O., Negrescu, M. (2015). Emotional intelligence and the tendency to use dysfunctional cognitive schemas. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 187, 301-306.
  • Fontanari, J.F., Perlovsky, L.I., Bonniot-Cabanac, M.-C., Cabanac, M. (n.d.). Emotions of Cognitive Dissonance. International Proceedings of Joint Conference on Neutral Networks, n.v, n.p.
  • Jain, D. R. (2015). Emotional intelligence & its relationship with life satisfaction. Research Gate, n.v., n.p.
  • Metin, I., Camgoz, S. M. (2011). Advances in the history of cognitive dissonance theory. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 1(6), 131-136.
  • Serrat, O. (2009). Understanding and developing emotional intelligence. Knowledge Solutions,n.v., 1-11.
  • Tsang, J. (2002). Moral Rationalization and the Integration of Situational Factors and Psychological Process in Immoral Behavior. Review of General Psychology, 6(1),25-50.


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