Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Cognitive Dissonance Theory would be apropos to explaining Julie’s dilemma. In cognitive dissonance theory, when your external actions or behavior do not reflect your internal mores and beliefs, it causes dissonance between your internal and external self that leads to discomfort, and we try to eliminate this discomfort by either changing our attitudes, beliefs, or actions (Aronson et al., 2019; Levy et al., 2018; PsychandSound, 2014). According to this theory, Julie is at a crossroads, and she needs to stabilize her internal and external self to lessen or eradicate the dissonance.

Aronson et al. (2019) state that Julie will do one of three things to regain stability and mitigate the effects of the dissonance. Julie will either change her behavior; that is, she will stop smoking as she wants to be healthy and has chosen running to achieve this. With this, Julie has changed her behavior and would be able to run as she is no longer a smoker. If Julie stops smoking, the dissonance and discomfort she is experiencing should lessen or disappear because her internal attitude and actions are of one accord.

Julie could also justify her behavior and validate her smoking, noting that smoking is how she relieves stress (Krukowski et al., 2021), and stress to her is more detrimental to health than a few extra pounds. She convinces herself that maybe she should try something else less physical to lose weight. Or Julie could add information to what she already believes to be accurate and justify her continued smoking. She could state that governments worldwide have received over 100 billion dollars in tobacco-related taxes (Collard, 2010); therefore, she is helping these governments by smoking and providing monetary assistance for the governments to facilitate necessary social programs. She can also justify her actions by stating that governments own and are shareholders in tobacco companies; therefore, smoking cannot be that bad if governments are a part of it. With the last two, Julie has cemented her attitude towards smoking as the lesser of two ills or a necessity for commerce and does not change her behavior related to smoking. As Julie has justified her behavior and validated her smoking with new information, the dissonance she is experiencing should cause her less psychological pain (Aronson et al., 2019). Her attitude and behavior towards smoking are no longer conflicting.