Cognitive dissonance in sour grapes

Spread a smile

People generally use the saying “Sour grapes “ as a disdain expression to point out disapprovingly of those opportunities that slipped through their fingers or to mention the unfulfilled goals and dreams. While their mind may be reeling under unpleasantness and envy, outwardly people balance their behaviour in a manner that reduces their inner turmoil.

A peek into the Aesop’s fable.

Not intending to narrate the whole story of Fox and grapes here, but in a nutshell, once the fox realised that the mouth-watering “sweet” grapes were not quite attainable, he gives up his efforts, muttering “sour grapes “ and walks away.

Interpretation of this folklore by the psychologists,

As per the behavioural experts, fox’s change of heart from “sweet” to “sour grapes “is a perfect strategy used to resolve cognitive dissonance. Or an adaptive preference formation.

What is cognitive dissonance?

When we experience a conflict between our beliefs and our actions, the unpleasant experience of being caught between two contradictory forces is known as cognitive dissonance. The fox in the story is conflicted between the feelings of desire and frustration.
This dissonance brings about some kind of psychological stress.
To function successfully, it’s necessary to resolve the dissonance. So when the fox realised the futility of his attempts, the grapes turned out sour to him and decided to walk away.

Why should there be a conflict between our beliefs and actions?

From a young age, we begin to sort out the world around us in terms of our preferences and beliefs. As people undergo a great deal of development and changes in their lifetime, making sense of themselves and their life can be quite challenging. To make a coherent sense of ourselves and to create an internal psychological consistency, we tell ourselves stories that justify our actions.
We can’t undo the actions of the past, but we adjust our beliefs to bring them in line with our activities.

resolving cognitive dissonance
Resolving cognitive dissonance

Are there other ways of resolving this conflict?

Another way to resolve the conflict, which is more practical and sustainable in the long term, is to strive for consistency at a higher level, such as the search for truth, moral code or a commitment to certain ideals.

If our actions contradict themselves, well, let them contradict.
Allow us to reconcile with the multitudes within us.

Embrace your multitudes.

Did the poet Walt Whitman was capturing and reflecting this human dilemma of contradictions in his poem “Do I contradict myself? As the poet observed, ” I am large. I contain multitudes”.
Humans do contradict themselves and carry multitudes within.

Change is the only constant.

In this ever-changing world, we can be anything but consistent in our thoughts and beliefs. There is always some degree of dissonance within a person as they go about in life, due to changing quantity and quality of knowledge and wisdom that they gain. When people comment,” I don’t know you anymore “, the negative implications are clear. Change seems like a double-edged sword, you are dammed if you do change, and damned in life if you don’t.
Strive to retain the authentic self, meanwhile being flexible and open to changes.

Imagine a new version of the fox story

Have you ever thought about a different ending to the fox story? Imagine, Fox finally have had the grapes, but found it sour. He might have then said to himself, “Yummy “to defend his hard work.

Making peace with sour grapes or dissonance reduction

People do come across many sour grapes or find themselves entangled in contradictory beliefs and actions in their life. People always seek psychological consistency and would try to keep their dissonance at bay, by telling themselves stories, for giving coherence and sense of meaning to their lives.
They tell stories of their achievements, success, struggles and failures that preemptively avoid dissonance by choosing in ways that reinforce their coherent identity.

Before I conclude

An in-depth scientific discussion of cognitive dissonance is beyond the scope of this post. I have outlined the fundamental concepts with the most straightforward explanations as an introduction to an exciting topic.

Sayeeda Pearl

Doctor by profession, Trivandrum medical college alumni, a passionate reader first, writing tidbits here and there on this and that. Sharing bits of life’s fascinating teachings that everyone encounters.

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12 Responses

  1. Dr.SHEHARSA.M.S says:

    Sayeeda great dear.Expecting more

  2. Sandhya says:

    Very nice Sayeeda! Waiting for more!

  3. Dinesh Mohandas says:

    Hi sayeeda got the link from our class site. Really enjoyed your blog looking forward to more

  4. Dilip says:

    Enjoyed this and the other articles .. loved the alternate ending to the fox story 🙂

  5. Ansari says:

    Nice write up Pussytha. Good start, keep going. Looking forward to it

  6. Sophia says:

    Well written even narrow thoughts are due to cognitive dissonance?