Intervention: Using Cognitive Dissonance Theory to quit smoking

Good morning fellow Applied Social Psychologists in the making…

For my initial blog I couldn’t think of a better starting point then where I find myself mentally and physically – craving a cigarette at 6 am. “I’m not having coffee” because habitually I would have one with the other. I want to keep busy but refrain from being outdoors other than having to go from coordinate to coordinate. And I don’t even want to be near one. I actually bought a pack and never buy packs and gave it away.

What brought on this needs assessment in a preventative manner was when I started feeling health-compromising effects and the toxins at work. You have probably read all about the disastrous side effects, and not just to one’s self but, in retrospect, its an applied course of action by a participant, done almost second nature. It’s also a disregard to everyone directly around while he engaging/indulging in that behavior.

This entry is not an excuse to state the obvious; I wanted to capture a chronological approach – a self-report to monitor my progress. Yesterday was Day 1 and this morning is usually when people usually relapse.

While attempting to focus on successfully creating a decent blog and sharing an example of how I applied what we have been learning I decided to use my life as guinea pig to display what I believe are some theories working in conjunction. I started noticing a number of symptoms that I haven’t ever paid attention to until I started taking not only this course but also Health Psychology and combined to the two courses, absorbing so much new information and processing it, and applying it to myself in areas that are indeed applicable to better understanding how they function and we could be guided by them.

“According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.” – Festinger, L. (1957)

How could I exercise and see results but not be as satisfied? Smoking affects muscle growth. How could I feel so tired or unmotivated, drink a coffee or energy drink for energy and have a cigarette that is proven to cause fatigue? How could I go for “air” and use my 15 minute break at work to wait for an elevator and rush outside to have just enough time to have at least one cigarette? Sounds unnecessary, doesn’t it? How about being hungry and needing energy, and choosing a cigarette over food because it’ll curb your appetite? Oh that developing smoker’s cough, hacking away and making you sound older than what you are? Smoking too.

Looking at the inconsistencies between attitudes and behavior, there are certain people I won’t have a cigarette around – I don’t need to, don’t think of it, or anything. If I’m home I don’t smoke around my Munchkin, she never sees me smoking or even smells it on me. But why would someone willingly want to hold a “cancer-stick”, appropriately nicknamed, as an agent of death. Why would anyone invite such harmful products into their lives? Or share it?

In the past when trying to quit, I’d battle between what I knew was wreaking havoc on my lungs and stamina, emotionally and mentally causing all kinds of dependencies, etc. but I’d say “I don’t smoke a lot at all”. I look at my brother buying a pack every other day, and see how strong he looks and how normal and happy he seems, and would pull up right next to him and join him.

I started seeing the skin on my pointer and middle finger looking a little discolored, slightly different than the other fingers on my right hand. It made me paid attention a little more when my inner middle finger, where the filter and its residue build up, and poisons accumulate, holding the back end – was starting to crack. I thought it was the cold last winter, but hardening and bleeding only on that one finger? Right, pretty normal. Due to the weather and not me smoking, right. Wrong.

This summer the crack was back. Skin was hardening again and I even felt the superficial layers of skin desensitized. So guess what I did? Yes, I switched hands. This was the beginning of the end for smoking. I knew my smoking days were numbered because it took away the “enjoyment” for me – the recklessness or careless, nonchalant motion of feeling free or “cool”. I didn’t feel like I looked cool smoking with my left hand, never mind me thinking “I’ll keep all 10 fingers a little longer”. Now I was outside worrying about my health and all my fingers. But it was not until I decided to “switch hands” that I decided to look into implementing my assessments and seek proven evaluations for interventions that as I’m writing here now, setting my goals for Day 2, I’m working to quit for good.

You can’t factor in all these variables and see a direct correlation and ignore that data. Even proven methods show track records of relapsing, but only combining the psychological to the behavioral and applying it cognitively has lasting effects. “Once you know better, you do better.” And I know myself well enough to know that it would not be “just one cigarette” with my coffee in the morning. I’d use my work break and stress and an excuse to gauge levels of physical stress I’m willingly to apply to myself and choosing that as a “lesser poison” than dealing with stress at work in a productive manner? I’m choosing health-enhancing thinking now to match my attitudes and behaviors. I’ll keep you posted.



Schneider, F., Gruman, J., Coutts, L.  (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Cognitive Dissonance. Retrieved from

Brannon, L. & Fiest, J. (2007).  Health Psychology.  Belmont, MA: Wadsworth Publishing


  1. Ivan David Rogers

    Cognitive dissonance can affect our decisions in life and the way we deal with things. The issue of smoking can be justified by many people so that they don’t have to quit. It is human nature to point at the other person and feel that nothing will happen to ourselves. In your case, you broke down the factors and weighed the options. By challenging your options, for both your physical and mental health you were able to reach a clear and justified decision on the issue of smoking. You actually turned your life around to have a positive factor implemented to replace this addictive drug. The self-psychology variables that you utilized for your mind and body helped you get on the right track and stay focused. While other people will ignore the signs and realty of it all, you have stepped up to the challenge and faced the true facts. Congratulations!

  2. Rory Richard Rieger

    Thank you for your post. I do agree somewhat with the first persons comment about you not connected the applied part of the cognitive dissonance theory. Saying that I do understand what you mean because I also struggle with smoking and attempts to stop. I understood where you were going because I relate and maybe that’s why you over explained what was going on leading up. I do understand that there is a major discrepancy between wanting to be healthy and your ideas about smoking but continuing to engage in it. I think that a beginning of change could be really seeing those discrepancies realistically. I think after that some theory of motivation to change could have been applied. I really think your post embodied what were supposed to cover here though and that is applying some of the theories and how they apply to our own lives. Thank you for your post!

  3. Darryl Shawn Aiken


    I’m sorry I was a little unclear in reading your blog. It seems that you wanted to work with the concept of cognitive dissonance as you quoted the definition of it, but beyond recounting your very real and difficult struggles with urges and addictive behaviors I wasn’t seeing from an applied psychology standpoint how you were clearly applying it. I mean near the end you mentioned “implementing my assessments and seek proven evaluations for interventions” so I was unclear on this. Where you trying to share in your blog the four steps of creating an applied psychology intervention leading up to an evaluation in your upcoming blog? And if so how were you weaving cognitive dissonance into your narrative? Thanks!

  4. Michael Edward Montgomery

    Thank you for sharing your daily trials that you have to deal with on a daily basis. I have known people that have had the same struggles that you have had and some are still fighting those addictive traits and others have just given in to the addiction. I would like to know if you have a plan laid out to stop smoking or a support group that will help you? This is a very hard thing to stop but the benefits to stopping are greatly appreciated by your body. I would have liked to see some study s on this addiction or new procedures to quit in your blog. I am looking forward to reading more on your future progress on stopping. I know that if you put your mind to it you will succeed. keep up the good work

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