Justifying Difficult Decisions

When Good Choices Get Even Better Whenever we make difficult decisions—whether to marry, what school to attend, where to live, or what job to take—we feel dissonance. By definition, a decision is difficult when alternative courses of action are about equally desir- able. Marriage offers comfort and stability; staying single enables us to seek out exciting new relation- ships. One job might pay more money; the other may offer more interesting work. Once people make tough decisions like these, they are at risk because as neg- ative aspects of the chosen alternatives and positive aspects of the unchosen alternatives are at odds with their decisions. According to dissonance theory, people rationalize whatever they decide by exaggerating the positive features of the chosen alternative and the neg- ative features of the unchosen alternative.

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