Cognitive Dissonance. Abortion after Rape

Cognitive Dissonance: Abortion after Rape

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Holding two conflicting thoughts and beliefs can easily result to the upheaval of human rationalization. Cognitive dissonance forces individuals to perform actions that bring about psychological discomfort, thus, influences apposite decision making. However, cognitive dissonance is vital for psychological development in human beings. For example, considering an abortion after rape will cause cognitive dissonance for the victim. However, dissonance allows individuals to make value judgments, assessments, and valuation of the situations presented to them. Understanding the influences of cognitive dissonance on decision-making is an excellent way to develop individual ability to make precise choices.

Key Words: Cognitive Dissonance, Abortion, Rape


Normal human behavior requires that individuals search for constancy in their values and discernment of situation. Cognition refers to knowledge, which can be translated to attitude, behavior, or value (Cooper, 2007). Individuals hold a multitude of cognitions concurrently, which can be in extraneous, consonant, or dissonant interactions with each other. In psychology, cognitive dissonance refers to the uncomfortable feeling arising from having two conflicting thoughts and perceptions about a situation (Cooper, 2007). Cognitive dissonance is a common occurrence in human life, but it is predominantly noticeable when individuals are presented with situations conflicting with their self-identity. Self-identity comprises of values and beliefs that are integral to an individual’s distinctiveness. Subsequently, when individuals experience an inconsistency between their beliefs concerning behaviors, something must be done to eradicate or lessen this dissonance (Cooper, 2007).

This paper presents a description of a situation that causes cognitive dissonance. The paper explains how the situation influences an individual’s decision to engage in behavior that violates their values, beliefs, attitudes and morals.

Abortion after Rape

Abortion is a subject that has spawned numerous debates regarding the ethical and moral values associated with the act. Abortion after rape has generated even more debate as it provokes what cognitive dissonance with the affected. Indubitably, the majority of people hold the belief that abortion is immoral because it involves obliteration of the life of another (Evans, 2002). Accordingly, most state authorities associate abortion with criminal activities and the act is prohibited in most states. However, the same authorities consent to abortion after the event of a rape owing to the nature of the deed (Evans, 2002). Upon a closer examination of the issue, it is evident how cognitive dissonance may result from such a situation. A woman who believes that abortion is morally wrong may have conflicting thoughts regarding termination of pregnancy that results from a rape. On one hand, abortion is morally and ethically unacceptable, which constitutes the woman’s values and beliefs. On the other hand, her pregnancy is as a result of rape, which is not only horrible, it also causes a sense of psychological damage to the woman. Carrying the pregnancy to full term implies that the woman will forever be reminded of the atrocious rape event. Terminating the pregnancy will force her to violate her values, beliefs, and morals.

In order to lessen this dissonance between belief and actions, the woman can either carry the pregnancy to full term or downsize her beliefs concerning abortion. Further, settling on the latter would conflict with previously held notions about morality and the concept of performing ethical actions. However, the former would reduce dissonance as it accentuates the need for positive thinking concerning the pregnancy. Here, the woman is compelled to focus of the child’s positive qualities, as opposed to, the perceived flaws.


Cooper, J. (2007). Cognitive dissonance: 50 years of a classic theory. London: Sage


Evans, J. H. (2002). Polarization in Abortion Attitudes. Sociological Forum, 17(3): 397-422.

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