EdApp by SafetyCulture

How to reduce cognitive dissonance in corporate training


October 5, 2023



How to reduce cognitive dissonance

Corporate training is a powerful tool for improving employee skills and performance. But, as every leader and training manager should know, the presence of cognitive dissonance can pose a challenge to the effectiveness of these training sessions. 

Cognitive dissonance occurs when individuals experience discomfort due to conflicting beliefs or a clash between their existing knowledge and new information. In this article, we'll explore cognitive dissonance in corporate training, understand its impact on employee performance, and list down practical strategies to reduce it during training sessions.

What is cognitive dissonance in psychology?

Cognitive dissonance, in psychology, is defined as a state of mental conflict that occurs when people encounter information or experiences that challenge their existing beliefs or attitudes. It creates an uncomfortable feeling and can lead to resistance, skepticism, or a reluctance to embrace new concepts. 

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - What is cognitive dissonance in psychology

This phenomenon is based on Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory in the 1950s. It suggests that individuals have an innate drive to seek consistency and avoid inconsistency in their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. 

Understanding cognitive dissonance is important for trainers and organizations. If left unchecked, it can negatively affect your employee’s performance. It can lower motivation, engagement, and productivity when employees try to reconcile their existing knowledge with new training.

It also creates resistance to change, making it harder for your team to apply new skills at work. Recognizing and dealing with cognitive dissonance is crucial for creating a supportive learning environment and helping employees succeed.

Examples of Cognitive Dissonance in Training

During training sessions, cognitive dissonance can manifest in various ways when employees are presented with new information and concepts. Here are a few common cognitive dissonance examples:

  • Shifting workflows - Employees who have been following a particular workflow or established processes for years may experience cognitive dissonance when presented with a new, more efficient approach. They may struggle to reconcile their existing practices with the benefits and rationale behind the proposed changes.
  • Diversity and inclusion training - Employees with deeply ingrained beliefs or biases may encounter cognitive dissonance when exposed to content that challenges their preconceived notions. It can be a struggle for them to reconcile their existing beliefs with the importance of embracing diversity and inclusivity.
  • Technological advancements - If your team’s used to traditional methods, it's understandable to experience cognitive dissonance when faced with adopting innovative technologies or going through digital transformations. They may resist the change due to the discomfort of adjusting their established work routines.
  • Alternative strategies - Your staff may have their preferred approaches to solving problems or accomplishing tasks. But during training, they may come across alternative strategies that challenge their usual methods. It's common to feel a bit of cognitive dissonance when they realize there might be other ways to achieve the same or better results.
  • Conflicting information - In some cases, employees may receive conflicting information from different sources within your organization.  It can be confusing and create cognitive dissonance as they try to make sense of the different viewpoints and determine the most accurate or appropriate course of action.

Tips on how to reduce cognitive dissonance in training sessions

Helping your team to overcome the discomfort of conflicting information during training sessions is crucial to maximize training outcomes and boost your team’s performance. Here are some tips on how to reduce cognitive dissonance in your training sessions:

1. Chunk information 

Take advantage of the power of microlearning, which refers to the idea of breaking down complex concepts into smaller, digestible modules. To support your team's learning, present information in a logical order that makes sense.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Chunk information 

Let them gradually add new knowledge on top of what they already know. This makes learning a lot easier and reduces cognitive overload. For this strategy, consider using SC Training (formerly EdApp), a Learning Management System (LMS) tool that specializes in microlearning-based training.

It takes pride in its Creator Tool, which is backed by microlearning templates. It allows you to easily format your training materials into bite-sized pieces, making sure that your training is delivered in a way that helps reduce cognitive dissonance. 

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - SC Training (formerly EdApp) Creator tool

You can also check out their course library to find ready-made courses that you can share with your team right away. Or, you can also use these courses as inspiration as to how to design your training courses. 

Reduce cognitive dissonance in your training sessions – make learning easier and digestible with SC Training (formerly EdApp)!

2. Try reinforcement and repetition

Include regular reinforcement activities and practice opportunities. These can help to strengthen and solidify what is being learned. Spaced repetition, in particular, has been shown to help in remembering information and enhancing cognitive skills.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Try reinforcement and repetition

By revisiting and reinforcing new concepts over time, your employees are more likely to be open to and embrace changes in the workplace. To facilitate this process, consider using SC Training (formerly EdApp)'s Rapid Refresh feature, a powerful tool designed to enhance long-term memory retention.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - SC Training (formerly EdApp) Brain Boost

Make quizzes easily by filling up a spreadsheet and letting the app do the heavy lifting. Then, you can automate the delivery of quizzes so you can send them after a meeting or even a week after it. The idea is to repeat key content until learners fully understand and remember it in the long term.

This feature helps reduce cognitive dissonance by making the learned material an integral part of your learners’ memories, rather than a one-time learning opportunity.  

3. Use different training methods

Consider engaging your employees through a variety of training methods, such as interactive workshops, multimedia presentations, role-playing exercises, or gamified learning platforms. This multi-modal approach caters to different learning preferences and reinforces key concepts.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Use different training methods

4. Embrace experiential learning

Encourage experiential learning like hands-on activities, simulations, and case studies that allow employees to apply newly acquired knowledge in practical scenarios. This immersive approach bridges the gap between theory and practice, effectively reducing cognitive dissonance.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Embrace experiential learning

5. Make your training relevant

Relate the training content to real-life scenarios and challenges that employees face in their roles. Highlight the practical benefits and show how the new knowledge and skills can be applied to help your staff see the value in embracing changes.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Make your training relevant

6. Connect existing knowledge and new concepts

Acknowledge and respect the existing knowledge and experiences of employees. Find connections between their existing knowledge and the new concepts being taught to them. By emphasizing these connections, you can facilitate a smoother transition and minimize the idea of having conflicting ideas.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Connect existing knowledge and new concepts

7. Build ongoing support

Establish post-training support programs like mentoring, coaching, or peer learning groups. Implementing such consistent support programs can help your team apply the new knowledge to their work routines, reinforcing the learning process and reducing cognitive dissonance.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Build ongoing support

8. Allow your team to reflect on their learning

Make sure to set a dedicated time for employees to reflect on their learning experiences. This can be in the form of individual journaling or group discussions. Reflection helps individuals process new information, align it with their existing knowledge, and reduce cognitive dissonance.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Allow your team to reflect on their learning

9. Encourage peer learning 

Foster opportunities for employees to learn from and support each other. Peer learning promotes collaboration, sharing of experiences, and the validation of new ideas, reducing cognitive dissonance as employees learn from their peers' perspectives.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Encourage peer learning 

10. Foster a positive learning environment

Lastly, create a safe space where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and asking questions. Make sure to encourage open dialogue and active participation, and open opportunities for employees to share their experiences and insights.

How to reduce cognitive dissonance - Foster a positive learning environment

Key takeaway

Reducing cognitive dissonance in corporate training is crucial for maximizing the impact of learning initiatives. By understanding cognitive dissonance, implementing key strategies, and using effective training techniques, you can create a friendly and supportive environment.

Here, employees embrace new knowledge and skills enthusiastically. By bridging the gap between existing beliefs and new information, you can unlock the full potential of your workforce and drive continuous growth and success.

Break free from cognitive dissonance – take advantage of SC Training (formerly EdApp)'s cutting-edge features to transform your training programs.


Jen Avelino

Jen is a learning expert at SC Training (formerly EdApp), a mobile-based training platform that helps corporates and businesses bring their training solutions to the next level. She carries an extensive writing experience in a variety of fields, including architecture, the gig economy, and computer software. Outside of work, she enjoys her free time watching her favorite series and documentaries, reading motivational books, and cross-stitching.

Privacy|Terms & Conditions|Security| © SC Training 2024