The cognitive dissonance theory was developed by Elliot Aronson to describe the circumstances when a person is faced with two conflicting attitudes that undermine their self-esteem. Cognitive dissonance can also occur when an individual decides by choosing between two conflicting positions (Aronson et al., 2019). For example, in Season 1 Episode 3 of the Netflix series Snowpiercer, Melanie decides to put Layton in a freeze pod after he learns that Mr. Wilford is not on the train. This paper aims to apply the social psychological concept of cognitive dissonance to the situation presented in the popular television series Snowpiercer.
According to the theory, in a situation of cognitive dissonance, an individual will seek to reduce the level of dissonance. Three ways to do this are changing the behavior that led to the dissonance, denying the information that causes the dissonance, or creating additional conditions to reduce the dissonance (Kim et al., 2020). An individual who experiences post-decision dissonance will try to convince themselves of the correctness of the choice made (Klein & McColl, 2019). Such an individual becomes more defensive of their position, as they experience psychological suffering due to doubts and distrust.
In Snowpiercer, Melanie experiences cognitive dissonance after placing Layton in a freeze pod. Her decision was made under the influence of fear that she would lose control of the train and is perceived by her as the right one. At the same time, Melanie develops affection for Layton and feels remorseful. Moreover, Melanie understands that she shares Layton’s desire to equalize the rights of tail passengers with third-class passengers. Melanie is under the strongest psychological pressure and continues to persist in defending the decision to suppress the rebellion, despite internal disagreement (Li et al., 2020). She becomes so emotionally obsessed with post-decision dissonance that in hand-to-hand combat with Jozzie, she lets her hand get frostbite. Subsequently, Melanie repents of this act, and, freed from fear and doubt, supports the revolutionary movement led by Layton.
Thus, the social-psychological concept of cognitive dissonance was applied to the situation presented in the popular television series Snowpiercer. In the third episode of the first season, a very typical situation is shown when the main character Melanie makes a decision that causes cognitive dissonance in her and experiences post-decision dissonance, which exacerbates her psychological distress and impairs her ability to make informed decisions. This example demonstrates the negative consequences of the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Sommers, S. R. (2019). Social psychology (10th ed.). Pearson Education India.
Kim, E. J., Choi, C., & Tanford, S. (2020). Influence of scarcity on travel decisions and cognitive dissonance. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 25(7), 721-735.
Klein, J., & McColl, G. (2019). Cognitive dissonance: How self‐protective distortions can undermine clinical judgement. Medical Education, 53(12), 1178-1186.
Li, K., Liang, H., Kou, G., & Dong, Y. (2020). Opinion dynamics model based on the cognitive dissonance: An agent-based simulation. Information Fusion, 56, 1-14.