Microlearning to evade cognitive dissonance

How Microlearning Research Can Be Used To Evade Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance, to put it in simple words, is the conflict or tension we feel when we hold two opposing views in our minds at the same time. As a result, we think one way, but act another, which can result in stress, irritation and unhappiness. However, microlearning research is used to counter the effects of cognitive dissonance.

When talking about cognitive dissonance is terms of learning and development (L&D) it can lead to employees being unsure of what to do, and as a result not being able to carry out certain tasks at all. Avoiding cognitive dissonance completely is unlikely, but employees/learners can spot when it is happening, reduce it or resolve it if and when they’re trained to do so. Microlearning is a great digital learning strategy to help modern employees evade cognitive dissonance, and in this article we’ll discuss how and why.

According to the cognitive dissonance theory, dissonance can be reduced or evaded by changing beliefs, changing actions or changing the perception of action.

Microlearning Research

Through the intricate research of microlearning, we have established the predominant aspects in achieving all three objectives to minimise cognitive dissonance.

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Microlearning Research #1 – Change Beliefs

Cognitive dissonance is hard to remove or evade because in order to do so, the learner must convince themselves that a belief they hold dearly is not based on facts, and is thus false. Although this is harder if the belief in question is a long-held one, or is ingrained into their personal philosophy, but by supplying learners with verifiable facts that contradict their beliefs, as well as asking them questions that force them to reflect on their beliefs and analyse them by doing their own research, it can be done. Microlearning is a great strategy to do that, as it can be used to bombard learners with bite-sized tidbits, facts as well as questions that help learners discover that their belief originated from an unreliable source, or simply an unfavorable experience that is making them biased. This can lead to even the oldest, most fast-held beliefs to corrode over time.

Microlearning Research #2 – Change Actions

It is obvious that doing something has more impact than merely thinking something. Most times, when a learner’s brain has a set of conflicting beliefs, they usually act on one of those beliefs and later regret doing so due to the other conflicting belief still in their mind. Learners that are already struggling with a dissonant action can be influenced to change their actions if they are presented with the consequences of their actions. Microlearning simulations and scenarios can be used to educate learners on the consequences of their actions. When learners act in an inappropriate way, a branching scenario should take them to an undesirable result, or the failure of the scenario or simulation to reinforce the fact that their action is wrong. When learners see that their dissonant actions are leading them to failure, they’ll likely change their actions or at least be forced to reconsider them.

Microlearning Research #3 – Change Perception Of Actions

As shown with the cognitive learning theory, most cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual is conflicted between two actions, both of which they believe are the “right” thing to do. By helping learners justify their consonant beliefs (beliefs with their origin in facts or correct behaviour) and condemn their dissonant beliefs (beliefs which originate from biases or misinformation) you can change their perception of what they consider correct actions or behaviour. By using gamified microlearning modules, eLearning designers can reward what they think is a correct action or behaviour (using badges, points or level ups), and punish what they think is wrong or bad behaviour (by deducting the same elements). This can be further enforced by supplying the learners with microlearning articles and resources that change the learner’s perception against a dissonant or bad action. However, a mind-map of every learner, including their beliefs, preferences, needs, interests etc. Is important before trying to attempt such a microlearning program, in order to target their dissonant beliefs, actions and their perceptions better.

Microlearning can thus help learners get back to a state where their mind is free of conflict, however, don’t expect all of this to happen in one day. Changing a person’s beliefs and perceptions is a slow and steady process, but microlearning is a learning strategy suited to doing this.


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