So, the interesting thing about self justification. Actually there are lots of interesting things about self justification, but the one I’m talking about is that it comes in two flavours, internal and external. Self justification is a change in either attitude or behaviour to ensure that our attitude and our behaviour line up, and it can be either internal or external.

So, for instance, take something like eating a doughnut. If I have decided to eat healthily in January and I find myself eating a doughnut, I can avoid the pain of cognitive dissonance (Oh no! I’m supposed to be eating healthily and I’m eating an unhealthy doughnut!) in several ways, thusly: “I had to, it was Sue’s birthday and it would have been rude not to.” “Peggy bought one for everyone, it would have hurt her feelings to refuse.” “Brian was selling them for charity so I had to buy one.” All these are external justifications. Or, perhaps, “It’s fine to have the odd treat, it makes me more likely to eat healthily the rest of the time.” “I’ll go to the gym tonight to make up for it.” “To be honest I think I eat pretty healthily anyway, the odd doughnut won’t kill me.” All these are internal justifications.

The more external justifications there are for our behaviour, the less likely we are to feel cognitive dissonance and therefore the less likely we are to change our attitude: the good old “She made me do it” excuse. More tomorrow.