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Posted on April 11th, 2014, by

Homeless people lead a different lifestyle compared to the rest of the society but their behavior can be viewed in the context of the Cognitive Dissonance theory. They often face conflicting cognitions. They may face a conflict between their current financial inability to purchase a house and their willing to have a home. Therefore, homeless people confront the problem of the cognitive dissonance based on their current position and their desires and beliefs. At this point, one of the main conflicts that may emerge between cognitions of homeless people is the conflict between the desire of homeless people to have positive self-esteem and their exclusion from the society. They want to respect themselves and perceive themselves as individuals, who have dignity and who live a normal life. However, the society views them as outcasts and homeless people realize their exclusion from the society that comes into clashes with their desire to have a positive self-esteem. As a result, they look for solutions that can help them to maintain the positive self-esteem and remain outcasts, since they cannot always change their life for better and stay homeless.

In fact, homeless people may believe that they have become homeless occasionally and their current condition is provisional. In such a situation, they do not identify themselves with homeless but they believe they just have provisional troubles, which they can resolve soon. Hence, homeless people attempt to avoid the cognitive dissonance developing the belief that they will be able to return to the normal life soon and they will regain their position in the society.

Alternatively, homeless people may identify themselves as victims since the cruel society expelled them and made them outcasts, while they are just victims of the unjust social system, where they used to live.  As a rule, such homeless people avoid struggling for the improvement of their life because they are disenchanted in the society and they do not believe they are capable to regain their position in the society. Instead, they are just complaining about their life and dislike the society.

Homeless people may also identify themselves as being totally different from the rest of the society. For instance, they may believe they have nothing to do with other people and the life in isolation is much better for them since, in such a way, they may become absolutely free of biases, social norms and other issues that bound them and limit their freedom. Therefore, homeless people look for loneliness and exclusion believing the exclusion from the society is better for them, even though such attitude leads to their de-socialization.

In either situation, homeless people are likely to look for resolution of their conflicting cognitions. On the one hand, homeless people can reduce their anxiety about cognitive cognitions. For instance, they can believe the provisional shelter is better than a permanent home in their full proprietorship.  On the other hand, they can believe that short run effects of their current position are better than long run consequences of their homelessness. For instance, they can enjoy free life in a short run, ignoring possible risks of their de-socialization and exclusion from the society.

Thus, the cognitive dissonance is a complex problem that is provoked by the conflict between two or more cognitions an individual has. While facing the conflicting cognitions, which occur simultaneously, an individual looks for plausible solution of the conflict and elimination of the cognitive dissonance. In this regard, the individual may choose two strategies. On the one hand, the individual attempts to alter existing cognitions, adding new one(s). On the other hand, the individual may reduce the importance of cognitions to prevent the cognitive dissonance. Homeless people are likely to confront the cognitive dissonance because of their position and their relationship to the society and other people. They may feel being outcasts expelled by the society, or they may be eager to abandon the society, or they may believe their position is provisional. Whatever they believe, they choose two strategies to resolve their cognitive dissonance between their desire to have a positive self-esteem and their current position of outcasts in the society. Thus, they may either alter their cognitions, justifying their homelessness and the position of outsiders by external factors, such as social injustice, for instance, or add new cognitions, such as the belief that the life outside the society is better for them.

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