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Cognitive Conflict and Learning

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Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning


Cognitive dissonance; Conceptual conflict; Disequilibrium; Socio-cognitive conflict


Cognitive conflict is a psychological state involving a discrepancy between cognitive structures and experience, or between various cognitive structures (i.e., mental representations that organize knowledge, beliefs, values, motives, and needs). This discrepancy occurs when simultaneously active, mutually incompatible representations compete for a single response. The detection of cognitive conflict is thought to trigger compensatory adjustments in executive control processes, which serve to reduce and prevent subsequent instances of similar cognitive conflict.

Theoretical Background

Cognitive conflict is a part of many different psychological theories, and has often been regarded as more deleterious than beneficial. For example, Freud (1901/1953) viewed distortions of rational thinking and neuroses as the result of conflict between basic drives. Similarly, early learning-theoretic...

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Correspondence to Matthew Waxer .

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© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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Waxer, M., Morton, J.B. (2012). Cognitive Conflict and Learning. In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA.

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