Cognitive dissonance is a term that refers to conflict within ones mind as the result of having multiple contrary ideas in ones mind at the same time. One of the earlier studies of Cognitive Dissonance came from the author Leon Festinger, in the book "When Prophecy Fails". The concept dealt with a doomsday cult who, when faced with the predicted end of the world, kept living. Although rational thought would assume this would dissuade them from their beliefs, it actually caused these individuals to believe more deeply, and to rationalize the reasons why the apocalypse did not happen. A modern day example of this is Harold Camping and his Family Radio Broadcast Network, who declared the world was going to end on May, 25, 2011. This was the second prediction by Mr. Camping that the world was going to end- when it didn't happen each time Mr. Camping came up with reasons and ideas why the foretold event did not occur- and pointed to the next "doomsday".
Societal cognitive dissonance — at least the possibility — seems to surface often enough: When an institution is publicly seen to be opposing the very principles that it claims to uphold, or, even claims that have reached the stature of myth. It would be interesting to see how the important entities behave in such a period of cognitive dissonance: the media, its proponents, its critics, the "ordinary" person, and the institution itself.