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World J Psychiatry. Feb 19, 2024; 14(2): 215-224
Published online Feb 19, 2024. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v14.i2.215
Cognitive dissonance and mindset perturbations during crisis: “eco-socio-psycho-somatic” perspectives
Felix Tretter, Henriette Löffler-Stastka
Felix Tretter, Department of Systems Medicine and Healthcare Systems, Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science, Vienna 1040, Austria
Henriette Löffler-Stastka, Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Medical University Vienna, Vienna 1090, Austria
Author contributions: Tretter F and Löffler-Stastka H contributed to writing, editing, and revising of this paper.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Henriette Löffler-Stastka, MD, PhD, Dean, Director, Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Medical University Vienna, No. 18-20 Währinger Gürtel, Vienna 1090, Austria.
Received: September 12, 2023
Peer-review started: September 12, 2023
First decision: December 6, 2023
Revised: December 8, 2023
Accepted: January 3, 2024
Article in press: January 3, 2024
Published online: February 19, 2024

Mandatory and restrictive health regulations during the corona pandemic caused psychic disorders in many people, which even led to clinically relevant mental disorders. At the same time, there was gradually a polarization of opinions among the population. In order to improve future pandemic management, an integrative understanding of these psychosocial processes therefore seems useful. Here we start theoretically with the mental effects of inconsistencies of the information environment by referring to concepts such as the theory of cognitive dissonance. In a next step, we use the psychodynamic theory to understand the affective-motivational defense mechanisms underlying these cognitive states and processes. However, a broader theoretical framework of psychoanalysis seems to make sense, because self-referential processing also influences the style of thinking. For this reason, we use a more comprehensive psychological systems theoretical framework model to integrate these different perspectives. This integrative view refers in part to basic knowledge of health psychology regarding the resistance of unhealthy ways of thinking and behaviors and the possibilities for interventions for change. We then extend this model to a broader picture that also covers the relationship between men and their environment. This results in the perspective of a multidimensional socioecological theoretical framework, which as a heuristic reference model and related to other ecological approaches could also be helpful for various theoretical questions for public health, and could provide a better public understanding of health issues. In line with this perspective, we hypothesize that with regard to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, the acceptance of public health narratives could be increased if a more consistent picture of the scientific descriptions and explanations of the pandemic - similar to the model proposed - could be provided, which would enable the understanding of the origin, course and countermeasures, and thus could have positive collective psycho-hygienic effects.

Keywords: Infodemic, Affective-cognitive dissonance, Systems model of the mind, Socioecological model

Core Tip: With the emergence of an increasingly fragmented and crisis-ridden world, sound containment and mentalization capacities are required. We provide a stepped multidimensional socioecological theoretical framework that serves as a heuristic reference model. The example of the pandemic crisis is transferable and related to other ecological approaches. Parameters for sustainable and enduring change processes are given.