It’s All in the Mind

Cognitive Dissonance in the Context of Pilgrims and Tourists

  • Chadwick Co Sy Su
  • Marie Baens Boncan
Keywords: cognitive dissonance, travel, non-religious phenomena, pilgrimage, dark tourism


Early Christians during the Roman Empire were persecuted for their faith, at times in brutal and violent games within the Colosseum. Part of the Christian faith is the belief in martyrdom for God. This idea of Martyrdom or Baptism of Blood, can be explained as, “… the case of a person who died for the Christian faith before he or she could receive the sacrament [of baptism]. The effects of martyrdom of blood are the complete remission of sin and the title to immediate entrance into heaven.”

This brings us to ask, do people justify their experiences to coincide with subconsciously predetermined notions? To answer the question, we consider the Leon Festinger’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, which deals with the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. This paper aims to discover how people’s notions may be altered because of the things they encounter while on their personal pilgrimages. It takes into consideration those who travel as either tourists or pilgrims, who may change their beliefs based on their experiences and come out as different individuals, as well as those who remain unchanged. Apart from religious beliefs, the paper discusses various locations and events that have left an impact on humanity, with attention paid to dark tourism and non-religious phenomena. All these, in relation to Cognitive Dissonance, present a perception of the world that focuses on how the mind alters beliefs to put one at ease.