Application of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Studies of Cognitive Dissonance in Decision Making
The theory of cognitive dissonance (CD) is tightly linked with studies of the process of making complex decisions. In particular, CD is manifest within the framework of the “free choice paradigm” consisting of reassessment of alternatives as a result of choosing between two similar alternatives via the motivation to reduce internal conflict. The mechanisms of CD are associated with activity in the posterior medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and posterior cingulate cortex, whose interactions are interpreted differently on the basis of neuroimaging and stimulation study results. One of the key and still unresolved issues in understanding the mechanisms of CD is the neurochronometry of its occurrence – it may be possible to discover this using transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation methods (TMS and TES). Determination of the temporal sequence of neural CD mechanisms will not only clarify the fundamental nature of making difficult decisions, but will also provide for more effective manipulation of these mechanisms in various applied problems. However, TMS and TES protocols for influencing CD differ in parameters such as target, timing, frequency, stimulation strength, and control conditions, preventing direct comparison of research results. This review presents results from analysis of stimulation studies of CD seeking to identify the temporal patterns of the effect of stimulation on changes in preferences resulting from CD.