Cognitive Dissonance Theory an overview

This means that operationalization of both the assessment of inconsistency and the manipulation of inconsistency is required, and that only systematic measures would allow for investigation of the relations between inconsistency, CDS and the regulation process. Moreover, in the present state of conceptualization, assessing the inconsistency may also be the most relevant way to assess the “dissonance” construct. As a consequence, resolving the issue of the relation between inconsistency and the CDS could be achieved by using conditions that involve several degrees of inconsistency (e.g., low; medium; high), assessing it, and by measuring the CDS generated by these different conditions.

  • However, all the variations we have seen could actually be interpreted as evidence for a general and unspecified negative affect.
  • Your behavior contradicts not just the beliefs you have about the world, but also the beliefs that you have about yourself.
  • For more than six decades, CDT suggests that cognitive inconsistency leads to a motivational state that promotes regulation, which comes mainly through a change of opinions or behaviors.

Like CDT, these certainty theories emphasize the need to supplant aversive, “nonfitting cognitions” with consonant ones, and focus on need for cognitive clarity and consistency. When faced with uncertainty about themselves or their environment, people defensively restore certainty, often in unrelated domains with the confidence-inducing help of social consensus and group identification (Hogg, 2007; Kruglanski, Pierro, Mannetti, & De Grada, 2006). Study participants who complete an uninteresting task have been found to rate the task as more enjoyable if they were first asked to tell someone else it was enjoyable—an effect attributed to cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance

For example, a person who is the perpetrator versus a third-party observer of an injustice might want to maintain BJW while avoiding feelings of guilt or social censure (see Chaikin & Darley, 1973). Derogating the victim of injustice could serve both motives better than some other strategies, such as compensating the victim. Note that social comparison mechanisms and consistency reduction mechanisms are both self-enhancement strategies, yet they seem to have little in common. Threat from dissonance rarely has anything to do with the performance of another, i.e., social comparison. Similarly, inconsistency is generally irrelevant to an SEM threat, whereas other’s performance is crucial. Attitude change is the usual mode of dissonance threat reduction; on the other hand, changes in closeness, performance, or relevance are the SEM modes.

  • When BJW-threat was high, participants who were told the victimization took place in the recent past blamed the victim’s behavior more than did participants told the victimization was in the distant past.
  • He told the consumers that they would be able to take home one of two items from the longer list of products.
  • When cognitive dissonance theory was first presented, three experimental paradigms (namely decision justification, effort justification and induced compliance behaviour) were used to empirically test and provide evidence to support the theory.
  • Derogating the victim of injustice could serve both motives better than some other strategies, such as compensating the victim.
  • Oak Park Study Group members were taught that on the eve of the cataclysm, an alien being from the planet Clarion would come to rescue the true believers from the fate that awaited humankind the next day.
  • Despite its long tradition in social psychology, we consider that Cognitive Dissonance Theory presents serious flaws concerning its methodology which question the relevance of the theory, limit breakthroughs, and hinder the evaluation of its core hypotheses.

Awake Therapy, a telehealth company that provides video and telephone psychotherapy, counseling, and coaching to individuals in over 40 countries worldwide. He is also the curator of the popular mental health and wellness website, Because the CDS is the core motive of the model and could vary depending on the induction situation, we must get closer to standardized instruments. The prevalence of a unique tool should permit comparison and reliable expected effects (i.e., size and quality). Collectively, the methodological issues concerning assessment in CDT invite consideration of the examination of regulation as a secondary goal for now.

Adding More Beliefs to Outweigh Dissonant Beliefs

Moreover, as one of the rare social psychology theories that propose a general pattern characterizing the human psyche and construction of reality, CDT is a very important theory for the field. Despite its status as the old lady of the discipline, CDT should be questioned as thoroughly as a young theory. It was hypothesized that participants in the Counter-attitudinal condition would experience less Pleasure and more Arousal than participants in the Pro-attitudinal condition. As a classic result in dissonance studies, they were also expected to report more positive attitudes toward the counterattitudinal topic. Participants were invited to participate in a study about students’ attitudes toward tuition fees. They read instructions explaining that a faculty committee wanted to know students’ attitudes towards a possible increase in tuition fees.

  • Hypocrisy involves a contradiction between a person’s supposed principles, beliefs, or character and who they really are or how they behave.
  • We may have dozens of cognitions of which we are at least dimly aware at any moment in time and innumerable more of which we can become aware, once our attention or memory is set in motion.
  • Psychologist Leon Festinger first described the theory of cognitive dissonance in 1957.
  • If you took the job you would miss your loved ones; if you turned the job down, you would pine for the beautiful streams, mountains, and valleys.
  • However, testing such a model would require a huge amount of data with a high degree of precision, something that could only be attained with cooperation between cognitive dissonance scholars.
  • After 1 minute of writing, the experimenter feigned to have forgotten a phase of the study and gave the PAD scale to the participants.

At the end of the scale, a complementary question assessed participants’ attitude towards an increase of inscription fees on a 7-point-scale ranging from 1 (totally disagree) to 7 (totally agree). The most effective way to resolve cognitive dissonance is for a person to ensure that their actions are consistent with their values, or vice versa. It provides an introduction to the theory and covers the topics of cognitive dissonance following decisions, the effects of forced compliance, the impacts of voluntary and involuntary exposure to information, and the role of social support. Dissonance can also be experienced vicariously through people of a social group that we identify with.

Advances in Experimental Social Psychology

For instance, could the affect assessed with Elliot and Devine’s three items (1994; uneasy, uncomfortable and bothered) and Matz and Wood’s five items (2005; uneasy, uncomfortable, bothered, tense and concerned) be considered the same? The Dissonance Thermometer has been initially used to support the claim that CDS is experienced as a specific psychological discomfort instead of a general negative affect (Elliot & Devine, 1994). However, all the variations we have seen could actually be interpreted as evidence for a general and unspecified negative affect. When Festinger (1957) proposed cognitive dissonance theory, the behaviorist perspective and reinforcement theory (e.g., Skinner 1938) were influential in how theorists thought about human behavior.

To serve that purpose, the term regulation fits best with the idea of generally decreasing the motivational state, while the term reduction could be reserved for regulation specifically aimed at reducing the inconsistency. In our opinion, this terminology is more integrated with the general theory (see Vaidis and Bran, 2018), as well as more connected to current knowledge (see also Proulx et al., 2012; Jonas et al., 2014; Levy et al., 2017). Recently, several important theories which contributed to social psychological knowledge were partially discarded or relegated to a secondary role (Open Science Collaboration, 2015). This has been the case for ego depletion theory (Hagger et al., 2016), as well as for priming effects on impression formation (McCarthy et al., 2018), and cognitive performance (O’Donnell et al., 2018).

Such cognitions can be about behaviors, perceptions, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs. If the cognitions are relevant, they can be in agreement (consistent) or disagreement (inconsistent) with one another (Festinger, 1957). Only scant research has investigated multiple dissonance reduction strategies simultaneously (McGrath, 2017). However, in general, the likelihood that a particular cognition will change is determined by its resistance to change, which is based on its responsiveness to reality and the extent to which it is consonant with other cognitions (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019). Therefore, changes are more likely to happen in an element that is less resistant or less important (Cooper, 2007). An individual may fail to restore a consonance, if there is a lack of social support and new harmonious elements, or the existing problematic element is too satisfying (Harmon-Jones & Harmon-Jones, 2007).

For instance, in their seminal paper, Zanna and Cooper’s participants had to ingest a placebo pill that allegedly induced a negative mood. Because of this belief, participants in the dissonance condition were inclined to misattribute their psychological discomfort to the pill instead of the inconsistency, and thus they did not show any use of an inconsistency reduction strategy. If the CDS is a negative state, it is difficult to understand how individuals can misattribute it to a positive source. Incidentally, this discovery has motivated the conceptualization of the New Look Model (Cooper & Fazio, 1984) which defines cognitive dissonance as a state of neutral physiological arousal that may later be labelled positively or negatively (see also Schachter & Singer, 1962). While some data provided support for this conceptualization (e.g., Martinie et al., 2013), most scholars still consider the dissonance state to be aversive per nature. Although many studies have focused on a single dissonance reduction strategy (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959; Aronson & Mills, 1959; Brehm, 1956), it is important to note that people may simultaneously adopt multiple strategies to counter the dissonance.

Social Verification Theory: A New Way to Conceptualize Validation, Dissonance, and Belonging

Instead of owning up to our hypocrisy, we will try any means possible of twisting our beliefs and judgements in a way that justifies our inconsistent behaviour. Despite our constant frustrations with inconsistencies in others, none of us can honestly deny the presence of incongruence within ourselves. Another way to make sense of what happened is to maintain the same belief about being taken away in a flying saucer but just change the date.

cognitive dissonance theory

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