Cognitive Dissonance Theory


Cognitive Dissonance Theory:

The theory of cognitive dissonance was proposed by Leon Festinger in 1950. The meaning of dissonance is inconsistency. According to Festinger cognitive dissonance refers to any incompatibility that a person might perceive between 2 or more of his attitudes or his behavior and attitude. It is not good to have cognitive dissonance and every person tend to reduce it as it gives discomfort. But cognitive dissonance cannot be eliminated completely.

For example when a person who smokes a lot but always thinks about the ill effects of it and feels discomfort. This is cognitive dissonance. That person tries to leave the habit of smoking.

Same discomfort occurs when someone tells a lie to someone or many such situations.

Cognitive dissonance results in a situation that leads to conflicting attitudes or behaviors. It gives a feeling of discomfort leading to a change in one of the attitudes, viewpoint or behaviors to shrink the anxiety and restore balance.

The person can do following things to reduce the dissonance:

  • Search for information that validate the decision
  • Selectively recognizes information in a way that supports the decision
  • Take up a less favorable approach towards the foregone alternatives
  • Downplay the importance of any negative aspects of the choice and magnify the positive aspects

The factors that determine person’s desire to cut down the dissonance are as following.

The Elements creating dissonance: If the elements related to dissonance are important then the person will tend to reduce the dissonance. On the other hand if element is not important than person will do less effort to reduce dissonance. The person can change his behavior according to the dissonance.

The degree of influence perceived: The reaction to dissonance of a person is affected by the degree of influence on behavior of that particular element. If he thinks that this dissonance is uncontrollable then he shows less resistance to change in attitude.

The rewards involved: An individual shows enthusiasm to reduce the dissonance according to rewards linked to it. If the dissonance is linked with high rewards person tend to reduce the dissonance or discomfort formed due to it.