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Cognitive Dissonance

  • By: Robert L. Hohn
  • In: Encyclopedia of School Psychology
  • Edited by: Steven W. Lee
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), School Psychology, Educational Psychology

Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance theory (1957) holds that two beliefs are dissonant with one another if the opposite of one would follow from the other. For example: “I dislike the president,” but “I voted for the president.” Being psychologically uncomfortable, dissonance will motivate the individual to reduce it and achieve a consonant set of beliefs. When that occurs, attitude change can occur.

Dissonance can be reduced by:

  • Changing one of the discrepant beliefs (“Maybe I actually like the president.”)
  • Qualifying the belief (“The reason I don't like the president is his environmental policies, but I like his other policies.”)
  • Downgrading the belief (“I dislike all presidents once they are in office.”)
  • Altering one's behavior (“I'll never vote for him again.”)

For educational purposes, the theory suggests that forcing individuals to take ...

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