Cognitive Dissonance

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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