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Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance theory was originally articulated in 1957 by Leon Festinger, a social psychologist who posited that incongruence between two cognitions (which may be ideas, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, or behaviors) creates psychological discomfort that individuals are motivated to resolve. Cognitive dissonance has been repeatedly tested, debated, expanded, and refined. Researchers have variously categorized and connected it to cognitive development, motivation, identity salience, affective development, and social interaction. In higher education, the use of cognitive dissonance is widespread across literature and practice associated with student affairs, student development, multiculturalism, and teaching and learning. After providing a more detailed explanation of cognitive dissonance, this entry considers the use of cognitive dissonance in these different arenas.

The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance

Festinger provides many details about cognitive dissonance in the ...

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