Cognitive dissonance, a theory formally presented by Leon Festinger in 1957, refers to the psychological discomfort caused by conflicting ideas or a conflict between one’s ideas and one’s behavior. This theory has had a strong impact in the fields of social psychology and communication. The term cognitive refers to an internal mental process related to any kind of knowledge—including opinions, beliefs, values, and attitudes—and the term dissonance refers to inconsistency between two elements. Festinger used the term dissonance instead of inconsistency because the latter had a strong logical connotation, and he wanted a more neutral term. Therefore, the original concept of cognitive dissonance can be translated, approximately, as inconsistency among knowledge. This entry explains the theory of cognitive dissonance and discusses its development and its ...

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