StudySolver – News and Tips for Studying

Study Of Psychology


In the study of psychology cognitive dissonance is a type of illness that a person experience mental stress because of him holding two or more opposing ideas, believes and values. When this condition takes place then the belief of that person clashes with the new evidence attained by the person in that situation. In cases like this when the true fact, ideas or values which is actually clashing with the perceived belief of that person is presented to him, then he tends to start believing in those facts to give himself a sense of comfort.

In the theory of cognitive dissonance, Festinger 1957 mentions that human being struggle s to free of psychological stress in order to be mentally strong in this world. When a person who feels psychologically stressed feels uneasy then he is encouraged to reduce his cognitive dissonance. He should be motivated to fight against the facts that is causing mental disturbance to him. This can be done either by adding a new element to the cause of the situation or by avoiding the situation or the facts opposing it. This in turn will help to reduce the rate of cognitive dissonance in that person.

For example, when a person is drinking alcohol and he knows that it will cause cancer. Thus, that person is in a condition called psychological dissonance.

Leon Festinger 1957 first scrutinized the theory of psychological dissonance. He started investigating a group which believed that the earth would be destroyed by a flood and also its members who left their jobs and homes for the sake of the belief of the group when the flood did not happen.

Thus he came to the conclusion that the members who were much committed gave themselves satisfaction by saying that the earth was not destroyed because of the faithfulness of the members of the group. While the less committed members claimed that they made a fool of themselves.

The change in attitude process:

Festinger 1957 believes that all of us have the willingness to hold our anger and be happy. This is called cognitive consistency. When a person cannot hold on to his anger and be happy then something should be done to reduce this dissonance or disharmony (de Vries & Timmins, 2016).

The reduction of a dissonance of a person can be done by eliminating of those elements that includes belief, ideas or values, in order to maintain consistency between the two elements.

The reduction can also be done by getting hold of more relevant information to fight against the conflict. For example a person knows that drinking alcohol will cause cancer but still he is having it will create more dissonance in him. But if he comes to know that the research has not yet proved that he will get a sense of satisfaction and his dissonance would be reduced (Guazzini et al., 2015).

The reduction can also be done by reducing the importance of such mental dissonance. For example if a person believes that a short life filled with joy is better than that life which will keep him away from joys like smoking and drinking (Harmon-Jones et al., 2017).

However, such theory did not prove that the above mentioned steps taken would eliminate the cognitive dissonance in him but it will reduce the extent of this dissonance if a person follows these steps (Harmon-Jones, 2017).

Experiment by Festinger 1959:

In this experiment the participants were asked to perform of a boring task of turning pins on a pin board. It can be assumed that the participant will not enjoy doing this task at all.


The main purpose of this task was to find out that whether forcing participants to perform a dull task like this will create cognitive dissonance in them or not.


For this experiment 71 male participants were chosen. They were asked to perform a boring task like the task of turning pins on a pin board. They were then paid $1 or $20 to convince the waiting participants that the task is interesting and they will enjoy doing it (Hinojosa et al., 2017).


The participants who were paid $1 regarded the boring task to be more fun and enjoyable than the participants who were paid $20 to convince the members in the waiting room (Hobson et al., 2015).


The participants who were paid $1 for convincing the members in the waiting room were in a state of dissonance. As the paid amount was not enough for him. On the other hand the participants who were paid $20 had a reason to turn the pegs on the board as the amount was satisfactory for them. Thus they were not in a state of dissonance.

Experiment by Aronson 1992 (The return of the Repressed)


To find out the relation between effort and dissonance.


In this experiment female students were asked to participate. The experiment was based on the psychology of sex. Here the female participants had to read out sex related words like virgin and prostitute to the male experimenter. Thus the participants were in a state of embarrassment. They were even asked to read embarrassing sexual passage. Then in a better situation they discussed about sex in lower animals (Aronson, 1992).

After the discussion was over they were asked to rate it and even rate the people involved in it. They were asked if they found such embarrassing discussion interesting or not (Levy et al., 2017).


The participant who was embarrassed to a large extent gave a positive rating.


Participation in this discussion was the choice of the participants involved in it. But their experience in this discussion was not good. They faced a lot of embarrassment in it. Thus describing the event to be positive will give the participants justification.

Critical Evaluation:

Lots of investigation has been done the theory of cognitive dissonance. The outcomes of some of which were interesting and some were not as they were quite unexpected results. The theory of cognitive dissonance is very broad which has the aim of maintaining stability between behavior and attitude (Liu & Sundar, 2018). It does not really use any logical method to attain it. Such methods have an advantage of being tested by scientific means (Pennesi & Wade, 2018).

However, these scientific methods give rise to certain problems as the word cognitive dissonance is personal and therefore it cannot be observed in a physical manner. That is the behavior of a person cannot be measured physically (Shahin Sharifi & Rahim Esfidani, 2014).

The term dissonance cannot to be defined itself. According to Aronson the word dissonance is nothing more than a wrong concept of a situation. A dissonance is nothing more than instability between a person’s belief and cognition of their belief.

The cognitive dissonance theory affects every individual in a different way. Many highly anxious people act as per the theory predicts. While many people actually manages to deal with this dissonance and does not experience the tension which the theory predicts.

The studies conducted for cognitive dissonance has very low ecological value. For example according to Festinger the throwing of pins on a pin board is an artificial experiment as it does not takes place in everyday life. The experiments conducted are also called biased because it has just considered the students as samples in the experiment. The people of different age groups should be involved in the experiment. Therefore the question is can the experiment give an accurate result.


1. Education- The cognitive dissonance theory encourages the students to pursue their studies. For example a play school student is encouraged to do coloring with the promise of getting their favorite chocolate from his parents were later on less interested in doing color than those students who were not promised and reward.

2. Psychotherapy- The effect of psychotherapy is explained partially in the cognitive dissonance theory. The mental health of a person is positively affected by his attitude towards choosing therapy method which in turn will to overcome the cognitive dissonance.

3. Social Behavior- Cognitive dissonance is involved in promoting the use of condom. It also motivates the members of a society to promote pro social campaigns like the campaigns against public littering and racial discrimination.

4. Consumer behavior- Here even cognitive dissonance exists due to the reasons like the purchasing decision should be as important as the money to be spent. The money to spent which is in your mind and whether the purchase is important for the buyer or not as he has the freedom to choose from variety of products and his decision to buy can always be reversed.

5. Politics- In this case even the theory of cognitive dissonance exists as given votes to a candidate in politics is matter of personal choice and interest. As result of the voting someone might protect the action of the candidate.

Commitment and hypocrisy are the paradigm used to persuade people to make use of proenvironmental methods. The people in a Parisian super market were asked to sign a poster promising no use of plastic bags while shopping. Some of the participants were even asked to remember the past use of plastic bags. It was also being observed that whether the participants were using the free plastic bags provided or not (Stone & Wood, 2018).

The result was that the participants who signed the poster against the use of plastic bags showed changes in their behavior that is the participants who were in a cognitive condition. While the participants who were in the mode of control them made use of the plastic bags out of the hypocrisy.

Cognitive dissonance program- To reduce the use of plastic bags

While shopping a person can either be a hypocrite or committed. A comparison of the two intervening method has been done here. An experiment has been conducted in a Parisian Super Market. Where the people were asked to sign on poster to show that they are against of not making use of plastic bags while. Some of them were asked to avoid the motive and go on their own way. A lot of consideration was given to those participants who were going on their way that they were in hypocrisy condition.

Later on it was observed that the participants who actually signed the poster, that is they showed a sense of commitment, had behavioral changes in them. Thus they did not make use of any plastic bags while shopping in the supermarket. But the participants who went their own way, showed lack of commitment did not show any behavioral changes. They continued to use the plastic bags. Thus hypocrisy did not result any behavioral changes.

Hence in order to reduce the use of plastic bags a sense of commitment very important. Commitment being one of the intervening methods of cognitive dissonance program resulted in the required behavioral change. A sense of commitment is needed by people to his environment to reduce the usage of plastic bags. People need to commit that they would protect their environment by making lesser use of plastic bags. In short they should commit to be environmental friendly in future.


It can be concluded that a cognitive dissonance theory states that when a person hold two conflicting behavior that is instability in the flow of their thoughts and belief then only cognitive dissonance takes place. Cognitive dissonance has a lot of effects on the history of psychology. It also challenged the theory which stated that the people only like those things for which they suffer. Aronson revised the theory of cognitive dissonance by highlighting the role of self-concept with the rise of dissonance. In the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s the interest in the research study of dissonance had diminished and the interest in cognitive research had increased. This opened the gate way for many mini theories. The mini theories got its origin from dissonance. The theories made their return with a totally name. The change in behavior due to dissonance made relevant contributions to various settings. On further researches being done in the future, the studies will based on the role of dissonance on reducing stereotypes and prejudice. Studies would be conducted to investigate these two paradigms of cognitive dissonance theory and how it will help in the reduction of dissonance.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.