A Self-Standards Model of Cognitive Dissonance

Jeff Stone, Joel Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

281 Scopus citations


This article presents a new model for understanding the role of the self in cognitive dissonance processes. We focus on the controversies among three major theories of how cognitions about the self mediate dissonance processes: Self-consistency (Aronson, 1992), Self-affirmation (Steele, 1988), and the New Look perspective (Cooper & Fazio, 1984). It is argued that each of these contemporary revisions of dissonance theory assumes that dissonance begins when people commit a behavior and then assess the meaning of the behavior against a standard for judgment. However, each approach makes different predictions for how self-knowledge mediates dissonance because each assumes different self-attributes and standards are used to assess the psychological meaning of a given behavior. The proposed model suggests that the basis of dissonance motivation and the role played by cognitions about the self depend on the type of self-standards made accessible in the context of discrepant behavior. By examining the ways in which people use self-standards to assess the social appropriateness or personal quality of their behavior and use self-attributes to reduce their discomfort, the proposed model can predict the conditions under which each of the contemporary views of the self in dissonance is the most accurate explanation of the process of dissonance arousal and reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-243
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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