Cognitive Dissonance

Joel Cooper, Kevin M. Carlsmith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Scopus citations


The theory of cognitive dissonance states that inconsistency between beliefs or behaviors creates an aversive motivational state akin to hunger or thirst. This tension is typically reduced by changing one of the dissonant elements, or adding new ones, until mental consonance is achieved. There have been three major revisions relevant to modern interpretation of dissonance phenomena. Aronson's self-consistency model (1968) proposed that dissonance resulted from behaviors that were discrepant with one's conception of oneself as a decent and sensible person. Steele's self-affirmation theory (1988) proposed that dissonance emerged from threats to the overarching self-system, and that dissonance reduction relied on reestablishing the integrity of the global self-concept. Cooper and Fazio's 'New Look' model (1984) proposed that dissonance resulted from creating unwanted aversive consequences and did not require cognitive inconsistency. A recent synthesis discussed by Cooper (1999) and Stone (1999) suggests that dissonance is caused by a discrepancy between the outcome of a behavioral act and the standard to which it is compared. According to this self-standards model, contextual variables determine the comparison standard, and it is this standard that determines which dissonance process is most likely to be operative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


  • Aversion
  • Cognitive consonance
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Dissonance
  • Festinger
  • Motivational states
  • Self-affirmation
  • Self-consistency


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