Cognitive dissonance: Where we’ve been and where we’re going

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Cognitive dissonance has been one of the most enduring and successful theories in the history of social psychology. This paper examines the origins of the theory and the controversies it engendered. I then examine the evolution of dissonance as it emerged from a theory focused solely on the inconsistency among cognitions to a more complex set of principles that accommodated the voluminous data that had been gathered throughout the ensuing decades. The paper considers what I refer to as the “Roadway to Dissonance” – an analysis of the process that leads from the perception of cognitions in the social environment to the unpleasant arousal state of dissonance and, further, how engaging in attitude, perceptual or behavioral change regulates that arousal. I then consider the transition of dissonance research from its focus on the individual to one that envisions the individual in the context of a social group. The social group perspective enables us to consider how people feel dissonance vicariously on behalf of their fellow group member. I conclude with an appeal for a two-pronged approach to dissonance in the coming decades in which we continue to make progress in the laboratory while simultaneously translating dissonance to help alleviate problems that are important in peoples lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalInternational Review of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Health
  • Hypocrisy
  • Motivation
  • Vicarious dissonance


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